Most of us do not have the luxury to have a coach on deck due to schedule, locale, or simply that there is no Master swim team available in your area. In this article and the next, I will try to give you tips for designing your own workout based on your ability, your likes and dislikes, and mostly using your creativity to make it fun and enjoyable.
A workout is really like a meal. It must be fulfilling and enjoyable. It is better if it is shared with somebody else. It is a necessity and key to stay fit and healthy.
First comes the appetizer or warm up. It is important to warm up by swimming easy and smoothing your stroke before progressively speeding up. Most of the novice swimmers will immediately start too fast, holding their breath and getting their system in distress and risking more injuries. “Enjoy your first drink, sip it, relax and enjoy the company.” Get ready for the main course. Depending on your level, easy swimming and kicking from a minimum of 200 yards for a novice swimmer to over 1,000 yards for a more experienced swimmer will get you ready. Already mix and match if you feel like it. It might also be a good time to experiment with a new drill, or really focus on a part of your stroke you need to improve. If you do not know what your weaknesses are, take a lesson and ask what you need to focus on.
Second comes the main course. The main course needs to have a purpose and variety during the week. Nobody likes to eat the same food every single day, even if it is your favorite. Like every good cook, use your creativity and good ingredients. Practice technique, speed, endurance, kick, pull and if possible, mix and match all the strokes. The more versatile you are, the more muscles you will use, the more fit and healthy you will become. To design a good workout, it is also important to know where you are and what you currently can do. If you are a completely novice swimmer, working on technique and improving your stamina, learning a new stroke should be your current focus. For technique and learning a stroke, nothing beats taking a few swim lessons with a good instructor. For stamina and endurance, you need to know what you can do now. How far and how fast can you swim in the stroke(s) you know? If your pool has a clock, watch it, and have a general idea. This will help you set your send offs. For example, if you are swimming a 50 in 1:30, maybe starting on 1:45 or 2:00 might be a good sendoff at this time. How many can you do at that send off? It is better to set a send off than to give yourself 15 seconds rest, as you want to know when you are really slowing down!!! It is also very rewarding as you see the improvements week after week; since your time, send offs and repetitions will definitively improve as you get in shape. If you are an average swimmer, mostly working for fitness, I would also strongly recommend to “mix and match” your workouts. Swimming the same number of laps every single day at the same average speed is boring and is keeping you a little bit in shape, but not challenging your body and improving your fitness. It is like eating the same food every day: it will feed you, but it will not make you healthy. You need to get out of breath from time to time, you need to kick, you need to use the different strokes. In my next article, I will give you some examples of workouts and how to adjust them for your level.
Third comes dessert, the sweet part. If you had a particularly hard main set, it is very important to cool down, swim easy to get rid of the lactic acid in your muscles and bring your heart rate down. It might also be a good time to really practice what you enjoy such as a longer moderate swim or pull set for the long-distance swimmers, or a hot tub soak with your friends for the social bees, or simply take a quick shower and go home for the very busy folks.