Monday, September 16, 2013

Sunday Swimming Tips #2 - Planning Your Workout

I know it's Monday...suffice to say that, when it came to my blogging life, I sort of dropped the ball this week; other things had to take priority.  So, I'm going to do the Swimming Tip that I meant to post yesterday today.  I really promise to be on time with this next week.

Once you've made sure that you have your basic gear, I highly recommend that you avoid just going to the pool and swimming back and forth.  You'll get bored in a matter of minutes and you won't get the quality workout that you were hoping for.  
Just like everything in life, you'll usually be more successful if you go with a plan.  Therefore, I give you this weeks Sunday Swimming Tip:

Disclaimer:  You'll never hear me use the word "laps" when referring to swimming distances.  Some people use "laps" to mean one length of the pool, while others use "laps" to refer to two lengths of the pool.  For this reason, I'm going to start by teaching you how to refer to you swimming distance by the actual yards or meters you swim, just like seasoned swimmers.  

Math for Swimmers
I know, I know, I said "MATH"!!!!!  If math gives you anxiety, just breath, I promise this is the easiest, least-scary math you'll ever encounter.  It is basically counting by multiples of 25.    

Most of you are probably swimming in pools that are 25 yards long.  There is a small chance that you're swimming in a pool that is 50 meters long.  You'll know if it is a 50 meter pool because the pool will seem so long that you almost can't see the end of the pool because of the curvature of the earth.  Okay, that might be an over-exaggeration, but they're seriously, seriously long pools.  If you're unsure, just ask someone at your pool.  They should know.  If for some reason they don't, you can try walking the length of the pool.  Your stride is likely close enough to a yard that you'll be pretty close to the 25 strides if it is a 25 yard pool or you'll be well over 50 strides if your pool happens to be a 50m pool.

Now, regardless of the length of the pool, the math is really simple.  If it is a 25 yard pool, then everything is in multiples of 25:
          1 length of the pool = 25 yards
          2 lengths of the pool = 50 yards
          3 lengths of the pool = 75 yards
          4 lengths of the pool = 100 yards
I'm sure you get the idea.

If you're swimming in a 50 meter pool, it's the same idea, but the math is even easier; everything is a multiple of 50!  Also, for those like me that have difficulty with english to metric conversions...just remember that meters are longer than yards.  So, 50 meters is a bit longer than double the 50 yard pool. (50 meters is 54.7 yards, to be exact)

How much time do you have for your workout?
When planning your workout, the first thing you'll want to consider is how much time do you have to spend in the pool.  I recommend allowing at least 45-60 minutes for your workout, but I'm sure it is possible to get a great workout in 30 minutes if you amp up the intensity and decrease the amount of rest.  Eventually, you'll figure out an approximate amount of yardage you can accomplish in a given amount of time (right now, I can usually do about 2000 yards in 45 minutes), but it may take you a few sessions to figure this out....and, of course, it will change as you get more and more in shape!

If you're a beginner, see if you can aim for 1000 yards per workout.  It may only take 30 minutes, or it may take closer to 45-60 minutes.  But, won't you feel AWESOME knowing that you swam ONE THOUSAND YARDS?!!?! (By way of review of the previous "Math for Swimmers" section, 1000 yards is 40 lengths of the pool - you can totally do that!)

The actual workout:
In general, my swimming workouts consist of four parts: (1) the Warm-Up; (2) the Main Set; (3) the Kick Set; and (4) the Cool Down.  

1.  Warm-Up
I like to start out my workouts with a long-ish, easy swim.  Depending on the workout, the warm-up may be your longest continuous swim of the workout.  This is also a great place to break out those zoomers that we talked about last time.(link to last post)  

I typically do a 300 yard swim (12 lengths of the pool).  If you're really new to swimming, try to do 100-150 yards (4-6 lengths of the pool) without stopping or with only minimal pauses on each wall.  This continuous swim will warm up your swimming muscles.  You may also surprise yourself with how long you can swim continuously.

