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Weight Lifting must continue during taper and athletic peaking

If you lift you must taper lifting also. Do not stop lifting or the benefits of your cross training will be lost.  You must work on speed while continuing to gain strength. The Faster Swimming coach’s guide shows an exact practice schedule for lifting during taper as well as detailed dryland workouts during this crucial phase. 

If you need help tailoring your program please email me @ [email protected]

Athletic Peaking

Athletic peaking, when you are in top shape, results in your best performances of the season. At this time fitness is at the highest level, while fatigue is at the lowest. This is the one time of the season that fatigue should in no way mask fitness. Your peak occurs when you are ready to perform at your best physically (fitness, skills, reactions…) and psychologically (strategy, focus, intent…). Peaking for sport is no accident, but rather the culmination of training, competitions, tactics and regeneration that has been planned for. 

A peaking period can be as long as several weeks or as short as several days, so defining your peaking period and planning accordingly is critical. No new stimuli of any significant intensity should be introduced at this time, and training methods (psychological, physical, and technical) must be specific to the demands of competition. Complete regeneration of all required physical capacities; such as speed, strength, and power; is paramount. These levels should all be at their highest during a peaking phase. While volume most often drops significantly and rest periods increase during a taper, some portion of training intensity MUST remain high to facilitate peak performances. To maintain an extended peak, appropriate intensity must remain in your training at some level throughout the peaking period. 

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Taper Swim Workouts shouldn’t be easy and require QUALITY!

The Taper phase used by Faster Swimming is a 7 week process.

Get the exact workouts needed in our 23-week program.

Below is workout #105 of #113 that lead to Championships: 

Day #105 

Another meet warm up: 

600 choice swim @ 70% 

6 x 100 choice 50 kick / 50 swim :15 rest 

6 x 75 choice #1-3 kick / swim / kick by 25, #4-6 swim / kick / swim by 25 :15 rest 

6 x 50 swim take heart rate then :10 rest 
#1-3 heart rate above 25 for 10 seconds, #4 easy, 
#5-6 heart rate above 30 for 10 seconds 

5 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10 

Set #1 SKILLS spend 10 – 15 minutes on each 

1. reaction drills 
2. starts and relay starts 
3. turns, finishes and walls into and off turns 

Set #2 
6 x 25 swim @ 100 RP or 200 RP rest appropriate to hold pace 
( or 2 x 100 @ 500 RP) 

6 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10 

2 x 100 choice kick :15 rest 
1st 25 alternate 5 fast kicks / 6 slow kicks, last 75 @ 70% 

4 x 25 kick #1-2 build to sprint, #3-4 @ 70% 

6 x 75 recovery swim on 1:10 

Total yardage = 3,725 

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Speed – A Primer

Speed determines the victor in the sport of swimming. Whoever touches the wall first wins, regardless of technique differences, fitness, strength, mental toughness, or whatever. Speed wins.

So how do we improve speed? We swim fast(er). Often. And when full efforts don’t produce the speed we are looking for in the water, we slow down or shut it down. Why? Two reasons… Number one is technique. If you push harder and harder, technique can begin to fall apart. We don’t want to reinforce sloppy swim habits – especially at or near full speed, whatever the stroke or distance. Technique is ingrained and imprinted through repetition – specifically repetition at a given intensity or speed – by the nervous system. So we want to repeat the good – not the bad and the ugly.

Which brings us right to the doorstep of reason #2 – the nervous system. The nervous system controls our movements (coordination) and helps create speed (through impulse). Many confuse energy-system work (bio-chemical reactions & efficiencies) with nervous-system work (maximal speed and control of motion). They are tied together, of course, but to understand the difference and apply this understanding to your training is the key. It is the difference between a great practice swimmer and a great competitor. Ideally we strive to find the perfect balance between these two, and when in doubt we (Faster Swimming) err on the side of “Less is more” – sparing both technique and nervous system fatigue. We live to fight another day.

Speed can also be trained and transferred to swim performance (to some degree) through dryland and strength training. General Physical Preparedness (or GPP) can be trained in part through dryland. If you simply put in some work with dryland training you may have some carry-over to swim performance, but the correlations will be low. However, if your dryland training includes standards that account for speed of movement (volume per time) your correlation to faster swimming will be much higher. This is training the acceleration (speed) end of the F=m x a curve.

