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  #1  
Old 04-07-2009
bugmenot bugmenot is offline
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bugmenot
Default swimming beyond college?

I have just finished my senior year in college swimming. I came into college dropping huge amounts of time my freshman year. The next four years, while there was slight improvements in my events (50/100/200 Free), the improvements were just tenths. I went slower in my 50/100 at my final conference meet than I did my freshman year.

In the 100...senior year of high school 49.7, first year of college 47.0, 2nd 46.8, 47.2, 47.2....I am beating guys consistly in practice on a daily basis that are going 44s/45s.

I am practing much better making sets that I would have never made my freshman year. I know that all aspects of my ability in the sport has improved, and every coach has told me this.. my technique, kick, underwater, starts all improved...but my times have remained the same at meets. Why? What do I need to focus on to start dropping times again?
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  #2  
Old 04-07-2009
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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I hesitate to comment at all , as I am an ancient slow swimmer myself but it sounds to me as though you have the ability to go faster but are probably not pacing your races correctly. I would guess that you are going out too fast and inevitably slowing at the end. I could be wrong of course. How do you normally split a 100?

I take it you are swimming SCY?

Terry has written about how he coached the sprinters at West Point, which may prove useful to you.

http://www.totalimmersion.net/compon.../article/6/178
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  #3  
Old 04-07-2009
Rhoda Rhoda is offline
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What else is going on in your life? Are you getting enough sleep, or trying to juggle too many things at once? Could you be leaving all your races in the training sessions, not getting enough recovery time? (I'm assuming that you are tapering before important meets.) Can you sit down with your coaches and ask them for specific advice?
You might want to try the Us Masters website forum. There seem to be a lot of ex-college swimmers there.
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  #4  
Old 04-08-2009
terry terry is offline
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Bug
First of all, let me say how gratified I am that, though you're still in college, you've found your way to the TI Discussion Forum. As you may guess, most other Forum participants are considerably beyond your years and well behind your speed, but their motivation to swim well and understand the hows and whys is second to none.
Second I'm impressed with your determination to understand why your times improved so dramatically at first, then far less, then not at all. As well, you've posed the implicit question: "Swim beyond college?" I'd like to answer "Yes, yes, yes!" It's far too common for those who finish college to "retire" several years before they've reached their "peak physical potential" which occurs in mid-to-late 20s. If you consider "peak swimming ability" then Dara Torres demonstrates how far beyond college that can continue to improve.

Are you willing to consider the possibility that by pursuing improvement in a more focused way, you might start improving again, and that you might discover you can swim far faster than you can even conceive of right now?
I say this because my college experience was remarkably similar to yours.
I graduated from HS in 1968 with best times in the 200-400 yd Free (there was no 500 in HS then) of 2:13 and 4:53. I'd never swum a 500 or 1000. I did swim one 1650 in an AAU meet (in the days before USA Swimming) with a time of 21:50 to the best of my recollection.

As a college freshman, I went 2:01 for 200, 5:39 for 500, 11:57 for 1000 and 19:46 for the 1650. Sophomore year I improved to 1:55, 5:12, 10:45, and 18:06. Junior year it was 1:56, 5:14, 10:53 and 18:02 (only the last improved from the previous year.) Senior year 1:58, 5:15, 10:58, 18:24. The pain, frustration and disappointment of working so hard -- indeed the slower I went, the harder I worked -- and feeling so hopeless and clueless about having all my times be slower are still fresh in my mind.

The unexpected blessing of that disappointment is that it prompted me to lack of fulfillment caused by the way my swimming regressed the last two enter coaching, a decision that has brought me indescribable rewards. My swimming frustrations also led to the questions about traditional training methods that have been directly responsible for development of the TI method.

And finally, I applied lessons from coaching others to my own swimming, resulting in multiple National Masters long distance championships, national age group records, a medal at the Masters World Championships and being the top ranked open water swimmer in my age group, all since turning 55 three years ago. You can imagine how this feels after feeling so helpless at 21.

Richard and Rhoda have both asked questions well worth considering as context to what's happened with your swimming. For instance, pacing of sprint races is something very few swimmers know how to do. Were your first and 2nd 50s in the 100 less than 2.0 seconds apart? If they weren't closer than that, you spent too much of the race decelerating, fighting through fatigue. Another possible factor is an ineffective combination of Stroke Length and Stroke Rate.

