Top Tips,  Training Sessions

Season’s Beastings

Reduced access to swimming pool facilities combined with different demands on your time mean disruption to your regular training routine is pretty much inevitable over the Christmas period but that doesn’t mean you have to write off this week or two as the old and new years overlap. Instead, take the opportunity to do something different or perhaps more challenging than you normally have time for. Introducing an element of fun can be just the ticket for building motivation into the new year. Or stretch yourself to find something extraordinary in performance terms knowing that you’ll have time for the additional rest and recovery required to bounce back after a hard session or significant increase in training volume. 

The sessions this issue are designed to be fun and challenging, particularly if you can rope in some training buddies to create some group camaraderie. These should be seen as one-off festive treats rather than part of your normal structured training plan so go ahead and challenge yourself to achieve something special to offset the Christmas feast.

Session 1 – 100 x 100s, the classic beast session!

This is a big one and a perennial favourite: 10km of pool swimming that will take several hours to complete. It can be done as a complete set of full-stroke freestyle swimming (e.g. 100 times 100m on 100s (1 minute 40s swim and rest time per 100m)) but that can be a little monotonous, even for the most committed, so we prefer to add some variety.

Please note that 100x100s is not for everyone and you should only attempt this if your stroke mechanics are good, you are free from injury and you have a strong training base. If that doesn’t apply to you, there’s little point in doing this extreme training set and then spending January out of the water because of an injury.

If 10km is significantly further than you usually swim then cut this down to 50x100s or even 50x50s but use the same format to chunk the session down into parts to help maintain your focus.

Warm up: 10 x 100m + 10 seconds rest after each 100m

Concentrate on swimming easy freestyle focusing on a different technical element in your stroke on each 100m. For example: (1) body rotation, (2) breathing, (3) catch and pull, (4) leg kick etc.

Build set: 20 x 100m + 10 seconds rest after each 100m

25m drill or medley into front crawl, fins optional. If doing 50 100s (or 50s) reduce number of repeats to 10.

Main set: 

60 x 100m + 15 seconds rest after each 100m

All front crawl as (1) 100m @ CSS pace, (2) 100m @ aerobic pace, (3) 100m pull, (4) 100m @ aerobic pace and (5) 100m as negative split (i.e. second 50m faster than first 50m). Repeat this cycle of five 12 times.

If doing 50 100s (or 50s) reduce number of repeats to 20 and complete the above cycle four times.

Cool down: 10x100m aerobic effort + 10 seconds after each 100m.

Your choice of stroke.

Total: 10,000m

Session 2: The Christmas feast special

This is a shorter set that can be completed in around 60 to 90 minutes depending on your speed. It adds a few fun elements and is best done with a partner or in a small group. The main set includes an option to practise drafting to keep your open water skills refreshed.

Warm up: 200 to 400m easy front crawl followed by:

○ 4 to 8 x 50m as side-by-side swims with deep water starts building from easy to fast. Take 10 seconds rest after each 50m. Breathe towards each other and aim to keep pace, coordinate strokes. Alternatively, hip draft if one swimmer is faster than the other.

○ 8 to 16 x 25m as medley drill, kick or full stroke (fins optional) or include 2 to 3 lengths of eyes-closed front crawl swimming to test any asymmetry in your stroke (mind the lane ropes and only do this in an empty lane!). 5 to 10 seconds rest after each 25m.

Main set: 

800m steady pace front crawl concentrating on breathing pattern. Do as bilateral breathing, unilateral breathing alternating between left and right sides each length or try a 3/2/3/2 pattern – or mix it up over the 800m. 

60 seconds rest

600m front crawl pull using paddles and ankle band, aerobic effort. After 200m remove the ankle band behind. After 400m leave behind the paddles or pull buoy. 

60 seconds rest

400m front crawl, positive split. Go out fast or at CSS pace and then settle into aerobic effort. Drafting optional as small group or paired.

30 seconds rest

200m front crawl, negative split. Start easy and build into CSS pace or faster. Drafting optional as group or paired.

Cool down: 200 to 400m easy swimming, choice of strokes.

Include some double-arm backstroke. Streamline as far as possible off each turn.

Total: 2800 to 3600m

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