Get the Power Back in Your Training by Kris Houchens (2007)


Published


I turned 40 this year. That is a pretty big number – I know some of you are older, but that same month I went down and saw Dara Torres get the American Record in the 50 free and with my home video camera we videotaped it. Please pardon my daughter’s comment – she is only 3 – we are still trying to teach her to keep quiet at the start of the race. Dara Torres is in the white shirt – lane 4 – what is so typical of Masters – if you watch all the young people jumping around as they are getting psyched up – she goes over and sits down – she is the only one that sits right before the race. That was amazing and to be at the Natatorium in Indianapolis is always so full of energy when something like that happens and she is a real inspiration I think to Masters Swimming and to the swimming community.

Where is our limit going to be? Where is our limit going to be? And today, my quest for the last five or six years, we have a very large program which you have heard and I like training. I came from a Division 1 college background. My original quest was to go in that direction and then I talked to Mel Goldstein. He talked me into joining his team and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Over the course of the years, I have been trying to find a way to train Masters better as we get older. I think we are on the right track and what I am going to share with you today is kind of where I am in my progression toward that goal. It may be different from what you do with your club or it might be exactly the same. I have heard lots of people talk. Nothing I am going to present to you today is probably any different, but hopefully, I will give you some new tools and ways to sell it to Masters swimmers.

Getting swimmers on your team, I put up today’s workout, a typical Masters workout, nothing wrong with this workout, the cruise interval base workout, the aerobic workout, but if your swimmers train like this every day, six times or seven times a week for the whole year, they are actually de-training themselves. I have two training philosophies that I am kind of working with over the past couple of years. I like to do a lot of variety in our program. I try to hit all the energy systems on different days. Some of you tonight hopefully, can go to the panel discussion – if you have questions about that and address it to all the coaches that will be there. You might find some interesting answers. We do do cruise interval work on our team; I just don’t want you to think I am going to poo-poo it. We also are starting to lean towards more race pace training, which does not require as much yardage and allows for more rest and recovery during a workout. This is better for older adults and it uses more power in training, which I am going to talk about a little bit today.
The main thing I learned about these two things: there are a lot of club teams that do race pace work that favor that and there are a lot of age group teams that do cruise interval work and they basically get the same results. They are basically trying to push or train your body to buffer and deal with lactate better. They both have pros and cons. With cruise interval training the pros are like it is – a swimmer can come in and they can kind of gauge their ability right off the bat – what lane are you in? Are you in 1:20, 1:30, 1:40, 1:50 lane? It is really a great aerobic workout, you can get your heart rate up and that kind of thing. Race pace also is really great training because you are actually training your body to stresses that you will do at race pace. The problems with cruise interval is that it is not always based on a 2,000 yard swim like it is in age group swimming for Masters. They usually just kind of figure it out on their own where they want to be. The cons for race pace is that it can be really mentally stressful. If your team does not have a lot of fast guys on your team and you are trying to do a race pace kind of philosophy, they need a way to pump themselves up to go fast or go race pace. On our team the fast guys tend to all go to the same workout so they can race against each other and if they can do that, they can get a lot of benefit out of that. If they don’t have someone to race against and you can provide a time, as a coach, like you need to hit this time on this set and that provides motivation.

I hear a lot of people that have a lot of college swimmers in their program. We are no different in our program than others. I think what over the years has made it easier for us to get away with doing more race pace than maybe some other clubs is that our high end swimmers bought into this really early. We worked with them and convinced them to get more rest and train race pace and it worked for them. Everyone that comes thereafter, I just make sure that they are introduced to those guys. And then, they kind of sell it for me. So I have a quote – which is a quote that I love – I first heard Richard Quick say this at an ASCA Clinic and I don’t know who originally said it, but it is “if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always gotten.” I love that. When you are training, you have to stress your body in different ways and do different things – get out of your comfort zone to improve. The thing with Masters is that is not always true. Sometimes if you – wait a minute – did I say that right? “If you always do what you have always done, you will get less than what you have gotten”. If you have a lot of swimmers in your program that say; well, this is what I did in college and this is what I want to do and they keep trying to attain that, they are not going to reach that level or surpass the level that they were before. What I mean by this sentence is, if they always do what they have always done they are going to get less than they have gotten every year because they are going to lose about 1% in strength: muscular power and muscular endurance. They lose 1% every 8-10 years after the age of 30. If they are doing the same kind of workouts that they did ten years ago, they are probably not going to get the same kind of benefit out of it that they got out of it at that time.

