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kejpa 07-06-2011 12:27 PM

Building endurance and speed.
Two year's ago I stumbled on TI and found it interesting and challenging. I decided to have a go at it with the competitive youngsters I've been coaching. For two years now we've been focusing on making the drills as good as possible, and now I think they're all doing quite fine.
Recently I've begun thinking that we need to improve endurance and speed to make them more successful in competitions and make their times drop. But each time I think that way I'm afraid that their technique will get messed up. So I was very happy to see Terry's blog/video on "The Speed Problem", it made me realize that there are a TI-way of doing this. Unfortunately it was very much directed to triathletes and not competing swimmers although much of it surely is applicable to them too.

My questions (finally!):
What is the general idea for building endurance?
What is the general idea for building speed?

From my 30+ years as a swimmer I very easily fall back to the 70's with "10x100 fr on A3 @1:40 Ready... Go!" and hope that they will be fast enough to catch their breath between intervals and that they will keep their technique. And clearly it's not the TI-way. My idea for building endurance the TI way would be doing sets like

[4x25, 3x50, 2x75, 1x100] at a certain SPL, quit and restart when (if) you fail on any distance.
25, 50, 75, 100, 125, 150 .... 500 at a certain SPL, quit and restart on failure.
With the general idea being "Increase laps while maintaining SPL" and "Drop SPL while maintaining laps".

Building speed is even more complicated, since you obviously need to swim fast at practice in order to swim fast at meets,isn't it? Is it just my stone age brain telling me lies?
How fast would you swim if you have a pb of 30.0 on 50 free? What would a set look like?
My idea for building speed would be "Drop time while maintaining SPL" and "Drop SPL while maintaining time". Is it?

A lot of questions! I realize that but any directions would be very nice to get.

Best regards

CoachRosita 07-06-2011 05:40 PM

Building Endurance and Speed

Terry has recently posted per the four competitive strokes on the TI web since he was focused on breaking the Adirondack Masters records in a number of events during nationals, so check the past forum / blog inputs.

Also, the book Long Strokes in a Short Season by Art Aungst a Total Immersion Coach is available on the TI site. I have read it, even though I don't coach children or the four strokes and found it very informative and helpful per my own swimming.

Hope this gives you a couple of quick starting points.

Coach Rosita

terry 07-07-2011 06:50 PM

I'm really delighted to see you posting here. Your name suggests to me that you may be from Norway? What sort of team do you coach? What can you tell us about your coaching background and situation?

Also what do you consider your most pressing or highest priority challenges or opportunities in coaching?

The starting point for TI coaching with age group swimmers (whether their age group is 11-12 or 70-74) is to be unshakable in your commitment to movement quality. When planning training sets, your first thought is always how it can teach, refine, or improve movement quality. And while conducting the set, be ready at any time to change, modify or stop the set if you don't see the movement quality you're looking for.

That is an Aesthetic or Subjective way of looking at it. There's also the Objective, Measurable or Mathematical way -- manipulating the metrics of SPL,Tempo, Distance, Rest Interval and Time. You always keep your Aesthetic standards in mind. Sometimes you add Objective measures to them.

Where do your Aesthetic standards come from? This morning I had an email exchange on that subject with several colleagues and friends who I've known for 40 years. Here are some excerpts:

>>I have a personal anecdote about the potent effect of 'rapt' video observation. Scott and Ira probably remember the Aquaforum film series of videos showing top swimmers of the late 70s.

Tracy Caulkins was the only swimmer featured on the videos for all four strokes. I found myself so mesmerized by the preternatural beauty of her strokes -- on the backstroke video for instance Betsy Mitchell (who had the LC world record for 200 at the time) looked like a manual laborer while Tracy (who had the SC American record) looked like an artist -- that I made a Best of Tracy compilation of her doing all four strokes on a single cassette.

In 1981 I used to sit in a darkened room with Tracy at least once a week for 30 to 40 minutes, mainly just letting it 'wash over me.' I recall a sense of feeling hypnotized. From what I've studied about neuroscience more recently, I now understand that the effect of dozens of hours of watching raptly was a 'rewiring' of cognitive and conceptual circuits in my brain, creating a far more developed sense of the aesthetics of great swimming.

I decided that Tracy's swimming should set the standard of movement quality I would strive to implement in every stroke with every swimmer. I have no doubt that the inspiring images burned into my brain by spending so many hours watching Tracy's images were more responsible than anything else for the jaw-dropping performances I saw my swimmers do in 1982.

