Blog and Podcast

This page will be a collection of articles that are all part of swim efficiency.  If you have any questions, you can contact me at tim at magnolia masters dot com.

 Articles

Swim Results Analysis – MHanson Part 2

USRPT and Triathlon Swim Training

Swim Results Analysis – MHanson

Open Water Sighting Drill

New Triathletes and Open Water Swimming

Open Water Swim Tips                                                               

Swim Culture and Training

Lane Etiquette

Sample Workouts

Monday

Wednesday

Thursday

March 28, 2016

I recently was interviewed for a podcast for Endurance Sports Coaching.  We talked about my views on training the swim for sprint through long course triathletes.  You can find that podcast here:  Endurance Sports Coaching.  As always if anyone has any questions, please feel free to contact me.

Magnolia Masters Pro triathlete Swim Camp 2016

Day 19 – January 22, 2017 (Friday)

This was the official end of the camp. A couple of them would be here to swim with the team for a few more days, but the extra pool space and double workouts were winding down. I knew from comments from some of them that I would be cutting back the workouts for Friday by a lot. We would start the “taper” portion of the camp a little earlier than expected. In swimming, with regards to the taper, distance swimmers tend to need the least amount of taper. Within a USRPT format the theory goes that you need even less.

The morning workout we went a normal warm-up and then 15×100 swim @ hold pace. Everyone was doing well. They worked hard and went faster than they had the previous week. It’s always rewarding to see. In the afternoon, I cut it back even further and we swam 6×100 swim @ hold pace for the main set. It was slightly faster than the morning, which isn’t unusual for an afternoon workout.

After the practice I invited them all out for coffee and cupcakes. Some of them got adventurous in their cupcake choices.

DSCF6046Yes, that’s bacon…

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We talked about the camp, how we could make improvements for next year and what they liked about this year. Talking over coffee and coaching is usually where the best opportunities to coach occur.  That night I enjoyed a couple nice glasses of wine and rested up.

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For next year, I’ll open up the camp to a few more age groupers that want to attend each week. So anyone that is interested, please feel free to contact me and put your name on the list. Also, the experiment with coaching another coach during the camp went well. Any coach that is interested in attending the camp as an on-deck coach please let me know. I’m going to limit it to one coach per week, but you’ll learn a lot.

These camps could not happen without the help of our sponsors and home stay families. I want to thank Sterling Ridge Orthopaedics (www.facebook.com/srosm), Klean Athlete (www.facebook.com/kleanathlete), Gold’s Gym of the Woodlands (https://www.facebook.com/Golds-Gym-Woodlands-Magnolia-178527142202701/) and Alternative Health Center of the Woodlands (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alternative-Health-Center-of-The-Woodlands/120059144287). These sponsors provided financial support as well generously provided their services to the pros. Please go on their facebook pages and give them some likes and kudos.

Big thanks to all of the home stay families that invited the pros into their homes for January.  I want to thank Richard and Denise Plant, Greg and Maureen Gibbons, Dana and Deb Lyons, Zach and Wendy Miller, the Noyes Family and Camp Floyd.

Until next January…

Tim

Day 18 – January 21, 2017 (Thursday)

I told them all to come to swim at the noon practice so they could get some sleep. They all needed it. The weather wasn’t going to cooperate at noon. I was watching the radar on my phone and sure enough about 30 minutes into practice we had to get out. They were able to get in the warm-up and a little of the main set, so we got in about 2000 yards. That’s more than enough for a recovery practice.

Watching them in the water, I knew the last day (Friday) would be light. Then it would be the taper coming off the work we had done for the next week. A lot of them would be racing either Dubai 70.3 or Panama 70.3, so we’d get a good look at how all the training worked.

DSCF5814Swimming with the Team…

DSCF5830In sync…

 

Day 17 – January 20, 2016 (Wednesday)

All of them had the day off from swimming, but we would have a get together at night at the local Whole Foods to thank everyone in the community for welcoming the pros to town and helping out. The community in the Woodlands area is incredibly supportive of the pro triathletes that come to town and we wouldn’t be able to put these camps together without their support. It gives the pros a chance to meet and thank everyone that makes these camps possible in a fun and relaxed environment.

As always it’s great to see everyone together having fun. We had about 60 people in total and shared some food and drink. After talking with all the pros, it was apparent that I needed to let them sleep in and we would only have an easy recovery practice for the next day. I told them that they could swim at the noon practice and enjoy an easy morning.

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whole foods barDay 16 – January 19, 2016 (Tuesday)

I look at Tuesday as the day to set up the athletes for a successful Friday. The one thing you want to do as a coach is let the structure of the program drive improvement on a weekly basis. Then you don’t have to think as much about the big picture and can really focus on the day to day/moment to moment coaching opportunities. And in triathlon the idea of “periodization” is somewhat irrelevant given that triathletes don’t swim enough to begin with. The gains in swimming are very small and incremental over a long period of time. As a coach, you need a lot of patience and focus. As I mentioned before, the improvements in mechanics and then efficiency only happen at speed when you get tired. That’s when and where the big gains occur.

The nice thing about this program is the team is a good size. We have 12 workouts a week on a regular basis and some days as many as 3 workout options in a day. From a coaching point of view, I get to “experiment” and see how athletes react from workout to workout and tweak the workouts as the day goes along. The team has some fast age groupers and a lot of hard working, dedicated age group athletes. They are rewarding to work with. For the pros, this means that I can test out new ideas and refine the workouts so they are getting the most out of them. It’s fun to see how the addition or subtraction of sets as small as 4x25s can have on the outcome of a whole workout.

Coming into the morning practice I didn’t really know what we would do. I knew they were tired. I was tired. For me, don’t think the lack of sleep, exercise and all-carb diet for the previous three weeks helped much. I finally settled on that the morning workout would be more “endurance” focused. I noticed some of them struggled with speed in the morning. we started with a long warm up and then a lead up set of some kicking and swimming. The main set was 50×50@ hold pace. Not exactly a terrific set to hear from the coach, but not much of a choice for an Ironman Pro Triathlete. Sometimes you’ve got to grind out some ridiculous work. There are always smarter ways to train, but there aren’t any shortcuts.

The first couple repeats of the 50s, I thought it would be a long morning. I was a little concerned that I had over-reached with their hold paces and what I wanted them to go for 2500 yards. But it just appeared that they needed a little more warm-up. We did about 2100 yards of warm-up coming into the main set. With all the kicking you could argue that it was about a 2500 yard equivalent. Everyone was solid. There were two of them that struggled more than the others, but talking with them it sounds like it was some fatigue from the bike/run. I paid particular attention to everyone’s tempo for the set, especially as we got further into it. Here’s one of the mistakes I see triathletes make and some of the bad wisdom about swimming: tempo in the swim is not one size fits all. For a 50 free, yeah, everyone is going to be about exactly the same. At the Olympic level, it’s about .9 in the 50 free.  For distance swimming and open water swimming, the range of tempos to be successful is a lot wider. A good example is the difference in tempo between the Olympic 10k gold and silver medalists from London. Ous Mellouli, 10k Gold medal winner, had a stroke tempo of about 1.7 (70SPM). While Thomas Lurz, 10k silver medal winner, stroke tempo was around 1.2 (100SPM). Stroke tempo is impacted by a lot of factors including height, mechanics, experience, genetics and conditions in the water. So be careful about a coach that tells you that you should have a high tempo stroke. You probably don’t.

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DSCF5622DSCF5596 (1)Tuesday workout – AM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15

1500

Lead up

6 x 100 swim/kick (50k/50s) @ 2:00

2100

Main set

50 x 50 swim @ hold pace

4600

Warm down

12 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

The afternoon practice was good. I decided that since the morning went well we would focus on more speed and better mechanics at speed in the afternoon. Even though it was the afternoon I chose to do a longer warm-up since they looked like they needed it this morning. For the lead up set, we did some swim with some fast 25s within a 75. The main set I broke into two pieces and went 2x20x25 swim @ hold pace. They did great. They were faster than the previous week and were building on the technique improvements we had focused on.   The results showed.

Tuesday workout – PM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

8 x 50 descend 1-4 @ 50

1600

Lead up

6 x 75 swim @ 1:20

[ – 25 fast / 50 easy

– 25 easy / 25 fast / 25 easy

– 50 easy / 25 fast ]

(x2)

2050

Main set

2 x 20 x 25 swim @ hold pace

Break 1 min between rounds

3050

Warm down

300 choice

Day 15 – January 18, 2016 (Monday)

This was the start of the third and final week of the camp. Time flies. After a complete day off from swimming and through two weeks of fairly hard, intense swimming I knew they wouldn’t look sharp. So we would push some yardage at a lower intensity and pace. I wanted to do a main set that was a little kick and a little swim. The lead up would be some solid, consistent swimming to hopefully get them going. By the end of the lead up set we were 2500 yards into the practice. The main set was some 50s descend followed by some 25s kick that were effectively “active recovery” and then some 50s ascend. The descend-ascend combination can be good at times to get the athletes to focus on pace and to control pace with a lot of precision. It’s important that the athlete learn about pace and internalize it. There are no gizmos to give you objective feedback in the middle of an open water swim. Pace has got to be done by feel.

This would be the last workout for Aubrey since his flight was leaving that afternoon. It was nice to have a coach that wanted to learn about what we do and I think I will continue the program of having a couple coaches that want to come down during the camp to learn on-deck. I had fun and I think Aubrey learned a lot.

Monday workout – AM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 100 des 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Lead up

6 x 150 swim @ 1:55/2:10/2:25

2500

Main set

4 x 50 descend 1-4 @ 45/50

4 x 25 kick @ 40

4 x 50 ascend 1-4 @ 45/50

(x5)

Break 1 min after 3rd round.

5000

Warm down

12 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

Matt recovery Jan18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

group at the wall Jan18

steam and swimmer Jan18The afternoon practice would be more of the same. Again, the slower swimmers were showing fatigue more at this point than the faster swimmers. I wasn’t overly concerned, but I was watchful. You want to push, but you don’t want it to be too much.

I shortened the warm-up and changed up the descends to 75s. Then we went right into the main set. I wanted some intensity, but I was also looking to get in some yardage. I did resurrected another “old school” swim set. We did some 300s hard, but with fins and small paddles. The paddles had to be small enough where they didn’t drastically alter your stroke or your tempo. For a lot of them swimming that meant the dark blue stroke maker paddles or no paddles at all. Then we went into 4×100 on a tighter interval. We did the set 4x and took a one minute break after the second round. The point of the fins with paddles and swimming fast is it forces the athlete to tighten the core and maintain a tighter alignment through the center-line. And with the increased speed, you can feel where some of the “bright” points are in your stroke that cause drag.