So, my talk kind of deals with power and I want to define what power is – just so that we are all clear. I have heard it used at almost every single talk. Power was developed to measure how much coal horses could lift out of mines. That is where horsepower comes from. Power is measured – is a measure of force and distance over time. So you hear it a lot in high performance cars. I just put this chart out here because I thought it was pretty interesting. Horsepower, like for a Ferrari and a fast car can use 275 horsepower. It relates really well to speed and where they use weight – they have a power rate ratio. A lot of times when you talk power in swimmers, their height – and not so much their weight – but we always talk about it in height in swimmers. We will get a little more into that later. But you take a Ford Escort, not as powerful, 110 and it takes it about ten seconds to go from 0 to 60 and Sickie might like this. My husband has a vintage 1972 VW bus original camper. He loves it. It has horsepower of 60 and since we got it from his father two years ago, it has never gone 60 miles an hour. So, every time we take it I feel like I am in a parade too. You gotta wave at everybody when we go down the street. One thing I am not going to talk too much about, but we always talk about efficiency in swimming, but we do not always talk about high performance and on this analogy about cars – you can go into cars and swimming – my husband really gave me an education on cars – he said, “you know the sleek body of the car is like the body position of a swimmer. He said, the powerful engine is how forceful you know – the powerful force and horsepower of the engine and the tires – the tires are the application of force – like a catch in a swimmers stroke and you can go on and on with that. It made me think about efficiency versus high performance. High performance swimming probably wastes energy, but having good quality parts and a good quality package so that you can be fast – is something to think about. I will have to dwell on that, so I’ll let you take that home and figure that out for yourself a little bit. Just something to think about.

Power – defined in humans is pretty easy. The first here is – they are both lifting the same amount of weight – 250 pounds. Subject A is lifting it in 4 seconds and Subject B is lifting it in 8 seconds. The first guy, swimmer A guy, is twice as powerful as swimmer B. The importance in power in swimming, and most of us, when we think of power we think of sprinting. Just like Dara Torres there in the 50 free. Muscle power and swimming power is also connected with muscle endurance and muscle strength. Muscle power is going to be kind of like your high end and this is how you should think about it. If you want to swim a good hundred – you have to be fast in the 50. If you want to go a minute in a hundred, you would have to be faster than 30 seconds in the 50 free. If you want to swim 5 minutes for a 500 free, well, you are going to have to know how to swim at least a minute or under a minute for the hundred free. That is how it relates. If you have people that don’t like to do race pace because they are triathletes – and we get that too on our team – we get a lot of triathletes that do not want to show up for race pace day or sprint day – you have to say that it is your high end – you have to get your high end higher. Your swim endurance is a percentage of your power. So however powerful you are is going to relate down the road. Studies also suggest that power once lost, takes longer to regain than endurance. So maintaining power is very important. In a study done by a Dave Costill – back in 1985 – said four weeks after inactivity, the arm and shoulder strength are not decreased, but the swimming power failed by 8-13%.

Stroke length is measured in yards per cycle. That is one complete stroke. Not a measure of how long the stroke is, but it is a measure of how far the body travels in one stroke cycle. That is kind of a thing when you are talking about efficiency in stroke and working stroke length with swimmers – when you talk about it in the context that I am going to use it – we are actually talking about how far a body is moving in one stroke cycle. Stroke rate is a measure of cycles per second. In one second this person is getting through about 83% of their stroke cycle. That is how we read that. And in speed – which also is velocity – the same thing – interchangeably is stroke length times stroke rate equals speed and it is measured in yards per second. We are going to use yards per second because that is where most of our Masters are swimming. And just to be clear, because I have some direction of where we are going with our team. It is always a good idea to work stroke length first when a swimmer comes into your program. Stroke length builds your strength and then work stroke rate second because that builds the power and speed.

What is really interesting about World Class swimmers is they all fall into a certain range of stroke length and a certain range for stroke rate. So, even though there are lots of different heights and sizes, they have narrowed it down to certain ranges. Except for the 50 free and I am going to show you that because that is a little bit different. What I wanted to show you is the highlighted area. The top six are places for the women’s, well, the men’s is on top, we are going to look at the women’s for a second because stroke rate and stroke length is very individual among people. If you can look at places 5 or 4, 5 and 6, they all swim the same speed. You can see it there on the bottom, they are all swimming at 1.95 for their speed. That is their overall velocities.

Velocities are stroke rate times their stroke length and if you look over stroke rate they all have different stroke rates. Catherine Fox, she has been #4 swimmer – she went 65.4 – that is strokes per minute in this graph. The girl – I don’t know how to say her name so I am not going to even try, but she went – the 5th lady went 62. Then Kristina went 52 – very long – yeah – that stroke rate is substantially lower, more than 10 cycles less than the other two. Her distance per stroke though, if you go down to the ones not highlighted, the girl with the faster stroke rate is 1.64 so her body is traveling 1.64, and in this case, meters per second. The girl next to her is 1.81 and then Kristina is 2.14. They are all arriving at the same velocity. Who wins? The girl with the better start and the better turn, that is the 50 free. Well, I guess they didn’t do a turn – I am sorry – just a good start and a good finish because that is meters – sorry about that.

