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Old 04-07-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default A Pace-Honing Medley Practice

One key to improving your speed is to devote at least one -- and better two -- sets or practices per week to swimming at or very close to your current 'Speed Limit.' To do that properly, nearly everything else you do throughout the week needs to be pretty easy.

However, it's rare for Masters or fitness swimmers, and triathletes to train this way. Most swim sorta-hard, sorta-fast all the time. Not fast enough to improve on their current Speed Limit. And never easy enough to avoid a static-stale state.

This kind of training is important because Swimming Faster is Hard. Hard physically and hard neurally.

It's hard physically because drag increases exponentially with speed: To swim a little faster, your muscles and lungs must work a LOT harder.

It's hard neurally because - mathematically - the only way to swim faster is to improve the combination of Stroke Length and Rate. And keeping a long stroke at a high rate (when heart and respiration rate are also high) is devilishly difficult.

It takes a serious commitment to recovery/restoration between fast practices or sets to be able to swim the quality stuff at a level that actually produces improvement. But the easier practices that produce recovery should still be designed to hone abilities that help you swim faster. Today's Medley-Pacing practice is a good example. I did a high-intensity, neurally-demanding set of 8x200 on Monday and hope to be ready to swim fast again tomorrow. So I needed to devote today to 'serious ease.'

I did three low-intensity, yet neurally-exacting sets that will be just as valuable as any high-intensity set in helping me race fast in the 400 I.M. races I'll swim Apr 17 at Zones and Apr 29 at Masters Nationals.

Set #1 (Warmup/Tuneup)
All swims at 15-16 SPL
4 x 50 BK (53-52 sec)
2 x 100 BK (1:49-1:46)
1 x 200 BK (3:35)

Set #2
All swims at 8-9SPL Fly, 16SPL BK, 8-9SPL BR, 15 SPL FR)
4 x 100 IM (1:42-1:43)
2 x 200 IM (#1 straight 3:17, #2 as 2x100 IM nonstop 3:19)
1 x 400 IM - as 4 x 100 IM nonstop (6:36)

Set #3
All swims at 16SPL BK and 8SPL BR
4 x 50 25BK+25BR (53-52 sec)
2 x 100 50BK+50BR (1:45 on both)
1 x 200 100BK+100BR (3:29)

In each set I swam the same distance 3x, first as 4 pieces, then as 2 pieces, then as 1 piece. My goal was to keep both SPL and pace consistent as repeat distance doubled, then doubled again. My sense of pace was keenest on Set #3 where the straight 200 was faster than the 2 x 100 and 4 x 50.

The key to success in this set is the ability to control effort over the shorter swims. When controlling, not maximizing, effort is your goal, you're assured of getting good recovery.

At the same time, honing an impeccable sense of pace is just as valuable as fast repeat swimming to the ability to race your best.
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Last edited by terry : 04-07-2011 at 12:30 AM.
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Old 04-07-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Nice!
And once again great timing.
I'd wondered if your Monday practice could also be done in reverse order or just as a recovery session too.
I'll look to challenge myself with this 'recovery' practice, in order to do so I'll really need to focus on ease. To that, your choice of spl (on the higher end) seems counter to a recovery so to speak. So is that choice coupled with one of intent towards easy effort at that count? I know we're always striving for ease but there is a difference between 16 spl @ race pace let's say and 16spl @ recovery pace. No?
I gave Monday's a go and although you hadn't posted "high intensity, neurally demanding" I soon found it to be and wondered if it should've been. Then I read the above post : )
Nonetheless...

Wednesday, April 4 @ YMCA 25yd pool
Freestyle
3 x 200
3:14 @ avg. 13spl
3:04 @ avg. 14spl
2:56 @ avg. 15spl
After the second repeat I knew I failed to keep enough control over the initial pace. Probably should have played out more like 3:04/3:00/2:56.
The plus was descending by adding a stroke, ideal would be then to maintain stroke length as time fell.


4 x 50 backstroke

2 x 200
2:55 @ avg. 15spl
2:53 @ avg. 16spl

4 x 50 backstroke

1 x 200
2:58 Oops!
I knew instantly, right out of the gate, that I'd come in slower especially when I hit the 'first' wall @ what I thought was 13spl. I suspected a bit of fatigue possibly from the backstroke repeats coupled with a slow start and one missed turn. I'd hold a lower stroke count on the next set @ backstroke.

4 x 50 backstroke

1 x 200 broken @ 100s
1:20/1:20
(Sensed I could have descended but stuck to the plan)

4 x 50 backstroke

1 x 200 broken @ 50s
:40/:38/:37/:37

I did manage to descend all the way through but one set. I did feel after slowing the backstroke rate that I had more to give. I'll play with the active/passive rest on this sort of session.
A challenge indeed, thanks.

Best,
Alan
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Old 04-07-2011
terry terry is offline
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Alan
First I'll address your question about higher SPLs in my Medley-Pacing set. I don't think of 15-16SPL in BK or 8-9 in BR as high -- though I'm certainly capable of lower.
Rather there are two ways to think about the potential energy cost of lower SPLs.
1) Fewer strokes means lower Stroke Rate, which ordinarily will mean lower Heart Rate as well. . . However . . .
2) At some point a lower Stroke Rate allows a bit too much inertia to creep into the stroke . . . which means the need to generate more power to overcome it.