If you you really want to get warmed up for the workout, try to add in some sprints after your long warm-up swim.  I'll frequently add in 8 x 25 build 1-4 and 5-8, with 15 seconds rest between each 25.  In english, this means that #1 is slow-ish on #1, #2 is a bit faster, #3 is pretty hard, and #4 is nearly an all out sprint.  Then, I repeat that for numbers five through eight.  When you'r starting out, you could modify this to 4 x 25, with 30 seconds rest between each 25 and alternate between a hard 25 and an easy 25.  So, that set would look like:  
  • 25 yards hard
    • 30 seconds rest ("SR" = seconds rest)
  • 25 yards easy
    • 30 SR
  • 25 yards hard
    • 30 SR
  • 25 yards easy
    • 30 SR
And, with that, you're warmed up, and ready to move on to the main set.

2. Main Set
There are so many types of main sets that you could do.  Most main sets consist of repeats like 10 x 50 with 15 SR or 6 x 100 with 20 SR.  However, those types of sets are easy for you to come up with on your own.  

An alternative to straight repeats is a ladder.  In a ladder, each distance is longer than the one before, until you get to the "top" of the "ladder," and then you head back down the ladder.  For example, a basic ladder would be 25-50-75-100-75-50-25.  Your longest swim is 100 yards (4 lengths of the pool).  The total yardage for the ladder would be 400 yards.  You can take as much rest as you need between each distance...see if you can do it with less than a minute rest each time.

3. Kick Set
Pretty self-explanatory here.  Grab a kickboard and go. Most pools have a stock of  If you haven't used a kick board very often, it may feel awkward.  You may even feel unstable, but if you put your arms all the way at the end of the board so that the end of the board closest to you is almost in your armpits.  This youtube video will give you a visual of kickboard use.
Also, if you feel like your hips are sinking when you're trying to use the kickboard, you need to press down on the kickboard a bit to bring your body into alignment.  This video explains it more (although the video is a little on the long side)
If you're feeling pretty comfortable with the kickboard, try doing 4 x 50 yard kick with about 15-30 seconds rest.  If you're feeling a little shaky, go for 8 x 25 yard kick, again with about 15-30 seconds rest.

4. Cool Down
Yay! Finally! You made it!!  This is possibly my favorite part of the workout.  It is like the savasana of  the swimming session.  Basically, swim 100 yards or so pretty much as slow as possible and unwind.  You just completed a legit swimming workout.  You're awesome!!!

A Potential First Workout:
Warm-Up (200-250 yards)
100-150 easy swim
4 x 25 (hard-easy-hard-easy) 30 seconds rest

Main Set - Ladder (500 yards)

Kick Set (200 yards)
8 x 25 kick 
4 x 50 kick

Cool Down (100 yards)
100 easy swim 

Total Yardage: 1000 yards

A final note about counting your rest:  In the sections above, I've discussed a certain amount of rest between sets or reps.  To figure out how much time has passed during your rest breaks, you have two primary choices.  Option A: you can wear a waterproof sports watch and just watch the seconds tick by.  Option B (my favorite option): in most pools, you'll see a clock that isn't really made to tell time.  
The pace clock at my pool
This is a pace clock.  The red hand on this clock moves with the seconds and is perfect for watching your seconds tick by until it is time to start your next swim.
Monday's workout
I typically write out my workout ahead of time on printer paper with sharpie and then take it out to the pool with me.  Do NOT forget to throw it away at the end of your workout.  The people at your pool will not be happy with your dried crumbled up paper being left behind for them to deal with.
I usually post my workouts on the blog and I've also started keeping a list of my swimming related posts on the "Workout Aquatica" tab above.  Another great resource that I've talked about before is the workouts available at  Kiefer posts a new "beginner" workout each month and all the workouts there are easily modifiable to make them easier or harder--the easiest way to modify these workouts is to increase/decrease the number of reps in a set or to increase/decrease the amount of rest.

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