So I am going to talk a little bit about stroke rate and velocities. Many, many years ago I was out at Stanford and I got to learn about this graph from Richard Quick and his assistant coach. You can learn a lot from this graph. You can make a graph of this for each of your individual swimmers which was what I was really hoping to show you today. I am going to save that for the end. If there is anybody who wants to learn how to do this with their own individual swimmers, I will show you how at the end of my talk. This is velocity up on this top and then it is cycle rate or stroke rate along the bottom and it goes like ten strokes. This is per minute – 20 strokes per minute. The stroke length, if you could do stroke length, it would be the same type of bell curve where velocity would go up – that way and stroke length.

We will do rate right now. As your stroke rate goes up, your speed goes up, is basically what that is saying. At a certain level your stroke rate – you will peak your stroke rate and your speed will peak and then your stroke rate will go faster – your speed will start to decline. Now you can say the same thing about stroke length; as your stroke length gets longer, it will get faster up to a certain point and then the length won’t. I have a bigger graph in the hand-out. So you can take that home with you and show people. The rays that are coming out on this particular graph, that is how you relate, like the distance per stroke is on there. So there is a relationship. What happens when you do a graph for an individual swimmer, these are our swimmers on our team, Ben Christaful is our fastest sprinter on our team. He is about a 21.07 for a 50 yard freestyle and Elise Hillenbrand is a girl that is a converted fitness swimmer to competitive swimmer. She is not good – she is better at fly than she is at freestyle and I am trying to get her to go a faster freestyle. She has been working on her stroke length the last two or three years. You see at the top of her curve like she kind of struggles with her rate a little bit, there is a little bump there. Most people when you plot them, they kind of turn out that way. Where they go down, if you are going to plot your swimmer, you want to get them to their peak. To peak over where their stroke rate starts to decline the velocity and then when you do that, you can determine where their peak velocity is and where their peak stroke rate is.

You can see Elise is about 5’ 2” and Ben is 6’ 1” – he is much taller. He is a much more powerful sprinter, but you can see they can do the same stroke rate in a difference in velocity that they are generating. From this, if I take their top peak velocity I can do a prediction of their 100 time – with that velocity was in practice. Now we are kind of in summer right now and you don’t really have anybody focused on any kind of goals right at the moment and Ben’s converted time for yards came out to 51.2. His actual, just last April, he went 47.55 for his 100 freestyle. So he is a little bit off. Now the predicted time in this case does not include his turns or his start. I mean with a good start he would probably take a second and a half off of that and a good turn even more. But Elise, her peak velocity came out to 1:03.29. Her actual time at Nationals last April was 1:03.75 and for her to get that same correlation means to me that she is actually faster. If she could maintain that rate with her start and with her turn she would be faster than 1:03. As a coach, I think she should be faster than 1:03, but we are working towards that. I think that I added in another graph here so I am not sure where I put it.

Yes? How do you measure a stroke rate graph? That is an excellent question. I will give you the short version. I don’t have a tempo trainer. I had one and I shared them and the batteries went dead and I have a stroke rate watch. What you need to do is you need to lay a course out; we use 7 ½ yards with cones on the deck. You don’t want to do it too close to the wall because you do not want the wall push-off to get in the way of the rate. Then you ask them to go a real slow tempo; just real easy, easier than warm-up. You measure from when their head passes the marker on deck to when their head measures or the head passes the other cone and that is their time. Then you get their rate off of a stroke rate watch.

When I am talking today it is going to be about stroke rate. I did charts for about 14 of our swimmers for this talk and these were the only two that went over the edge. When I asked them to go all out ballistic – do your rate as fast as possible and get your time – well they all went faster – they didn’t get slower. My theory on that is that we just do not train enough at the high end speed. When you are working with World Class swimmers you know, they will do a chart for them. Then they will ask them to train at a higher stroke rate than what they race at so when they go to race and they get slightly fatigued they will land in that top end of the curve. As Masters swimmers, oh my gosh, well you can see Ben is almost 16 stroke count – he probably trains down around at 40. Then for Masters swimming you are asking them to go to a meet and rise to the occasion and hit that rate and some of those people – if you ever notice – if you ever have Masters swimmers that compete – they get faster each day. Like that first day is crappy and the next day they are better, the third day they are better. I think this is why. I think they feel crappy because they are not used to training at that rate or that race speed. Once they get kind of used to it, their body kind of zones in and they get a little better. If we were training a little bit better in our workouts, they would probably have a great first day you know? And that is where I am trying to go with our workouts.