I'm also convinced that the set of beliefs that emerged 10 years later as TI philosophy were equally influenced by that -- as was the stroke shaping I did with Joe Novak while coaching at Army 15 years later. While coaching Joe, I wasn't thinking about anything as impersonal as efficiency. Rather I always felt more like a sculptor trying to create the swimming equivalent of Michelangelo's David.

Some time ago I read a blog by a woodworker who is famed for carving award-winning ducks. He described his creative process this way: I start with a block of wood and a vivid image of a duck. Then I just take away anything that 'isn't duck.'"

That has been my stroke-shaping process ever since watching Tracy. I try to 'carve away' anything that's not graceful, either in the human form or in the movement.>>

I'll stop here since this bit may result in some very good discussion. We can move on to other questions of set design after everyone is talked out on the idea of applying Aesthetic Standards in coaching a practice.

terry 07-07-2011 07:55 PM

Also see practice examples on this thread.

Do you have the opportunity to swim Long Course at all?

kejpa 07-08-2011 11:04 AM

Hi Terry,
No, I'm Swedish, but I live in the archipelago between Sweden and Finland called Åland Islands. It's paradise, you should come visit during summer!

My team consists of boys and girls 10-12 depending on season (quite a few world top sailers live here and some of the sailing youngsters swim for the winter season mainly for exercise). The group differ in age from 13 to 20 and in 10mm free pb 0:52.4 to 1:12,0.

Interesting that you talk of Aesthetic, I haven't thought about it earlier but that is something that is a basic part of my coaching. It's like Occam's Razor , the easier and more relaxed are better! I think it's been a guideline in my coaching for very long, I guess from the very start. I started coaching in '82 for a couple of years, then I stopped while at University and restarted in '91 and continued through '95 when I was fed up of anything related to swimming. I managed to stay out of the pool for a couple of years but when moving to Åland in '01 I started to swim competitive again (at the age of 35) and continued a couple of years and then I was forced to taking the head coach hat when the previous coach just quitted. Three years ago I thought the swimmers technique was in a really bad shape and that year I tried to improve it the old-fashioned way with no success which made me quite frustrated and I went looking at the internet and stumbled upon TI. I was instantly amazed, and I started to implement it, at first the kids thought I'd keep nagging on them for an hour or two. Their jaws dropped when I said "Until October. IF you learn fast". For the next two months we only did drills. No whole stroke swimming at all. 10 minutes of this, 20 minutes of that. Short break to clear the brain and get some exercise while jumping from the bottom of the pool, and so on. From mid October we started whole stroke swimming aswell. I was amazed how their times dropped, and so were they. No ordinary workouts just drilling and pb's dropped.
The last semester the programs have been 45+ minutes of drills, mainly 50's at a time with 10sek rest, followed by whole stroke swimming with different pace for 30-50 minutes depending on day of the week and targeted competition. Then drills again followed by sprints and warm down. Once a week we have race pace swimming off the blocks.

By the end of this second season of TI inspired coaching the results were not what I expected, and one of the reason is lack of endurance, and another is lack of speed.
Some of the kids lack endurance, they don't have the cardiovascular capacity they would need. They get tired and they can't keep a high speed for a longer distance. Some of the kids lack speed, they can keep going through out the whole distance but in too slow speed. Mainly because they practice slowness, swimming too slow at practice. The latters need endurance as well, but mostly speed.
So my plans for the upcoming season is to start building endurance, until first week of October, then slowly switch to speed for a couple of weeks before the age group nationals.

All of the kids do the drills quite well, and keep it in whole stroke swimming as well. But my opinion is that there are always room for improvement for any swimmer, my kids and myself included.
We've briefly touched the subject of SPL, but it didn't go well, speed dropped dramatically and in order to have the designated SPL the kids cheated (of course) and did longer push offs and underwater kicking as well as gliding the last 2-3m of the pool. So I thought that it had to wait. But I don't think it can wait anymore.
We also have a couple of Tempo Trainers that I've been using on and off for a couple of swimmers but the majority of the swimmers don't like them. I myself regard it as a excellent tool. From your posts I think we need to get one for each swimmer ;)

Best regards

kejpa 07-08-2011 11:06 AM

Hi again,
nice examples :)

Unfortunately we only have a 25m pool, and the sea of course.


terry 07-12-2011 01:35 PM


Originally Posted by kejpa (Post 20570)
Hi Terry,
No, I'm Swedish, but I live in the archipelago between Sweden and Finland called Åland Islands. It's paradise, you should come visit during summer!

So are the Åland Islands part of Sweden or Finland? I will swim in Swedish Masters Nationals in Kristiansted next March, then go x-c skiing with my good friend Lennart Larsson who you will probably encounter on this Forum. Perhaps we can meet at that time.