There are many more questions I could pose for you, but I'm glad you've initiated a dialogue and I hope the help and support you receive here prompts you to consider continuing your pursuit of swimming improvement beyond college. You may find that swimming for yourself may be easier than swimming for the varied goals of the college team. It will also allow you to "own" your swimming, to take full responsibility for your training and performance. That can be a tremendously empowering thing.
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  #5  
Old 04-08-2009
terry terry is offline
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Default Winning in Practice

PS: You mentioned consistently beating teammates in practice who swim 2 to 3 seconds faster in races. Have you considered the possibility that your efforts to "win" practice swims may be partly responsible for "losing" on race day?

Joe Novak, one of the swimmers mentioned in the article Richard linked to about my work with the Army sprinters, trained with Jason Lezak for 18 months leading up to the 2004 Olympic Trials. He told me something really revealing about Jason. Their coach, Dave Salo (now the head coach at USC), put great emphasis on "quality" training, which Joe said basically meant going hard on everything.

Joe said that Jason went last in their lane most of the time, swam slower than anyone else in the group 90% of the time, but then would pick his spots and -- when he felt ready -- would swim blazingly fast repeats.

This conforms closely with something Jonty Skinner (who set the WR for 100m Free in 1976) told me when he was Performance Science Director for USA Swimming. Jonty said that, the swimmer who is fastest on race day is not the one with the most highly tuned aerobic system, but the one with the most highly tuned nervous system.

Jonty then said that most swimmers understand the true role of aerobic training. It takes only 8 to 10 weeks of training to reach aerobic fitness. The rest of the season the primary role of aerobic training should be to aid in restoration and recovery, not to continue trying to gain fitness.

The reason for that role is that your muscles need to be fresh and responsive on the "quality days" in your training week. If they're fresh, you'll be able to do practice repeats on those days -- no more than twice a week -- that imprint the coordination for a combination of Stroke Length and Rate that converts to very fast swimming. If your aerobic training between quality days is even a little bit too effortful, you won't be sufficiently recovered on quality day and your nervous system imprinting -- and your races -- will suffer.

Does this describe the training you've done in college?
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  #6  
Old 04-08-2009
bugmenot bugmenot is offline
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thanks for the responses.

In response to RichardSK:
First off I took a look at my 100's at conference over the past four years and here are exact splits. And yes SCY is what I have trained and focused most of my efforts towards, although I am focused on training for a LCM meet this summer. I think I am splitting what need to, to go my goal times 45.xx.
(22.51, 24.49), 47.00
(22.15, 24.69), 46.84
(22.18, 24.83), 47.01
(22.26, 24.97), 47.23





In response to Rhoda:
I am a college swimmer -- so with my classes and completing a double major/double minor in four years I have kept myself pretty busy. Other than school though...not a whole lot more going on....an internship my senior year as well, but I ensure at least 8/9 hours of sleep every night.

I have sat down with coachs for more advice, several times throughout my college career even...and some of it has proved helpful, but on the same token, times have not dropped as much as I had expected. I am tapering for my meets, but have guessed that with my size, I am possibly not tapering enough. After 6 months of leaving everything in the pool, training 9k+ yards total a day...I then tapered for 3 weeks. No more weights, just some light dryland and abs. Around 5-6k the first week, 4-5k the second week, 2-3k the last week and 1.5k the last 2-3 days before the meet. Do I need even more rest? I have heard of some guys doing 3-4k for 6 weeks before their big meets...


I maintain my weight too ( I am 6'5'' and 195). I cook all my meals and have read several books on sports nutrition to ensure that I my meals are appropriate for training and recovery.


To both, I will check into both of those websites.
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  #7  
Old 04-08-2009
bugmenot bugmenot is offline
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Terry,
Thank you for the response. I found many things you mention very insightful, especially the last couple lines in the first post. Also in your first post the line where you write,

"The pain, frustration and disappointment of working so hard -- indeed the slower I went, the harder I worked -- and feeling so hopeless and clueless about having all my times be slower are still fresh in my mind."

hits close to home. I almost wanted to never see a pool again after my conference meet...but I am determined to change my last memory of competion swimming to something more positive.

I have posted my split times as well, which you had also mentioned, all slightly above that 2 second margin you mention. The first split of the 50 seems necessary to be going my goal time of 45.xx though.




And for your second post..wow. Very insightful. With weights/everyday morning swims..it sometimes proved difficult to "get going" on quality days. My best quality set this year was probably 6x100s off the blocks on 8 minutes holding a 50.low average. The guys next to me that ended up going 44/45s at conference were holding 52/53s (or even worse some of them were going 55s...)