For a different stroke rate, I ask them to go 20 cycles per minute on the first ones and then I ask them to go a little bit faster. I would get their time and their rate and then what you do from that is you have to do some math. Then you will come up with their velocity and it is back to the other. I am going to cheat on my notes because – this is usually my nap time back home. I get up at 4:30 in the morning, where has Sickie gone? I am going to tell him that. You want to take the per stroke rate, you are going to take the amount of seconds, so they swam for 7.5 seconds and then you will divide their rate into that and get their velocity. I will show you that after, I can show you after and make it more clear if you want to. I also made this hand-out bigger so you could see it. It is down kind of at the bottom and I wasn’t sure – I wanted to include the whole thing. This is a 400 free and this is what gave me the motivation to do this talk. I have two distance swimmers on my team and even though one of them is my husband, I was going to say a joke, but one of them I love dearly and we have had two kids in three years and we both had to scale back our training. My husband has this real long stroke. When he swims distance and he starts to get tired, he would start to swim longer and try to muscle through his stroke. I know that some of you have seen that happen and I was telling him you know, when you get tired, you need to up your stroke rate to maintain when you are fatigued and stay at the top of that curve. He tried it and he swims only two times a week and lifts once and he broke his best time in long course meters this past year. I couldn’t believe it! I hate him so much sometimes. He also did this with another girl distance swimmer and the same thing; she had best times and this was the only thing they changed in their training. Here is how you use it – these are low classed athletes again – Olympic trials, men’s 400 free and the guy that got 3rd place was in 4th place for the first 300. I really like Erik Vendt. He didn’t finish this race too good and when he got to that last hundred, they both upped their rate, but the one guy, if you look at the speed, he got faster. That is what pulled him ahead. But, when Erik Vendt raised his stroke rate, his speed got slower; you know what that means, go back to that graph. What you want to do is you tell your swimmers is as they get tired, the peak is there at the top and nobody can maintain that same rate and velocity as they start to fatigue. What you want to look at is the range of stroke rates at the top of that graph. So, my husband started right at the top of his graph and as he started to get tired he started to muscle his stroke and favor stroke length and his rate started to go down and he starts to go this direction on the curve and he starts to lose all of his speed. The thing that you want to do is you want to be at the top of that curve at the start of your race and as you start to get tired you don’t want to muscle, you want to ease up just ever so slightly. Not muscle your stroke, but go with the rate. The rate is easier to maintain and stay at the top of that curve and maintain your velocity. Now, if you look at the 400 free that I was just pointing out, my thought is that Erik Vendt started his rate already too high, so when he upped his rate his speed started to drop off this way here. Where Robert started just, you know, to the left of his peak and as he got tired he sped up and got faster. Does that make sense to people? Are there any questions?

The reason why I wanted to do this talk for Masters is because I think there are two things that can make Masters swimmers better and one is their technique – working on technique and one is just training smarter. This is a fabulous tool to use. If you don’t take anything away from this talk except what I just told you, favor stroke rate when you fatigue – bring it home – try it with your swimmers and see what happens. I think that would be a real valuable point to get from this talk. Is there any questions on that, at all?

Okay, Ian Thorpe, just another example of those of you that don’t like graphs and like bars instead, he has the same idea. His stroke length is represented on the bottom bar back here. He is 38 strokes per cycles per minute – 38, 37, 38 and then 40. If you look at the very top, it will show his velocity. On his last one where he upped to 40, his velocity actually got faster. So the question that you are probably having right now is , well, how do I know – how do I not be Erik Vendt at the end of that and be that Robert guy? How do I measure that with my own swimmers? Like, how do you know where they are without any stroke graph and without any clock? I was very determined to give this talk without selling a product – maybe I should have gotten some Tempo trainers, but what if you do not have a Tempo trainer? What can you do? Well, all of you have probably done the golf test and this is where this idea spawned. You work on stroke length all the time with your Masters and some get it so ingrained in their head, like my husband, and this other swimmer. They are just working on lengths all the time – lengths – lengths – lengths – all the time and they are not even working rate so you count their strokes, you get their time, you get a score. Everyone is familiar with that? Anyone not know golf? Next time you do this, a great way to determine whether people need length or rate is on #8, the last one, go all out. Just have them go all out. Count their strokes and get a score. If they do more strokes and they go so fast that their score is lower, then they need to be working stroke rate more in practice. You know, if they do more strokes and they are less fast – just like the golf game is intended – then they need to work more stroke length. This is a great test. Don’t tell them you are going to do that. Do not let them spoil their results. This is another way to test power.