Monday workout – PM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

300 kick w/fins

300 pull

4 x 75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15

1200

Main set

1 x 300 swim w/fins and paddles @ 4:15

4 x 100 swim @ 1:15/1:20/1:30

(x4)

Break 1 min after 2nd round

4000

Warm down

300 choice

DSCF5414Pro Kickboard…

Day 14 – January 17, 2016 (Sunday)

Two of the pros, Sue and Lauren, left on Saturday afternoon and it’s always tough to see them go. They were both beginning to make a lot of progress in the water, but unfortunately, reality intrudes and you can only put your life on hold to train for so long. Kids, significant others, jobs and such have a way of pulling you back even as a pro. My biggest hope from these camps is that the athletes that come here get a better idea of how they need to train to make improvements in their swimming. From my experience, there is a disturbing gap in knowledge about how to train effectively for the swim within the triathlon community with a lot of bad information that has become gospel among triathlon coaches. One of the worst is the use of big paddles by triathletes and there are a whole host of issues that develop from the use of paddles and especially over-sized paddles.

From what I’ve seen with triathletes that don’t have a swim background who use big paddles from onset of their training, it tends to be a disaster. It’s great at the beginning, because they get a huge amount of feel and feedback from the paddle on their hand. When they get overused the triathlete actually gets de-sensitized to the “feel” for the water when they don’t have paddles on. This makes finding an efficient stroke difficult. The second big issue is that triathletes typically don’t have the conditioning to support a big paddle on a pull. It usually takes swimmers the better part of a decade, if ever, to develop the stroke mechanics and strength to use a large paddle. Lastly, I’ve never seen a triathlete have a tempo faster than about 2 seconds to complete a stroke cycle with big paddles. If they are going faster then they are significantly increasing the likelihood of a shoulder injury. As mentioned before most of the fastest swimmers in Ironman triathlon are swimming with a tempo of about 1.5-1.6. And the range of fast efficiency is about 1.2-1.8.   Here’s a video of some triathletes swimming with paddles that are too large for their stroke mechanics and conditioning. Pay particular attention to the pull pattern of the swimmer on the left of the screen and his left hand as he pulls through the water. Notice in the slow motion portion of the video how the paddle moves slightly back and forth through the water. That’s the shoulder not being able to deal with the load. The other one is the last swimmer on the right side of the screen that comes into the frame towards the end of the video. You can see a whole host of issues that happen with the use of the large paddles.

For this Sunday, I worked with Matt. Matt has come a long way since I started coaching him over 2 years ago. He’s got a good series of videos up from the different times we have filmed his stroke and you can see the progression. Right now, we are working on slowing down his stroke tempo. His tempo while he was training by himself had gotten up to as fast as 1.0-1.1, which is too fast to be efficient. The second issue is he carries his hips/feet too low adding too much drag to his stroke and in turn causes him to finish too soon. It’s also impacting the catch at the front of the stroke, but you’ve got to focus on one thing at a time. So we filmed, did some analysis of the stroke from the different angles then did a few drills to address those issues and we were done.  Getting better at swimming is a long, slow process.  But he continues to improve and we have a clear road map forward.  Here’s the initial film of him swimming from Sunday:

Day 13 – January 16, 2016 (Saturday)

The Saturday practice is typically a more “orthodox” swim workout. I give the athletes a mental break from the demands of a USRPT set with specific hold paces and typically control the workout through adjustment of the interval rather than a specific “hold pace.” I incorporated the idea from USRPT of shorter distance repeats, but everything else is “old school” swim workouts.

The warm-up was a normal 1500 with some 75s descend. Variety is the spice of life. The lead up set was a mixture of swimming and kicking. The swim portion was more active recovery with a focus generating some speed and control from the kicking.

The main set was long. For the faster swimmers in the pool, we hit 6000 yards for 1.5 hours. While they were tired they got through the set and made it happen. At the end of the set we did a 100 for time. All of them had dropped significant time off their 100 from before the camp. The importance for the pros of having a fast 100 is two fold. First, they need to have that speed to have a chance to make the first pack and respond to any surges during the race. Second, the faster they can go in the 100 is usually a good indication that their mechanics and body position are more efficient.

Sat Jan16 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the wall…

Inside Sunrise MAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yep, it’s early…

Outside Sunrise MAC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunrise…

Saturday workout

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4×75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15

1500

Lead up

3x [3×50 kick @ 1:00 des 1-3 & 1×50 swim @ 1:00]

2100

Main set

4×150 swim @ 2:00/2:15/2:30

6×100 swim @ 1:25/1:35/1:45

3×150 swim @ 2:00/2:15/2:30

5×100 swim @ 1:20/1:30/1:40

2×150 swim @ 2:00/2:15/2:30

4×100 swim @ 1:15/1:25/1:35

1×150 swim @ 2:00/2:15/2:30

3×100 swim @ 1:10/1:20/1:30

Break

1×100 swim for time

6000

Day 12 – January 15, 2016 (Friday)

Friday was here, so all the work we put in would or could be seen. I’m not a big fan of “test sets.” But every coach and athlete needs a goal for what they want to accomplish with every workout they do. The way that the weekly program is structured tends to focus everything on Friday and build on the work we’ve done during the week. Within swimming the 100 tends to be the base distance to analyze an event. Hence, we do a lot of 100s influenced by some of the ideas from USRPT.

Sometimes as a coach, you need to confound expectations. They expected to do about 25×100 swim @ hold pace, so I decided that we would do 30×75 swim @ hold pace. One of the more important aspects of coaching an athlete is you want to keep them engaged. With some athletes it’s easier than with others.

In swimming, or in the development of any complex skill set, if you want to improve, you have to stay engaged and mentally present. Over-training the bike and run or over-racing play key roles in hindering your ability to stay mentally engaged/present.   Those two factors will greatly impact your potential to improve in the water and, more importantly, your long-term viability as an athlete.   When you plan out a championship season it’s better to have smaller incremental goals over a three to five year horizon. Longevity, discipline and patience win the big races. Do you want to be the tortoise or the hare in your training and racing?

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All in a line…

Friday workout – AM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

8×50 descend 1-4; 5-8 @ 50

1600

Lead up

6 x 100 kick/swim (50k/50s) @ 2:05

2200

Main set

30×75 swim @ hold pace

4450

Warm down

12×25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

For Friday afternoon I expected them to be ready to go. The practice was only an hour and they wanted to continue the strong results from this morning. They were faster from the previous Friday by multiple seconds a 100. The warm up was a little shorter, but needed to be long-ish given that we were at the end of the second week. They looked good in the water and didn’t display too much fatigue. For the lead up set, I figured we needed “short and snappy” to get them ready for the main set. My goal for the main set was to focus on pushing the speed on the 100 a little faster than normal. I broke the main set up into 3 sections that would be manageable to hold at a harder effort.

I don’t think we could have gotten any more out of them – for those that were in the pool that day you know what I mean. And no pun intended. As a coach, it’s important to know when to press an athlete to make sure that you get the best possible effort on an important workout. For one of the athletes in the water, I pressed, the athlete gave it their all and we couldn’t have gotten anything else out of them. From a coach’s point of view, when an athlete digs extra deep and it is their absolute best effort, it’s fun to watch.

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Finishing the stroke…

Friday workout – PM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

8×50 des 1-4; 5-8 @ 50

1400

Lead up

12×25 swim (2 fast / 1 easy) @ 45

1700

Main set

3x [5×100 swim @ hold pace]

Break 1 min between rounds

3200

Warm down

300 choice easy

Day 11 – January 14, 2016 (Thursday)

As expected, they looked like shit when they got in the water. There were two standouts that looked better than everyone else, but it wasn’t anything to write home about. Honestly, at this point, I hadn’t been following the overall yardage we were doing. I knew how long the main sets were each day. That tends to be the most important metric to follow in terms of yardage. And then the most important metric is observational – how do they look in the water? How are they moving? Are they flat and low in the water or fluid and high on the water? When you can see and understand that, then the questions of how many yards and how hard all fall into place.

I just wanted them to get in the water and move. We did a light warm-up and then for the main set I want it to be consistent, steady with a tiny bit of intensity, but nothing extraordinary.

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Live It To Believe It…

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Monk always gets the best photos…

Thursday Workout – AM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

300 kick w/fins

200 pull

4 x 100 descend 1-4 @ 1:30/1:40

1300

Main set

2×400 swim w/fins (alt 50k/50s) @ 30 seconds rest

16×25 pull (1 fast / 3 easy) @ 40

6×75 des 1-3; asc 4-6 @ 1:10/1:15

2950

The second practice of the day would be another recovery practice. We’d get in 6000 yards for the day, but they would be a very easy 6000. The afternoon practice was a recovery swim that my club coach used to give. He called it the Alamo 3.0.

Thursday workout – PM

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 drill choice w/fins

400 pull

12 x 50 choice @ 1:05

8 x 100 descend 1-4; descend 5-8 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

3000

 

Day 10 – January 13, 2016 (Wednesday)

This was a day off. Not an optional day to swim – a day off. All of them needed it and I didn’t hear too many complaints. I know from experience that the next day, especially the first practice won’t be great, but everyone need to rest. Rest is the only way to execute those great workouts on a consistent basis that lead to long-term gains. This is probably one of the more difficult concepts to get across to triathletes that want to improve right away and now. Improvement in swimming is a slow, methodical and highly disciplined process. There are no short cuts.

Later in the evening all of us met up for a dinner where the campers got together in a relaxed and social way with a lack of wet hair. We had fun, but I couldn’t get anyone to partake of the “boozy” milk shakes. There’s always next year.

Day 9 – January 12, 2016 (Tuesday)

Swimmers usually build up to double workouts over a 5-10 year period. Doubles get introduced to younger swimmers in small doses. Most times they start with only a couple doubles a week and then with more frequency over the summertime. Then it’s dialed back. During this multi-year period they improve their stroke mechanics, strength and conditioning in the water and on land and around high school doubles are introduced on a regular basis. At this point they are prepared to handle the volume and intensity.

As I mentioned before the swim is the most sensitive to fatigue that is being generated from triathlon training. Typically, in the second week, the athletes that are the slowest (less efficient mechanics) will start to show the most fatigue. This camp is no different. All of them show signs of fatigue, but the slowest are becoming more uneven in their swims and times. It’s always one of the metrics that you want to be looking at after every swim. What did they go? How did they do compared to the previous day/week? The great thing about swimming in a pool and the pace clock is that it is reproducible and “clinical.” The pace clock has a sample rate of once every second or at 60 hertz. For all the fancy gadgets and gizmos that triathletes use there isn’t one more accurate than a pace clock with the precise distance of a pool.

