Training And Racing Through A Season


SS Clinics and Camps:


North America

Connecticut 1-Day Clinic April 28th

Charleston SC 3 Day Camp

Chicago Video Analysis

Chicago Squads

Montreal Squads

Montreal Video Analysis

South Carolina Video Analysis

The Woodlands TX, Swim Squad




Asia / Middle East / Australia

Kuala Lumpur Swim Squad

Kuala Lumpur Video Analysis

Hong Kong Group Training & Video Analysis

Hong Kong Squads & Video Analysis

Dubai Video Analysis

Perth Squads

Perth Video Analysis




Europe

City Of Elche Video Analysis / Squads

Nijmegen SS Squads

Zwevegem Video Analysis (English - Dutch)

Prague Junior Swim Club

SS Camp Lanzarote (English - Dutch)

Prague Junior Swim Club

Prague Video Analysis

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante (English language)

Nijmegen Video Analysis.  & Stroke Correction




United Kingdom

Pilates for swimming workshop nr. Reading, Sat 6th May

Open Water Confidence Course, Dorchester

Northampton Video Analysis Clinic

Yorkshire Squads (Pool & OW)

Yorkshire Video Analysis

West Lothian Video Analysis

Richmond London SS Squad

SW London Swim Workshops

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis

Twickenham Video Analysis

Lancaster SS Squad

Swindon/Cotswolds Video Analysis

Lancaster Video Analysis

Northampton Swim Squad

SS Clinic Marlborough

Swindon SS Squad (Try for free!)

Felixstowe Video Analysis

Stratford upon Avon & Birmingham/Coventry Squads

Felixstowe Squads

Acton London Video Analysis

Cardiff Video Analysis Clinic
This week on the blog we have a question from Tavis Bohlinger, originally from Southern California but studying at Durham University, UK:

I wonder if many Swim Smoothers, like myself, have signed up for more than one race this summer, perhaps Tri, OW, or a few of each. The question is, if we’ve spent all winter and spring training for that first 5k, for example, how should we be training in the intervening weeks between subsequent races? Do we keep taking recovery weeks? Do we carry on with business as usual?

That's a great question and it applies for anyone racing any distance of swimming, open water or triathlon event - how do you train through a race season for best performance in your races? Particularly if you're quite serious about your training and performances?

Key race: Brad Smith smokes the 21km Rottnest crossing

Training and Fatigue

Before we talk about training and race seasons, let's talk a bit about your normal training routine when you're not in a race season.

When you train hard week-in, week-out in an optimal way you have to live with some level of residual fatigue most of the time. If you take sufficient rest after one training session to completely freshen up before the next then you simply won't get enough training in. In other words "under-training".

Of course it's very possibly to go the other way - do too much training and end up very fatigued all the time so you can't perform well in any training session. This is "over-training" - you won't get much (if any) fitness gains and you also risk injury and illness.

So we aim to strike the right balance, training enough to get good fitness gains but not so much that we are tired all the time. How much training is optimal for you depends on the individual and how fit you are, but here is a rough guide:

For adult / age group swimmers, 4-6 swims a week is normally about optimal depending on fitness level.

For adult / age group triathletes, 2-4 swims a week is normally optimal depending on fitness level.


Tapering For Races

However when an important race comes around we normally need to back things off so that the normal level of training fatigue subsides and we are fresh for best performance in the race. This backing off of training is called "tapering" and for most pure swimming events, a taper between 3 and 10 days in length before the event is sufficient. You don't want to stop training completely when tapering but progressively reduce the distance and intensity of your sessions as you get nearer to race day.

Next week on the blog we'll talk a bit more about how to taper effectively but it's worth mentioning here that if you're only swimming twice a week then you don't really need to taper very much for an event. This includes triathletes swimming twice a week, who might be best served tapering mostly on the bike and run and keeping their swimming going normally with their last swim 3-4 days before race day.


Races As Training

Races are a lot of fun and to compete is the primary motivation of many athletes. Races are also very important for gaining experience and self belief too - and for those reasons it's unlikely you'll perform at your very best in the very first race of the season even if you're really fit. It takes a while to regain your "racing head" and ability to get yourself into that state of "flow" or "the zone" for best performance.

Of course a race is also a training session in its own right and will bring some fitness gains too. In fact races will probably turn out to be the hardest types of session that you do because of the element of competition and extra motivation that a race brings. So we shouldn't overlook the importance of races as training.

Are you searching for moments like these?