Now, to go back to the definition of power is strength over time, right? It is how much weight you can move in a certain amount of time. Joel Stager gave me a workout that he does with his age group swimmers. It is a bunch of hundreds. I am a Masters coach, I don’t have time to do that much work for a stroke rate on 100’s. It would tire you out too much, so I altered the workout he gave me. I made it 7 x 50’s on 1:30. This is a long course example. You count off of one arm. You have got swimmer A who is doing 20 strokes. The goal of this is to keep your stroke rate the same. You do a moderate swim for a moderate time. Count your strokes. Then, for the duration of this set you have to try to maintain that stroke rate, but lower your time. That is power in the water. There is no other way to get power. That is what it is. Now, swimmer A is a powerful swimmer. He started with 20 strokes. The first one he added a stroke. It took him a minute to get used to it, got back down to 20 and descended the time. Swimmer B took 21 strokes in 45 seconds, added two strokes and decided just to stick with that stroke count. He descended his time, but near the end added two and added two more. Now Swimmer A is powerful. He only added one stroke and dropped 10 seconds. Swimmer B added six strokes and dropped ten seconds, but his stroke fell apart as he was doing that. This swimmer, after I talked to him two days later and I said, what did you get out of that exercise the other day? And he said, you know, I either swim long or I swim fast and I have never tried to put them together. He realized from doing this exercise how important it is go be able to swim long strokes at a faster rate. Are there any questions on that? You can do any variation of this in any distance, but if you want to get more speed, I think this is the way to go. This is the way I am trying to train our team.

So, guidelines for power training, I will just skim over these because you have them written out. The thing that I like about this power training is that it does not really take that long. It is set up to 300 yards. If you do this twice a week just with eight 25’s – like on a minute or a minute 30 where you are trying to go as fast as possible, but allowing for a lot of rest. If you think about the arm repetitions or cycle rate, like you would in a weight room, moving a large amount of weight; then you want to set it up kind of like that in mind. When you go in a weight room you don’t do ten reps at a real high rate and wait two seconds and do it again. You give lots of time for recovery and you come back in so you can build muscle. I think an easy way to add this in is to do relays or something at the end of your workout to make it fun and you can include everybody. Kind of trick those college kids into doing something that they do not want to do. So, power is how power trains; which means if you are not training power then you are not getting power and it is just a repetition of the example. It is just how many reps you need. How much rest do you need; you are looking for a 1:2 rest. You want to rest at least twice as long as it takes to do the swim or four. It is not exactly lactate, just to be clear. It is more like powerful, strong strokes at a fast rate so you are not really correlating it. You actually want them to swim faster than their race pace. If you are doing 50’s you want that rate to be faster than their 100’s. I threw in some examples. Alright, training affects increases in muscular strength and this is what is really great about the power training too. As adults, I think we really need it. It speeds up the nervous system to stimulate the muscle fibers to contract. If the neurological system is the reaction time system and if you think of college athletes, [I remember when I was coaching college, we did train a lot of reaction time drills and things.] this is another way to do it in a short amount of time; just include it in a power set, and the speed of contraction once the muscle fibers are stimulated. These are the things that train, just like endurance or just like anything else. Six to eight weeks to train, so if you are doing these kinds of things and you are only waiting until taper time to do more, it might be too late to do that. And, like I say, it is not beneficial, but if you can start a little earlier you might get even a little more out of it.

Race Pace: Now we are going into race pace training because race pace training is a little bit different than power training. Power training is short sprints with lots of rest. Hopefully, we can do the stroke length and count and have them descend. I think that is a great set, but race pace training maintains power and that is why I like it. Whereas, cruise interval training over time will lose power. Does that make sense to everybody? Because you are not using that high end over time, it is just going to deteriorate. Use it or lose it. So, race pace training is what, I think they call it VO2 sets or endurance work. It is a 1:1 ratio. The great thing about race pace is you can base it off of a goal time and you put the emphasis on the speed of the swim and the time of the swim, not how much rest they get. So, even when they were training Megan Quann, for instance, she took her goal time world record; her coach had her swim eight 25’s as a goal time for a 200 meter breaststroke. She did eight 25’s and he gave her as much rest as she needed, as long as she did eight in a row at that rate. Then over the course of the season or over the course of two years, I think, he started to shrink that rest as long as she could maintain that speed with less rest then he would go that direction. If not, she had to stay at that interval. She was doing 25’s with about a minute or a minute and a half rest. What she got down to before the Olympics, she could do that pace, at 5 seconds rest, and he knew she was ready to race a world record. So, I think we can do that same type of training. It takes less time than cruise interval training. It can be more fun to race and I love every talk that we had about the Masters swimming; we are a fitness based program ourselves. But, what I noticed about people is that they are all competitive. They all got that little thing like, why is that guy faster than I am? And when he puts those spins on I really want to kick his butt. They up it up and they race no matter what level or what age; they all have something inside them that wants to be better and they want to be faster. I think this is a good opportunity to try to bring that out in them. Some sample sets, and we used to post our workouts on the internet, are 10 x 75’s on 2 minutes. You can up that to hundreds if they can maintain a 1:1 ratio. It is a standby set we do every month or more. We are always doing VO2, but I love variety. I try not to do it in the same way all the time, but it is good to have a standard one that you can measure progress, so when training to race, stroke rate should be at least as fast as they intend to race.

