Weird Science - A threshold set
Here's a nice threshold set if like me you find it hard to commit to doing regular 800m time trials.
This starts fairly easy and gets progressively harder. You can also use it to train up a brisker stroke rate whilst keeping focus on form.
I find this physically challenging but mentally less daunting than swimming a non stop for 15 minutes at pace.
set your TT towards the sprinting end of your range or a setting you want to develop endurance for (this for me is tt=1.0), then swim
1 length - 15 seconds rest
2 lengths - 15 seconds rest
3 lengths - 15 seconds rest
4 lengths - 15 seconds rest
5 lengths - 15 seconds rest
6 lengths - 15 seconds rest
7 lengths - 15 seconds rest
8 lengths - 15 seconds rest
The last set of 200m/yds will be somewhere in between your 200m and 400m pace. No need to be strict on stroke count but be aware of it and try to keep it consistent.
The weird science bit is that I guarantee interval 8 wont be the hardest physically or mentally, more likely pushing off for interval 6 after 15seconds precise rest is the toughest.
You can repeat this up to 3 times according to your fitness and pool time. Rest circa 5 minutes between repeats or until you feel significantly recovered to start again. Too much rest is better than too little as its the swimming inside the 3 threshold intervals that counts.
You can also change the number of continuous lengths you stop at e.g. 4,5,6,8 or more, whatever keeps the set length between 10 and 20 minutes.
So in my example above. 40 lengths @22.5 seconds per length +7*15s rest =total set time of 16:45 (almost spot on my 1000m pace anyway).
This one looks great, I'm gonna give this a try on my next swim unfortunately will not be till next week but I will post the results .
Also would be interesting to count the laps back down from 8 to 1 to know mentally each set will be easier and not harder to finish off
The swimovate will be perfect for this also as it will record every set and gives the pause time between sets and an efficiency value of each set.
Also this only adds up th 36 laps and not 40
Attention - then Neural - Threshold
I love this set suggestion of yours. Two reasons:
1) It observes the critical Improvement Principle of Progression. As I've written previously my favorite such set is
4 x 25 +
3 x 50 +
2 x 75 +
1 x 100.
This version is best when working on a task that's newer or more challenging. It gives you more opportunities to prepare for the next step. The very simple progression you've outlined here is a bit more arduous, since you increase duration on every repeat.
2) Your observation that the longest repeat wasn't the hardest supports my contention that the most important 'threshold' we must strive to develop isn't the Aerobic Threshold of old-school training, but first the Attention Threshold -- your capacity to maintain unblinking and laserlike focus . . . which leads naturally to the Neural Threshold -- the point where your nervous system masters a task.
When you focus on aerobic training, performing a particular set gets harder as distance increases, because your muscles fatigue.
When you focus on neural training, adding more duration or repeats to a set often makes it easier to execute it well, because the more times you 'run a circuit' in your brain, the more your brain learns and optimizes that task.
I've done this set quite often as my tuneup swim. I use the first couple of repeats to decide what metric I'll aim to maintain as repeat distance increases. It could be SPL. It could be SPL+Tempo. It could be Pace+Silence. It always includes 'mojo' or ease.
Virtually every time I've experienced what you did -- at a certain point though the lap count continues to increase, the difficulty of the task levels off -- and sometimes decreases. That's golden for anyone whose goal is mastery of distance swimming.
Thanks Andy/ Terry
As I find myself back indoors @ the 25 yard pool I'll be looking to apply these practices once again to 'regain' any lost efficiency and perhaps enhance all aspects in the process.
To that,I'll share a part of my last practice and see if it matches in any way the mindset put forth here...
Since it's only my third or forth go back in the pool( after spending most of my swimming time in OW with regular 5K 4K and 3K swims)I 'm still acclimating myself to being in the pool and beginning my sessions thus far with longish tune- ups. Having lost yet another TT to the beach I merely focused on my B.A.S.E. Balance, alignment, streamlining and efficiency/ease.
