Recently I've been reading a great deal about swimming. From pro triathletes going to swimming camp, to coaches writing about their philosophies to bloggers talking about their killer workouts sessions at Masters. Swimming, Swimming, Swimming and more Swimming.
I didn't swim when I was younger. In fact I almost drown but that's another story. My entrance into Group swimming was Masters in California when I got serious for Triathlon. If you asked me today in Germany it's the one thing I miss a great deal of about California. I really liked going to Masters practice. The swimming was always good but Masters is also a place to interact with people of your own ilk. The closest thing I've found in Germany is the Triathlon club swimming. The other day they were swimming in the lane next to me. 13 people in one lane. Yes it is a 50 meter pool but 13 people, give me a break. Only swimmer #1 is really swimming. The others are just along for the ride. The thing I liked about masters was the group workout, the accomplishment on the day and the speed. I got caught up in swimming fast. I always tried to work on moving up to the faster lanes, until the set would be longer than 200 or on a shorter interval than 1:20 per hundred. When it got really long or really fast I had to move back down. The issue I had was I could swim fast in the pool but it has never translated to Triathlon. If my pool times did transfer who knows what might have happened. But they haven't. So for a long time I decided there was no point in concentrating on the swim. If I swam twice a week, and then raced, my race swim times would be comparable to when I was swimming lots and going hard. I decided that was not the way to address 2009 so when searching for a coach I really wanted one who had a philosophy on Triathlon swimming not just one who gave you workouts.
Well I think I found the system. It hasn't been easy to make the adjustment but it seems to be working. At Endurance Corner the focus is on a few things:
1. Regular Volume - Swimming is a small part of any triathlon but a strong swim can keep you fresh on the bike.
2. Pace Changing - No Triathlon swim is steady pace and you are not all out for any long period. There is a great deal of pace changing during the swim. Hard start, settle in, sprint for those feet, stay steady on those feet, move around those feet because they slowed etc.
3. Bilateral Breathing - Even out your stroke. Learn to relax in the water. Have better control of your swimming.
4. 400's - More 400 meter swims in a week than I probably did in 4 months in masters. Because of the number of people in a lane most masters sets have shorter swims more often. People get lapped in a 400 and get really ticked off when they get lapped.
5. Finally the system really stresses doing the workouts and staying away from the grind of masters.
I'm committed to this program so I'll give some regular updates on how it's going. It hasn't been easy. I miss masters but then again it's not here in Germany. I miss going fast. I just love the feel of being on top of the water for 25 yards. Heck I went so far as to swimming only in the 50 meter pool. There are no 25's. I can also see improvement.
1. I breath every 3rd stroke. Even when I'm going fast I stick to every 3rd. If I find myself creeping to every stroke I slow down.
2. I can now change pace. I'm not perfect but it's doable. Example.
5 x 400 on the same interval but Fast, Moderate, Steady, Moderate, Fast. Faster at the end.
My interval (400 meters in a 50 meter pool) 7:00 minutes. (by the way rest is usually short in this program).
Number 1: 6:35
Number 2: 6:40
Number 3: 6:50
Number 4: 6:38
Number 5: 6:25
To know how to change pace like that is very gratifying. Never in a Masters set did we ever do that and never if asked did we really do it. Believe it or not the hardest one of those was the 6:50. In Masters there really is no swiming slow. Why rest 10 seconds when you can rest 20 by swimming faster. So going 6:50 was hard. But as you can see the 6:50 on short rest set up the next two.
My first race is still roughly 3 months away. I'll report on these 400's since I know they are out there lurking in a swim set in my future. I'm confident right now that they will translate to a faster and more confident race swim.
It's a good life...