Writing interesting and challenging practices isn’t an easy task. And, as coaches, sometimes we get "writer’s block." This is when you know you have to put together something that gives your athletes the work they need, but won’t put them to sleep.
The toughest part about any writing when you’re stuck is simply getting started. This is one of the reasons we usually use a "standard warm-up." By doing the same thing every day, the getting started part is taken care of, and usually is just the spark needed to continue the process.
While this could potentially be seen as boring for the swimmers, I like to think about morning practices, or the simple routine of just getting in the water. It seems to me that no matter how long you’ve been swimming, or what level of swimmer you are, we pretty much all have the same problem with that initial entry into the water. Rather than spending time fighting with swimmers and trying to coerce them into the water, and allowing them the opportunity to waste MORE time by asking for the explanation of the warm-up, a standardized warm-up takes away any discussion other than get in. There’s really nothing for the swimmers to think about other than getting to the task at hand, getting in, and getting moving.
With all that said, I use two standard warm-ups (guess that ruins that theory, huh?):
600 or 400.
The 600 is a simple 200 swim, 200 kick, 200 pull progression, allowing the swimmer to play a bit with some toys early on. I don’t worry that the joints aren’t warmed up enough for these toys. The swimmers are moving so slowly at this point that the simple act of having to stop, think, and either put on or grab a piece of equipment is part of the process of waking up their minds.
The 400 is a straight 400 free. Really not much to it but to do it. The idea is to just keep moving for 5 to 7 minutes. By the time they’re done, it’s time to start moving.
By standardizing the first thing you do in the water, especially in the morning, you remove the chance that your true creative energy will get wasted on something that the athletes aren’t ready to take advantage of anyway. I liken this idea to a story I heard about Albert Einstein wearing the same style of clothes every day because he feared the mental energy he used choosing what to wear each day could potentially get in the way of thinking of something truly important… which is why I wear a Go Swim T-shirt every bday. I do have more than one by the way. 😉