Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Faster 1.5km Swim in the Key of S- Part 2: Strong

This is the second part of my four part Massive SwimSplosion of Advice series. For Part 1: Smooth click anywhere that looks like a hyperlink in this sentence because it will probably send you there.
In Part Two we will be discussing how to become a Strong swimmer. Not as important to your distance swimming, but not to be disregarded either.


Swimmer Strong is the ability to nail shorter, harder sets. A Strong swimmer has a powerful stroke. Strong does not mean bulky, big, or sometimes even all that muscular. Swimming makes you muscular, but it does not make you big. That unique swimmer’s body of Phelps, Lochte, and Yang is narrow hips, big back, wide shoulders. That doesn’t come from lifting weights as much as it comes from repetition. Those are muscles of function, not muscles of vanity.
Strong, powerful swimming means putting a lot of force into the pull phase of the stroke. Strong swimming will allow you to cut precious strokes off your total count, which will save you energy, which will allow you to gap the runners on the bike. You should do half-to-one Strong set a week. This is the least important of the first three “S”s.  

Information on Sets and Timing
Sets will be described as 5 x 100- 1:30. This translates as Five One Hundreds ( default to freestyle unless otherwise noted) on One Minute Thirty seconds. This means that, for this particular set, your timing would look like this:
1- leave at 0:00
2- leave at 1:30
3- leave at 3:00
4- leave at 4:30
5- leave at 6:00
This type of timing means that as you get tired your rest time decreases, forcing you to do the same amount of work with less recovery, which will help you get stronger. Beginner swimmers may struggle to find a happy time standard. You should be able to make 10 x 100 with plenty of rest of the time standard you choose. Experimentation will be needed. By 100s eight and nine you may only be getting five seconds of rest. This is good. It will make you physically and mentally tougher.
Your 100 time standard then translates to all other distances. If you are doing your 100s on the 2:00, then your 200s will be on the 4:00, 300s on the 6:00, 400s on the 8:00, and 500s on the 10:00. Having this baseline will help you gauge progress and see where you ard when evaluating race times. Please remember that open water swim times are normally slower than pool times. Current, waves, and the press of other bodies slow you down.
Another choice for timing is to give yourself a set amount of rest between each effort. So you can do 10 x 100 with 20 seconds rest. This is a good place for beginners to start, since you cannot fail to meet a time standard and it might be less discouraging.
It will be a good idea to use active rest between sets. Active rest includes an easy 50 or 100yd swim. Active rest is better than passive rest (hanging on the wall) because it speed recovery and gets lactic acid out of your muscles faster.

To prepare for a 1.5km (1640 yds) swim your workouts should hover around the 1700yd mark. Strong workouts might be slightly shorter and may include Smooth work as active rest. Sustainable workouts will be slightly longer. Harder, main sets should go towards the front of the workout, after a warm-up of 200-500 yards.

Set #1
10 x 100- Sustainable time
total- 1,000yds
*Notes* You want to be making the 100s comfortably for the first few, and by the end really be struggling. It is not uncommon to get 3 seconds rest with a Strong set. As stated above, that will make you mentally and physically tougher. This is a bread-and-butter type set. You can add Smooth drills to it, but note that turns it from a Strong set into a Smooth set. This is not a problem as long as your goals match your work.

Set #2
10 (15) x 50- Sustainable time
total- 500/750yds
*Notes* This is one of two times 50s will be suggested. Do not fill workouts with 50s, they won’t truly prepare a swimmer for a mile. But as far as creating a deep anaerobic hole to climb out of, its hard to beat them. Plus, while a 100 might be intimidating to a beginner swimmer, anyone will look at a 50 and think, “Two laps? How hard can it be?” With the highest amount of effort, very hard. Every single 50 should be as hard as possible.

Set #3
10 x 100- Build intensity over each 100
total- 1000yds
*Notes* In most pools 100 yards is four laps. In this set Lap One would be about 75% intensity, Lap Two 80%, Lap Three 85%, Lap Four 90-95%. Lap Four is the Chased By A Shark lap. In the case of a long course (Olympic-sized 50m pool) there should still be a line on the pool bottom marking halfway. Change gears there.

Set #4
10 x 50s- Breath count
Total- 500yds
Anaerobic work makes you stronger. Choose a number of breaths-per-lap or breaths-per-fifty and swim hard while keeping to that goal. Don’t give up, you need less oxygen than you think. This set should be on a set amount of rest rather than a time standard.

Set #5
Ladder to 200 by 50s
1 x 50- x time
1 x 100- 2x time
1 x 150- 3x time
1 x 200- 4x time
1 x 150- 3x time
1 x 100- 2x time
1 x 50- x time
Total- 800yds
*Notes* Ladder sets seem longer than they are. The point is to finish the last 50 with the same intensity that you did the first 50. Ladders also teach pacing. It will not take long to find out that maybe you shouldn’t have hit the 100 quite so hard now that you’re halfway into the 200 and sucking wind.

Set #6
5 x 100 IM
total- 500yds
*Notes* This is an advanced set. IM stands for Individual Medley, which is one lap of each stroke in the following order- butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle. Obviously, a swimmer must know all four strokes before attempting this set. Before you wave your hand proclaiming that you will never swim fly, back, or breast in a race you need to realize you will never put your bike on a trainer or ride that specific hill you keep struggling up in a race either. These strokes make you Strong. They make you use different muscles, and they make you struggle and hurt. It’s good for you.

*Triathlon-Specific Strong Notes*
A triathlete will use the skills they develop from Strong sets primarily in the first 200-300yds of a race. That mad dash to the first buoy, when the pack is still thick and there are elbows and feet everywhere. Strong swimmers will be able to get clear of the washing machine quickly without using up their entire store of energy, before settling in to a more Sustainable stroke. Remember, just because you are swimming all out, attacking the walls and breaking off pieces, does not mean your stroke stops being Smooth. The moment your stroke starts to fall apart take a step back. As will be discussed in the Sustainable section, a swimmer’s ability to maintain correct technique throughout an entire race determines their position coming out of the water. Strong does not mean splashing mess. Smooth still comes first.

1 comment:

  1. Super! Looking forward to the rest of the series.