Started off with a long-ish Warm-up set. Then into a Lead-up set with some short, fast kicking followed by an easy recovery swim. We went through two rounds of the Lead-up set. Then into the main set of 2000 yards @ hold pace. I broke the set up today into 40×50 @ hold pace. The same rules applied – miss one, sit out next. Miss two, go remainder easy. Everyone made the “hold pace” that I set. Two held 1 second faster than my estimate. One of the athletes was having some issues with variability in his stroke tempo. He’s had a tendency over the past 6 months to “tempo up” the stroke too high. I’m trying to get him to dial the tempo in to about 1.4-1.5 per stroke cycle. And what you want to see is a constant, consistent stroke tempo. Grant it, in open water conditions you want to have the ability to “tempo up” and “tempo down,” but that usually happens on it’s own when you have control over your tempo. Most new swimmers when they are fatigued tend to naturally
“tempo up” the stroke. In practice, you have to the discipline to then focus on technique and hold the water. Don’t let it slip.

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The Pace Clock…

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Liz mid-stroke…

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Tuesday afternoon bow wake…

Tuesday Workout AM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4×100 descend 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Lead-up

8×25 kick (2 fast / 1 easy) @ 40

2×100 swim easy @ 1:45

(x2)

2400

Main set

40×50 swim @ hold pace

4400

Warm down

12×25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

I thought the afternoon would be tough. They looked tired at the end of the morning practice and there is only about 6 hours between the morning and afternoon swims. A lot of them are getting ready for either Panama 70.3 or Dubai 70.3, so I knew – unfortunately, they wouldn’t be getting a lot of rest between the workouts.

I thought for a lot of the day about how much I could reasonably hope to get out of them in the afternoon. I knew we would be off from swimming for Wednesday so I could try to push a little more speed this afternoon. In the end, the afternoon practice went wildly better than expected.

All of them were beat when they got in the water. There was only one of them that didn’t look “flat” swimming. After the warm-up we did a larger than usual Lead-up set for the afternoon of some 75s swim/kick. They got a little better. I had initially wanted to swim 4x10x25 @ hold pace, but based on what I saw I cut it back to 3x10x25 @ hold pace. I knew I would have to pull out some of the “old tricks,” so I prefaced the set by telling them I had set their hold paces so they probably wouldn’t make all of repeats. They would have to sit on the wall. How do you think that turned out with a group of type-As in the pool? None of them would quit. They did great. All of them made their hold paces which were set a second faster than last week.  Then they wanted to know what was their reward.  I told them they got tomorrow off and proved me wrong.

Tuesday Workout – PM

Warm-up

500 swim w/fins
300 kick w/fins

200 pull

8×50 descend 1-4; 5-8 @ 50

1400

Lead-up

6×75 swim/kick (25k/50s) des 1-3; 4-6 @ 1:20

1850

Main set

3 x [10×25 swim @ hold pace]

Break 1 min between rounds

2600

Warm down

300 choice

Day 8 – January 11, 2016 (Monday)

I was curious to see how everyone looked after the first week as we rolled into the second. I knew we would need a long warm-up and with Sunday being off for most of them we would need to swim a more “dense” set. When I talk about “density” for a workout, I’m describing a set where the focus is a more traditional, orthodox approach to swim training. We are trying to get as many yards as reasonable in the time allotted. I’ve tweaked that approach, added some influence from USRPT in terms of how we get that density, but I try to stay around a 100 yard repeat.

Most of them looked fairly beat up. I gave them a long warm up. Then we did a long kick set with fins on a tight-ish interval. My goal was to get them to really push up their heart rate and try to get some more ankle flexibility. Fins can help a lot with both those goals. After the kick set we did a little easy swimming. When you swim an extended kick set before a main set you usually want to do a little easy swimming to get the stroke back. After that we went into a fairly dense set of 40×50 swim @ 40 for the fastest lane. It just kept everyone swimming, steadily consistently and aerobically. For a couple of them it wasn’t until about 400 yards into the main set that they looked warmed-up. So a little more than 3000 yards before they were on their strokes. This isn’t a surprise given how much we’ve been doing, but a good observation to keep in mind for triathletes when doing warm-up. 500 yards of warm-up doesn’t really make the cut even when you’re fresh.

Monk Jan11

 

Tim Monk from Klean Athlete pushing the pace and training like a pro…

JocelynMonkJan11

 

Jocelyn and Monk swimming hard…

LizJocelynWallJan11

 

Liz and Jocelyn at the wall…

LaurenSideJan11

 

Lauren grinding out a tough set…

Monday Workout AM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 100 des 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Kick set

12 x 100 kick w/fins @ 1:30

2800

100 easy swim

Main set

40 x 50 swim @ 40/45/50

4800

Warm down

12 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

The afternoon practice was something of a mystery and while they were swimming I was still deciding on what to do. I watched them closely on the warm up and tried to get a feel for how they felt in the water. Everyone was quiet and there weren’t any quick jokes on the deck. The warm-up was around 1400 and on the descend set everyone was off a little and seemed flat. I initially wrote a set of 5 x [4 x 125 des 1 -4 @ 1:45/1:55/2:05] and changed it to 6 x [4 x 75 des 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15]. They didn’t look great and the goal was to have fantastic workouts on Tuesday. So I cut back significantly. All of them appreciated it.

Monday Workout PM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

300 kick w/fins

300 pull

8 x 50 des 1-4; 5-8 @ 50

1400

Main set

6 x [4 x 75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15]

Break 1 min after 3rd round

3200

Warm down

300 choice easy

Day 7 – January 10, 2016 (Sunday)

This is an optional swim day and the day when I work with a couple athletes one on one.  We film and a do a stroke analysis.  I will have this post up shortly, but need to finish the video.  Stay tuned…

Day 6 – January 9, 2016 (Saturday)

The Saturday morning practice for the team is the only practice during the week that is one and a half hours. For the pros that are in for the camp, Saturday is one of five one and a half hours practices and the 9th practice in a week. At this point, I’m trying to get the last little bit of swimming for the week out of them and I don’t want it to be as mentally taxing as Friday. The Saturday workout tends to be a more traditionally “dense” swim practice, but influenced by some of the ideas of USRPT. I try not to do any repeats much over 100 yards. Everyone did well, but they were tired.

Magnolia from bleachers

Caitlin at MAGMagnolia side of pool

Saturday Workout

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 100 des 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Kick set

20 x 25 kick (3 fast / 1 easy) @ 40/45

2100

Main set

4 x 25 swim @ 20/25

4 x 50 swim @ 40/45/50

4 x 75 swim @ 1:00/1:10/1:15

4 x 100 swim @ 1:20/1:30/1:40

4 x 125 swim @ 1:40/1:50

4 x 100 swim @ 1:20/1:30/1:40

4 x 75 swim @ 1:00/1:10/1:15

4 x 50 swim @ 40/45/50

4 x 25 swim @ 20/25

4600

Day 5 – January 8, 2016 (Friday)

The week flew by and we were set up to swim hard on Friday morning. We started out with a normal warm-up and then into 4×75 des 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15. 50s typically work better at the end of a warm-up for truly getting warmed-up for the main set, but variety is the spice of life. I don’t always use them. They were looking good, but a little ragged. I hoped the Lead Up set would be enough to get them ready for the main set. We did some 50s of kick/swim and descended by rounds of 4. It was right at 2100 yards in all before the main set. Not a lot in regards to warm-up, but not bad either. They were all looking ready. I was debating back and forth about how many 100s to swim and finally settled on 16×100 @ hold pace. I based their individual hold pace time off where the previous workouts came out. I take a lot of notes during the workouts and then based on my own experience of how much I think I can get out of them on any given day. The set went great. I only had one athlete that didn’t make their hold pace and she was off by a lot. I cut her off fairly early when it looked like this was not going to turn around. I’d rather cut it short, rest up and try to come back later in the day to have a successful set. In the end, the only way to swim faster is to swim faster. If you can’t swim fast on any given workout it’s better to bag it and not ingrain that slower swimming into your muscle memory. She and I discussed it and she said she had done some new workouts for the bike/run this week and it was just too much. It happens. The good news was that everyone else swam great and they were faster than where we started at the beginning of the week. Most had improved by 2-3 seconds/100 from when they arrived to upwards of 4-5/100. I was happy with the gains.

Friday Workout – AM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15

1500

Lead up

12 x 50 kick/swim (alt 25k/25s & 25s/25k) des 1-4; 5-8…@ 1:00

2100

Main set

16 x 100 swim @ hold pace

3700

Warm down

12 x 25 swim easy @ 15 seconds rest

For the afternoon workout, I knew it could be hit or miss. A lot would be dependent on how much they rested up between this workout and the one in the morning. When the workout came around, they all looked tired. Some more than others. I decided to press and see where the chips would fall. They all responded. We did a shorter warm-up, then some fast 25s and right into the main set. I dialed back a little on the distance. We went 8×100 instead of 10×100 @ hold pace, but I dropped all of their hold pace times from the morning. All of them went faster from their morning swims. It felt great to see the progress. They were excited.

Swimming 100s…

Friday Workout – PM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

300 kick w/fins

300 pull

8 x 50 des 1-4; 5-8 @ 50

1400

Lead up

16 x 25 swim (2 fast / 2 easy) @ 40

1800

Main set

8 x 100 swim @ hold pace

2600

Warm down

6 x 50 swim easy (2 free / 1 x 25f/25bk) @ 15 seconds rest

Since it was the end of a great week, I invited anyone that wanted to come out for a big pretzel or beer or both at Whole Foods. I got a couple takers. We had a good time and closed out the week well.

Pretzel WF Jan8

Big Pretzel…

tornado shark WF

Lone Pint Brewery (local to Magnolia) – Tornado Shark

CaitlinLizJocelynWF Jan8

 

Caitlin, Liz and Jocelyn…

 

Day 4 – January 7, 2016 (Thursday)

Thursday is usually more “active” recovery oriented, especially when we are swimming doubles. Since we only started on Monday and Wednesday was off completely, I decided to try to swim them a little harder than a normal Thursday.

The warm up was fairly standard of 1600 yards which included a set of descend 100s. There are some benefits to a standard warm-up. The athletes know what to expect, they can spend time thinking about getting the movement of the stroke correct and not worry about what exactly they had to do for warm-up. The other benefit is you are training their bodies to warm-up with a specific set each time. It’s a good way to gauge if they are completely warmed-up or if they might need a little more. The other thing I like to do is have them use fins for the warm-up. There are a few benefits to fin use at the start of the workout. First, it takes pressure off of shoulders that might be a little fatigued. Second, it allows the athlete to focus on the correct body position and they can play around with their technique with the added speed from the fins.

The Lead Up set was a combination of kick and swim, except it was a little more explicitly broken out into 4×25 kick and then 4×50 swim and to repeat that whole set 3 times. By the time we got to the main set we had already done 2500 yards. They looked ready to go.