It is easier to train stroke rate mid-season. I learned this while I was researching this that speed might come after, but you always can practice the rate that they want to go or within that range. Sprint swimming is the only way to translate muscular strength into power in swimmers. I think if you don’t have equipment or you do not have the time to make a graph for instance, you could buy a stroke rate watch and you actually can get rates at a race using just the watch. You won’t be able to get the velocity unless you have a definite measure. I suppose if they were doing a 50 yard race you get their time for that, I can show you after how to do that. But you can get their rate for a race and see where their racing starts and start experimenting with them and see where their best rate would be.

Use of equipment: I have to bring this up because with the Masters, it is just what you have to deal with all the time. Fins can encourage stroke rate and paddles encourage stroke length; so if you have got a swimmer that is always wearing paddles they might need to work rate more. You might have to get them to get those paddles off and get away from the length. Bungee swimming away is stroke length; swimming towards works stroke rate. A tempo trainer, those are great. Kicking: usually, if you are kicking within a stroke, it could be stroke length. Sprint-resisted: means you need to pay more attention to stroke rate. Sprint-assisted means you want to try and keep more of a stroke length. Does that make sense to anybody? I wrote that down so that I could say that right. Sprint-resisted increases muscular force to overcome additional resistance. It is like when you are towing something. It works best when you are paying attention to stroke rate. If you had paddles on for instance, and you are paying attention to the rate you are keeping, it is good because paddles will lengthen out your stroke and slow down your rate. But, as long as you are paying attention to rate while you are doing it, you are better off. Sprint-assisted: you can think about fins. Swimmers automatically increase their stroke rate. Some also increase their stroke length, but swimmers should try to maintain a normal stroke length when they are being assisted by fins or they are being towed. Does that make sense?

So this is tomorrow’s power workout as an example of the workout that we have done before. An example of what we talked about, getting a stroke count and descending that time. I have had them do four 50’s on the minute where they get their average stroke count over the set of four 50’s. Then we will go into four 50’s where they have to hold that stroke count and descend 1 to 4. Then they swim a moderate hundred for recovery and do that twice. We also mix in the race pace with it for a best average, 1:1 ratio. If you don’t like 75’s because we have our fastest swimmers go 100’s on that set, but you always can up the – whatever your swimmers are doing in general, it is a 1:1 ratio that I like to do for that. Hopefully, that is the direction that I am trying to bring our team. I am trying to bring them towards power and get more rest in the workout and do more race pace. We still will have variety. We will still do cruise intervals. With triathletes what we try to do is in the fall right now, I will answer a question before someone asks it, but in the fall with our triathletes, we always do distance on the same day for our triathletes. It is always Tuesday, the ultra-distance day and then on Thursday or Friday, depending on what time of year it is, we will always do a pace day. So they know if they can structure their training to go those two days, they are going to get their distance training. If they come in on the other days, which I encourage them to do, they will get this type of training too. But, when you have a set schedule for triathletes like that, at least for us, they know when to come to get the training that they need. They can base all their other training around that and it is kind of a buffet, I guess. You know, we lay it out in a certain way and they know what to expect and they come and take what they need. If you have more questions or want to know more about stroke rate, come on up and I will help you.

Q. Do you have a general training philosophy that you rotate through week by week – Monday through Saturday – I do – if a set – come on Tuesday and get something like that? Yes. We broke up our year. It is a little bit different. I know that Masters is fun – apparently I am not – so I like structure and I like giving – you know Masters you get out of it what you put into it and I want to make sure that if they come – that they are going to get what they need to be great. So we do have structure and we break it up into three seasons throughout the year. In the summer, we generally focus in on pace and aerobic for triathletes and open water training. In the fall, we switch to fitness which is aerobic and heart rate and we are always doing a variety of energy systems. There is just more focus towards maybe aerobic – maybe more yardage in those days than normal. Then my personal favorite is January to April or May – which is our competitive season which I can get more into – we have convinced everyone on our team – you know – like triathletes – if you come in for the base training and you can come in on Tuesday – during competitive season – you will still be able to maintain what you want. Does that make sense? Like today – Tuesdays are always distance day – no matter what time of the year.
Q. You are a competitive team and this is a clinic – can you tell me – like you said – the variety of energy systems that you try to hit on? Yeah, I can. We do aerobic on Tuesday – Monday is general and by general it would be a race pace, but not a test set. Mel has paid me off the last couple of years to never do a goal set on Monday. General can mean – it can mean VO2. It can be 1:1 ratio, but in such a way – like instead of doing a test set like ten 100’s on 2:30, I would do two 50’s on 1:15 with an easy hundred in between, moderate. Do that round and round. So it doesn’t come off like a test set, but they can swim faster than normal speed.

