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Training Session Terms and Abbreviations

Each training session should have a similar structure regardless of the training phase that the athlete finds themselves in.

 

At a minimum, the training session should have the following core parts:

  • a warm-up component
  • a work component, and
  • a loosen-down component

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Why should each training session be divided into component parts?

While the whole of the training session is important, dividing a training session into its component parts makes it easier for the athlete to perform the session correctly and eliminate any  “grey areas” in their preparation.


For training sessions like those in preparation for ultra-distance events, breaking down the training session into component parts may also make it seem less daunting psychologically. 

TP training session cycling

The Warm Up

In our training plans, the abbreviation for the warm-up component is WU.

 

In the example above, the warm-up is 30 minutes long and gradually builds in intensity from Zone 1 to Zone 3.

The Main Set

In our training plans, the abbreviation for the main set component is MS.

 

In the example above, the main set is 16 minutes long and consists of a 20-second “all-out” sprint followed by 3 minutes and 40 seconds of aerobic riding repeated 4 times.

Loosen Down

In our training plans, the abbreviation for the Loosen Down component is LD.

 

In the example above, the loosen down is 10 minutes of easy cycling.

Time Intervals:

hrs – Hours 00:00:00

mins – Minutes 00:00:00

secs – Seconds 00:00:00

Distance Intervals:

m – meters, e.g. 200m

km – kilometers, e.g. 5km

Rest Intervals:

r – static recovery between intervals. r30 = recover for 30 secs after completing a work intervals, then start the next one.

rest – static rest, usually stated in minutes, between sets of intervals

walk – active rest between intervals

General Intensity Zones:

The General Training Zones are:

Z1 = Zone 1  – Warm Up, Loosen Down & Recovery

Z2 = Zone 2 – Aerobic Endurance & Drills

Z3 = Zone 3 – Muscular Endurance

Z4 = Zone 4 – Threshold Pace (Tempo)

Z5 = Zone 5 – Power, Force, Speed

 

MAF  = Maximum Aerobic Function.
The ideal intensity to build your aerobic base

Other Intensity Zones

Sport-specific field tests can be performed to calculate training zone. This is especially important when participating in triathlon, as often there is a disparity in the proficiency across the three sports.

It makes sense to have different training zones for each discipline.

Swimming Training Zones

To calculate your training paces, complete the CSS swim test.

Cycling Training Zones

To calculate your training Power and Heart Rate zones based on your thresholds, complete the 20-minute FTP Test

Running Training Zones

To calculate your Training Paces and Heart Rate Zones based on your threshold pace and heart rate, complete the 5 km TT run test.

Calculate your MAF Training Zone

What is YOUR optimal training zone to build aerobic efficiency with the least risk of injury or illness?
Try This

Other:

In our Road Cycling, Mountain Biking, Duathlon and Triathlon training plans, the cycling session sometimes has an additional abbreviation; cadence – pedal revolutions per minute.

Cycling Cadence is indicated as range and expressed as @…rpm
e.g 10. mins Z4 @50-60rpm

 

 

In our swimming and triathlon training plans, Intensity Zones, Drills and Training Tools are also described because sound swimming technique is so crucial.

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Training for Swimming Nationals – Week 2

The start of the proper base work phase.

Last week was a bit of a recovery week after the gala.

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Monday

A good Distance Per Stroke (DPS) and aerobic endurance session.

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
300m Swim Easy
300m PullBuoy Easy
300m Paddles Easy
100m Kick Easy
200m Swim Easy
2x100m IM Moderate
300m PullBuoy Moderate
2x100m Kick Moderate

MS:
100m Swim (25m Fast, 75m Easy)
4x400m Swim (100m Build, 300m @Race Pace)
100m Swim Easy
100m Swim Hard

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

 

Total: 4km

The session was only supposed to be 3km, but I got in early and did an extra 1km slowly before the session to get in some extra mileage. The extra long warm up was done in Zone 2.

Wednesday

My legs are feeling fine after the squat set last night. 

