In this article, we will try to be a little more specific about the principles we highlighted in our previous month’s article and give you some examples on how to be creative and adapt your workouts just for you.
If you are working out by yourself, there are pros and cons, like everything in life, I guess. The major cons are: you do not have a coach to tell you what to do and correct your technical mistakes, you are missing on the social interactions linked with a team, and the friendly competition during practice to help you push yourself. However, not everything is lost. The pros are: there are resources available to find workouts (the USMS website has a workout page); you can design a specific workout just for you based on your goals, your own strengths and weaknesses; and you might often find compatible and friendly training partners at your own pool. Every lap pool in the country has slow, medium, and fast swimmers.
No matter if you are an elite swimmer or a complete novice, the main framework of the workout should always be the same: warm-up, main set or sets and cool down. The main differences will be in the number of repetitions, distance and sendoffs.
- Warm up: It should take about 15 minutes. The older you are, the more warm-up you should do to oil the machinery and improve your range of motion slowly and progressively. If you wish, you can start on the deck with mainly some rotation of arms. I do not recommend doing stretching as your muscles are not warm yet. If you want to stretch, do it after swimming or during cool down. I also like to do a little kicking in warm-ups. Kicking is the key to good position and faster swimming. So do not avoid practicing your kick, especially if you are currently going nowhere and often hate it. Just do a little!!!!
- Pre-set(s): the more novice you are, the more pre-sets you should do, focusing on a technical aspect. If you just learned to swim, your instructor probably gave you some drills such as in freestyle: breathing by turning your head and not lifting it, extending in front of your shoulders and not towards the middle, keeping your kick small and steady and hips at the surface. On the USMS website and in the Aqua-Master, there are articles related to technical aspects of all strokes with drills. Taking a few more lessons or attending a clinic might be the key for you to become more efficient in the water and making it easier to improve. “Do not fight with the water, the water is too strong, but the water will carry you if you are nice to it (no punching)”. For the more advanced swimmers, a pre-set might be a kick set, or a drill/swim set to find your power position or to improve your weakest and/or your strongest stroke. Having a pre-set is also important on the days you want to work on speed.
- Main set: the main set should have a purpose: long distance aerobic set, medium distance set, speed set, specific stroke set, individual medley set, turns and streamline set, kick set, etc. Based on your goals and preferences, you should be doing certain sets more often than others, but you should try to mix and match the sets to work on all parts of your swimming. It is important to work on your weaknesses, even if you do not like it, just do it moderately and it will bring tremendous results and improvements. For example, if you can barely swim fly or another stroke, why not include a few 25s in between your sets. Same with kicking or any weaknesses you might have. If you are the long-distance swimmer, why not sprint 2 x 25 all-out between repetitions.
- Cool down: the cool down set is to slowly bring your heartbeat down and to get rid of the lactic acid. It should be 5 to 10 minutes or longer if you had a hard main set. It is also the best time to stretch if you wish. Enjoy that you have worked hard, it is time to relax. Swim easy, practice drills, practice sculling, practice social kicking!!!!
Hope this helps you design your own favorite workout sets. When you have one you like, share it with one of your friends, he or she might enjoy it. Be creative: challenge yourself with speed, medium and long sets; mix and match different strokes; practice both your strengths and your weaknesses. Know what your time and sendoffs are, so you can be motivated by your improvements.