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Old 09-13-2013
limus limus is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 6
Default Longer sets to build endurance


I am long time lurker here but this is my first post. I've been practicing TI for over 8 months now, first self coaching then with coach Stuart (great coach but maybe not so great replying to emails, haha :-).

I know one of the TI mantras is to "never practice struggle". So based on that principle all this time I haven't really swam more than 100 yards at the time and would stop as soon as I would notice my stroke deteriorating and stroke count starting to go up. I swam quite a bit, usually 6 times/week for 45-60 min.

I made some great improvements to my stroke, especially since starting to work with coach Stuart. But then last week I did olympic distance tri and couple hundred yards into the swim my stroke fell apart and I had pretty tough swim and somewhat disappointing time. But this is not what my question is about.

The thing is, couple days later in the pool I noticed how much easier the swimming has become. All of the sudden I could now swim 300 yards pretty easily and keep the stroke count consistent. Its like that 1500 yard swim, even though I practiced nothing but struggle for all but 200 yards, has built up some endurance which now allows me to swim longer distances skillfully.

So my question is - maybe we do need to do longer sets to prepare for longer swims ? Even if we may not be burning the most efficient stroke into the muscle memory we are building muscle endurance that then allows to practice efficient stroke for longer distances. Of course I am talking occasional long set, maybe 1000 yards once a week. I wonder what are your thoughts about this or if you had similar experiences with this ?

All the best,

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Old 09-13-2013
jenson1a jenson1a is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: Southwest Florida
Posts: 671

There is a great thread titled "A question regarding continuance" in the freestyle forum.
There are many posts on this subject (along with some ramblers), but Coach Suzanne had a great answer to a question I asked regarding struggle. It is post # 85 in that thread. Somewhere around the 9 th page I believe.

I also had wondered about doing longer sets and how to do them without practicing struggle. As I said, Coach Suzanne had a great answer and used some practical examples.

Not sure all of this pertains to your question, but it may help.

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Old 09-13-2013
terry terry is offline
Head Coach
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 2,305
terry has disabled reputation

I'm reacting only to the title--not the content--of this thread.

One of the most important of all TI training principles is that the only reason to lengthen a set--or to increase yardage as a general rule--is for the reason Gennadi Touretski gave when asked why he sometimes had Alexandre Popov swim more than 20km per day in training when he swam only 50m and 100m in races.

Touretski's reply: "More opportunities to practice correct technique."

That is perhaps my all-time favorite swimming quote.
Terry Laughlin
Head Coach & Chief Executive Optimist

May your laps be as happy as mine.

My TI Story
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Old 09-16-2013 is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 157


There are two reasons I like to swim long sets.

1. I find it relaxing.
2. It's only after I've been swimming continuously for at least 20 mins that I can really start to feel my stroke degrade. And at that point I can really focus on the adjustments necessary to keep things on track for long swims.

In particular I can really feel the strain on my right shoulder and my left elbow, also the strain on my lower back and the beginnings of fatigue in the core. And when I start to get that feedback I can really work on optimising my stroke to minimise these negative feedback points.
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Old 09-16-2013
WFEGb WFEGb is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Jul 2011
Location: Hamburg
Posts: 1,104

Hello Craig,

how do you hold your stroke repairs for the "rest"?

When I swim for some more laps (most readers would call it warm up, for me it's an endurance set...) every lap tells me where to focus the next one or two. But after 15-20min more and more flaws take place and when focusing to repair the next the last will get in soon... For me these are still focused strokes, but might be from a coach's point of view struggle long ago took place...

How to decide?

Best regards,
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Old 09-16-2013
limus limus is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 6

Thank you all for the feedback.

Terry - I understand what you are saying, but I guess what I am getting at is finding good balance between practicing and training. You said it yourself in the book:

"Alas, that’s not what I meant. We’re adjusting priorities, not advocating sloth. In the first place, 30 percent is nothing to walk away from. More important, however, even a brilliantly efficient stroke won’t do you much good if you run out of gas halfway down the pool. Training does have its place in the Total Immersion system, and the more you know about what the training effect is, the better you’ll know how to plan your own"

I thought about this and I read a bit more from Terry's book. I think there are 2 variables to this equation of swimming well in the triathlon. One is aerobic vs. anaerobic training. Here is a quote from the book:

"Conveniently, the way you should train for each event is much the same as the way you race it. Endurance training (longer sets, shorter rest, easier pace) develops the “wind” tank. Sprint training (shorter sets, longer rest, faster pace) develops the “speed" tank.

I think by becoming somewhat obsessed with SPL I turned my training sessions into short repeats which did nothing for my aerobic capacity.

The second variable is how to increase the distance without losing efficiency. Again as Terry says:
"To beef up your mile swim, your challenge is to add only laps or repetitions you can do with the same efficiency (stroke count) as your best laps, usually your first".

But then:
"So for the multisport among you, the bottom line is this: Since your smartest move in a triathlon is to keep your heart rate at 130 to 140 bpm for the entire swim, training at anything higher is a waste of time and energy"

However, I can drop my SPL but putting more power into the stroke but of course that has nothing to do with efficiency. So I think the SPL that Terry talks about is SPL you get when swimming with easy relaxed effort where SPL more closely represents how smoothly you move through the water and not how much power you put into it. And that will be different number for me.

Sorry I rambled on here, I was thinking as I was writing this and I think I am starting to realized where my error was. I need to set baseline SPL while swimming very relaxed and then try to hold THAT number while increasing the distance. Whereas before I would put a lot of effort into first few laps, which would give me a bit lower SPL but the one I could not hold it for long, stop it as soon as it would increase and thus get stuck with doing anaerobic sets.

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