For the main set we did 20×75 at hold pace, again, a USRPT inspired set. I moved the yardage for the main set today up from 1000 to 1600. It’s a fairly large jump for a week, but nothing that they couldn’t handle. I make sure to monitor what everyone is doing in the water closely when we start to ramp up. My primary responsibility as a coach is to not hurt anyone. When I coach age groupers that is what is at the forefront of my mind – always. With the pros it’s a little different. They are racing for their livelihood and their competition is usually training and racing right up to the line of getting injured. As a coach, you need to balance those competing goals and it can be difficult. Although, as I go down this road with pro triathletes and my ideas of training and racing have evolved, I’m reevaluating how much swim training we can actually do when coupled with the load generated from the bike and run and still get gains in the swim. Everyone did well in the main set. All of them beat the hold paces I had set. And each of them had a very specific stroke issue to work on while going fast. The issues ranged from one athlete needing to change a left arm pull pattern to another needing to stop a left arm crossover to another needing to engage their core more and thinking about an over-rotation on their right side with their hips compared to the left. I have never seen a perfect stroke. There is always room for improvement.

Swimming 75s hard…

LaurenLizJocelyn Pool

Post workout – all smiles (Lauren, Liz and Jocelyn)

Thursday Workout AM

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4 x 100 descend 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Lead up

4 x 25 kick (1 fast / 1 easy) @ 40

4 x 50 swim @ 50

(x3)

Break 1 min after 2nd round

2500

Main set

20 x 75 swim @ hold pace

4100

Warm down

12 x 25 swim easy (2 free / 1 back) @ 15 seconds rest

By Thursday afternoon, I knew that they would be tired and they looked it when they got in the water. I wanted to “bridge” to the hard workouts that I was planning for Friday so we went a very recovery oriented set. They all finished up in about 45 minutes and were able to get them home to get some rest for the quality work they needed to do for Friday.

Day 3 – January 6, 2016 (Wednesday)

Traditionally within most swim programs Wednesday is a day off or a half-day of workouts. I structured the camp as Wednesday being an off day with an optional easy swim at night if they wanted to get in. This Wednesday there was a high school swim meet at the pool, so everyone got a mandatory day off.

For me that meant I got a day off too. Sort of. I wrote some of this post, reviewed videos that I had already taken during the week of athletes and then wrote some in a coaching journal. As a coach it’s a good habit to write down impressions of a workout and where you think you can do a better job then go back to review those thoughts.

But on the fun side, I did get to train my dog. Coaching never stops…

 

Day 2 – January 5, 2016 (Tuesday)

 

The first of the trash talking officially started at 7:37am this morning.  It’s always a good sign when the group becomes comfortable enough with one another to engage in a little fun banter.  It was a great zinger that silenced a usual big time trash talker. With the scheduling snafu behind us this was going to be the first day of double swims. The initial week my plan is to ease them into the workload since some of them hadn’t ever done doubles before and the others hadn’t done doubles since last year. The first morning practice went well. Again, in the morning, we had a long warm up. All in it was around 2500 yards. An AM swim always requires a longer warm up. Typically, later in the day you can get away with about 30-40% less and that is all dependent on the amount of fatigue the athlete is carrying, how they are looking in the water and where they are in the season.   Experienced observation of your athletes in the workout is fundamental.  I don’t write the workout we’ll do that day until I’ve watched the athletes in the water through warm-up.

After the initial warm up set, we did a kick set. Again a skill that is drastically down played in the triathlon community but essential to efficient swimming. Then we did what I would consider to be more of a “neural” activation set. For today it was some 75s that were kick/swim and we went 25 kick/50 swim. I’ve found it a good way to get the kick and pull coordinated and a good thing to do when we want to be ready to do well in a hard fast set.

The main set was a USRPT inspired set. We swam 40×25 on an interval of 35 seconds, which gave the majority of them about 20 seconds rest. The hold pace, depending on the athlete, was between 13-17 seconds. The pacing then works out to anywhere from :52/100 to sub 1:10/100. For instance, Matt held 13 seconds per 25 for 1000 yards. For the main set, he trained his kinetic chain to swim at that faster velocity for 1000 yards in this workout. This is the idea that seems to elude some in the triathlon community. I recently heard a podcast from some coaches who clearly didn’t understand the idea behind USRPT. I’m writing an article to explain how to successfully implement a USRPT format within a triathlon training plan, some of the benefits and an explanation of the differences between traditional triathlon approaches/understanding of swim training and USRPT.   In short, the main difference is that “it ain’t about zones.”

Matt Jan5 BreakoutAM

Matt Swimming Fast

Liz All Smiles Jan5AM

Liz giving Matt a little grief…

Tuesday AM Workout

Warm up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull

4×100 des 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Lead up / Kick set

6 x 100 kick no fins @ 2:05/2:15

&

4 x 75 kick/swim (25k/50s) @ 1:20/1:30

2500

Main set (miss one, rest next two. Miss two, go remainder easy)

40 x 25 swim @ hold pace

3500

Warm down

12×25 swim easy (3 free / 1 back) @ 15 seconds rest

The afternoon practice always comes around sooner than you’d like when you’re the swimmer and feeling the morning workout. The majority of them looked pretty solid through the warm-up and we needed less than the morning. We then jumped into some 25s fast to get everything primed for the main set and then the main set was 20×50 swim @ hold pace. Again, a USRPT inspired set. I had the data from the morning on what they could hold for 25s for 1000 and now we’d see what they could do for a 1000 with 50s. This is a good way to judge the efficiency of their stroke. If they can’t hold double what they went in the morning plus 4 seconds then their stroke mechanics need some serious work.

One of the benefits of swimming sets with clear hold paces, where the athlete is involved and engaged in managing their own workout is to allow the coach to coach the mechanics. I’m not as focused on keeping athletes on track in a complex set or tracking their interval. I can intensely watch each athlete and the movement they are making in the water, giving slight corrections to stroke mechanics and then instantly seeing if those corrections impact their speed in the water. If it does then we do it over and over again at the higher velocity and training load. We are training technique under load which, in my experience, is the most efficient way to improve in the water.

Synchronized Jan5AM

 Synchronized swimming…

Tuesday PM workout

Warm up

300 swim w/fins

300 kick w/fins

300 pull

4×75 descend 1-4 @ 1:05/1:10/1:15

1200

Lead up

12×25 swim (2 fast / 1 easy) @ 40

1500

Main set

20×50 swim @ hold pace

2500

Warm down

12×25 swim easy (3 free / 1 back) @ 15 seconds rest

 

Day 1 – January 4, 2016 (Monday)

The second year of the pro camp is here. The year went quick and now it’s time to focus on the swim for some pro triathletes. For 2016, there are 9 pros and 4 age groupers. I opened up the camp to some age groupers this year that were interested in getting better and who I thought could add something to the mix.   Like last year, my goal is to keep the group under 15 athletes in the water. This smaller size tends to create a better group dynamic. One of the team traditions is a New Years Eve Party at the Balsdorfs. Bryan and Jennifer, local age group athletes, buy a “shot block” every year and anyone that comes in early usually becomes a victim.

Balsdorf Shot Block

(B)Alsdorf prepping for the NYE activities

SB Victims Concealed

First victims of the night…

The first day we had a bit of a scheduling snafu with the Parks and Rec department. The kids that swim on the local USA Swimming club team were still out of school and on their Christmas break and we accidentally got doubled booked. We couldn’t swim at the scheduled 7am time so I took everyone out for a cup of coffee. It ended up working out better and gave the group a chance to get to know one another in a relaxed and informal way.

The afternoon workout was for 2pm – 3pm and we were all good for that one. We’ve got a couple of the pros that will trickle in over the next few days and a pro, Aubrey Aldy, that I used to coach that is developing his own team. He’ll be on the deck with me for a couple days to see how we do things on the team from the on-deck point of view.   I’m looking forward to sharing what I know with another coach in the triathlon community.

The afternoon workout was a warm-up of around 1600 yards. Warm-up in my experience is the most underrated piece of the workout in the triathlon community. I’ve seen a lot of swim workouts written for triathletes with 400-600 yards of warm-up and then right into the main set. I know triathletes are usually pressed for time, but if you don’t want to waste part of the main set warming up then do more than 600 yards. In my experience, depending on the amount of fatigue that an athlete is carrying, it takes around 1500 yards for most athletes to get warmed up. For athletes that are carrying a lot of fatigue, which is all too common for triathletes, I’ve seen it take as long as 2500 yards to get warmed up and ready to go.

Initial thoughts are that we have a good group. The dynamics have already shaped up in the direction where you want it to go. Everyone is relaxed and having a good time, but when we need to get the work done they are focused. I look forward to see how the next couple weeks develop.  Trying to guess when the first of the trash talking starts…

Group Jan5

First swim of the camp…

Workout Day 1

Warm-up

400 swim w/fins

400 kick w/fins

400 pull no paddles

4×100 descend 1-4 @ 1:25/1:30/1:40

1600

Main set 

12/14/16×150 swim @ 2:05(1:25)/2:15(1:30)/2:30(1:40)

4000/3700/3400

 

Magnolia Masters Pro-triathlete Swim Camp 2015

Day 21 – January 23, 2015 (Friday)

These workouts have been the pinnacle of the week. Everything was about setting up the week to give them the best possible results for the two workouts on Friday. Mornings are typically not when you will be the fastest in the water. There was a recently published study that gets at this point (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25631930?dopt=Abstract) Not a big surprise for swim coaches, but always good to see it validated by science.

The first practice of the day was fairly typical. Longer warm up with a Lead-Up set that included some kicking and swimming. The main set was two set of 100s more focused on 400 pacing. Everyone was swimming solid, some better than others, some as best as they had been since the start of the camp. I could tell that we would have a good noon practice once everyone got some more rest. This was a primer.

The noon practice was a shortened Warm-Up and a very brief Lead-Up set that included some sprint 25s to get everything going. For the fastest group, I took the risk of cutting their rest interval by 5 seconds. We were static for the majority of the camp in terms of the interval for this group. All of them had improved in their pace since the start, but this would be a big jump up. I cut the interval and then cut about 1 second off each of their hold paces from this morning. The pacing was more focused on the 200 distance. Everyone nailed. Some of them drop multiple seconds off their pacing and had huge breakthroughs. Practices like this are thrilling to watch.

Here is quick video of two of the fastest swimmers at the camp and two of the fastest swimmers in Ironman from an underwater point of view. You can see that neither stroke is perfect, everyone has room for improvement, but it shouldn’t stop you from swimming hard and going faster. You can’t practice perfect technique slowly all the time and expect to improve.

Friday Underwater View 100s

 

Friday Side View of 100 Set

 

 

Day 20 – January 22, 2015 (Thursday)

Again, we would swim once on Thursday and it was all about getting them ready for Friday. As I mentioned before, Thursday is a “bridge” workout to Friday or “active recovery.” One of the most important things in swimming is to keep the “feel” for the water and when coaches say “feel” they are referring to the ability of the swimmer to “catch” and hold as much water as possible through the stroke.  This is the reason in swimming that consistency can trump volume.

The workout was all about getting them to do some relaxed, easy but continuous movement. To make it interesting we threw in some kicking and pace changes to the set. Here’s a short video from the afternoon practice:

 

Day 19 – January 21, 2015 (Wednesday)

Wednesday morning they would get to sleep in and then we could focus on going fast at the night practice.