Originally Posted by kejpa (Post 20570)
By the end of this second season of TI inspired coaching the results were not what I expected, and one of the reason is lack of endurance, and another is lack of speed. <snip>
All of the kids do the drills quite well, and keep it in whole stroke swimming as well.

If they drill well and maintain good form in whole stroke, then you should probably reduce the drill component greatly. One of our coaches, Bob Wiskera, had a saying to remind us all to keep drills in perspective. "No one comes to TI to learn Back Balance." (a drill we stopped using in the late 90s.)
The drills are great for breaking the stroke down into its critical components, then allowing you to examine and refine each component. But whole stroke practice is essential for integrating those components so they work seamlessly and in harmony.
I did a high percentage of drill practice from 1991-99, with most of it focused on Balance and Streamlining. But between 1992 and 2000 I did hardly any pool racing - though I stayed pretty active in open water swims. So I wasn't very focused on pace or speed. Mostly efficiency. Since 2005 I've resumed a keener focus on racing and my percentage of drill practice has dropped to almost nil. I still strive to increase efficiency, and always will. But I do it now with Stroke Thoughts, Stroke Counts and Tempo Trainer, in whole stroke. I'll post today's practice below. A good example of how I work on efficiency in a very measured way.

terry 07-12-2011 02:18 PM

An 'Asymmetrical Tempo' Pyramid
Tues July 12 3000 LCM at Ulster County Pool
I had a busy weekend, swimming the Greenwich Point (CT) Mile in LI Sound on Saturday. I placed 1st in 60-64 with a time of 20:40.
On Sunday I swam Stage 3 of the 8 Bridges Swim, 13.2 miles in the Hudson River from the Mid-Hudson Bridge in Poughkeepsie to the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. In that I tied for 7th (or last) in 5h 11m. More on this experience in my blog.

My total of 22,000 meters in just over five hours (albeit aided by a 1.4 knot current for about 4 hours) is about what I normally swim in two weeks, so I felt a bit knackered and creaky on Monday, and took a day off from swimming. (I did weights in the afternoon though.) A main priority this morning was to swim for restoration, yet seek improvement at the same time. I did a single set of 30 x 100, though I broke it up into sets of 5, then 3, and changed tempo each set. I chose to do only 100s because I felt longer repeats might remind my muscles how much I'd asked of them 36 hours earlier.

Here's the set:
First the ascending (slowing-tempo) part of the Pyramid.
5 x 100 @ 1.06
5 x 100 @ 1.08
5 x 100 @ 1.10
Then the descending side where tempo gets faster.
3 x 100 @ 1.09
3 x 100 @ 1.08
3 x 100 @ 1.07
3 x 100 @ 1.06
3 x 100 @ 1.05

As you can see, the final set of 100s is at a tempo slightly faster than the first set.
I usually begin a set like this at a tempo that feels a tiny bit rushed. My goal on that first group of repeats is to "slow time down" - to do enough repeats that, by the end, I feel as if I have more time between beeps, even though the beep frequency doesn't change.

What do I used that extra 'perceived time' for? To extend my bodyline a bit more before catch, to take a bit more care with the catch, to calm both myself and the water.

On that first set, I reduced my total strokes (for 100m) from 89 to 86. What I especially love about using the Tempo Trainer is how counter-intuitive it is. I put my focus on slowing down, easing up, relaxing, taking more time to cultivate my catch. As a result, I was moving the water less, and my body more. At 89 strokes -- and 1.06 tempo -- my 100 time (including 6 extra beeps for the pushoff and turn) was 1:40.7. At 86 strokes my time was 1:37.5. So by slowing down and easing up, I swam 3.2 sec faster (which is 48 sec faster on a 1500m pace.

As I slowed tempo over the next two rounds, my stroke count dropped to 81. At 81 strokes and 1.10 tempo, my time is 1:35.7. So again, I saw my time get faster as my stroke got slower because the increased leisure allowed me to stroke with more care, precision and sensitivity to water flow.

Then came the getting-faster part of the Pyramid.
I call this an Asymmetrical Tempo Pyramid because I don't descend in the same way I ascend. I've found that if I descend by smaller increments -- and in this case fewer repeats per group -- I can do a better job of maintaining the Stroke Length I've gained as tempo slowed.

To cut to the chase, I held stroke count at 81 @ 1.09 and 1.08, at 82 @ 1.07, at 83 @ 1.06.
When I began the set @ 1.06 my stroke total ranged from 89 to 86. But after slowing down to increase efficiency (and speed) I improved to 83 strokes here. Which converts to a 100m time of 1:34.3, And I was still swimming at only about 80% of maximum.