My upper body is a little stiff after swimming-specific core training on Monday and Tuesday night

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
300m Swim Easy
5x100m Swim (Desc 1-5)
200m Kick Easy

MS:
100m Swim Moderate, r15
200m PullBuoy Moderate, r20
300m paddles Moderate, r30
*repeat 3 times

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

My upper body did loosen up after the warm-up.

🙂

Because the intensity of the Main Set was moderate, the rest periods were around 10 secs between repeats.

Good session.

Friday

Fridays are fun sessions as both my training partners are usually in the pool with me. 

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
400m Swim Easy
12x50m Swim Build

MS:
600m Swim (300m Cruise, 200m Hard, 100m Fast)
*repeat 3 times

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

 

Total: 3km

This is my favourite type of swimming session. 
I enjoy performing longer intervals of varying intensities (a.k.a. fartlek in running) as I feel these sessions benefit the type of swimming  (long-distance open water) I like the most. 

Additional Aerobic Training

Sunday Evening

I decided to add some Jogging / Walking to my weekly Cross training.  All sessions, at least until the end of January,  will be in Zone 2 or the MAF Training Zone

Resistance Training

Tuesday Evening

Squats – 3 sets of 15 easy, 3 sets of 8 medium, 2 sets of 5 heavy

Core routine.

 

Saturday Morning

Leg Press
Lat Pull Downs
Shoulder Press

Saturday Afternoon

Squats
Seated Rows

Summary at the end of Week 2

Total swimming distance: 688.0km 

End-of-year forecast: 807.3km

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Training for Swimming Nationals – Week 1

Over the weekend, I competed in the SA Short Course Champs and I’m pretty happy with the results.

 

In the last year, however,  I have swum more galas than in the last 30 years.

The dives and fast turns that are an integral part of short-course racing are not something I regularly practice. My strategy has basically been to show up early for the galas, do a long warm-up and practice a few dives.

 

Note to self:
Include diving and fast tumble turn practice once a week from mid-January.

 

Anyway, my Short Course times were:

200m Freestyle 00:02:24

50m Butterfly 00:00:33

400m Freestyle 00:05:04 (a provincial age-group record)

50m Breaststroke 00:00:40 

50m Freestyle 00:00:28.1

100m Individual Medley 00:01:23

 

And this is the reason I started this section of the Swimming Blog. 

As I prefer long to short-course swimming, I love open-water racing and there is an opportunity to swim in one of my favourite fresh-water reservoirs in a beautiful part of the country, I have set my sights on swimming the National Master Long Course Championships in March 2023.

This section of the swimming blog will be a review of each week’s training with links to related posts to explain or flesh out ideas I will be implementing along the way.

 

First things first.
Make the commitment!!

  1. Book accommodation.
  2. Download the program to check the scheduling of the events.
  3. Enter pool events.
  4. Check where the open-water swim is and enter.

The accommodation has been booked and confirmed by the proprietor.

I booked a self-catering BnB within 8 blocks of the pool. Self-catering means I can eat at my normal times (05:30) and I can eat my normal diet, steak and eggs for breakfast.

The gala is over 3 and a half days with the open water race in the afternoon on the 4th.

In my first draft of events I want to swim, I picked far too many. At the bottom of the program in small print, it says I am limited to 6 individual pool events.

In my second draft, I favoured the long-distance Freestyle events, 800m, 400m and 200m, with the 50m and 100m for extra team points. I included 1 indulgence, the 200m Breastroke just to do something in the afternoon of the second day.

Also, I must plan each day’s meals as there are relay events on each day too. I’m sure the team captain will sign me up for every single one of them.

 

When checking the open water venue, I got very excited for 2 reasons:

  • I get to swim in one of my favourite freshwater reservoirs, and
  • there is an additional 4 x 1km open water relay.

The total race distance for the four days is 6500m and is divided as follows:

  • In the pool, I am preparing for 6 individual events and 5 relays
  • In the open water, I am preparing for 1 individual event and 1 relay.