GPP can also be trained in part through weight lifting. Improving strength with weight lifting works the mass end of the F=m x a curve, and should be approached with a “controlled speed” technique to exploit nervous-system efficiency and sport carry-over. The saying “Train fast to be fast” comes to mind as I write all of this and applies not only specifically (to swimming) but generally (to dryland and lifting) because your nervous system controls it all!

This is simply a primer, and needless to say there is much more to discuss about how and why certain training can be not only more effective but also more efficient in creating race speed. Ever wonder why different athletes/teams taper so differently/better/worse? I would look to the nervous system for most answers (fatigue, efficiency, readiness…). I will leave you now with a final thought. I have always believed athletes are physically trained and (therefore) mentally tough. If your training involves pushing the pain barrier repeatedly at sub-maximal speeds, does that make you better physically trained or mentally tougher than training at near or maximal speed with less fatigue?

Which makes a better competitor – the ability to produce maximal speed or the ability to endure pain repeatedly? And then do you apply your thinking to your actual training – both in the water and out?!?

If you have any thoughts on the topic of speed, I welcome any and all comments on our blog, on Facebook, or shoot me an email. And thanks for reading.

Design your program now. Get more information in the Crosstraining book and /or the back chapters of the Faster Swimming book

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Practice techniques to incorporate

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.

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Swim Readiness – General to Specific, Volume and Intensity

Starting a season off appropriately, with long-term success in mind, requires the understanding and application of some basic principles. Many coaches want to jump right in and get to specific and intense training – and I think a better approach is to build into these variables. Following a principle-based system allows for success throughout the season, and helps avoid staleness and injuries.

General to Specific

For both swimming and dryland (strength and conditioning) a general to specific approach is best. Introducing and then training general concepts allows athletes to get a handle on the basics of whatever you are trying to teach, and helps the athlete build toward more specific adaptations.

For example, with swimming we generally work on lactate tolerance by introducing short Tabata intervals early in the season (ex. 8 x 25 free on :25, all out efforts, 1 to 2 sets), and build to more specific lactate work as the season progresses (ex. 1 x 200 @ 85% speed on 3:00 into 1 x 75 @ 100% effort on 3:00 into 8 x 50 @ 200 race pace on 1:00, choice of stroke). We generally prepare them for lactate work with short, easily manageable sets that are generally challenging, and progress to more specific lactate tolerance work at specific distances and paces. Generally working on lactate tolerance at the start of the season allows our athletes the ability to adapt and excel at specific lactate tolerance at the end of the season.

Volume and Intensity

Again, for both swimming and dryland (strength and conditioning) we move along a continuum of total work expressed in volume and intensity. Simplified, we move up in volume to start the season, then move up in intensity while basically maintaining volume through mid-season, and then move down in volume and still increase intensity (with more rest) for our peaking phase. Volume and Intensity must be accounted for in order to plan your season and have your athletes hit their peak when you want them to!

For example, with dryland (strength and conditioning) we generally include multiple short sets of moderate intensity (ex. 10 x 10 push-ups). Again – simplified, we would move to a higher volume (ex. 4x (5 x 15) push-ups), and then to higher intensity (ex. 4x (5 x 10) push-ups with 1st 5 reps of each set clap push-ups), and then to lower volume and yet higher intensity (ex. 4x (3 x 8) all clap push-ups). The move from moderate volume, a build in intensity, and then lowered volume with higher intensity allows the building of a foundation (or base) and from that position we increase intensity safely and effectively.

Intensity is our specific goal, as it relates directly to our desired outcome of effectiveness – performance (swim times, lifting max, and conditioning standards) AND we get there by following the above principles… General to Specific methods with planned Volume and Intensity training variables. Swim readiness begins with basic training principles, and followed to their conclusion results in our specific, highest intensity goal – Faster Swimming!

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Lets Talk about Tarzan!

The first item I would like to talk about is Tarzan. Tarzan is used for speed purposes. The proper body position for Tarzan is with the head and mouth out of the water. Keeping hips in line with the shoulders with a controlled fast kick. Tarzan is used for developing arm and leg speed. Leg speed drives the arms so begin by emphasizing the kick. The arm stroke needs to be shorter and faster than the normal freestyle stroke with an emphasis on equal shoulder rotation. There are many variations of Tarzan to train. Two of the main drills to use are just quality Tarzan sprinting and Tarzan to easy as indicated on the outline. “Tarzan to easy” is where the swimmer will work on increasing arm speed until they are unable then drop their head and finish easy to the wall. When the athlete is broken down this will be very hard to do but as the swimmer recovers he or she will be able to increase arm speed for longer distances of 25’s or 50’s.