I ran into Liz at the pool when I was getting in a swim and she said she knew the set we would swim tonight. At that point in the day, I hadn’t given any thought to what the workout would be. When she said it, I knew the set she had in mind. It’s a good set to do on a sprint night. You get to see a lot as a coach from the set and it can be very helpful in developing athletes outside of just physical training.

The other cool thing we would do was the Torrent E-Rack arrived and it was ready to go. This was a “toy” that we purchased that is a “power meter” for the water. You can test a swimmer on all sorts of aspects of their stroke from power in watts to velocity to seeing how efficient is their stroke. It’s a powerful tool and we will be using it a lot in the coming months to get even more out of the training we do. Here is a quick video of Liz being tested on the Rack.

Liz Being Tested

The warm-up was important for the main set since we needed to be able to go from the first repeat. We came in a little under 2000 yards for the warm-up with a Lead-Up set that was more a “bridge” to the main set than a true Lead-Up set. The main set was 5×100 sprint @ 6:00. Yes, each repeat would have a 6-minute interval. But each repeat would also be an all out effort.

These sets are traditionally referred to as “Lactate Sets.” If you can’t taste “battery acid” on your tongue by the end then you didn’t work the set hard enough. This set will test you physically (both anaerobic and aerobic capacity and stroke efficiency) mentally (do you have the mental discipline to keep the stroke together at failure) and will test your drive (how much do you want it.) So from a coach’s point of view, it’s a great snapshot into an athlete and where they are in their training.

They are not fun sets to do, but they are fun sets to coach. You get to see great athletes going fast in the water. Here is a short video of some of them going fast:

 

Day 18 – January 20, 2015 (Tuesday)

As part of the dialing back for this week, we would only swim once on Tuesday. Since we wanted to get the most out of the workout, I also let them sleep in and swim at the noon practice.

Warm-up was solid. A couple of them were looking a little ragged, but today was not a day to back off. Occasionally, you have to push them to drive into the wall and see if they can get through it. The mental skill set that is needed to improve and compete on an elite is difficult to acquire. Not impossible, but it is a day-to-day, workout-by-workout, stroke-by-stroke development. There are no short cuts.

The main set was 2000 yards consisting of 8x25s and then 4x75s. These would all be at “hold pace” on very precise intervals.   Doesn’t look like a big deal. 25s are easy and 75s are shorter than 100s. But when you hold a sub 44 min Ironman pace for 2000 yards, it adds up. Again, we worked on the speed to push as much efficiency into the stroke as possible. A couple of them are topping out on what we can do in terms of pushing efficiency into the stroke with the training. They will need more intense stroke analysis and correction to continue to improve. Even the fastest swimmers in the water don’t have perfect strokes, so there is always room for improvement.

DCIM100GOPRO

I get a lot of calls from age group triathletes that want stroke analysis. They are convinced that the only thing holding them back from swimming greatness and triathlon glory is their swim technique. They tell me that they already have “great engines” and if they can finally understand the stroke it will all come together.

The first question I always ask is how often they are swimming, what is their pace per 100 and how much they yardage they swim in a week.   The typical response is 2-3 times a week, mostly north of 2:00/100 yards and usually under 10k a week. At that level of training, it is your technique holding you back but it’s also your level of fitness. They don’t have the fitness and conditioning in the water at that point to get to the more efficient technique. And this is an important point for most triathletes to understand: you cannot separate out technique from training. They go hand in hand and build upon one another. For stroke analysis to work to significantly change the stroke takes 10-12 weeks of filming once a week all the while implementing a very structured and targeted amount of swim training. So for someone swimming slower than 2:00/100 or really slower than 1:30/100 you don’t need stroke analysis lessons. You need a good program with an experienced swim coach holding you accountable to swimming faster with better technique. Save some money, go to the pool and swim hard with focus on your stroke and the pace clock.

Day 17 – January 19, 2015 (Monday)

The start of the third week would be a gradual reduction in the amount of swimming. We switched to only 2 doubles a week (Monday and Friday) and the practices would be an hour. The goal of the day remained the same. The workouts revolved around density. How much yardage, with some sub goals in mind, could we fit in an hour. The main set was mostly repeats of 50s, 75s and 100s. Some of them were on a fairly tight interval that placed it a little faster than 1:10/100. The final yardage was north of 4k.

One of the great things about this community is all of the talent that is located here. And it’s not just athletic, coaching and rehab related. We had the privilege of Ruddock Visuals coming out to shoot some professional photos and videos of the camp.  Payton is a triathlete himself and a former swimmer. He and his wife, Sam, really understand the endurance athlete and know how to capture them on film. They also provided all of the campers with one-on-one photo shoots for their websites and collateral material. They were a great resource and I can’t thank Payton and Sam enough for offering their services.  You can see their fantastic work here: http://www.ruddockvisuals.com/sport-portfolio.html

This would also be the morning when the next camper would leave us. Justin had the last practice with the team that morning. He was a professional and pleasure to coach.  He added greatly to the practices and I know everyone benefited from him here. I’m excited to see how his season goes this year.

Here were some photos from the morning:

Monday Morning Workout

monday morning workout

 

Ruddock Visuals Setting Up

Monday Day17 Morning

 

More of the Photo Shoot

Monday morning photo

 

The night practice started with some stroke analysis of Aubrey. He got back into town after a week home and we decided to take a look at his stroke.   Here is an initial video. Aubrey has a very big run background and he shows what I typically see in runners when they swim. The thing about swimming is that everyone has a unique stroke. No one moves the same in the water. There are always slight variations. However, when there is an underlying structural issue or injury the movement becomes identical. You rarely see identical movements in swimming. A good example for triathletes is someone that has broken their collarbone, a common triathlete injury, the movement of the shoulder on the broken side becomes identical for everyone. For those with big run backgrounds I tend to see some common movements. Aubrey shows some of those movements. There tends to be a dropping of the hips, a disconnection between the hips and shoulders and not a great “feel” for the catch at the top of the stroke with a high/wide reaching recovery. While they are difficult issues to overcome in swimming, they are not impossible. They just take a little more work.  Sorry runners.

The evening practice was right back at it. We got in almost the same amount of yardage as the morning and again focused on some tight interval work. They were looking good and it was the finish to a solid Monday.

For Tuesday, I decided to let them sleep in and we would swim at the noon workout. The concentration would be on 25 through 75 speed, so I wanted them to be ready to go since we would only swim once on Tuesday.

Day 16 – January 18, 2015 (Sunday)

Again, this was a day off for everyone to rest and recover. The idea of a day off as a former swimmer was a given. We used to swim 11 practices, 2 times a day on most days and swim as much as most runners training for a marathon run in a week. Everyone needs a day off. If for nothing else, than to get a mental break from all of the training.

I’ve been fairly perplexed by the large number of triathletes that think they perform better without taking any days off. I can tell you from my experience and being involved with triathletes for over 5 years now that a day off benefits training. As I mentioned before, the swim shows cumulative fatigue the soonest of the three sports. To this day, all the triathletes that I have worked with that never took days off always show a lot of cumulative fatigue during the season, which hinders their workouts. The ones that take one day off a week are able to produce more consistent results on a week over week basis.

Here’s a picture from their day off and my day to swim. The weather was perfect and the water was great.

Sunday swim

 

Day 15 – January 17, 2015 (Saturday)

The normal Saturday practice for the team is usually a very hard workout. For them, it is the only 1.5 hour swim we get in all week. I tell most people that if you are training for an Ironman the Saturday practice and the 1.5 hour workout is the most important practice I coach all week.

For the pros, we were swimming around 2.5 hours a day spread out over two practices a day so Saturday morphed into me seeing what else I could get out of them. This Saturday was no different.

We started out with a standard warm-up and some descend 100s at the end of the warm-up. No one was really looking that great. Some were looking downright horrible. I knew the workout would need modification from what I originally envisioned. One of the athletes was so “cooked” I told him to get out, go home and get back in bed.

We did do a lot of kicking. The Kick Set before the Main Set was 1000 yards of kicking at a fairly intense pace. They all hate kicking, but in the end it will pay huge dividends in their stroke efficiency and their ability to do swim better in tougher conditions (e.g. Kona on a rough day).

The main set was a mix of some pace change 200s and tight interval 50s. I wanted something they could get through, not be too stressed and that was mentally engaging.  All in all it was an uneventful workout. We got in the swimming we needed and kept it low key. As a coach or as an athlete, you’ve got to know when to back off and when to push. Here’s a photo of some of them relaxing after the end of practice.

Saturday Morning

Texas over the past couple of years has seen an explosion in microbreweries and some of them are making some great beer. The Woodlands and Magnolia area now have 4 microbreweries within 20 minutes. Most of the triathletes had a long-ish bike ride to do, so we decided to meet up around 2pm for the “tour” at Lone Pint in Magnolia. They make terrific beer and it was a good way to close out a hard week of training.

Lone Pint

Day 14 – January 16, 2015 (Friday)

I like Friday workouts. We get to see if the work we have done during the week is paying off or if we need to go back to the drawing board. I didn’t plan on backing off that morning. I was confident the added rest would give them the bump they needed for a great practice. We put in a lot of volume leading up to today, so they would need a longer warm-up. We warmed up for about 25 minutes. The Lead Up set was some kicking and swimming with a controlled pace change to get them ready for the main set.

Friday morning

When we got to the main set, I watched closely to see how everyone looked and I thought everyone looked good. I knew the set of 100s we would do would have to be long-ish, but I wanted to try to “tease” a little more speed out of them. Each round of 100s consisted of 4 repeats done on a very exact pace with a very precise amount of rest. I had the numbers they went from the previous Friday and based their “hold pace” off those plus what I had seen them doing in the practice that morning and during the week. Once I got their “hold paces” written down, I knew if they could accomplish it they would have all improved a minimum of 2 seconds a hundred to a maximum of between 4-5 seconds a hundred. That wouldn’t be a bad week. But it would be a long 45 minute set with a lot of work on all of our parts.

To make gains in swimming it helps to be on a team. These types of sets can’t be done alone. No one can take this much pounding, keep coming back day after day without the help of team mates who will support and push you. It is mentally crushing to do it alone. I’ve figured that with the folks I coach remotely we give up about 5-10% of what we could achieve if they swam on the team on a regular basis. But even by giving up 5-10% we can still get the triathletes I work with very competitive.

This always surprises me that we are able to give up that much and still be competitive.  There was a pro triathlete that came in before Kona this past season.  She qualified to race at Kona and heard that this area would be a great prep with the conditions similar to Kona in terms of heat, humidity and wind.  She came out to work with the team and was  skeptical of what we were doing at first, but she quickly improved.  It’s always a thrill as a coach to work with exceptional athletes and her adaptation to what we were doing was rapid.  In the end, with 4 weeks of training here, she improved her time on the swim at Kona by about 5 minutes. She’s been a pro for well over 10 years and worked with all the big “swim gurus” within the sport, but plateaued in swimming.