Q. So that means fast on Monday? And is there a reason why they do that? No and actually like Monday is kind of – well, I don’t want to hit every energy system and I have been writing workouts for Swim Fit for about eight years and it is just evolving how it has evolved and it is just what is working.

Q. So then you said Tuesday was distance day and Thursday… A. Thursday is an opportunity to do big sets. Three 800’s are big things and those aren’t really bad things to do if you have the lane space to do it where people are not lapping each other all over the place, but some people learn how to change their stroke by just swimming long and getting in the groove. I happen to be one of those types of people so it is one thing that we didn’t have in our program when I came in. The distance people like it and the triathlete people like it so it is kind of stuck in there.

Q. Wednesday? Wednesday – the last three days interchange and they kind of change. Currently Wednesday is a sprint day and Thursday is a pace day and Friday is kind of a free for all day – it can be sprint or stroke sprint, our specialty kind of day. It is always a lactate day – like three 100’s – this year for long course we shortened it from five 100’s on 6 minutes – we did a lot of three 100’s on 8 minutes instead and they seemed to have good success with that – kind of cutting it down. We will do 50’s on 3 minutes – about 6-8.

Q. What is the main work part of the day? A. Yeah – that is the main set. And then on the pace day – how is that different from the distance day? Just less distance and more? A. Yeah. Where Tuesday would be preferably like a longer distance. Pace day would be like you know 20 x 50’s on – it could be – like this year we tried them on 1:30 to start long course season and we lowered that down as the summer went by. Friday is kind of generic. This summer I used it as a stroke day. Sometimes it can be stroke endurance and sometimes it can be stroke sprint. It depends if we are going into a meet, we will start to lean towards sprinting more on that day and if we are at the beginning of the summer where they are getting into long course we would do long stroke on that day. Saturday is just challenging. It is just whatever we throw at them. You know they always walk out tired and happy.

Q. Is there any day where you would just focus on technique? A. Yes, we incorporate drills every day and it is a separate set. It is not included in those main sets. Yeah we try to do something every day. The hard thing about Masters swimming and we are pretty lucky, we get an hour and 15 minutes for our workout where some people are limited to just an hour. What am I talking about? No, an hour and 30 minutes and that allows us to do that. But you know, I want to add more kicking and I just can’t – I don’t have time. You know, you run out of time. You want to do drill. You want to do kicking and you want to do this or that and so then you have to rotate it.

Q. Do they warm-up every day? Or is it something different? A. Mostly, it is a 400 warm-up. Our swimmers are so into that. They get there, they get 8 minutes of a 400 warm-up. The first set is different and it is always counted as part of the warm-up. We will go at least 1000 yards before we hit a main set, at least.

Q. How many times does age play into this idea of power swimming? A. I think it stems from use it or lose it pretty much. I have been – I do not want to criticize anybody because cruise interval training I think comes from a lot of swimmers on your team that they are always trying to push you in that direction. If they train like that all the time, they just start to lose their speed after a while. There has got to be a way to maintain speed. There has got to be a way and the way is to get more rest in a workout. Now, how do you convince your swimmer to do that? Well hopefully, you educate yourself and you get someone to execute your idea and if they have success you can sell it to others.

I will tell you how I fell upon this training. Real briefly, it is when I first joined Mel Goldstein. My last job in swimming was at the University of Kansas, a very high mileage program at the time, very high mileage program. I mean – the sprinters went over 6,000 a day in taper. I mean, they were crazy about distance and swimming over there. When I came in, we had these young college kids, they were med students, that came into our program and we were running it how we are running it. If you are not familiar with Indy-Swim Fit; we run one interval for a set and it is up to the swimmer to either lessen their yards or add yards, depending on their ability. The first year the college swimmers came in with us, they swam the workout and they did not add yardage. Then they didn’t lessen their interval though, so they were getting all this rest. Then when we went to Nationals my expectations were, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought, oh, you know, we are probably going to have to change the way we do things. Lo and behold, they swam awesome. One guy swam better than he swam in college for a 1000 free – not that that is a big event in college, but he swam faster in his 1000 free than he ever had in college. The other guy was a 400 Im’er, his best time in the 400 IM he swam his sophomore year of college. six years have gone by from that. He is swimming with us three times a day. Doing his workouts with all the stress, but they were racing each other and he was 4 seconds off his lifetime best in the 400 IM. That is when I said, what did they do this year? I talked with them and I looked at what we did and almost everything they swam was race pace because they were not adding that extra yard in or they were not lowering the interval to 1:20. They were keeping it on 1:40. They were racing each other in practice. They were breaking a minute and they happened to love it because they were swimming faster times in practice than they ever had before. We were very lucky in that moment because, once they walked through that and they bought into it, I bought into it, and then they bought into it. The next year and they got better and then it was the way I have been looking at it. I have been trying to figure this out for the last eight years.