Please go to Youtube and search “USAswimcoach” or Facebook and search “Faster Swimming” for the Tarzan video. You can also find it on Viddler

I’d like to show a few different drills of Tarzan. First I am having my swimmer do a 25 of Tarzan where he is holding a constant rate of speed, keeping his head out of the water, shoulders square with hips in line and a small fast kick. The next drill is 5 Tarzan strokes sprint up followed by 2 freestyle strokes down easy. The swimmer will just drop his head on the recovery strokes. Make sure the swimmers count their strokes to ensure that they start each new cycle of 5 up 2 down with the opposite arm. This will help ensure equal rotation of shoulders and help the swimmers work with both arms to start swimming. This will translate to their breakout strokes also. Please vary this drill as desired for example 7 up sprint Tarzan strokes then 4 easy strokes, etc.. We are always trying to prime the fast twitch muscles by using Tarzan. We do a lot of Tarzan during taper as well as throughout the season. It is easy to train your fast twitch muscle fibers to move at one speed with long sets, making it more difficult to retrain muscle fiber later. Always throw in some Tarzan or speed work into your workouts. The last 25 of the video is Tarzan where the swimmer is working on increasing arm speed throughout, working on equal shoulder rotation as well as proper mechanics. A variation of this is on the Faster Swimming 23 week outline is called Tarzan to easy. The only difference is that I want the swimmers to start off at a faster pace and when they can no longer increase arm speed they will drop their head and finish the set distance easy.

Let’s talk about Variable Speed

We all know that racing is the drive to win close races to recover from mistakes and overtake your competition at all costs. Some swimmers have that desire and others we must try to teach. This is why adding Speed work should be very important to us as coaches. Each swimmer needs the ability to start and stop speed with their upper and lower body and I call this Variable Speed. Training an athlete and enhancing his or her ability to change speed at any time of the race is key to teaching and giving the swimmer confidence that they can race. It is a big part of our designed workouts throughout the season. You will need to change the variable speed distances and intensities as outlined weekly. Variable speed work in sets is difficult for the swimmer because it spikes heart rates when a swimmer would normally train at one speed.

For example:

A basic 8 x 200 swim set descend by 2 on 3:00 can be adjusted with variable speed work by 100. For example on the first 2 x 200’s have the swimmers work at 70% on the first 100 and 80% on the second. Descending the 200’s by adjusting the variable speed effort. Variable speed work can be similar to Negative split as I just described in this set. The hard part is getting them to understand the actual percentage of intensities and still descend the 200’s. You can mix it up by making the swimmers go out in the first 100 @ 95% and the second 100 back in a controlled 90% by either giving them their splits, doing open turns or breaking the 200 at the 100 for a short rest interval. This will make their set more difficult and train their muscle fibers at variable speeds. You don’t want to get in the habit of training your swimmers at one pace thus making it harder to get into sprint work later in the practice or season.

Using Heart Rate

I am using the measurement of heart rate in this set to get a basic feel of how my swimmers are feeling today. There are a lot of factors that affect heart rate so this is just a guideline. I have created a set where the swimmer must maximize heart rate and created the speed work I wanted to have in today’s workout. This set was given a week after one championship meet and week before another. Prior to this workout, they had two hard weight and dryland workouts and one longer aerobic swim practice. They were sore and a bit tired as they should have been.

This set is all freestyle starting with 2 x 100’s on a 1:30 send-off. The first 1:00 holding a minute pace and descending the 2nd 100 holding a :56. They are to take their heart rate immediately after the 2nd 100 for a starting point. They are taking their heart rate for 10 seconds. I want them to take their heart rate again after+/- 45 seconds to see how fast they recover. Once the heart rate drops below 20 (for :10 seconds) they will finish the next part of the set which is, 50 sprint kick followed by 2 x 25 sprint Tarzan with :20 seconds rest then a 100 recovery swim.

They will repeat the same basic pattern two more times.

Second time starting off with 2 x 50 on a :35 second send off just making the send-off immediately followed by a 100 free holding a :54 or faster again taking the heart rate immediately after the swim. Their heart rate should be above 30 or elevated from the last time taken. Once the heart rate drops below 20 finishing the set with a 50 sprint kick and 2 x 25’s sprint Tarzan with :20 rest and a 100 recovery swim. If their heart rate doesn’t drop you can assume that they need more rest or they are completely out of shape. This is very individual and knowing your swimmer will help you answer that question. If their heart rate doesn’t drop below 20 for a couple of minutes then just have them finish the set or warm down, your call.