Since I began working with triathletes, saw how the triathlon community trained and thought about swimming, spoke or corresponded with a lot of the big coaches within the triathlon world, talked with a lot of pros about their training and how they are coached, I’ve said for a while that the swim within Ironman is not very competitive and there is a more effective way to train. There is a lot of “low hanging fruit” in the swim even at the pro level.

As a coach in a set like this you need to stay relaxed and supportive at the beginning. Encouraging everyone to get through it. The first couple rounds of 100s are a time to get splits, focus on strokes and see who will have a good day and who won’t. Here’s a video from the morning:

The first couple of rounds went well. All of them made their “hold paces” and they looked good. I made a few minor stroke corrections as the sets went on and reminded them what to focus on as they tired. The 4th and 5th rounds would be the most difficult. For some of them as we extended beyond where they had been trained in terms of the length of the main set, it would be tough to stay on the “hold pace.” When I look at a workout, I am not terribly concerned with the total amount of yardage. It’s usually a secondary or tertiary metric. I am more concerned with the length and intensity of the main set. The training that we do is largely about “time under load,” pace and the adaptations the body makes to that stress.

When it comes to the 4th and 5th rounds as a coach that’s when I’m the most engaged and on them to get it done. We take one repeat at a time and one 25 at a time. It’s about pushing mentally and physically past where you have been before and doing it over and over again for as long as possible while maintaining the “hold pace.” I will do whatever I can as the coach to get the swimmers in the water to achieve their goals. That means talking to them when need be in between repeats. Giving them ideas on what to focus on in their stroke or how to mentally attack the set. And shouting at them while in the water to go faster. In the end, everyone made it and everyone improved from last week. Some of the swimmers improved by as much as 4 seconds per 100 from the previous Friday.

Like last Friday, the second workout of the day would be a quick turn around. We would be back at the pool at noon so there wouldn’t be a lot of opportunity to rest before the next workout. A handful of us went out for coffee and had a good time.  I’ve found that some of the best coaching gets done over a cup of coffee after a hard workout.

The second workout of the day was similar to the first, except we swim for an hour. I knew we wouldn’t need as much warm-up and I knew that they would probably be a little faster in the afternoon. While we tried to tease some speed out of the morning, I wanted to try to apply that speed over a longer period of time to see if they could sustain it. The main set was about 1000 yards less than in the morning, but it was one straight set of 100s. On this application if they missed a “hold pace” by one second, they would need to sit one out and then get back on track. You can imagine with competitive, pro triathletes no one wanted to sit out. All of them nailed the set, did better than the morning and a few even got faster. It was a great day of training.

After the Friday afternoon practice we enjoyed our usual post workout lunch with a couple recovery beverages. A good group showed up and there were about 12 of us that made it to the Kitchen. Justin wanted to interview me for a podcast for Endurance Corner (www.endurancecorner.com) so we left early. The pod cast will go up some time this week. We talked about the training we do at Magnolia Masters and some of my views on the swim in triathlon.

Bonus Video – Quick Peek Underwater

 

Day 13 – January 15, 2015 (Thursday)

After the excursion to the Golden Retriever, I decided to give the pros the morning off. Thursday is a recovery day. In actuality, it’s a bridge to getting in a stellar workout on Friday. I’m not concerned about what we are swimming on a recovery day. I want it to be mentally engaging, but relaxed. The stress level of the athlete should be taken down a notch and they should just be staying in the water to keep the “feel.” Consistency trumps volume.

We ended up swimming on a perfect Thursday afternoon at the outdoor Creekwood pool. The sun was out. The water was warm and the weather was finally starting to turn around. Friday was supposed to be in the upper 60s, but it was still in the low 50s, but the sun was out.

Thursday Workout

Cody looked ragged and I pulled him from practice. He needed the rest. While in Texas low 50s is considered cold, in true Canadian form, he kept his shirt off and laid down on the deck to soak up some sunshine.

Cody On Deck

Everyone else finished up the set, got out and prepared for the hard workouts tomorrow. I was hopeful the added rest and only one, easy workout on Thursday would set them up well for work we needed to get done on Friday.

Day 12 – January 14, 2015 (Wednesday – Steak Night!)

This Wednesday we wouldn’t swim until the evening at the Magnolia pool. Everyone appreciated the rest and having the majority of the day off. For those that had been here since the start, the fatigue was beginning to show. I was being hyper-vigilante about monitoring everyone’s times and how they looked in the water.

For the morning and afternoon, I tried to catch up on these posts, swam myself and prepared for the evening workout. Since we would swim at night, we would be back to sprints and Steak Night. This tradition started a couple years ago with one of the race directors I know who used to be a pro triathlete and swam on the team. He ran in college and has a similar view of training that I do in regards to age group triathlete. When we started Steak Night we wanted to convince all of the age groupers on the team that it was ok to have some fun after a hard workout. You don’t have to stick to a rigidly strict diet all of the time. One of the big benefits of doing all of this exercise is you can have that brownie or cake or extra helping or beer/wine at the end of the week and your pants still fit.

The first Wednesday when we tried to convince everyone that they should go out to the local pub was after an exceptionally hard workout with a lot of sprints. I told them that their heart rates had gotten so high that they probably wouldn’t get to sleep until past midnight since we finished practice around 8:30pm. No one believed me so the first official Steak Night was a bust. The next Wednesday came around and we swam hard again, I asked if anyone was going out and we got a bunch takers. When we got to the pub they all told me that they hadn’t been able to get to sleep after sprinting so hard. From then on Steak Night has been a tradition. We now find ourselves at the Golden Retriever Pub on Wednesday nights enjoying the 10oz rib-eye special with two sides and some great local beers. It’s good fun.

The workout that night started out with a stroke analysis of Justin. I’ve never coached Justin before and I didn’t want to radically change his stroke. He has what I call the “Boulder” stroke. It’s a style of Free that I’ve seen a lot of elite level triathletes use and from various Facebook and Instagram accounts that I follow from Boulder seems to be widely taught and applied in Boulder. As far as I’ve been able to figure out it was a stroke style taught by one coach that then taught it to a couple of other coaches and it’s spread from there.

For Justin, what I had noticed when I first saw him swim was that there wasn’t a lot of connection between the core and his catch or his hips. Also, for this stroke style to be effective the swimmer has to employ a very high turnover. The majority of the stroke is in the “front quadrant” so you give up some power and speed, but you are able to have a much higher tempo which can be beneficial in some open water conditions. Justin initially had a tempo of about 1.7 (tempo is the time it takes for the swimmer to complete one stroke cycle or in this case 1.7 seconds). He probably needed it to be closer to 1.3-1.4.

USA Swimming did a great analysis of the top 8 of US Olympic Trials in 2012 and what their tempos were from the 50m Free through the 1500m Free. You can find it here. The interesting thing to note is that in the shorter events the variation of tempo was very limited to make it to the Top 8 while in the 1500m there was a much wider gap for those in the final heat.

The other problem that I mentioned at the beginning was the lack of connective-ness in his stroke between his core and catch. This is important to understand for those that want to “tempo up” their strokes. If you don’t have a rock solid catch with a highly developed “feel” for the water and you tempo up, you’ll just “slip” a lot more water without getting faster. Typically, I look to develop a really great stroke and then, if need be, tempo up. You can see the videos of Justin before and after we had done the analysis and some drill work here:

Justin Stroke Analysis

 

Justin After

The workout went great. We did a long warm up followed by the main set which was around 800 yards. The majority of the set was rest. We had 50s sprint on a 3 minute interval. We sprinted with fins for the first 50 of each round and then took the fins off, sprinted again and tried to replicate the feel and body position without fins. It’s always an interesting feel and you can learn a lot about what great body position in the water feels like. Here’s a video of some of the sprinting we did:

Sprinting

After the practice we had about 10-12 that ventured down to the Golden Retriever for Steak Night. It was great. Good fun. Everyone enjoyed each other’s company and we heard some great stories.

photo(2)

Day 11 – January 13, 2015 (Tuesday)

“Let’s f*&kin’ die or do something…” – coach to anonymous triathlete

Tuesday was going to be all about pushing speed and efficiency into the stroke. So it meant we would be swimming 50s and 25s at a hold pace on a relatively short rest interval. The design of the “hold pace” sets is very specific with exact amounts of rest and a very precise pace to hold. The pace clock reigns supreme. No watches. I understand that triathletes like their watches and data and ability to upload data to their coach, but in the pool you don’t need a watch. The watch can be a distraction and hindrance to your focus. The pace clock is the best tool that you have at a workout. If you focus on the pace clock, pay attention to the times you are swimming, get to know your pacing to the second, continue to focus to improve your stroke, you will get faster and more efficient in the water.

Warm-up was a little longer than usual. I wanted them to be ready to go started the main set. When you don’t have a lot of time in the water and the goal of the set is quality swimming, you don’t want to skimp on the warm up. Do the preparation to swim fast. Also, as the cumulative fatigue builds up it will take a little longer to get warmed up. Again, for the Lead Up set we got in some good kicking while trying to coordinate the kick with the swim. By this point most of them were ready to go.

The main set was a combination of 25s to get some of the speed and efficiency up and then right into a longer set of 50s at a hard “hold pace.” We repeated the set 4 times. It totaled around 2000 yards. I gave everyone some ambitious paces based on what I had seen in the warm-up. Everyone did well. One of the athletes was having a tough time when we got to the 3rd and 4th rounds. For the volume we have done and the level of intensity her mechanics aren’t quite there yet to handle it. But she has improved quickly since she got here. John got faster as the set went along, which is always fun to see and the majority of the group was sub 30 on the 50s.

The idea for this camp came from my own time training as an athlete. I was lucky to have been in great team environments and understand the value of the fantastic work that can get done when great athletes are put in the right environment. Below is a video from the morning practice of the IM Chattanooga Champion swimming right next to the IM Boulder Champion and neither of them wanting to give an inch during the entire 2000 yards. They both pushed each other faster than they would have gone alone.

Great Environment

The night practice started with a stroke session with Cody. I’ve been working with Cody for a year this month and we’ve made a lot of improvements and there is a large well of untapped potential remaining.   For Cody, we needed to work on his left side and try to balance out the stroke. When he gets tired he tends to swing the left arm out which he then has to correct for on the pull. We also worked on getting more connection between his core and catch. You can see the initial film of his stroke here:

Cody Front View

 

Cody Front View Underwater

The practice was solid. Everyone was tired. I had benched one of the athletes. She was dragging and needed the rest. We were looking for a lot of speed and so we did a lot of 25s at “hold pace.” Liz had a break through practice. She held some sub 15 second 25s for the first time. She’s getting a lot stronger in the water and has held up well with all of the volume and intensity. She wouldn’t have been able to do this camp a couple years ago.

