This week’s set has to do with timed 50s, but you do them in an unusual way.
When you hear "timed," it usually means FAST! This set isn’t about FAST but, rather, about pace, and it’s a teaching set as well. The goal of the set is to get people to pay attention to the clock — and to use it BEFORE they get to the wall.
For me, swimming a practice without the clock is like driving a Porsche with an automatic. In other words, it’s just not all there. I love the clock. Swimming is all about the clock to me, and I glance at it and take a snapshot of it on just about EVERY turn that I’m in view of it. I want to know how I’m doing, what my split was, and if I’m on pace or not. I just can’t go back and forth without knowing how I’m progressing. I know this isn’t the way swimming is for everyone, but it’s my personal preference. If you don’t use the clock, here’s a cool little set to help teach you how.
While these are short and simple 50s, you can use this concept on any 50 at ANY point in a practice. It might be the 7th 50 of a 500 or the first 50 of a 200. The idea is that you HAVE to get your time… but without looking at the clock at the finish. We did this at Masters practice, and I stood at the end making sure people didn’t look at the clock, but told me the correct time. If they were unable to give me a valid (within a second) time, it was TIME for push-ups!
Pool layout may change how you do this set. Our clocks are located at the flags at either end, so we practiced this as follows. About the time you’re swimming under the flags, you eye the clock to check out where the 2nd hand is… giving you a rough estimate of what your time is GOING to be. You’ll add a couple seconds and, upon finishing, tell the coach what you THINK your time was. Instinct will have you turning your head toward the clock, but don’t do it.
We did a simple set of 8 X 50 on approximately 1:15 (to give us time to check times and make adjustments as to when we left on the next one).
Learning to use the clock like this isn’t so easy as it sounds if you’ve not done it before. There are always little complications that enter in to the equation. Little things like, did you go 1st… or 3rd in the lane? How many seconds behind did you leave? You’re going to have to be pretty adept at math on the 60-base scale.
To add more twists to the mix on our set, we did a couple 50s in which we left on ODD numbers. Odd as in… the :17. You not only had to register your time but also had to do a quick subtraction exercise with an odd number… just like you’d have to do when getting your 50 split in the middle of a longer swim.
The trick is to PRE-THINK. Over time, you’ll get familiar with your pace. Then, once you have your base number, all you have to do is figure about when you’re going to see the clock the next time.
A quick example is a swimmer who does about :40 seconds per 50. If that swimmer leaves on the :17, some quick math on the push-off will tell her she’s going to be back to the wall on about the :57. If she KNOWS that :57 is really her base level of :40 seconds, it’s not too tough for her to figure she’s on pace if she sees :55 as she comes under the flags. She knows she’ll be hitting the wall in a couple seconds, which means… she’s pretty much right on.
Now, I understand all these numbers can get your head spinning — especially if you’re ALSO trying focus on the technical aspects of what you’re trying to accomplish, and if you have performance or speed goals on the set. But if you stick with it, you’ll make progress, even if it’s improving your ability to swim a certain time without using too much energy (tri & open-water swimmers). Learning to use the clock like this keeps you more "on target" during your practices.
There are more lessons in clock reading we can discuss… but for now, know your times during, and after your swims. Not just after.
One more thing. This particular lesson is really for freestyle. Backstroke, butterfly, and breaststroke all have their own clock-reading tricks. First things first.