Saturday, September 13, 2014

Offseason Swim Workout #2

I caught a little flack on last week’s post from a Master’s swim coach in Connecticut who told me that he thought my speed workouts were liable to get swimmers injured.  I have my doubts.  
I agree that if you’re a mediocre swimmer, speed work is not the way to go.  You should first learn to swim comfortably and correctly, using proper form.  That said, swimming is a non-contact, no-impact sport.  Swimming hard may make you sore, and it’s vaguely possible that you’ll even get a little overuse injury from doing too much too soon.  That’s possible in swimming the same way it’s possible in any other kind of sport.  However, swimming is an order of magnitude safer and less impactful to your body than many other sports, and no one’s telling you not to do something like CrossFit.  This despite the fact that CrossFit involves complicated movements with heavy weights that can definitely lead to injuries if not done correctly.

These workouts are not meant for novice swimmers.  My target audience is triathletes who have at least finished an Olympic distance triathlon and are now looking to get faster in the water.  If the idea of racing an open water mile sounds impossible or even just slightly intimidating, this project is not for you.  I encourage you to swim, but you’re not ready for speed work, even as an offseason diversion.  However, if you can credibly race an open water mile and feel comfortable doing it, you’re probably ready to try a change of pace this offseason, even if you know you’re not the world's greatest swimmer.  

The purpose of these workouts is to take the long-distance endurance base that you already have and sharpen it over the course of the offseason to make you faster when you come back to base training next spring.  If that applies, great.  If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.  You should be looking for a local swim coach rather for swim workouts posted on the Internet.

This week’s workout is similar to last week’s.  Last week we did a longish set of 50s to build aerobic base and then came back and did a little speed work to close out practice.  This week we’re going to do something similar, using fartlek concepts applied to swimming.

2 x 200 easy freestyle (no interval)
200 kick

24 x 50 free @ :15 rest
--- every fourth 50 fast (90% effort)

200 kick
100 easy/drill

4 x 50 @ :45 rest
--- #1 & #3 at 95% effort
--- #2 & #4 aerobic pace

200 warm down
Total: 2500 yards

--- When you kick, I recommend dolphin kick.  It works your abs and lower back, and honestly, the most common injuries I’ve seen from swimming are hip-flexor injuries from kicking freestyle.  Dolphin kick is still doing you some good, and it’s a little safer and easier on the parts of you that have to run later.

--- For the main set, my goal was to give you an interval that doesn’t provide much rest.  Speaking personally, I would probably do that set @ :50, with a goal of keeping my fast 50s under :35 and my aerobic 50s between :40 and :45.  I’m resting maybe :18 on the hard intervals and :07 on the aerobic intervals.

The point of a set like that is two-fold.  First, you’re trying to develop the ability to change speeds.  You need to see the difference between swimming aerobically and swimming fast.  Second, you want to be comfortable with active recovery in the water.  I want you to be able to catch your breath while you're swimming.  That’s a learned skill, so we're going to practice it.

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