The one thing we did talk about was the importance of the details, especially in sprinting. The first swimmer to reach the 100m in Kona was at roughly 1:10/100m and that was with an open water start, so we need to account for the first 10-15 meters were not at 1:10 pace so safe to assume sub 1:10 for part of that first 100m. At that speed they are moving at between 1.4 and 1.8 meters a second. During the practice, when we swam 25s, one of the athletes consistently lagged another by between .25 and .5 seconds on each repeat. It’s an almost imperceptible amount of time, but in swimming it counts. Surprisingly, in an Ironman swim it counts too. .5 seconds per 25 over a 100m equated to 2 seconds slower per 100. So by the time the first place male reaches the first buoy, you are already behind by 2 seconds off the pace or as much as 3.6 meters behind or two body lengths. You’ve been dropped. So for those of you racing at an elite level, the Ironman swim is not a distance swim it’s a sprint.

The quotation of the day was in reference to a swimmer in the morning session that I knew could go faster. I’m always checking times. Pace clock is king. He had a hard bike workout the day before, but that’s not an excuse. He had been hovering around the hold pace I gave him and was starting to retreat a little with each round. I could tell it wasn’t physical fatigue as much as mental. I stepped on him a little for the last round, told him he needed to get his arse in gear or just die and be done with it. He focused, swam faster, held it and finished out the set. Everyone has bad days. Everyone gets mentally fatigued. The difference between the top 10 athlete and the athlete at the top of the podium is how you respond on those days. Are you able to give that little extra when pressed? It’s not necessarily the most talented athlete that wins the race; it’s the most committed.

Day 10 – January 12, 2015 (Monday)

Monday morning arrived quickly and the weather has been unseasonably cold for Texas, actually, cold and wet. The water has been a consistent 80 at the outdoor pool. On the videos I’m posting on social media (Instagram and Facebook) you can see the steam coming off the water. So for the swimmers it’s good.

We got back into it with a workout designed to get in as much yardage as possible while promoting stroke efficiency. Again, we kicked for about 20% of the total volume of the workout. For triathletes or competitive swimmers, I can’t stress enough the importance of an efficient kick. The idea within the tri-community that you can be efficient and competitive without a kick is odd. The closest analogy would be to try to teach someone to run with their arms strapped to their sides.  Good luck with that.

I understand the idea of wanting to coach someone with a pull buoy all the time. It’s easy for the beginning swimmer. I’ve found a lot more success with letting a beginning swimmer use fins for the majority of a workout. There are a number of benefits that, in my experience, outweigh the use of pull buoy all the time. First, you will get the extra lift from the fins that put you in the correct body position so you can replicate good body position over and over again in practice. Second, you get to work the posterior chain (the kick) at the same time you are pulling. Getting the coordination down between the kick and pull is essential for efficient swimming. And the coordination between the arms and legs is the same in swimming as it is in running.   Third, it allows you to swim an entire workout and get the needed cardio-vascular benefits. Lastly, it takes pressure off your shoulders, prevents injuries and allows you to play around with the best ways to leverage the water with your pull.

After the Lead Up set of kicking and swimming, the main set was a solid 3000 yards. It was fairly aerobic and built to some tight interval 50s in the last 500 of the set. The total for the 1.5 hour swim was just under 6000 yards.

The evening practice started with a stroke analysis session with Matt. I’ve been working with Matt for about one and a half years now. He’s made incredible progress in that period of time. He lives in Iowa, but has made extended trips down to Texas to work with the team. He has a solid stroke.   There are always ways to make it better, but he has a good “feel” for the water and has built up an efficient “kinetic chain.” The main emphasis for the night was on getting a little more connection between his core and his catch at the top of the stroke. Here is a video when we first started and one after discussion of the video/his stroke and some drill work:

Matt Side View Before

Matt Side View After

The second practice, again, was all about density of yardage.  We got in some solid swimming and everyone was looking good.  The faster group put in just under 10k for the day.

Day 9 – January 11, 2015 (Sunday)

Rest. The day off was much needed for everyone. I swam myself. It was the first opportunity since this camp started. I ran into Balazs at the gym and then I had lunch with Matt. We discussed his upcoming season and how some of the training would look post swim camp.

Day 8 – January 10, 2015 (Saturday)

This would be the last swim workout of the week. This was a team workout at the Magnolia High School and we had a great turnout. There were about 25 people in the pool. We have ability levels from fitness swimmers and folks training for the their first sprint triathlon with no swim backgrounds to top level age groupers and pros. It’s always fun and challenging to get a wide range of athletes in the workouts.

The cool thing about the Woodlands area is that there are so many great athletes to train around. I have an open door policy when it comes to coaches or athletes wanting to get in the workouts. For the coaches, if there is a coach that wants to see what we are doing I’ll let them come onto the deck to observe. Same goes for any of the local triathetes that want to jump into the water to see how the team trains. I had a number of people that found out about the pro camp early on that wanted to swim and I made that accommodation. Tim Monk is an ex-college swimmer and local competitive triathlete.   He works for Klean Athlete and is a big supporter in this community of triathletes and triathlon. He spent the first 8 days swimming the morning workouts with the pros. He had a great time at his “fantasy pro camp” and kept Liz honest in her lane.   He also improved a lot over the past week. Grace Benes is another local triathlete that was a college swimmer. She’s very talented and always great to have in the pool. For the Saturday workout, TJ Fry – owner of Swim Shops of the Southwest and one of the coaches for South Coast Endurance decided he would give it a go. TJ swam in college and was a pro triathlete for a number of years. He hadn’t been in the water for a couple months, so it was an interesting experience for TJ towards the end of the 1.5 hour practice. It’s a real benefit to the program to have this many great athletes that drop in to practices. I can’t explain how much it adds to the workouts. You can see the end of practice here:

End of Saturday Practice

I don’t write the workouts before practice. I generally have an idea of what I want to do based on the day of the week and where we are in the season, but I want to see what the athletes look like in the water before I commit to anything.  There is no substitute for seeing the athlete in the water on a daily basis.

During warm-up, they looked tired. Everyone was a little ragged. I would normally have backed off and kept the workout a little more “aerobic” and slightly easier. I decided to press. I wanted to get a good idea of where everyone was and how they were handling the volume. In general, everyone did well. But at the same point, we were at the edge and had gotten everything out of them during the week that we could.  The wheels were falling off some of the wagons.

After practice on Saturday we usually head out for a cup of coffee and a treat. This Saturday was no different. It was great to see the team hanging out and enjoying each others company.  We put in a lot of hard work.

Day 7 – January 9, 2015 (Friday)

The alarm came much too early for swim camp today, but it’s the price you pay for a fun night. Everyone was dragging a little and it turned out to be a cold morning. I had warned them all that Friday was going to be a lot of hard work, both physically and mentally. The thing about swimming is that the training is different than biking and running. All of them are physically and mentally demanding in their own right, but with swimming you have to be present. And if you want to make improvements, you have to be present for every stroke. In a tough program, maintaining the level of mental discipline needed day after day and practice after practice is a another skill set that needs to be cultivated. Swimming well becomes much more a mental struggle than a physical one. There is no tuning out and mindlessly getting in yardage.

We did the warm up (around 1400 yards), then a Lead Up set (around 600 yards) of a combination of kicking and swimming. I wanted them to get coordinated between the kick and stroke. It’s all about efficiency. Then we swam the main set (around 3000 yards) which was again a “hold pace” set. The hold paces were faster than race pace. For the faster swimmers they were holding a sub 43 minute Ironman pace. It was good to see and Cody probably had his best swim ever. When I first started working with him a year ago his all out best time in the 100 was a 1:05 and he held 1:05 pace or better for the 3000 yard set.

You can see a couple videos here of two of the fastest swimmers in Ironman, John and Balazs, going at it during the main set:

John and Balazs

Balazs and John

The second practice of the day would be a noon practice again, so a quick turn around with not a lot of rest. The morning pro practice finishes at 8:30am and then they need to be back to the pool by noon. Fortunately, the second practice is only an hour.

For the noon practice, we did a set that was similar to the morning, but with a different emphasis. Again, it was a hold pace and the best part about it was everyone swam faster at the noon practice compared to the morning. John was holding the fastest pace at 1:01/100. He was on the US National Open Water Team for 25k and swam in a couple world championships, so it’s nice to have that type of experience in the pool.  It pushes everyone.

We closed out the noon practice and everyone was looking to get some rest. We had one more day to go to finish up the first week and all of the campers were feeling the work they put in.

Day 6 – January 8, 2015 (Thursday)

“How is it that everyone likes you around here?” – anonymous pro triathlete

This was the first workout where we had everyone in the pool together. By this point for those that started on the January 3rd, we were up to around 25K through the first 5 days with one of those days off. The intensity was high along with the volume. Some of the athletes were starting to show the wear and tear. The group of swimmers that paced sub 1:20/100 were the most ragged.  I was watching them and looking to cut back on their volume and intensity a little more than the rest of the group. For this camp, the way I look at Thursday is that it is simply acting as a “bridge” from the very high intensity work of Wednesday to get us to another very high intensity set on Friday. I call it a recovery day, I think the campers swimming 8,500 between two workouts might call it something else, but the work load and intensity are dialed back. The workouts were generally aerobic with some pace change.

Instead of running another workout at night, we came back to swim with the team at the noon workout. Thursday evening we planned a get together for all the pros to meet the community. The one thing that can’t be stressed enough is how supportive and passionate the Woodlands community is about triathlon and triathletes. This camp would not have happened without that support.

For the afternoon practice, I benched a couple of them from the sub 1:20 pace group. One of them tried to convince me that she was ok and could handle it, but I knew it was just triathlete wishful thinking and wanting to get in another workout whether it was good for her or not. And especially with these workouts centered around recovery and getting ready for tomorrow it was more important to get her some rest than more time in the water. In swimming, these are the main elements I think about with training: rest and consistency. Consistency will trump volume. You’ll experience greater success in the water 5 times a week for 30 minutes than 3 times a week for an hour. We are trying to keep that “feel” for the water and then have enough rest and recovery to get in some fast swimming on those key weekly workouts.

The quotation at the start of this post came from one of the swimmers I pulled when she needed rest more than she needed additional time in the water. Again, she wasn’t too happy with me and after I “convinced” her to get her arse out of the water she looked me straight in the face and uttered the above quotation.  She was dead serious, I thought it was great. Remember Thursday was all about getting prepared to have a great day on Friday.

The pro get together was scheduled for 6:00pm and some local sponsors were going to bring in their equipment to show off to the community and to the pros. We had Bicycle Speed Shop, Riivo Custom Cycling Shows and Atomic Performance Coatings as well as representatives from Klean Athlete, Gold’s Gym and Sterling Ridge Orthopaedics. We are big at supporting local sponsors and local businesses, so it was great to have everyone in attendance. The night turned out to be a big success. We had over 75 people from almost every triathlon club or team in the area show up to eat, drink and joke around.   It was perfect.

