Learning pace is more than guessing, it’s about feeling how the water moves passed your body at specific speeds. Here’s a practice that inspires to teach those feelings.
The idea behind the "logical descend", is that you totally control exactly how much time you’ll descend each swim, each time. Start with the end in mind, what you want your last time to be. From there, add 1-5 seconds to each repeat, and the number you come up with, is where you start. Each swim MUST descend the exact time, which will ultimately show your ability to control and understand your speed in the water… without looking at the clock.
Here’s an example. If the set is 12 x 100s (which it is) on the 1:20 (which it was), and you’ve chosen to descend each 100 by :04 seconds and your final 100 will be 1:00, the pace of the swims would be as follows:
1 – 1:12
2 – 1:08
3 – 1:04
4 – 1:00
To "inspire" the group, we gave the set without a ton of instruction, and as kids, the thought was more on finishing the set, than it was on digging deeper into the meaning of the set, and really discovering their pace. At the end of the set, one person was chosen to demonstrate they just learned. The would have to tell the time sequence they just worked on, and then replicate that set while everyone was watching. For each second they were off, the group would then be required to do a 400 IM (at least this is what they were told).
We specifically looked for an individual who wasn’t paying attention to demonstrate.
When asked to perform in front of a group (like when you’re at a big meet), there is always an extra shot of excitement or adrenaline that kicks in. Holding back while this happens is extremely difficult, and we as coaches can typically express what’s going to happen. As this was a "lesson", we decided NOT to express that, and sit back and watch. The swimmer that was chosen was caught doing poor turns, poor streamlines, and actually pulled on the lane line. He was the PERFECT set up.
During his demonstration, his 1st 100 was 6 seconds too fast (yes, the group just saw 6 x 400 IMs flash in front of their eyes). Over all, the result was 9 seconds off pace, or 9 x 400 IMs as the next set. Just as they were about to dive in, we stopped them and had asked if we had their attention… which we did.
They were asked to repeat the set, and someone would again be chosen to demonstrate again. They approached the set the 2nd time with a bit more focus.
Instead of picking a demonstrator, we asked for volunteers… we had 8 volunteers now. We chose 4, and the group would then have to do 100’s fly for every second combined the entire group was off. By the end of the test, the all four athletes had missed their pace goal by a combined… 4 seconds.
Lesson? When asked to focus, kids will focus. Learning pace is extremely important, and learning how to control your emotions when you’re put on the spot is also extremely important. While I’ve heard many times people don’t use butterfly as punishment, we don’t either. We give the swimmers an opportunity to swim better butterfly.
Main Set (short course yards):
12 x 100 free on 1:20 – logical descend
4 x 100 free on 1:20 – logical descend test (monitored)
All swimmers should be able to tell their times before, and after the set.