For the final set of 3 x 100 @ 1.05 I raised my effort to 90%-plus, as I would at the end of a race. The main change was to finally apply firm pressure on my stroke; until this point I kept it as light as I could.
My stroke count was 82-82-81. My time at 81 strokes and 1.05 was 1:30.3.

To put this in goal-perspective, I'd like to hold 81 strokes at a tempo of 1.00 or faster before the Betsy Owens 2-Mile Cable Swim Aug 13 in Lake Placid. I see this as a challenge in neural adaptation more than anything. Today's practice was one solid step toward it.

CoachSuzanne 07-12-2011 04:12 PM

Kjell & Terry,

Thanks for another wonderful thread! Kjell, my first experience with swimming a set the "TI Way" was at my coach training a year and a half ago.

Terry had us swim (in a 50m pool), 50m, 100m and 150m counting strokes. I beleive I started with around 37 stokes @ 50, then 37/38, and finally 39/42/43. Frankly I was also terrified as I'd never swum in a 50 m pool, nor a pool that was that deep (although I've swum alactraz adn loved it).

The next 30 seconds that followed in which Terry asked me what my counts were life changing. Suddenly lightbulbs and a whole new understanding came over me. terry has already mentioned the various metrics that can be manipulated to create any aspect of swimming improvement that you'd like

Stroke Count
Rest Intervals

In my case, I could have create sets of 50s & 100s aiming for a stroke count of 37 to improve my imprinting of that stroke, and as a consequence, the ability to hold that effort for longer (as well as holding technique). But what really stood out was that I could also choose to simply rest LONGER prior to trying the 150m with the aim of keeping my stroke counts at 37/38.

It seems like you already understand this basic idea, but be aware that the variety of ways to implement it are limited only by your imagination.

I come to the forums often to dip into the number of ideas that Terry & others have shared here the post and as he's done above.

Building speed is done in the same way. One needs to either increase rate or decrease strokes in order to get faster. Once a test set has been done (like I mentioned above), "training" sets can be designed with specific goals in mind that will be unique to each swimmer in the group...yet all can share in the same workout, or practice as we like to refer to them.

terry 07-12-2011 09:20 PM


Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne (Post 20622)
What really stood out was that I could also choose to simply rest LONGER prior to trying the 150m with the aim of keeping my stroke counts at 37/38.

A key difference between TI and the traditionalists is they consider rest intervals sacred. We think of them--in the words of sociologists, engineers, and other empirical types-- as just a 'data point.'

Training sets become far more interesting--and produce far more valuable insight--when you think of them as little experiments.

In the set example I gave above, I changed the rest interval in the 2nd half of the set, as tempos were getting faster, to give me a bit better chance at success. During the 3 rounds of 5 x 100 increasing tempo, I rested for 10 beeps between 100s. While the traditionalists think the demands of physiology should receive first consideration, I think the requirements of neural adaptation that allows a better combination of SL/SR come first.

Yet I don't ignore physiological considerations. So resting for 10 beeps after swimming for nearly 90 beeps, a 9:1 work:rest ratio is solidly aerobic. That lets me know the set will prepare me for the metabolic demands of distance swimming.

As tempos got faster I increased rest to 20 beeps between 100s. A bit more recovery yet -- at a better than 4:1 work:rest ratio still solidly aerobic. The bit of extra recovery gave me a better shot at maintaining efficiency. And that's always my #1 priority.


Originally Posted by CoachSuzanne (Post 20622)
Once a test set has been done (like I mentioned above), "training" sets can be designed with specific goals in mind that will be unique to each swimmer in the group...yet all can share in the same workout, or practice as we like to refer to them.

In essence my first round of 5 x 100 was a test set, as Suzanne calls it. Most days I do exactly this. I use my first 8 to 10 minutes of swimming as a test set, which sets the parameters for improvement. In this case the parameters were
Distance - 100m
Rest - 10 beeps (10+ seconds)
Stroke Length (86-89 strokes/100)
Tempo - 1.06

ANY improvement on any combination of those parameters in subsequent sets tells me I'm going in the right direction.

Some time ago on this Forum there was a lengthy discussion of what are "slow" and "fast" times. I took the position that such labels mainly serve to limit us or make us feel bad, and are essentially meaningless without specific context. What is 'slow' for a 35 y.o. man might be incredibly fast for a 55 y.o. woman? Conversely what is 'slow' for a 65 y.o. woman who is a world-ranked Master could be massively impressive for a 25 y.o. male who has just swum his first mile.

So I prefer to just establish MY parameters for TODAY's practice and work on improving them. Whatever they are.

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