So the central goal of any set or practice where you purposefully vary stroke count is to strike an artful balance between a leisurely/restful tempo and conservation of momentum. Because you do this by feel, lots of practice -- and frequent changes in stroke count -- are best for honing your feel.

Your version of the set of 8 x 200 Free that I'd done Monday is an example. In my set from Monday I kept the same SPL range throughout, but added one stroke to the 2nd 100 of each to help with even pacing. I made the 200s gradually faster in part by swimming fewer of them between recovery breaks of 4x50BK.

In your practice, you sensed that you could achieve a better pacing pattern next time you try this. That's information from feel.

Here's another challenge. The differential between my 1st (straight) and 8th (broken at 50s) 200 was only 15 seconds. The difference between your 1st and 8th was 41 seconds.

Descending sets offer two levels of Master
Level 1: Improve your time steadily within the set.
Level 2: While doing that, improve overall average by closing the gap between fastest and slowest.

So now you have a goal for improving the Pace Mastery Circuit this set is designed to hone.
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My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-07-2011 at 01:54 PM.
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Old 04-07-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Terry,
Got it, thanks!
Also, after working out the actual 'math' at home I did recognize immediately the 40sec. differential and acknowledge that I have a focused 'task' of tightening up that differential.
Having a clear cut goal spelled out certainly helps and makes it that much more interesting, priceless.
Thank you for all your time and great input.

Cheers,
Alan
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Old 04-10-2011
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Friday's practice of portions of the three 'recovery' sets provided some insight and a surprise or two.
The pool was packed so had to settle for circle swimming initially (1x400,2x200) but was determined to do at least a trial.
Not concerned initially with a spl I began the backstroke sets just swimming at a completely comfortable rhythm. My count was in the 15-16spl range and quite comfy. I was able to descend @ the same stroke range. a much easier effort if a tad slower, for the moment.
On the 2x100 I had my first surprise on two lengths of the second 100 taking two less strokes @ the same time (1:50). I have not done backstroke repeats of longer than 50yds so this was also new ground and the 200 would definitely be but it wasn't to be as a slight collision had me breaking the 200 into 2x100. Because I lost the time on the first half I decided not to mark it on the second half. More important to create and mark my ease at this distance.
I next decided to do 4x50 fly using the same focus and managed to stay in the 8-9spl range on all and descend time on two.
The 4x100 IM set provided me with another 'surprise' when I managed to maintain stroke range while descending on two to 1:36; in recovery mode! Prior, my effort, which was 'greater', had my marked avg. @ 1:45 and above!
My concentration on "recovery" helped me focus on ease which in turn helped me focus on balance which helped the streamlining which brought a marked improvement in 'speed'.
A 'rough' start that ended cool.
I have a whole new approach to recovery.
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Old 04-11-2011
terry terry is offline
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We had a workshop at Greenwich Y today. During the lunch break I had my Best Ever Pace-Honing Medley practice - and one of my best practices of any kind ever. I was especially excited at some insights gained, which I'll share later. Right now I'll just report the sets I did.

Set #1 3 rounds of 3 x 50 BK Descend each round.
Round 1: 30 Strokes Descend to :48
Round 2: 29 Strokes Descend to :47
Round 3 28 Strokes Descend to :46

Set $2 Swim 2 x 200 IM
#1 2x100IM Continuous 3:20
#2 200 IM 3:14

Set #3 3 rounds of 3 x 50 (25BK+25BR) Descend each round
Round 1: 22 Strokes Descend to :48
Round 2: 21 Strokes Descend to :47
Round 3: 20 Strokes Descend to :46

Set #4 Swim 2 x 200 IM
#1 2x100IM Continuous 3:14
#2 200 IM 3:07

Set #5 3 rounds of 3 x 50 BR Descend each round
Round 1: 15 Strokes. Descend to :47
Round 2: 14 Strokes. Descend to :46
Round 3: 13 Strokes Descend to :45

Set #6 3 rounds of 3 x 50 FR. Descend each round. Improve average pace in 2nd and 3rd round. In each round:
#1 27 strokes
#2 26 strokes
#3 25 strokes
Descend round 1 to :38
Descend round 2 to :37
Descend round 3 to :36

What was Better than Ever in this practice?
In sets !, 3 and 5, I challenged myself to reduce stroke count yet swim faster in later rounds. I mastered that skill in Freestyle almost 10 years ago, but had never really tested myself that way in other strokes. Several weeks ago I tried it for the first time in a Backstroke set and couldn't do it.
Today I succeeded in a Backstroke set, a set of Back-Breast repeats and a Breaststroke set. I'd never done that before.

I've always been more successful in distance free than in the other strokes. I always thought that was because I had more innate ability for freestyle. But the recent reading I've done on the OK Plateau and Excellence, I'm not so sure any longer. Now I think my greater success in freestyle is that I give myself more exacting and rigorous practice tasks. I set the bar far higher on execution and precision in SPL mastery and pace mastery. Over the next couple of years I will put that thesis to the test by replicating the challenging sets I've done in freestyle in the other strokes. As always my test will be done in plain sight, so you'll all know the outcome.

In the 2 sets of 2 x 200 IM, I swam faster on the 2nd repeat of each, despite the fact that a continuous 200 IM is a bit tougher than 2 x 100 IM back-to-back. And I improved both when I repeated the set on #4.
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Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-15-2011 at 01:08 AM.
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