Beginning my session with a 15 minute swim while counting strokes and after several lengths holding my stroke count and when I felt ease trying to improve on it. Fifteen minutes seemed sufficient to find and maintain that groove. I then wanted to cut the time to approximately 10 minutes and up my perceived rate while staying in my spl range. Now here's some "Weird Science", I stopped at almost 10 minutes on the dime!? I was only counting strokes and relying on perceived time as I do in OW when reaching landmarks. I then wanted to cut the time in half yet again so as not to 'lose' any gained efficiencyand found myself at the wall in just under 5 minutes, now that's weird!
I followed this with a control 'test': I would do a set of 50s, beginning at my low spl, mark time and descend trying to hold spl for every two repeats as I went here's how I did,
I thought to stop here as I did not want to excede my spl range. Times were not my intended focus, my ability to maintain control with a sense of ease was.
I then took my next and final repeat, before heading into the end of my session, back to my low end spl 12/13 spl and marked my time @ :43
I think I passed my test : )
As always a thoughtful, and thought-provoking contribution. I've only had a few pool swims since May -- all of them last week while doing coach training in England. Since returning home on Monday, I've only swum in my Endless Pool. But reading your post has stoked my interest to go to the SUNY pool and try your set of 10 x 15, two each at 13-14-15-16-13 SPL. Next time you might try two each at 13-14-15-16-15-14-13 and maybe 12 to give you 16 x 50. I think I'll give that a go myself.
Any plans to swim in LI Sound this weekend as Hurricane Sandy bears down on us?
There are no guarantied correlation between one's neural threshold and one's anaerobic threshold (or CSS), no automatically assumed one, because in reality these two phenomenons will often occurred at drastically different pace among extremely well trained but not talented (ie, very low neural or attention threshold) athletes. Arnies we often call them.
Hywel Davies (not that I suggest he's not talented to swimming.... pfiouf H, you know what I meant right?). This guy is a genetic freak that reports not feeling anything in term of effort level at 1.4 when he first began a DPS process with me. "Yeah but H, go as hard as you can, it's like rowing!" I'd tell him. Nothing would do. It took a whilst before neural threshold could go up, and all of a sudden the performances went up, and the effort level too, at slower rate that is.
So in the same time, I am not willing to deny the works on anaerobic threshold, which in the case of Hywel would have meant stopping working at low rate, and automatically bring his neural threshold much higher (in term of resulting velocity) by increasing the stroke rate. Several people don't like analyzing things like we do, and they get away quite well not even knowing what a neural threshold eats for dine.
That said I confess not having used CSS models for my own athletes yet, can't care less about knowing about their lactate level, always looking for short cuts to trigger better neural adaptation, because my clientele, mostly under 35, are often far from being close to what they should produce at CSS pace. If you're 28, you're a male, and are struggling holding a pace faster than 1:50/m, you will gain nothing continuing hitting your head against the threshold wall. You're already at threshold, and are still slow. It's going to take 10 years going down to 1:30. Simply cut down on energy expenditure to increase time engaged doing something smart, challenge your neuro muscular network in a way that specific to achieve fast swimming when you finally end up increasing the rate, and you'll be down to 1:30 in record time.
I refer to metabolic training metrics as "old-school" because
1) They're based on research conducted 50 to 70 years ago.
2) The whole structure of 'energy-system' training has been dismissed by Mike Joyner MD, head of exercise science and Mayo Clinic and one of the most respected exercise physiologists working today as 'pseudo-science.'
3) There has never been any correlation established between metrics such as anaerobic threshold and VO2max and swimming performance.
4) Reliance on it generally leads to rote and generic training.
In contrast, neurally-based training -- designing tasks based on how the brain processes inputs rather than how the body metabolizes energy -- has the following going for it
1) It's based on cutting-edge research, most of it within the last 10 years.
2) There is a very strong correlation established between neurally-guided activities and behaviors and the achievement of excellence , mastery, Flow, happiness -- even better physical health. And these -- not just the time on a stopwatch -- are the central motivation for the vast majority of TI clients.
3) It allows for precise, customized and personalized training approaches.
And that's why I refer to neurally-oriented training as 'New Wave.'
Hmmmm this is dismissing the recent discoveries as per the actual role of blood lactate, and to a wide extent to its role in what we now call the lactate metabolism.
That slap in the face (ie, lactate is no longer a waste, it's a fuel, favored by our heart itself over glucose), we mostly received it late 90's for those in the knows. I got mine in 2004 so hmmmmm....
