1. Racing – The drive to win close races to recover from mistakes and overtake your competition, the desire to win!!!! Some swimmers have that desire and others must be taught. You must add racing sets in your workout. Each swimmer must have the ability to start and stop speed (variable speed) throughout the season, no matter what phase of training you are currently involved. Drafting then passing, stagger starts and racing different abilities of swimmers in practice must be some part of a weekly routine.
2. Race Pace – This isn’t sprinting to exhaustion but creating the speed that will be needed to achieve goal times for each event. Let’s take the 100 free for our example: let’s say your goal is to swim a 48.00 in the 100. In order to achieve this swim you must create and instill muscle memory at this speed. You will need to maintain 12.00 while swimming 25’s and 24.00 speed while doing 50’s. Adjust race pace demands based on how you want your swimmer to race.
If 48.00 is the goal and you want 23/25 as your splits then train at that speed. You can eventually work up to 75’s and broken 100’s (breaking them at different distances) and finally a 100 from the block before you actually swim your big race. This will give you the confidence needed for the big race. Start the season with enough rest at each desired distance to achieve race pace goal speed and as the season continues lessen the rest interval and achieve the same result. If you are tired on a given day that you want to do race pace then you must give yourself enough rest to achieve race pace. This doesn’t have to be the main set but just the last 10 minutes of a desired workout. Please remember to do race pace during the aerobic phase of the season and during holiday training. Race pace develops muscle memory and helps create speed and power. Remember that your dryland program is important and must coincide with this type of training. You will do more race pace as the taper progresses. Recovery and overspeed sets are as important and must be incorporated with race pace. Training with speed and power in the water and during dryland will enhance everything you are trying to achieve in your program.
3. Overspeed – Creating and enhancing muscle memory with the possible speed of a time not yet achieved in a race. Creating speed in short spurts helps train the fast twitch muscle make-up of every swimmer. Cords are a wide spread example usually incorporated during the taper or resting phase of a season and should be used throughout. Overspeed can be achieved off starts and walls and during very short distances or with correct tarzan swimming.
4. Tarzan for speed purposes – Swimmers that do water polo use tarzan to see the ball. They are strong, have arm speed, upper body strength and usually are great at kicking. Wow, everything you need for sprinting! Sprinting doesn’t always mean short distances. 200’s are now in the sprint category.
5. Recovery and dryland – These two categories make most people nervous. Proper recovery must be part of each workout phase and the dryland program must match. You must constantly change body part emphasis in your workouts to ensure recovery. Hard work should alternate legs, core and upper body. That doesn’t mean if you are recovering the legs you can’t work the arms. You need to alternate upper and lower body between dryland and swimming. You can alternate within each set, from set to set, from workout to workout or week to week. Add a true recovery workout once during the week and see how you respond the next day. Maybe you even need a day off as in MENTAL RECOVERY.
6. Set Structure – Sets should include distances as well as the repetitions, mechanics emphasis, and what to do on each part of the swim. For example: 6 X 400’s on 5:00 free with 4 fly kicks off each wall breathing to one side of the pool, to insure breathing on both sides and even shoulder rotation. Odd swims are variable speed 75% – 95% by 50, with numbers 2 and 4 pace holding 1:02 and number 6 being timed with sprint kicking each wall and last 200. Write it down and take it to the pool.
7. Pace Clock – Swimmers must be able to read the clock and understand negative, even, ascending and pace terminology for splits in races and practice. Swimmers should constantly be using the clock even during warm-up and warm-downs so times and speed can be inherent. You must understand a certain speed with feel. You must understand and learn variable speed and repeats of a certain pace physically and mentally. Simple example during warm-up 4 X 200’s with descending send-offs with a goal time on the last 200. For example, 4 X 200’s on 2:40, 2:30, 2:20 and the last one go a 2:15.
8. Coaches flexibility: Stay flexible and evaluate if the swimmers are getting what you wanted out of each set. Don’t force the issue if motivation isn’t the issue. Change the set to achieve your goal, scratch the set if needed, adjust it or use it later in the season. If you change the set explain why and try to get them to understand the reason. If you can’t explain it you’ll never be able to teach it. If too much info is written for the set slowly increase the stimulus over time. Flexibility is hard as a coach feels the time constraint to get it all in. Fight that urge and back up, as that will help the swimmers more in the short and long term.
9. IM (Individual medley) and the importance of doing sets in IM order. Training the muscle memory of going from one stroke to the other and breathing patterns. Breathing patterns change from one stroke to the other, as does the timing of each stroke. When switching strokes the swimmer must gain control of the breathing pattern before settling into the race strategy of each stroke. Doing sets in IM order will help train the breathing patterns.
10. Heart rate is a great tool to see if you are sick, stressed, over worked, need more rest or just out of shape. You can measure this many ways by creating a set that helps you maximize heart rate and measuring how long it takes you or your athlete to recover.
Remember you are not a doctor nor should you diagnose from the results, it is only a tool that can be used to help with each phase of training. This tells you about aerobic conditioning, fatigue during the core of training and the amount of resting needed to create race pace or sprinting. This tool definitely helps during taper and resting before meets. Consult a doctor or read up about heart rate, as there are plenty of studies and information on the subject. This will help you with flexibility and changing your workouts when needed.