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Old 03-31-2011
terry terry is offline
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Default DO try this at home: "A Record-Breaking Skills" Practice

In the 60th Birthday Practice thread, Coach Suzanne asked how long it took me to conjure up a 60-stroke set that require me to swim 125-yards consisting of 75 yds Back @ 14+15+16SPL and 50 yds Breast @ 7+8SPL. I responded that planning sets like that seems to come as naturally to me now as breathing.

The virtue of SPL-focused sets, again, is that Stroke Length is the most reliable way to distinguish between faster and slower swimmers. Faster swimmers require fewer strokes to swim any distance, any speed. The difference becomes most pronounced near the end of races when - as everyone is more tired and trying harder - Winners Hold Stroke Length (and Losers . . . well . . . lose it.)

But simply taking fewer strokes isn't enough to improve your speed. If you want to improve your swimming, you need to challenge yourself to swim faster without adding strokes.

Yesterday's practice - which took me less than two minutes to plan - was another good example.

Set #1 Swim 4 rounds of [5 x 100 Free] + 100 EZ Back between rounds. Descend each round. Improve average pace in each succeeding round.
Round 1 Interval 1:45. Total Strokes/100 52 Avg/100 1min27sec
Round 2 Interval 1:40. Total Strokes/100 56 Avg/100 1:22
Round 3 Interval 1:35. Total Strokes/100 60 Avg/100 1:19
Round 4 Interval 1:30. Total Strokes/100 64 Avg/100 1:15+

Set #2 Swim 7 x 50 Breast. Add one stroke - and subtract one or more seconds, - on each 50.
#1 6+6 Strokes - 54 sec.
#2 6+7 Strokes - 52 sec.
#3 7+7 Strokes - 50 sec.
#4 7+8 Strokes - 49 sec.
#5 8+8 Strokes - 48 sec.
#6 8+9 Strokes - 47 sec.
#7 9+9 Strokes - 46 sec.

The critical elements in the sets above - and the sets I did on my birthday -- are:
1. Cognitively Difficult I swam a total of 27 repeats - in a predetermined precise cumulative # of strokes -- 765 strokes. Not one more, not one less -- a task requiring me to maintain unblinking focus for every single stroke and second (there were 3600 of those). As well the SPL target changed regularly, requiring my brain had to process a slightly-changed, still-precise task. Processing new info at higher frequencies is well-known to be a brain-builder. (Evidence of brain-building: After an hour of swimming, I could recall the SPL and time for all 27 repeats!)

2. Exacting Skills The range of stroke counts I chose are all in a high-efficiency range. Completing these sets as assigned -- and particularly to swim progressively faster within rounds without sacrificing efficiency -- is a high-skill task.

3. Empirical Every repeat had a concrete and measurable task. Training to "increase the aerobic base" for instance is abstract and immeasurable. The human brain handles concrete challenges far better than abstract ones.

4. Strategic. Over the next four weeks, I'll swim two Masters championships, Zones in DC Apr 15-17 and Nationals in PHX Apr 28-May 1. Among my goals are to break Adirondack Masters 60-64 records in a number of events, including 500 Free and 200 Breast, where the current records are 6:15 and 3:07. The two sets in this practice were designed to prepare me to swim faster than those records - and to swim the necessary paces by adding strokes strategically as the race progresses. So my sets were highly-specific rehearsals of how I'd like to race in coming weeks.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 03-31-2011 at 11:29 AM.
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Old 04-13-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 575

My go at this practice had its pluses and its minuses. In it I attempted to hold the same 'recovery' feeling as my last practice on Friday and 'let go', allowing my stroke count to start higher by at least one and see if I could produce more "bang for the buck"; and do it easier.
Well, not to be this practice, seeing my count go up and not receiving any better ground than on my previous attempts at a lower stroke count. I also missed a few target counts on a couple lengths of each round. However, I did manage to descend throughout and although not my 'quickest' times (not really what I was after) kept kind of a closer average pace.
So questions for myself; should I continue to begin at a count one up until it's my new low/high and work on gains there?
Should I stay at my current range and on a set like this begin with fewer repeats? Fewer rounds? More rest? Hmm, plenty to ponder and play with.

Here's some #s
Set avg. Spl avg. Time
5x100 14 1:31
5x100 15 1:27
5x100. 16 1:26
5x100. 17 1:23

Then 4x50, focusing on fluidity while holding a steady count throughout (find that feeling)

The backstroke portion showed worse results so after the third 50 I abandoned the cycle to focus on my timing and fluid movement.
Yet another tricky one!
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Old 04-13-2011
terry terry is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2008
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Default Swimming Better than ever - even at age 60.

I've regularly written that. for me, a key to Continuous Improvement has been that I have a standard goal for each practice to Swim Better Than I Ever Have.
Setting the bar at Better than Ever tends to concentrate your attention and keep your sense of purpose high.

Some may ask how I can possibly swim better at 60, then I did at 40 or 20? The answer is that I don't measure better solely by the pace clock. At 60 I can get a thrill from executing difficult tasks or solving complicated puzzles.

The Medley practice I did on Sunday was one example. Yesterday's practice was another. Each required me to hold a specified stroke count - and swim faster in a specified pattern. The combination of Calibration and Pacing skills I exhibited in each practice is as good as I've ever managed, much better than I was capable of at 40 -- and would have been inconceivable to me at 20.

This is an example of how we can adjust our goals and how we measure excellence as we age to feel - justifiably - that we're swimming better than ever.

Further, this isn't just an empty Mastery exercise. The ability to closely calibrate and control Stroke Length and Pace are utterly essential to racing success at any distance.

Set #1
Repeat 100s Free. Maintain 56 strokes. Descend 1 sec/100 as far as possible.
I did 13 x 100, descending from 1:35 to 1:20. Never added a stroke.

Set #2
Swim 2 rounds of 8 x 25 IM order (2 Fly, 2 Back, 2 Breast, 2 Free in each round) 50 EZ BK between rounds.
Round #1 on 30 sec. interval Add 1 SPL to even 25s and swim 1 second faster than on odd 25s.
(I.E. #1 Fly @ 7 strokes and 22 sec; #2 Fly @ 8 strokes and 21 sec.)
Round #2 on 35 sec. interval Add 1 SPL to even 25s and swim 2 seconds faster.

Set #3
Swim Free. Maintain average of 15 SPL. Descend by 1 second each repeat.
4 x 100 1:18 - 1:17 - 1:16 - 1:15
50 EZ BK
4 x 75 58-57-56-55 sec.
50 EZ BK
4 x 50 37-36-35-34 sec.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story

Last edited by terry : 04-13-2011 at 07:46 PM.
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