One last thing, Friday the 17th of March is St. Patrick’s Day.
I am obliged to drink at least one Guinness…. and dance a jig.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

Just an advanced warning, I have been swimming since age 6 so my technique is pretty good and my joints and muscles are quite accustomed to the training volume and intensity.

 

I have been swimming consistently for almost 18 months now so I’m not starting from Zero.

 

My swimming statistics for 2022 so far are:

Total distance: 678.0km
Projected Distance: 804km

Number of training sessions: 190

Max distance: 11.6km

Average distance per session: 3.6km

Monday

Expecting to feel a little stiff after the gala on Saturday and having a static rest day on Sunday. 

The 4 croissants probably didn’t help either 😉

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
2x400m Swim Easy
3x200m (1 Swim, 1 PullBuoy, 1 Paddles)
3x100m Swim (Desc 1-3)
100m Kick Easy

MS:
600m (200m IM, 300m Race Pace, 100m Smooth)
*repeat 3 times

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

 

Total: 3.9km

The session was only supposed to be 3km, but I did an extra 800m slowly before the session to try and loosen up. 
It took about 1500m to get the “feel” for the water back.

Wednesday

Feeling a little fatigued in the legs after the silly gym set the night before.

Between the 200’s and 100’s, I decided to tread water to try to ease the stiffness.

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
200m Swim Easy
6x200m Swim (Desc 1-3, 4-6)

MS:
800m PullBuoy Cruise
6x100m Swim (Desc 1-3, 4-6)

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

 

Total: 3km

My legs did not loosen up. 

🙂

Good session.

Well-controlled Distance Per Stroke 800m. 

most of the session was complete in Zone 2.

Friday

Fridays are fun sessions as both my training partners are usually in the pool with me. 

Pre-Swim Mobility and Activation

10 minutes of Shoulder Mobility.

Core activation and 3 sets of 15 dips.

The Swim Session

WU:
400m Swim Easy
12x50m Swim Build

MS:
600m Swim (300m Cruise, 200m Hard, 100m Fast)
*repeat 3 times

LD:
200m Mixed Strokes Easy

 

Total: 3km

This is my favourite type of swimming session. 
I enjoy performing longer intervals of varying intensities (a.k.a. fartlek in running) as I feel these sessions benefit the type of swimming  (long-distance open water) I like the most. 

Additional Aerobic Training

Sunday Evening

I decided to add some Jogging / Walking to my weekly Cross training.  All sessions, at least until the end of January,  will be in Zone 2 or the MAF Training Zone

Resistance Training

Tuesday Evening

Squats – 3 sets of 15 easy, 3 sets of 8 medium, 2 sets of 5 heavy

Core routine.

 

Saturday Morning

Leg Press
Lat Pull Downs
Shoulder Press

Saturday Afternoon

Squats
Seated Rows

Summary at the end of Week 1

Total swimming distance: 688.0km 

End-of-year forecast: 807.3km

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Is MAF Training Any Good? Here’s How You Can Be Certain.

No Pain No Gain? Think Again! What if you could exercise regularly, stay healthy, burn more body fat for fuel and be injury-free?

 

If your performances have plateaued, you find that you get ill too often or have recurring “niggles” and injuries, MAF training could be part of the solution to getting back on track.

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What is MAF training?

MAF stands for Maximum Aerobic Function.

This training method focuses on improving the function of the aerobic system, the fat-burning engine responsible for fuelling all of the body’s needs through controlled, low-intensity training.

MAF training is one part of the bigger health improvement picture which includes strength training, nutrition, sleep and stress control.

 

While you will derive improvements from just training in your MAF training zone, you will have much more benefit if you address the other factors as well.

What tools are required for MAF training?

MAF training is a controlled, heart rate-based training protocol, so the use of a accurate and reliable heart rate monitor is a prerequisite.

Be sure to choose a heart rate monitor model that will allow you to set your own training zones as well as have an audible warning for when your heart rate exceeds or drops under your MAF training zone. Vibrating warnings are a useful additional feature if you want to perform your swimming sessions in your MAF training zone.

 

Using a heart rate monitor allows athletes to maintain and monitor their MAF training intensity with greater ease.

