This is the fifth in a series of columns designed to help you swim at your best at meets, or just appreciate your swimming experience more.
In my last column, Take You Mark No.4, I discussed Pace Judgement (if you haven’t read it, go back and do so – it’s THAT important!), and this short column is a sort of a sequel looking at how you can learn and practice proper pace judgement by applying progression to all you do in training.
To recap, I am absolutely convinced that the single biggest factor in a swimmer swimming as fast as they are capable of in any race is how well they pace their race. Proper pace judgement means swimming every race at (relatively) even speed, and even speed requires gradually increasing effort, or a progression of effort, to counteract the onset of fatigue.
How do you incorporate this into your training?
Firstly and most obviously, whether you are swimming at maximum effort or not, always swim any repeat with even pace and, especially for maximum efforts, practice how you need to feel at the various stages of every distance to ensure progressive energy expenditure and even speed (see ‘Take Your Mark No.3 – Race Pace, Race Feel).
In a more general way, as well as practicing even pace in any repeat, especially over longer distances, you can also introduce progression into every set you do in order to further train your mind and body in progressive energy expenditure.
Specific examples include:
- Do descending sets where each repeat is faster than the previous one. When I was coaching at the elite level, a standard Monday morning set was 10×300 Freestyle on a moderate time cycle, descending 1 to 10. Another example would be 6×200 in any stroke (on moderate to longer rest time cycle) descend 1 to 3, so numbers 3 and 6 are fast ones and numbers 4 to 6 are, respectively, faster than numbers 1 to 3. The potential variations are endless.
- When doing shorter rest sets, use a decreasing time cycle. For example a swimmer who finds 1.30 per 100 time cycle challenging, could do 12×100 doing 3 on (1.45), 3 on (1.40), 3 on (1.35) and 3 on (1.30); or 24×50 doing 1 on (55), 1 on (50) and 1 on (45). Again, there are endless possibilities.
- In any set you do, whether specified as a descending set or not, and irrespective of the time cycle, try and swim it at increasing or at least even speed, and finish the set with the last repeat being the fastest one.
- Even in ‘quality sets’ where you may be trying to achieve your fastest average time across the whole set, and commence the set at a fast pace, you can still try and progress in terms of effort and speed.
It’s all part of the plan to develop an internal ‘operating system’ that will always deliver progressive effort and therefore even speed.
So make progress with progression – and swim for (your) life!