Third time thru they will begin with 4 x 25’s @ 100 Race Pace on a :20 second send-off. Each swimmer should have an understanding of the effort needed to maximize their heart rate on this set. Then finish the set once heart rate drops with 50 sprint kick and 2 x 25’s Tarzan then a 100 recovery swim.

Tarzan, Variable Speed, and Heart Rate sets are some of the important items included in the Faster Swimming program. We discussed Race Pace training in the last Journal. If you have any questions please email [email protected] or [email protected]

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Mistakes When Swimming the 100

There are two major mistakes that most swimmers make in the 100 of any stroke, sprinting the first 25 full speed and not breathing.

Teaching the swimmer how to control the beginning of the race is key.  Swimmers need to understand the importance of breathing.  Except for the 50 free, breathing is one of the most important things a swimmer needs to focus on especially the first 25. Breathing begins the process of removing lactic acid from the body.  

Teach your swimmer to control(speed) the first leg of the race and how it will affect their splits.

Start by having your swimmer do a 25 sprint from the block.  Let’s say your swimmers time is :13 on the sprint.  Have them do another 25 from the block making sure that they breath maybe 3 times and swim a controlled 13.3. This 25 isn’t a full speed sprint but maybe 90%-95%.

This will take time for them to understand and control but is key to their future sprinting especially as they age and develop.

Using the VASA ERG has helped my swimmers understand effort needed at the beginning of the swim in order to maintain and increase effort throughout the swim.  The VASA reads output in effort that is measured in watts.  The sets below are designed to help the swimmer understand output and effort needed. The idea is to complete the VASA ERG set first then repeat in the water.  The swimmer will need a significant warm down if you have them swim immediately after the Erg sets.

The set is 4 x 100 using the VASA ERG machine followed by 4 x 100 in the water.

I have included only two of the swim videos in this collection.  Please copy and paste the links below into your browser.

First 100 fly

Descending 25’s continuous.  Have the swimmer watch output to control.

VASA ERG DESCEND

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/271/

SWIM 100 DESCEND 25’S

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/272/

Second 100 fly

25 strong (:10 rest) 50 sprint swim (:10 rest) 25 sprint.  The first 25 strong is key!

VASA ERG BROKEN 100 FLY

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/269/

BROKEN 100 FLY SWIM

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/273/

Third 100 fly

100 fast from the block

VASA ERG 100 FAST

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/268/

Fourth 100 free

100 broken as second 100

VASA ERG BROKEN 100 FREE

http://www.viddler.com/explore/FasterSwim/videos/270/

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Race Pace

Race Pace isn’t sprinting to exhaustion but creating the speed that will be needed to achieve goal times for each event. The main emphasis of Faster Swimming is if you train at slow speeds you will compete at slow speeds. If you train 500’s and you are a 50 freestyler you are not maximizing your potential. If you train long fly sets with bad mechanics and timing you can’t expect that to change when you are trying to sprint!

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. For example, 8 x 25 on :45 holding race pace at the beginning of the season. As the season progresses 8 x 25 on :30 holding race pace. Continue to shorten send off as taper progresses finally holding race pace for 4 x 25 on :15. This same concept is applied to IM and long freestyle swims. This doesn’t have to be the main set but just the last 10 minutes of a workout. Please remember to do race pace during the aerobic phase of the season and during holiday training. If your swimmers are tired on a given day and you need to do race pace then you must set send off that help swimmers achieve race pace. Race pace develops muscle memory and helps create speed and power.

Let’s take the 100 free for our example and 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. You can have your swimmers either hold pace to a hand touch or to a flip turn(feet). If you want the swimmer to hold race pace based on their race strategy then build that into your sets. For example, first 25 hold 11.5 from the block to the feet. Middle 50 hold 24.0 to the feet and the last 25 hold 12.5 to the touch. 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 your swimmer the confidence needed for the big race.

You will do more race pace swimming as the taper progresses if you follow the workouts laid out in the 23-week training manual. Recovery and over-speed sets are equally important and must be incorporated with your race pace work. Remember that your dryland and lifting program is important and must coincide with this type of training. Jumping and reaction time are extremely important and should be included in all your workouts. Training with speed and power in the water, as well as dryland, will enhance everything you are trying to achieve in your program.

