Push the pace

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Being able to change pace in a race is a valuable skill. For example, you may want to bridge a gap from where you are to a group of swimmers ahead who might provide you with a faster draft. But there are costs. Be mindful of the energy deficit caused by putting in a sprint mid-race, even if well conditioned and practised. This is particularly true over long distances as you are drawing heavily upon your muscle glycogen stores and creating a spike when you sprint or take the effort above threshold for any length of time.

In general it is far better over long distance swims to maintain an even pace throughout, draft where possible, and save energy for overtaking or being strategic in finding another faster pair of feet.

For short and middle distance swimmers, a tactical surge can be employed usefully (for example, to break away from a group) but again changing pace will set up energy deficit issues later in the event which you need to be prepared for. Training to be able to maintain race or threshold pace after a sprint or change of pace will feel unpleasant as the body has to deal with the lactic by-products of the energy requirements being under pressure. These sessions will help to condition you for this so that on race day it will be possible to sustain rather than lose pace after tactical surges. This builds on training ideas from previous issues so please also refer to those.

Short Distance (for those racing 750m to 1600m)

Warm up: 200m FS, 200m pull, 4x50m kick/ drills, 200m FS (800m total)

Main set: 8 x 25m sprint efforts +5 seconds rest after each 

4 x 50m as negative split CSS/ build into sprint finish +10s

4 x 100m at CSS pace, swim at an even pace + 15s

4 x 50m as positive split starting fast then relax into CSS pace +10s

8 x 25m sprint +5s

Cool down:  200m easy, choice of strokes

Total: 2200m

Progression ideas

Adapt the pyramid to begin with 50m effort sprints as you become better conditioned to high workloads, and increase the 100m efforts to 200m.

Swim the positive/ negative splits as CSS or race-paced efforts if you increase the sprint efforts to 50

Medium Distance (3km to 5km)

Warm up: 200m FS, 200m pull, 8x50m kick/ drills, 200m pull, 200m FS (total 1200m)

Main set: 8 x 50m sprint efforts +10 seconds rest after each

4 to 8 x 100m as negative splits (50m at CSS into 50m building effort to finish fast/ sprint) + 15s

4 to 8 x 200m at CSS pace +20s

4 to 8 x 100m as positive splits (50m fast/ sprint into 50m CSS) + 15s

8 x 50m sprint efforts +10s

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

Total: 3800 to 4600m

Progression ideas

Introduce 2 to 4 x 400m in the middle of the main set to extend the pyramid to more than 5km. Swim at race pace or CSS and introduce some fartlek or random fast 25m efforts during each 400m. 

Swim the 200m or 400m efforts drafting if possible, putting in random 25m fast surges in an attempt to drop your training buddy.

Long Distance (10km+)

Warm up: 400m FS, 400m pull, 8x50m kick/drill, 400m pull, 400m FS (total 2000m)

Main set: 10 x 50m sprint efforts +10 seconds rest after each 

10 x 100m as negative splits (50m at CSS into 50m building effort to finish fast/ sprint) + 15s

5 x 200m at CSS pace +20s

2 x 500m at aerobic pace, drafting and swap the leader at halfway +30-60s

5 x 200m at CSS pace +20s

10 x 100m as positive splits (50m fast/ sprint into 50m CSS) + 15s

5 x 50m sprint efforts +10s

Cool down: 5 x 200m easy, choice of strokes

Total: 9000m

Progression ideas

This is a shorter session than usual due to the high demand of sprint type efforts on the endurance swimmer/ athlete. The emphasis on this session is quality over quantity and additional recovery may need to be factored in post-session if this type of session is new to the swimmer. 

Introduce medley strokes during the 100m efforts instead of positive/ negative splits to avoid overuse of freestyle muscle groups and develop strength and speed. 

Swim the 200m efforts drafting if possible, putting in random 25m fast surges in an attempt to drop your training buddy.

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Issue 42 October 2020

  • Q&A with Jaimie Monahan - marathon swimmer and Queen of the Ice
  • Autumn swim adventures around the UK
  • The science behind cold water acclimatisation
  • Reviewed: The Best Open Water Goggles
  • The often deadly history of unsupported marathon swims

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