Q. I have just got one more question – Do you have a number of people that come 5, 6 times a week and then some people that only come 3? But you have a set pattern so if somebody never comes on Tuesday – they do not get that type of training? A. Right. There is nothing that I can do about that. Yeah, they were posted on the USMS website for a number of years and we are posting them on our home website now so they can look and see. Most of the guys that – like I said – you get out of it what you put into it. Most of the guys that are at that level of competing, they are showing up five or six times a week and they know what they need to do to get better. Most of our program, they come two or three times a week and fitness and fun – you know, we have that on our team, just like everybody else. Goal setting is real important, and I didn’t really hear a lot of people talk about goal setting. You can have fitness people set a goal. You can have fitness people go to a Masters workout and it gives a little purpose to their training. Then you can work on them with what days they should come and swim, depending on what their goal is. Does that answer your question okay?

It has been a journey – like I am not trying to say this is the only way, but this is the path that I have been going down and I have talked to Joel Stager a lot because he thinks that there is a lot to this. Dave Costill, who at 72, is swimming awesome and he trains this way. I am experimenting with a couple of other swimmers on our team and this is the direction. You know, I turned 40 this year so I guess maybe I am starting to look ahead down the road and when I am 50 and when I am 60 – I do not think that I want to be doing cruise intervals day in and day out. I would rather try to work on my speed. I want to maintain what I have now or get better some way. This is a different way to get better, technique and maintaining power, training smart is what I would call it. Yeah – I didn’t show a chart originally. I did the golf test. I had some swimmers that swim and their score – you know – they swam faster with the higher rate and they were like – what the heck is that about? that is not how this game is supposed to be played. I said, “you work too much on length.” I mean, just try to work more on rate. They both started doing that and they had good success. But that is what introduced me to well, why did that happen and I started with power. But you don’t need a gimmick, you don’t need the watch. I think that Joel Stager said go home and try that; have them count their strokes for moderate ones. Have them do a 50 moderate, get their time and their counts. And, then say, okay, now you have to hold that count and go faster. They will figure it out. It might take a while, but the only way that they can get faster and hold their stroke length is that they have to do a faster rate, but hold the length of their stroke. If their stroke falls apart, they need to work more length to get that strength to maintain that technique as they get tired. Does that make sense? Yeah – more rest is a big hit sometimes. Yes sir? It is a hard choice. Yeah and in getting a variety you still have to train their aerobic base. You still have to provide the specificity of training .

Q. I have the opposite problem in terms of encouraging rest so I was wondering, do you have any ideas to get them to take more rest? I think if they have a goal time, then the only way that they can hold that goal time is to have more rest. That is the trick that I have learned. Now you can see, you probably have a good idea what they are going to do if they are doing hundreds on 1:20. You know what they are going to hold so you say, “Why don’t you go 5 seconds faster or maybe more and see if you can hold your best average over this.” And then say, “believe me, honey, you are going to need that rest, you are going to want it.” Some people like it if they are racing against each other. That is what happened originally with those guys. They got more rest and they just loved to race each other all the time. Then they wanted that extra rest so they could talk about how they kicked each other’s butt on that and I am going to get you on the next one. So, we already had this really neat environment. I don’t know what your program is like. We work at five different locations. We are running the same workout all day. Every time I get a kid in, and in the beginning they were not buying into me, I would say, well, you need to come this Saturday. You are really a fast swimmer at this workout and you are probably one of the best swimmers on our team. You should come to a Saturday practice. There are a couple of other young guys and invariably at that Saturday workout would be all the fast guys who come and get in the lane and that poor guy would get his butt kicked. I would say, hey, do you see that guy over there? And he would say yeah. I would say, “that is Tom Perrin” – you know – at the time – he is 52 – he just kicked your ass like all practice. After that, they kind of shut up and they were like okay, I am going to listen to coach. I want to be as fast as they are. I am going to follow this. You just kind of have to outsmart them, get clever, use your jargon that you learned. – you know – they don’t know… What are you talking about? Just you know – any other questions?

Thank you very much.

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news