But there is a problem... By fully tapering down for a key race you are training less than you ideally would, returning you to that "under-training" scenario. Your fitness improvements will slow down, or stop coming at all. Despite the hardness of the race itself the overall training effect will almost certainly be lower than normal training.

That's not a problem for a one off race but let's say you want to do four events, each a week or two apart:

4th June - 5K open water race
11th June - Charity Pool Swimathon
25th June - 1500m open water race
9th July - Olympic distance triathlon

That looks great on paper but if you started your taper a week before the 5K race and rested up for each event then by the 9th of July you will have done less than half your normal training for 5-6 weeks. You'll have had a lot of fun but your fitness might be lower than at the beginning of June - and certainly lower than it could have been if the Olympic triathlon was your key event.

Here are a couple of key strategies to overcome this problem:


1) Think Of Races In Terms Of "A", "B" and "C"

One solution is to think of your races as types A, B and C and change your taper and mental approach accordingly:

"A" races are the most important ones for you, they're the ones that are getting you fired up and where you want to give your best performance. For these races you taper fully.

"B" races are where you want to enjoy them and do pretty well but no big deal. Give these races a mini-taper, perhaps 2-3 easy days in the build up.

"C" races matter little to you, they're perhaps smaller events for fun and experience. They might be a midweek club race for example. Don't taper for them at all - treat them purely as a training session!

Applied to the example events above, you might categorise each as:

"B" Race: 4th June - 5K open water race
"C" Race: 11th June - Charity Pool Swimathon
"C" Race: 25th June - 1500m open water race
"A" Race: 9th July - Olympic distance triathlon

Use a mini-taper for the 5K swim, don't taper at all for the Swimathon and 1500m and you'll be in best shape and have your race head engaged by the time July 9th's Olympic Tri comes around.

One final thought about A, B and C races: You might be surprised how well you perform in your B and C races despite the absence of a full taper. In fact you might actually perform better in your B races than in your A races and some athletes even find that they perform their very best in C races!

Sometimes this is due to the psychological stress of a big race or over-excitement and starting too fast before blowing up. But equally it can be because you don't actually need the taper you think you do. Many elite athletes err on the side of tapering less for this reason, especially for shorter events. Of course you don't want to go into any race very tired, but perhaps a smidgen of low-level fatigue is not necessarily a bad thing...


2) Spreading And Clustering A Races

So how should you position your A races through the season?

There's two ways you can do this, either cluster them very close together or spread them out to different points of the season:

Spreading: Here you space your key A races through the season so you are able to train well beforehand and then taper effectively for each. A gap of around 5-12 weeks works well. Some B and C races in the build-up to each will help you fine tune your racing and prepare yourself mentally and physically.

Clustering: Here you might place two A races on consecutive weekends - taper for the first fully, some light training in the week afterwards and go again the next weekend. If the first race is 60-90 minutes in length or less you can normally fully recover before the following weekend. As the time between is short, the fitness loss from reduced training is minimal.

If the first race is longer than 90 minutes (e.g Olympic distance triathlon) you might feel some residual fatigue in the second race, particularly if you really take it to the wall in the first one.


Of course you can combine these ideas and cluster 4 races into 2 groups a few months apart. And include some B and C races in the build up, training normally between races as you would in the off season:

(click to enlarge)


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The Psychology Of The Tempo Trainer


SS Clinics and Camps:


Asia & North America

Connecticut 1-Day Clinic April 28th

Charleston SC 3 Day Camp

Perth Squads

Perth Video Analysis

Kuala Lumpur Video Analysis
Monthly Clinics, Chicago

Kuala Lumpur Swim Squad

Montreal Squads

Montreal Video Analysis

Hong Kong Group Training & Video Analysis

Hong Kong Squads & Video Analysis

Dubai Video Analysis

South Carolina Video Analysis

Chicago Stroke Correction Clinic

Chicago Video Analysis

Chicago Squads

The Woodlands TX, Swim Squad




Europe

City Of Elche Video Analysis / Squads

Nijmegen SS Squads

Zwevegem Video Analysis (English - Dutch)

Prague Junior Swim Club

SS Camp Lanzarote (English - Dutch)

Prague Junior Swim Club

Prague Video Analysis

Swim/Tri Camps Alicante (English language)

Nijmegen Video Analysis.  & Stroke Correction




United Kingdom

Pilates for swimming workshop nr. Reading, Sat 6th May

Open Water Confidence Course, Dorchester

Northampton Video Analysis Clinic

Yorkshire Squads (Pool & OW)

Yorkshire Video Analysis

West Lothian Video Analysis

Richmond London SS Squad

SW London Swim Workshops

Salisbury 1to1 Analysis

Twickenham Video Analysis

Lancaster SS Squad

Swindon/Cotswolds Video Analysis

Lancaster Video Analysis

Northampton Swim Squad

SS Clinic Marlborough

Swindon SS Squad (Try for free!)