Special thanks to David Tilbury-Davis from Physfarm for working with the Blue Mug Café and sponsoring the food for the evening. David has been an enormous help in bringing all of this together for the camp. Here is a quick video at the end of the night:

Woodlands Pro Party

Day 5 – January 7, 2015 (Wednesday)

Traditionally in swimming when you hit the middle of the week you get a half day of rest. In other words, we would only have one workout on Wednesday. There was a high school swim meet at the Magnolia Pool so we would swim at the Creekwood Pool on Wednesday morning and then everyone would get some much needed rest.

On the team, Wednesdays are usually “Steak Night.” We sprint at the practice at a very high intensity and then head down to the local pub for a 10oz rib-eye special with two sides and some good local beer. Since we swam in the morning, we didn’t get the steak or beer after workout, but kept the sprinting. The main set was 2 rounds of broken 100s with an easy 100 and then a 100 for time. I was looking for them to hold their fastest possible pace through the whole set. The interval for each 100 was 4 minutes. When I give similar sets to this one to triathletes for the first time they always question whether 4 minutes is a typo. Don’t be afraid to swim very hard and take a lot of rest and repeat. If you haven’t done it before you’ll get a nice bump in speed and efficiency from the workout.

I got a good video of two of the swimmers at the camp, Justin and Balazs, swimming a 100 broken at the 50.  They held some good speed. You can see it here:

100 Broken at the 50

Everyone swam well. There were a few 100 PRs that morning including the female pro that was annoyed with me the day before for benching her at the evening practice. There is a reason for rest. She set a new 100 PR by 2 seconds, which brought her 2 seconds closer to making the front pack. She is a talented runner and cyclist and like Matt when she makes that front pack in the swim will be tough to beat.

During the afternoon everyone enjoyed their day off, caught up on some rest, emails and calories and a few got in a ride or a run. We had three of the athletes in the camp go to Sterling Ridge Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine for some range of motion testing. We are going to do some interesting stuff with the range of motion information, but more on that later. Sterling Ridge is a fantastic support to the team and the triathlon community of the Woodlands. They extended to any of the pros while they are here free physical therapy treatments as well as use of their Alter G Treadmill. They are a fantastic organization to work with and an asset to the community.

At night, the majority of us got together for some dinner at the Black Walnut Café. We had a good evening and prepped for Thursday. The last of the campers arrived and so the whole group would be swimming together for the first time in the morning.

Day 4 – January 6, 2015

I knew this would be a tough day for most of them. At this point, we put in around 15,000 yards within the first 3 days. From a swim point a view, it isn’t a lot of yardage, but for most triathletes it’s more than they normally swim. On top of that the workouts have been geared more towards intensity than volume.

The morning practice was designed around a “hold pace” for short distance efforts. I’ve been experimenting with the team for the past 15 months with USRPT and have trained it myself for a little longer. Within swimming, there are two general ways to get swim efficiency. You can either swim a lot of volume, most programs for distance swimmers are more than 85K a week or you can swim shorter distances at very high intensities. When I started Magnolia Masters to coach triathletes about 4.5 years ago, I knew we would not have the time to pursue a volume style program. The only real option was to have very high intensity workouts with an emphasis on technique and pushing technique into the stroke at every possible opportunity. You can do drill work all you want, but if you aren’t working to apply that technique “under load” in a workout you will not see any improvement. The big gains in stroke efficiency occur when you are fatigued and you have the mental discipline to hold technique together.  Technique and training do not exist independent of one another.

The athletes in the sub 1:20 pace group were the first to show some real fatigue in the water from the work we were putting in. I knew that I would “bench” some of them for the evening practice. My whole goal past Tuesday morning was to set everyone up for their best possible swim for the next day. Wednesday morning would be a very high intensity swim.

Tuesday night started out with another stroke analysis session.   This athlete recently took her pro card and wants to race on the ITU circuit. I have coached her remotely for a little over 6 months. This is the second time, other than some videos she has sent me, that I have seen her in the water. Her stroke and the issues that we need to overcome are not dissimilar to the athlete from the previous night. Again, there is a lack of core engagement. There are minor range of motion issues that we need to work through and her stroke mechanics are similar to other athletes with large running backgrounds. One of the big things that came out of this session was when we did some one arm drills. She is left handed, but her right side is stronger and when she tried to swim left arm only her rotation along the long axis was non-existent. She was very weak on that side. It’s something we will address with the other core engagement/kinetic chain issues going forward.  You can see some of the video here:

Pro Stroke Analysis Tues

One of the last pros for the camp arrived in the late afternoon and showed up to the evening swim. He grabbed an early flight out of Denver, but lives in Boulder so it was an early morning and a long day of traveling. I told him it would be best to get him in the water, go about 2k and then get some rest. The main set was a series of 50s on hold pace. We ended up swimming around 1500 yards for the main set. The fastest group was holding a sub 1:00/100 pace for the 1500. It was a tough set and good to see. I did end up benching one of the pros after the morning swim. She had been showing a lot of fatigue in the morning, the pace clock does not lie, and I wanted her to be fresh for the Wednesday morning swim. She wasn’t exactly thrilled with me about that call, but stayed tuned to see what happened in the morning swim.

Day 3 – January 5, 2015 (Monday)

“There is MAGIC in a unified send off.” –Aaron “Jussi” Thomas

With all of the pros in town, I rented extra pool space for the morning practice. The team swims at 6am – 7am most mornings and I got some additional time from 7am – 8:30am. This morning was bitterly cold, so I got to freeze my arse off for 2.5 hours instead of the normal 1 hour each morning. But it was worth it. The extra 30 minutes of swimming allowed us to get in almost 6000 yards of swimming and a fair amount of kicking. 1.5 hours is almost a full swim workout.

We had three main groups, a sub 1:05 pace group, a sub 1:15 pace group and a sub 1:20 pace group, that formed this morning. Balazs, Cody and Matt were all the same lane beating up one another. Again, this workout was all about “density” of yardage. The second group was comprised of Liz and Tim. Then the third group had Ruth, Caitlin and Aubrey in it.

Most of these athletes I coach remotely and I’m fairly conservative in the work we do. If I’m not on the deck watching, I’m reluctant to press too hard. With pro athletes the competition trains right at the edge of injury, but I give myself a bigger buffer zone working remotely. When I’m on deck and can see them in the water every day, correct small stroke imperfections and watch how they are responding to training loads I’m more comfortable getting closer to that edge.

During the day most of the pros went home and got some rest. A few did some small rides or runs and a couple endured 12 whole minutes of a yoga session.

The evening practice was tough. I started the night with a stroke analysis session with one of the pros. These are 30 minute sessions where we film the stroke from above and below the water, look at it on the computer, break it down and then get back into the water to do some targeted drills to address any issues in the stroke.  This athlete’s biggest issue on the swim was the underdevelopment of a “kinectic chain.” In the first video you can see that there isn’t a great deal of connection between the shoulders and the hips through the core and there isn’t a lot of core engagement at the top of the stroke at the start of the catch. One of the drills we did was to put her on a stretch cord with fins and do some 20m sprints. You can see in the second video that there is a lot more engagement through the core happening. We’ll keep working on it.

Pro Stroke Analysis Video 1

Stretch Cord Drill Video 2

For the workout, we put in almost 4000 yards in less than an hour and the main set was a lot of tight interval 100s.   Cody and Matt were going on an interval that was faster than what their pace per 100 was when we started working together. They felt great.

The quotation at the top is from a local age grouper that drops in a bit of wisdom on some of the videos I post on social media. This time it was from an Instagram post (you can see it here) the other morning. There is a brief section in the video when everyone leaves precisely at the same time in the middle of a set when there were 4 different groups with distinct intervals swimming. When you see that happen, you know the team is forming and you’ll be able to produce some solid results.

While swimming and triathlon are both individual sports, the best way to achieve great results is on a team and a team with a very particular culture. It needs to be focused, disciplined, supportive, honest, fun and genuine. As the coach, this is something that I cultivate on a very exacting basis. All the pros that are attending this camp have very clear cut goals as to why they are here, why they are pro triathletes and are very driven to achieve those goals. When you assemble a group like that in a very precise environment magic can happen.

Day 2 – January 4. 2015 (Sunday)

Today is an off day from swimming. Two different groups went out for rides this morning. There were a few that wanted to get an early start since they were getting bike fits later this afternoon. The weather was slightly uncooperative with low 40s and a lot of wind this morning.   Later in the week it is supposed to heat up.

Tomorrow will be a big day of swimming. We’ll swim twice. Once in the morning at the Creekwood pool from 7am – 8:30am and then at the Magnolia Pool from 7:30pm – 8:30pm.  Again, the focus will be on the “density” in the workout with a little bit of pace change throughout.

 

Day 1 – January 3. 2015 (Saturday)

“The Best Part of Swim Camp is the Long Run.”anonymous pro-triathlete

The campers arrived Friday and some got in the water at the morning practice with the team and some opted for the noon workout. That was the unofficial start of the camp and I’m glad it was the unofficial start. Everyone swam like shit. I think it was a combination of the travel, holidays and maybe a little too many shot blocks of Unicom (thank you Balazs) from the Balsdorf’s New Years Eve party…but I’m glad it was not the start.

shot block obscured

Identities have been obscured to protect the guilty...

The pros that arrived for the start settled in with their home stays. The Woodlands is a fantastic community for triathletes, pro or age grouper. There are great places to train and the community is very supportive for anyone pursuing their goals in the sport. Ten pros are attending the camp, 7 are from out of town and the community came together and all of them have home-stays for the duration of their training here. I can’t thank the families enough that offered up their homes for these athletes.

The first official practice was this morning. We swam for 1.5 hours at the Magnolia High School Pool, which is a first class facility.  See below.

Magnolia Pool

The normal Saturday practice for the team is all about “density.” From my point of view as a swim coach, it is a very traditional swim workout. On a top level view, we want to get as many yards into the 1.5 hours as possible – about 5500 yards this morning. For this workout, being the first, I dialed back so I could see where they were in terms of their fitness and conditioning in the water. It was a mixed bag, but I know that all of them will be faster by the time they leave and have a better understanding of their stroke and how to train efficiently for the swim.

Of the seven pros that were in the water this morning, I coach six of them in the swim. Four of those I work with remotely and the other two live in The Woodlands and swim with the team on a regular basis. As a coach, you can always accomplish more when you see your athletes in the water for every workout. We are going to get a lot done at this camp.  Four days a week we’ll swim twice a day for 2.5 hours total, then one day a week for an hour, another day for 1.5 hours and then a day off.

The title of this post came from one of the pros as we enjoyed some coffee after practice this morning. I am hopeful by the end of the training here I can title a post the “Best Part of Swim Camp is the Swim Camp.”

Stay tuned. I’ll write a daily update about the camp and how everyone is progressing.