I definitely am not the guy that sprints the warmup either -- I pay attention to technique and getting myself ready to race in the main set. I will definitely try to focus my efforts on more specific areas of practice though.

Could you expand a bit when you say "the primary role of aerobic training should be to aid in restoration and recovery, not to continue trying to gain fitness."
Every Monday our sprint group would do something long, at least 20x100 on 1:10 or faster, over the rest of the week we would do probably at least another 4,000 on this pace..is this too much aerobic for a sprinter? Are you saying this aerobic training midseason, may actually be hurting us?



And lastly I am glad to hear from another person to continue swimming too, thank you for the encouragement! Thanks again for the long response!
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  #8  
Old 04-08-2009
madvet madvet is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terry View Post
PS:

The reason for that role is that your muscles need to be fresh and responsive on the "quality days" in your training week. If they're fresh, you'll be able to do practice repeats on those days -- no more than twice a week -- that imprint the coordination for a combination of Stroke Length and Rate that converts to very fast swimming. If your aerobic training between quality days is even a little bit too effortful, you won't be sufficiently recovered on quality day and your nervous system imprinting -- and your races -- will suffer.
Maybe I have heard this before but I never took it to heart. I will try to make this the focus of my training season.
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  #9  
Old 04-08-2009
Richardsk Richardsk is offline
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Hi bugmenot

Your splits look very good to me - I wish I could do times like that for 25m, never mind 50 yards.

I remember seeing somewhere a set based on the goal final 50m of a race. The idea was to swim large numbers of repeats at the pace you hoped to be finishing your race in. As the set progressed you came closer and closer to the physical state you would be in on race day on the last few meters (or yards). At the same time you were building neural and muscle memory of how that pace felt. Because your second 50 is always slower than your first, initially the pace would be relatively easy and over a period of time the whole set should become easier. That's the reasoning as far as I understand it.

I would be interested to hear Terry's views on this approach.
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  #10  
Old 04-08-2009
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
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I have been tentative to add my two cents here, because I have never swum your speeds and only coached one person who reached your speeds. But here are a couple things I believe relevant.

In conversations I have had with Coach Kredich of University of Tennessee, I learned that some types of training, specifically training the nervous system to failure (his example set was: 1x100 from the blocks, 2x25 at 100 Tempo, 2x50 Fast...2 Times the goal is to hold your goal race 100 for all of it) can take as much as 6 weeks to recover the nervous system. The muscles recovered long before that, but the nervous system recovers more slowly. So they did other short sprints and a lot of holding technique as tempo increases, but this was considered really hard and stopped 6 weeks out from conferences. This, I believe, fits in with what Terry was saying about the need to rest the nervous system.

Second, I saw an interview with, I believe it was Bill Boomer, about training cats and dogs. Some swimmers, even sprinters, do really well on very long training days (15K a day type sessions). Boomer called these athletes the dogs. They just need to keep going. Janet Evans, while not a sprinter, was a classic dog in his mind. Some, need very limited, very quality training. These he called cats. Gary Hall, Jr was his example there. The point is that every body is different. Our job as athletes is to find where our body fits in. So when you asked about too much aerobic work, the answer cannot be generalized. It sounds like it is too much for your body. Many of the USA elite coaches say the best strength of USA swimming is the lack of unity in our approach. If you are a cat, you can find a cat coach. If you are a dog, you can find a dog coach. Most of us are in between and most coaches are in between. I believe you find the best success when you are aware of your body and fit your coach to your physical and mental needs.

Finally, Terry has written a few times that the racing strategy that worked for his athletes at the Army Sprint group was 25% set your stroke with as little effort as possible, 50% build, 25% hold on. This seems like it might fit you because it helps you finish well. I have had success using this strategy (although success for me means 1:10/100yds).

I spend my practice sessions doing just that, practicing for each phase. I spend time trying to maximize my top speed for the final 25%. I spend time trying to maximize the speed I can hold and minimize my effort as I set my stroke. I try to get the easy speed as close to my max as possible. Then I work on building from one to the other. Every swim in practice is trying to match some portion of my race. I don't believe doing 20 x 100s on 1:10 matches any portion of your race.

I am spending a lot of time thinking right now about the program that I will set up when I get back into team coaching. I appreciate your post as it gave me a chance to think about what it takes to swim much faster than I ever will.
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