Felixstowe Video Analysis

Stratford upon Avon & Birmingham/Coventry Squads

Felixstowe Squads

Acton London Video Analysis

Cardiff Video Analysis Clinic
So, you're trying to improve your swimming and you've read a lot about how identifying your CSS pace (Critical Swim Speed) provides you with an objective measure on how to gauge improvements over time. Great!

You've ventured out and completed a CSS Test and have even invested in a Finis Tempo Trainer Pro - or considering one - to help you with your pacing at this newly identified pace. Perfect!

You recognise that knowing this pace and monitoring it over time is the best indicator of performance for any race distance greater than 400m. Marvellous!

You might have even used our CSS Tweaker a key feature for Swim Smooth Guru PRO users to make marginal gains in your pace each week in response to your key sessions. Fabulous!

But what does it feel like to use your new-found virtual training buddy the Tempo Trainer Pro on a day to day and week to week basis? Given his location nestled close to your ear in every session, you end up developing quite the intimate relationship with the little guy and as such it's worth noting some of his personality traits and how you're likely to respond to him to get the most out of your sessions:

Swimmers are from Venus, Tempo Trainers are from Mars - learn to develop a healthy relationship with your virtual training partner and your swimming will go from strength to strength!

The Tempo Trainer Pro is such a great, simple device that the psychology of its three modes are definitely worth exploring a little more so that you can really get in tune with him to maximise your training time and avoid some of the pitfalls we see on a daily basis during our "Tempo Trainer Relationship Counselling Sessions" we run here in the Swim Smooth Perth Squad!

Like any good counselling session, it's worth noting the history of your partner in a bit more depth to work out whether or not any familial history, prior experiences, episodes of early developmental trauma etc etc might play a part in how well you gel together, after all, here at Swim Smooth we're all about productive, positive relationships with our training aids and partners!

Coach Morgan provides Mike with some Tempo Trainer Relationship
Counselling during the start of a CSS Development session
In the beginning there was only blue...

Back in the Dark Ages, the Tempo Trainer (before he became "PRO"), had just one mode. This mode focused purely on stroke rate - or the cadence of your arms - helping swimmers adjust this to create symmetry and rhythm for their swimming. Historically, swim coaches have referred to the cadence of the arms in seconds between strokes or even seconds between stroke cycles (one right arm plus one left arm equalling one complete stroke cycle). For example, if you are swimming at a cadence of 60 strokes per minute, in the bygone age this would have been referred to as 1.00 seconds between strokes. A cadence of 54 strokes per minute would have been 1.10s between strokes.

When you start getting into some less regular numbers like 53 strokes per minute, you used to have to whip out your waterproof calculator and calculate that this equated to 1.132075471698113s between strokes. Not easy:
OK for numbers geeks but for everyone else?

Still, the faithful little blue Tempo Trainer - being as he's always been accurate to 1/100th second - would do his best to comply with your requests and a happy place was usually found.

With the advent of the "PRO" version though in early 2009, Finis heeded our requests from our previous work with the Wetronome (remember those?) to rejig things a little to bring the new yellow model inline with modern terminology and express things in nice round strokes per minute. And thus Mode 3 on the Tempo Trainer PRO was born - wahoo! No longer were swimmers left floundering with their calculators and wondering why their training pal wasn't speaking their same language.

Swimmer's relationships with their Tempo Trainers began to flourish. Now you had a simple way to fall into a blissful catatonic state, totally in the moment, focused purely on the rhythm of the stroke without any arduous calculations required, just: beep, beep, breathe, beep, beep, breathe…

Hallelujah! The Tempo Trainer PRO is born and swimmer to gadget
divorce rates plummet!

Integrated into the swimsmooth.guru is bespoke advice based on your own
unique settings to help you get a grip with which mode to use and when

Everything in the swimming gadget world was doing dandy until of course we started tapping into the notion that Mode 1 (cycle times accurate to 1/100th second) and Mode 2 (cycle times expressed in full, round seconds) could be used in subtly different ways to change the dynamic of how you meter out your training efforts at or around CSS pace. This methodology came at a price though: these two methods saw a big split in the swimming population; those that love the precision of Mode 1 and the instruction to "stay with the beeper", and those that love the flexibility of Mode 2 and the instruction to "beat the beeper". You might be in the third camp that hasn't even unboxed their Tempo Trainer PRO yet as you're simply unsure of which mode to use and when, let alone the appropriate setting for you? Fear not, help is at hand.

