When I started Magnolia Masters I knew that a lot of the athletes I would coach were triathletes without swim backgrounds. I had to think differently about my approach to training. As a swim coach, if I was training a swimmer to compete in a 3800 meter open water swim, we would have roughly 20-25 hours a week of time to train. I discovered quickly that triathletes typically only devote about 3 hours a week to swim training. My initial reaction was…shit. So I “triaged” the training process. I knew I needed to find ways to make it more efficient, keep what I thought was essential and throw out what wasn’t. There were a lot of easy choices. We weren’t going to work on starts. Turns in an open water swim probably won’t make a significant impact. Then we started to get into grey areas of training and their impact on an open water swim. Can hypoxic work be justified? I know many of you are happy that it can’t be, but it almost made the cut. Do we need to do other strokes? Again, another idea that made sense from a training point of view, but became tougher to justify with the limited amount of time. Why focus on a different stroke from the competition when we didn’t have enough time to achieve efficiency in the stroke we would use in the race? Then I had to decide what would be the best overall approach to the training. In swimming, for at least the last 40 years, there has been an ongoing argument between a volume approach (a lot of distance and yardage at an aerobic to sub-threshold pace) to a race paced approach (much higher intensity with a lot less volume). There are many coaches in the swimming community that believe that the only approach was a volume approach. All my coaches through high school believed in that approach. The results from coaches like Dave Salo, Sam Freahs and the well researched USRPT (Ultra-Short Race Paced Training) approach advocated by Brent Rushall show that you can achieve the same or better results on less yardage with more intensity. We have employed that method in some form, namely “hold pace” sets, for the past several years. I also knew that going at higher intensity would drive efficiency into the stroke (improve the mechanics) just because you would be asked to go faster. If you want to swim faster, swim faster. My experience with everyone I’ve coached over the last decade is that less volume and a higher intensity is a much more efficient way to train.
At the heart of this is the debate between efficiency (stroke technique) and fitness. There are many in the triathlon community who emphasize that technique is the main driver of success in swimming and it is important. My experience is that if you can have a perfect stroke for a few hundred yards – Great! What about the other 4000 yards of the race? Fitness becomes the big limiter in your technique with a limited training schedule. However, I’m always looking to improve the program. Over the past few years, I’ve been doing a lot of work around the importance of the brain in training/competition and what are the best ways to help the brain learn a new skill set. Generally speaking we want to push an athlete to the edge of the limits of their ability, have the athlete make a mistake, give advice on how to correct the mistake and then get back into pushing to the limits again. There is a lot of work on the best ways to drive neuromuscular learning and it is a “constraint led” approach. That’s why we are introducing a lot of new gear into the workouts currently. I still want you to swim hard to increase your fitness, but we will put some constraints in place to help your brain understand better the movement that is the most efficient in the water. North Carolina State has developed a very effective program over the past few years and they tend to use a lot of “gear” during a workout. Dave Salo from USC is another coach employing novel approaches with a lot of success.
I hope this email helps everyone with a better understanding of why we are using the gear and how it’s going to help everyone become more efficient and fit in the water.
Paddles (try to stay with size 1 or less)
Aquavolo Sensory Mitts (Discount Code Below; smaller hand size is junior)
Aquavolo Drag Sox (Size 30)
Laguna Fin Company – Magnolia15
Aquavolo – MAGM10FX
UCANN (nutrition supplement) – MAGNOLIA