This is also dismissing the works of Dr.Phil Skiba, md, not my best friend but still someone I grant the idea of quantifying very precisely swim training workload using a model that's derived from that propose by Coggan, which is also all about Threshold and that was created in 2003 (so not quite 70y ago).
I'm fortunate enough to coach an exercise physiologist, a PhD who's a teacher at the U where I coach. He's studying the impact of hurting someone other than with training prior testing his metrics (including threshold), this is occurring at the moment of writing these lines.
I collaborated with a team of researchers 15y ago in a study that was aimed at figuring out if you could cross-test, ie, using a score obtained on bike to set running training zones etc....
It seems that this team here are studying the same thing (roughly):
This dates as of 2012.
With all that said, the biggest discovery as for threshold lately is really that blood lactate is seen as a fuel now. As such, it's very important that science continues trying to find what makes us slowing down, vs what makes us swimming faster, metabolically speaking. The whole body is a complex entity of inter-related systems. The neuro-muscular aspect is crucially important, but without understanding how these muscles controled by the brain get fueled and get tired, we only have a fraction of the equation. The most important? This is what Mike Joyner, md, Brent Rushall, phd, you (in a much more modest extent, I) seem to suggest.
Again, I agree with you that neural driven training probably leads to a much smarter use one's time and physical resources.
A fun hybrid practice
As usual, thanks for the motivation and idea. This morning I started my warmup with Terry's "4321" concentrating on a SPL of 14 (1 stroke below my ideal racing SPL of 15) - short course metres.
Then I tried your "weird science" set with TT @ 1.0 with 15 sec rest between each. My greatest concern was to maintain 15SPL. Your set got me into my neural mode for the main set of 3 x (10 x 100) with 15 sec rest between 100's and 2 minutes extra rest between each set of 10.
On the 1st set, I started TT @ 1.04 and reduced it to 1.02 after five 100's.
On the 2nd set, I started TT @ 1.0 and reduced it to .98 after 5. What I noticed was that at .98 my SPL blew up to 16SPL and 17 on a couple of laps. At that point I was reminded of the great American football coach Vince Lombardi's comment that, "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."
As this was an aerobic/neural practice I decided to concentrate on getting back to 15SPL for the final set without TT, while concentrating on 1 length smooth, 1 build to medium pace, 1 smooth and the final lap strong, but not all out. With this strategy, I was able to get back to 15SPL.
Thanks for the set - it will definitely be added to my repertoire. I will leave the terminology to Terry and Charles to debate over regarding threshold/neural et al. All I can tell you from a guy who enjoys the doing was that any swimmer would find it a thoughtful an invigorating set. Afterward I felt some soreness which I presume was lactic acid after an intense 4500 metre practice. It is what it is.
Lactic acid being a cause of post session pain, *that* is a dirty old myth.
You simply experience neuro muscular soreness, and that belongs to the world of what TI describes as neural training.
Based on the description you made of your 4500 (given that I see nothing that would trigger an increase above your anaerobic threshold), Lactate in this case (not lactic acid which by the way rapidly looses his strength to become Lactate, ie a salty fluid) was used to fuel your effort, not to hurt you in anyway.
Lack of Purpose may be the greatest deficit of Energy System Training
My own low regard for Energy System Training is based far more on my observation -- of 1000s of swimmers -- that it leads to mental staleness and loss of enthusiasm.
Why did Michael Phelps need to take nearly two years off following Beijing? And why is it so rare for swimmers -- unlike runners -- to maintain elite performance into their late 20s or mid-30s?
It's because the mouse-on-a-wheel aspect of metabolic-oriented training is tedious to the point of being soul-destroying.
The goals one pursues - raising VO2max, buffering lactates, etc. cannot be included in a meaningful feedback loop and therefore become abstractions. The swimmer almost MUST tune out just to survive the tedium. The brain goes to sleep.
A fundamental principle of neurally-oriented training is that it's based on tasks that are measurable and trackable. On every length--indeed every stroke--you can sense what you must do to succeed.
This translates into a sense of self-reliance, purpose and mastery -- which are immensely more valuable than a higher anaerobic threshold. And, I daresay, even a better predictor of Olympic medals -- as has been documented for a wide range of excellence.