So how does your relationship with your Tempo Trainer in either of these two modes affect your training productivity? Should you always stick with the devil you know when training, or should you spice up your relationship every now and then by trying something new? Further, if you've never tried either method, how could you test your response and decide which is best? Let's tackle that question first with a real-life example from a session this last week here in Perth which you might want to try. You'll note that 4 versions are given: L1 (lane 1) would be for swimmers swimming slower than 1:50/100m at CSS pace; L2 for those in the 1:35 to 1:50/100m bracket; L3 for those in the 1:25 to 1:35/100m bracket and L4 for those swimming quicker than 1:25/100m. Choose the most appropriate lane for yourself:

One of our Wednesday / Friday morning CSS Development Sessions, nicknamed "Fresh 'n' Fruity"

Following on from the warm-up and build set, the main set in the image above shows two parts: a "prep" set where the Tempo Trainer PRO should be used in Mode 1, set at your CSS pace per 25m; and a "show me what you've got!" set where the Tempo Trainer PRO should be used in Mode 2, set at the appropriate RM (“Red Mist”) Cycle per 50m. A swimmer completing this set with a very handy CSS pace of 1:11.5s per 100m would see the following instructions in the Guru to assist with these settings:

Prep set: Mode 1


Show me what you've got set: Mode 2



Prep Set (Mode 1)

The swimmer is instructed in the "prep" set to keep with the beeper, i.e. every 17.88 seconds the beeper will sound and if they are pacing themselves out perfectly at their current CSS pace, they will hear the beeper as they pass through each 25m. You'll notice that the appropriate set for this level of swimmer would be L4 (lane 4) and that would involve 1 x 100, 2 x 300, 1 x 100 all with 1 beep recovery (17.88 seconds) between each interval. In the early stages of this main set it's easy for the swimmer to be a little gung-ho and to get ahead of their target pace and beeper on the 1st 100m interval, but doing so runs the risk of blowing up during the 300m intervals and getting behind the beeper.

On the 1st 100m interval the swimmer is likely to be enthused thinking "wow, I must be having a good day if I can beat my CSS!" but this feeling rapidly turns to woe when the beeper gets ahead of them and punishes them for their early pacing error in the 2nd 300m. What happens next is up to you: do you learn from your mistake and improve next time, or do you throw in the towel thinking that your relationship with your Tempo Trainer is beyond repair and that salvation is futile? How exactly do you handle your tempestuous relationship with your Tempo Trainer at this point? Is it going to be a positive or negative response?


Show Me What You've Got Set (Mode 2)

In the "show me what you've got" set, the instruction is different: the swimmer is instructed to go out and get as far ahead of the beeper as they feel comfortable knowing that whatever distance ahead they get will form their recovery before the next interval. The set is now 2 x 200 at RM4 (this is 4 seconds per 50m slower than CSS pace) with the aim of being 16-20 seconds ahead of the beeper on each one; this equates to still holding approximately CSS pace as per the prep set but is more open to your interpretation and inner motivation. This is followed by 5 x 100 at RM8 (this is 8 seconds per 50m slower than CSS pace) again with the aim of being 16-20 seconds ahead of the beeper at the end of each 100m. Finally, 6 x 50 at RM12 (this is 12 seconds per 50m slower than CSS pace) again with the aim of being 16-20 seconds ahead of the beeper at the end of each 50m.

Notice that the aim has a range of 4 seconds - a far cry from the rigidity of the prep set. The relatively large amount of rest towards the end of the set should also see the swimmer being able to hit paces quicker than CSS pace over the shorter distances even though by this point in the session they will be carrying the most fatigue. Try it yourself - how does it make you feel? Do you instantly find yourself pushing your chest out feeling like superman because you are now smashing your beeper into oblivion, or do you miss the pacing assistance of Mode 1 feeling a sense of "loss" not really knowing how well you are doing? Does your promiscuous Tempo Trainer incite a feeling of freedom or do you hate not knowing what they're up to and when they're going to next go off?


Give the session a try and let us know how you get on - do you like the precision of Mode 1 and the instruction to "stay with the beeper", or do you prefer the flexibility of Mode 2 and the instruction to "beat the beeper" - we'll publish the results and any interesting insights you care to share next week! Either reply to this blog email or post on the blog comments.


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