Dryland and weight training should incorporate the same basic principal as your swim training: Training intensity is directly proportional to your competitive results. For swim training, intensity is based on goal speed to improve sport performance specifically. For weight training, intensity is based on percentage of max effort and speed to improve strength, speed, and power generally. For dryland, intensity is based on work density (movements per time) to improve work capacity, speed and power endurance generally. Quality (intensity) is important in your dryland and lifting as well as in the pool to improve your performances generally and specifically.

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Race Readiness

Practice

You must simulate race conditions in practice to get better at racing. This includes having a plan for a general warm-up, perhaps an event-specific warm-up, what to do if no warm-up pool or lanes are available during the meet, what your athletes need with them behind the blocks (goggles, a relay card (?), a cap (?), their suit tied (?), everything); all to get their minds focused and their bodies ready to race. In practice the swimmers can race against the clock, race against teammates, and/or race against the whole team. This is one of the basic advantages of being on a team, competitive cooperation. Swimmers can push each other to get better not only by lane talk and finishing their sets well, but by racing and competing against one another at practice to push all of the team to a higher level, and then be able to compete better as both a team and as individuals.

This article focuses on the basics of physical race readiness – it goes without saying that an appropriate race strategy, as well as any mental/psychological preparation, should be planned for and practiced as well. The way the below warm-ups are structured leads naturally to an increasing level of focus, so include strategy and mental prep within the warm-up as works best for your swimmers.

Warm-ups

Warm-ups should move from general swimming to specific skills and proceed from lower intensity to higher intensity. This goes equally for start-of-the-competition team warm-ups to specific individual or relay warm-ups. We establish a general team warm-up early in the competitive season that progresses as above to get our athletes energy systems on-line first (moving from aerobic to anaerobic) and then bring their nervous-systems on-line once they are fully warmed-up (starts, short full speed sprints, etc). A set warm-up routine allows the swimmers to individually tailor their efforts in order to be race ready, whether adjusting efforts within the team warm-up, adding extra efforts at the end of team warm-ups, and allowing for any specific pre-race warm-ups.

Our base warm-up is as follows:

A. 10 min aerobic swim (HR 25 +/- for 10 second count)

B. 6 x 100 choice on 1:45, last 2 100’s build to sprint

C. 3 x (4 x 25 sprint choice on :40, 1 x 50 easy on 1:20)

D. Starts with 15 to 25 yard sprints

E. Additional swimming (pace?), turns, relay starts, etc

This simple plan allows us to easily make adjustments for time available and allows each swimmer the ability to find what works best for them to be race ready individually within our team warm-up structure. Some athletes may need more volume and/or more intensity, and this can be adjusted once a basic team warm-up is in place and well practiced.

If by chance there is no warm-up pool available during a competition, any type of whole-body deck-based dryland for 10 to 15 minutes +/- can be helpful for specific race preparation, especially if there is a significant break between team warm-ups in the pool and a specific race. Just as with the swim warm-up, steady efforts at a lower intensity shift to shorter efforts at a higher intensity. We use the deck-based warm-up that follows as needed, and practice this warm-up at swim practice, at dryland, and at early-season meets so that each swimmer can find (and then use) what works best for them to be race ready.

Deck Warm-up Example

3 to 5 x 15 Squat-Thrusts :30 rest +/- between

then,

3 to 5 x 5 Clap Push-ups or 10 fast Push-ups :30 rest +/- between

then,

3 to 5 x 3 Full Jumps :30 rest +/- between

This example is simple, easy to do, and easy to practice. The above deck warm-up would take about 12 to 15 minutes to complete, so if you want to be behind the block and ready to go 5 minutes +/- prior to your race, you’d want to start this about 20 to 25 minutes out from the projected race start time.

Many times I have my athletes do some of the above after a specific swim warm-up even when there is a dedicated warm-up pool. Fast, powerful, explosive movements fire up your nervous system and get you ready to compete. Again – this should be something learned at practice!

Behind the Blocks

Assuming you have done both a general and a specific warm-up for your race, the last 5 minutes +/- behind the blocks should be race prep time for the individual swimmer. Different athletes get prepared for races in different ways – some joke around, some zone out, some become mildly excited, some hyper-excited, etc. What works best for one swimmer may not work for their teammates – and they will never know what works best for them unless they experiment at practice! One thing I try to have sprinters do (from 200m and down) is to get their nervous system completely fired up by slapping themselves – arms, legs, back, chest (or doing “percussive” massage – which is a fancier, Eastern-Block way of saying “slapping”). This should be done just prior to racing – like one minute or less prior to your race, maybe even up on the blocks. Another easy way to get the nervous system firing is to grab the block hard when given the “Take your mark” command, and be sure that this does not interfere with start mechanics by – yet again – practicing this.

