Jun 292014

Feeling frustrated because you’ve hit a plateau in your swimming, or for that matter just about any sport? Could be that you aren’t working hard enough or smart enough.  It takes both to improve. Working harder does not necessarily equate to putting in more yards. (I know, many of you are now off the couch and jumping up and down with excitement!) Granted, there are swimmers out there that love yardage and can handle monster 5000 and 6000 yard workouts on a regular basis. Gotta admit, I’m not one of them and neither are about 90% of the swimmers we coach in Masters swimming. Those swimmers that do heavy yardage workouts (and I have to admit I am envious of their ability to do so) may hold the same time year in and year out for various timed swims in the pool, perhaps even experiencing a moderate time drop. Again, cool! But, if you are a meet goer, or even a fitness swimmer that regularly times yourself in practice on certain events, and wants to get faster, then this posting is for you.

Talking to a couple of coaches this week (Kerry O’Brien and Stu Kahn – some truly amazing guys) we chatted about a common theme in Masters swim practices. Most swimmers swim our easy sets too fast and swim our fast sets too easy. To swim fast in a race, you MUST swim fast in practice. To swim smart in a race, you MUST swim smart in practice. That means executing with excellence in your starts, turns and race strategy. Whatever bad habits you have in practice WILL come back to haunt you in a race (one handed touches, sloppy turns, poor race strategy, inability to handle breath control, etc.)

Stu Kahn spoke about an article he had read from the NY Times, so I came home and did some research to locate the article. It is fascinating as it talks about a protein we have in our bodies – CRTC2 – and how that protein plays a role in improving our fitness and reaching our fitness goals. The gist of the article? There is some truth to the old saying, “No Pain, No Gain”. Check out the NY Times article here by clicking the title.

For Fitness, Push Yourself – NY Times

You are the master of your own destiny – in and out of the pool. You have to WANT something and you have to WORK toward it. There are a rare group of people who can seemingly crank out some pretty awesome sprint times without much work in the pool. I am soooo jealous! Sure wish I could. Every 100th of a second drop in time for me comes from working hard, swimming smart, and pushing myself in practice when I don’t necessarily want to. That seems to be the formula that works for the vast majority of us. In other words…


Yup, I’m talking to YOU! You have to push your body. Ah, yes, I acknowledge that therein lies the challenge for us, ahem, aging Masters swimmers. We have certain frailties – cranky shoulders, wobbly knees, backs that don’t flex anymore – well, you get the picture. My response to that? Where there is a will, there is a way! Key things to consider:

  • Warm Up thoroughly (that means getting to workout on time!)
  • Cool down at the end of your workout (if you run out of pool time, cool down on deck)
  • Swim fast when and where directed (either by the coach or from the workout if swimming on your own)
  • Swim easy when and where directed (again from the coach or from the workout)
  • Challenge yourself. Set goals and work toward them. Set the big goals and the little goals that will get you there.
  • Strive for excellence in what you undertake! Swim smart. Work to minimize resistance and your ability to maximize propulsion will improve.
  • Listen to your body. There are days when you need to back off or even step away from the pool. Don’t push through your injuries. Get help and find cross training programs that strengthen your weak areas without damaging you.

And the final tip?

  • Throw away the concerns about “total yardage” in a workout. 2000, 3000, 4500, 6000?

Yardage really doesn’t have much bearing on the big picture. It just doesn’t matter unless you are training for some significant distances such as big open water swims. If you don’t believe me, then study up on Ultra Short Race Pace Training which is prescribed not just for sprinters but also for distance swimmers – even those doing the 1500m free events. Check out USPRT and you’ll see that this form of training is the big buzz spreading far and wide in the swimming community.

I’m currently studying everything I can find on USRPT. As I get a better handle on how it works with Masters swimming and the constraints we have with our older bodies, I’ll apply it to our program. In the meantime, get focused, set some goals, and swim smart. You want it? Go get it.

What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.

Return to the pool with a whole new mindset. Whether your workout is 30 minutes long or 90 minutes long, use it to work toward some goals. Let go of measuring quantity and start measuring the quality of your workouts. Activate your catecholamines and watch what happens!



Found another article that is helpful on the mental and physical aspects of sprint training. See 5 Training Tips For Sprinters