I’ve never completely considered myself the “Rain Man,” but the older I get, the more I realize I like things in their place. There’s something to be said about knowing what’s coming, and knowing what I can expect from myself about those things. So, again, not that I walk around chanting “15 minutes to Wapner,” I do enjoy a simple set more than someone like Dave does.
I do, however, like to mix up the tools that I use. Using a variety of swim tools allows me to focus on different things during a practice. I’m not one for the standard back-and-forth so that the yards add up just right. I’ve done that for so many years that I’m mentally tired from it. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just saying it doesn’t excite me to swim. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad person… maybe I’ll start counting matchsticks again.
Anyway, here’s a nice holiday practice that I enjoy:
200 SKIPS (200 Swim, 200 Kick, 200 IM, 200 Pull, 200 Swim)
Boring, yes… but at least I was able to use two different tools (kickboard and pull buoy and break it up into different focuses.
MAIN SETS PHASE ONE: 1750
10 x 75 IM order on 1:15
Swim these by simply dropping the freestyle, or the butterfly. I’ve never been big on switching from free to fly to continue a progression, since I’d never actually do that in a race (except if I was cheating!). So the odd 75s are FLY-BACK-BREAST, and the even 75s are BACK-BREAST-FREE. This ensures I don’t do so much fly that my stroke falls apart, and it allows me to be fresher for my turn practice.
12 x 50 IM order on 1:00
These are done the same way as the 75s, in order. (Very consistent, huh?)
1 – FLY-BACK
2 – BACK-BREAST
3 – BREAST – FREE
Repeat, repeat, repeat.
This is not a tough interval and you don’t have to swim each stroke too far, so you should be able to pick up the pace a bit, and make sure your transitions are PERFECT and SHARP.
16 x 25 IM order on :30
Pretty simple stuff here — FLY-BACK-BREAST-FREE — only now that they’re 25s, you should focus on your breakouts, that is, how your transition from pushoff to actual swimming. The goal is to initiate your first stroke while maintaining as much of your pushoff speed as possible.
MAIN SETS PHASE TWO: 1900
Now it’s time to switch the focus a bit.
Put on your pull buoy and paddles. My favorite paddles are the TYR Catalyst
The pull-buoy I use is a very comfortable Speedo
9 x 100 pull on 1:30
Focus on reducing your stroke count by 100s by at least 4 total strokes. For example, if you take 15 strokes per length on your first 100, your total is 60 strokes. On your 2nd 100 you can take no more than 56 strokes. On your 3rd 100 you can take no more than 52 strokes. On the 4th 100, start again at 60 strokes and work your way down. On the 7th 100, start again at 60 strokes, etc. Also, try to keep your times consistent while doing this. Start at a decent pace, then simply hold your pace through the entire set… say… all 100s are held at 1:20.
Now, take off all your STUFF, and grab some DIFFERENT STUFF!
I’m totally serious when I say, the ONLY kick board I would use if I were a coach is the Zura Side Kick
And since I love to kick breaststroke, I love using the PDFs
It’s KICK TIME!
6 x 100 kick on 2:00
This set is about consistency. Consistency in a perfect push-off, consistency in the number of kicks you take, and consistency in your time.
When you push off the wall using these tools, you’ll easily be able to get under water. Start in a streamlined position, with both hands holding tightly on to the hole in the Side Kick board, eyes looking toward the bottom. Sneak up your legs and initiate your first kick just as you would on an underwater pullout. Already you’re learning… cool. Now, count the number of kicks you take on your first 25… and hold that for the rest of the set. ALSO… get your time on the 1st 100, and hold THAT on the rest of the set. If you’re new to this, you may need to make a small adjustment, or use the 3rd 25 as your base, but pick one early, because you want to make this smooth, but challenging at the same time. With the board, you should put your eyes in the water in between breaths, just as you would in breaststroke, and when you come up for air, experiment with how little you’ll need to lift your head.
Finish with the ultimate in consistency.
16 x 25 on :45
Odd 25s: Easy freestyle
Even 25s: UNDER WATER
What’s consistent about that? Well… you get the exact same number of breaths on EVERY even lap… ZERO! Now I know, this is WAY challenging for many swimmers, but already you’re looking at it the wrong way. Here are a few “tricks” or gifts for the holidays on how to accomplish a set like this without making it too tough.
1. Sit back and take a deep breath, even while reading this. Feel the air fill your lungs completely. Feel it flow all the way to the BASE of your lungs. Feel your chest expand, and take in good air, but not so much that you’re uncomfortable. Now…. while holding that… relax… and start a watch. Chances are, many of you can hold your breath for quite a while longer than it would take you to swim a 25. So… you know you can hold your breath that long without passing out… good!
2. Take advantage of a great pushoff! Get into perfect streamline, from fingertips to toes. Keep everything pointed, and look directly at the bottom.
3. Stay completely relaxed. Don’t panic. Experience how nice and quiet it is down there. Take your time (of course, if you have to come up… do it, but just try to relax while you’re moving).
4. As soon as you touch the wall… even if it took you only 25 seconds (the interval is 45), LEAVE… and swim a very easy, smooth lap of freestyle, breathing every stroke. This is a bit of a cheat, but it gives you MORE rest at the other end to prepare for the underwater.
200 EZ swimming.
TOTAL YARDAGE: 4850
Now, many of you may be asking… what’s so holidayishish about this practice? I have NO CLUE! But, in my career, the holidays were nothing to look forward to from a training perspective. We had the usual 20 x 500 on 6:00 (long course meters) set. There was the 5,000 fly for time set… and there were many others, but holidays simply meant our coach didn’t have to worry about our school schedule, and we could stay in the water longer.
Because you may have a bit more time, this isn’t a long, or a short practice, but to complete the entire thing with the thought given to each set, you may need a bit more time than your usual hurry-up-and-swim-and-get-to-work-on-time sort of schedule.
So, the holiday part of the practice is simply wishing you more interesting things to think about while you swim, even if my practices are so consistent that Dave would climb out and stomp on my Christmas presents. As an older guy, I kinda enjoy this stuff.
Happy New Year and Happy Holidays.