Practice (again!)

This brings us full-circle back to practice. Practice racing. Practice sprinting. Practice general and specific warm-ups. Practice deck warm-ups just-in-case. Practice being prepared behind the blocks. Practice nervous system activation. Know what works for you before your major competitions and then practice these things.

Practice being ready to race!

– Coach John Coffman, Faster Swimming & NAAC

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The 10 Principles of Athletic Success

There are many, maybe even countless, methods to achieve athletic success. However, the principles of athletic success are few. Said another way, by someone much smarter than I – “Methods are many, principles are few; methods always change, principles never do.” Follow the principles listed below throughout your athletic career and find success. I suppose you could argue that the base messages apply to your entire life… go figure.

1. Have a Purpose.

This can encompass a lot – a purpose for your set, your workout, your training week, your sport, even a purpose for your life! In sport it really boils down to being both physically and mentally present at training (completing your training with purpose), and to having goals (your purpose for being there!). Have a purpose, both in your training and for your training.

2. Follow a Plan.

You should have a plan for your season, your month, your week, your next competition. Having a purpose with no plan is just beating your head against a wall. If you are on a team, planning is mostly the coach’s job, if you are on your own – this is your job. The concept of Progressive Overload should be included in your plan, as regular progress should be a result of your training. You should have a plan in place to address Strength and Conditioning for pre-, post-, in- and off-season, as well.

3. Work Hard.

If you need me to define effort for you, you are in trouble! Full efforts are the key to successful training.  Along with hard work, you must include smart work: or working on what matters. This all circles back to having a purpose and having a plan. Hard work does not mean all-out effort all of the time either, but working as hard as a rep, set, workout, or season requires. Racing is ALWAYS 100% effort. Always.

4. Be Consistent.

You should be at training. You should have a plan that you follow 90% + of the time, and you should work hard with your purpose in mind. You should eat well 90% + of the time, and you should get 8 hours or more of sleep per night 90% + of the time. Persevere. Motivation follows action, so be consistent in your actions. If you follow the 1st 3 principals consistently you will be ahead of 99% of your competition.

5. Display Adaptability.

Stated simply – find an answer, not an excuse. Make it work – no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the obstacle, you can usually find a way around it. If something comes up that you can’t figure out for yourself, ask for help. A good coach is indispensable in this type of situation.

6. Be Prepared.

Just like the Boy Scout’s motto – solid preparation will lead to an increased chance of you achieving your goals. Superior preparation wins most often. Plan and prepare for things in advance so that you will have what you need when you need it. This goes for training, food, and sleep (the big 3). Make a list and check items off if you are uneasy or unsure about what you need. This goes double for competitions – use a list to pack and prepare well ahead of time.

7. Competitive Cooperation

Do something EACH DAY that you have never done before. Challenge your teammates to do the same – challenge each other regularly.  This is the type of teamwork that makes good teams great!  Work harder, prepare better, beat last week’s time/sets/reps/weights, etc. Do this for your self each day (attitude) and it will carry over to your training partners, team, and environment (atmosphere).

8. Control Your Attitude and Atmosphere.

Strive to have a positive and realistic outlook. Do not tolerate complacency or apathy in yourself or in your teammates. Pay attention and be respectful. Do not use the words “can’t” or “too”… they foster mental weakness. Your attitude is under your control – so control it to your advantage. Training atmosphere plays a HUGE role in your success – your team should be there to support you, and you to support them. If you are training solo or have a poor training atmosphere – change! Join a team, join a better team, or create a better team if need be.

9. Be a Leader and a Follower.

There will be times when you need to assert yourself and there will be times when you need to take a step back and let someone else take the reigns. Learn to foster both mindsets so that you can take control when needed, and so that you can follow and support others when needed. This applies directly to controlling your attitude and atmosphere from above.

10. No Limits.

World Records are broken regularly – only because someone thinks they can do so and then acts on this belief. Bruce Lee spoke of limits much better than I can, so here’s his quote:

If you always put limits on yourself and the things you can do, physical or anything, you might as well be dead. It will spread into your work, your morality, your entire being. There are no limits, only plateaus. But then you must not stay there. You must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.

So there you have it – The 10 Principals of Athletic Success. Post this list in an obvious place – your gym bag, your training facility, or even the wall of your room – to remind yourself of the principals of athletic success.

Follow these principals and you will find success!