Ian's description of his practice as thoughtful AND invigorating speaks to the holistic nature of neural training.
Accept and relish the different paths of mastery available to you and the world is a joyous, exciting experience.
Here's an extract from an article I wrote once:
There’s very little doubt that motivation plays a big role in the outcome of any performance, in most training and racing contexts. But what is motivation? Well it’s quite a wide concept belonging to the domain of psychology. For our own specific purposes, we can categorize it into 3 distinct types: Intrinsic motivation, extrinsic self determined, and extrinsic non self determined. The first category is self explanatory. It’s just pure passion for the activity, regardless of any other reward or goal. I like to run, just for the sake of doing it. Doing it simply makes me feel good. Extrinsic self determined is the sort of motivation we get in deciding to do something having a specific purpose in mind. For example, I train in the pool to improve my time over 1500m. Non self determined implies some pressure from outside the individual. An example would be my coach wants me to swim the 1500 to help the team, despite the fact that I don’t really enjoy it. Ideally, we should aim at exploiting the two first motivation types through our coaching, the most important being the second type, extrinsic self determined motivation. Intrinsic is important but you don’t want to rely solely on this since it tends to vary too much according to our moods or other factors.
In most coaching situations, there’s often a very thin line between self determined and non self determined motivation. A good way to get an athlete to commit entirely to something, head and soul, is to dress most key training elements in term of Challenges.
The Sweet Uncertainty Concept
A challenge that is too easy will probably trigger boredom. For instance, a tasteless challenge is often be a great recipe for indiscipline when coaching kids. On the other hand, imposing a challenge that is too difficult could trigger too much stress. Making it way too spicy will spoil the meal. In between these two poles, there's a nice zone. It's been described by some researchers as being the Sweet Uncertainty Zone (Brunelle et Tousugnant; 1988)(1). A challenge that is made difficult enough so that the athlete isn't
entirely sure that she can cope with it, but in the same time easy enough to be achievable given enough commitment would fall in this zone. The Sweet Uncertainty Graph below shows a graphical representation of this Zone.
I reckon though that neural oriented training makes the coach's task of using Challenge Driven coaching easier. I may also add that I see very little if NO value in teaching swimmers what energy systems are, or even suggesting to them that we are addressing energy systems vs neural training vice versa. The reason for this position that I have, is simple: I coach age group as well, ie taking the swimmer at the Age required to expect performing at a high level. A 14yo girl doesn't actually need to know the theory behind the training. She just wants to have fun, since getting up at 5:30am to swim almost every morning is in itself, not funny at all.
I doubt though that the training approach alone could explain why runners run older than swimmers swim. After all, runners are heavy energy system users when comes to actually periodize their training. Thanks to the advent of run techniques (chi, pose, newton), it tends to change, but still... The main difference (although the whole picture is probably multi factorial) has to be the age at which you NEED to begin swimming vs the age at which you NEED to begin running, for optimal performances to be reached. Environnement in which you train also makes a big difference. Human generally prefer the sight of outdoor landscape over the sight of a black line painted on the floor seen through fuzzy goggles.
It's also important to realize that neural vs e.system approach pertains much more to the way matter is being taught. Those who train neural also develop their energy metabolism, and those who train using e.systems are also developing their neuro-muscular component.
(I've rarely felt as boring as I probably am in this post, sorry lol)
I too am not privvy to Rebecca Adlington's training schedule but all the UK reports I've read with regard to Rebecca and Keri Ann Payne is how great they are at tolerating pain and pushing themselves beyond the limit. In contrast to the UK cycling team there is never a mention of training smarter, whereas that's all the cyclists talk about.
A 400m free hurts big time, therefore it's impossible for Sun to win over this distance without going through excruciating suffering... No one, I mean no one escapes this. A 800/1500 also hurts, but it is not the same sort of pain.
The rest, is pure illusion.
Generally speaking, the lower the rate, the higher the pain, and that with little regards to how the performance looks like.
It's also worth noting that - though I haven't ran any stats on that - the UK seems to display one of the best medals per capita ratio in the world in London 2012 - just like Australia, which is the country where Sun was coached.
from bbc - british swimming at 2012 - did home advantage backfire?
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