We wholeheartedly advocate the use of the POLAR brand of Heart Rate Monitors.

How is MAF training different from other training methods?

The importance and effectivity of “anaerobic” (speed work) training for endurance sports is well documented. There is no doubt that it works.

We do, however, feel strongly that the accepted dosage and prescription thereof is over emphasised. It is, unfortunately, exacerbated by the outdated “No pain, no gain!” catchphrase still used by many trainers and coaches today which results in a new crop of overtrained, injured and ill athletes every season.

 

MAF zone training is a training philosophy developed over many years by Dr Phil Maffetone as a way to reduce injuries in runners while maximising the benefits of their training.

Dr Maffetone observed that there was a correlation between reduced running economy and a heart rate that corresponded to approximately 180 minus the age of the athlete.

 

Calculate your MAF training Zone

 

This training method focuses on improving the function of the aerobic system, the fat-burning engine responsible for fuelling all of the body’s needs. It usually requires that athletes slow down in the first few weeks of training to stay within their calculated range.

This method is often viewed as a very conservative approach to training, but it does work and its long term benefits far outweigh the short term blows to the athlete’s ego.

Other benefits are reduced injury rates (especially in runners) and a reduction in days lost due to illness.

While it is very beneficial to strictly stay within the calculated MAF zone, it is not set in stone. It should be noted that a difference of 1 beat of the heart will not mean that the body has shifted from burning fat to burning carbohydrates.

The body will adapt to the training stimulus and improve in terms of efficiency and economy of movement.

Efficiency improvements will mean burning more fat (percentage-wise) at higher heart rates.

More economical movements will mean faster paces at the same heart rate.

 

The MAF range is, however, a very good starting point.

Calculate your MAF Training Zone

What is YOUR optimal training zone to build aerobic efficiency with the least risk of injury or illness?
Try This

How can you benefit from implementing MAF Training?

There are many good reasons for slowing your training paces down as well as increasing the amount of submaximal training you do for endurance events.

 

A well-functioning aerobic system leads to:

  • Burning more body fat for fuel and a leaner body as a result.
  • An overall increase in energy and brain function.
  • Greater endurance, strength, speed and physical fitness.
  • Injury and illness prevention, as well as
  • Improvements in other areas of life!

Increasingly, you will read or hear coaches say that you should “slow down to go fast”.

While there is a need to train at other intensities other than MAF, there appears that the amount of training in these zones is far less than was generally accepted.

 

Developing the aerobic system before attempting any “quality” work is ideal as your speed improves without the “wear and tear” (and possible injuries) that often accompany anaerobic training.

 

There is much debate about HIIT training and “Reverse Periodisation” and their effectiveness in boosting race performances. We agree, they are useful protocols, but should you not be sufficiently aerobically developed, you will limit the benefits you could derive from these.

 

We believe that the athletes deriving the most benefit from these protocols have many years of aerobic conditioning in their evolution from novice to advanced.

 

Far too many athletes want to mimic the training regimes of the most successful athletes without developing the skills, physical and physiological adaptations that these advanced athletes have had to accomplish to develop into the athletes that they are now.

When training aerobically, your immune system is also put under far less pressure .

This means that you are far less likely to succumb to infections or lose training days due to illness.

 

Training Consistency probably has the greatest influence on determining how much you can achieve in a sport.

Why is MAF zone training so slow?

This is a question we get from many of our athletes when we migrate them from a “classic” to a MAF based training program.

Should your aerobic system be underdeveloped, it will take a few weeks for your head to get used to the lower intensity training. Don’t worry, the body is very adaptable and improvements will happen.

 

Initially, it will be hard on the ego to go so slow, but if you have a little patience, you will be very happy with the results.

Is there one training zone for all Sports?

Although each sport will have a different maximum heart rate, MAF training focuses primarily on aerobic functioning so only one training zone is used for all sports.

If you practice different sports, for example in triathlon, different disciplines will feel easier than others when trying to stay in your MAF training zone.

Perceived exertion vs MAF Heart Rate

Each sport places different stresses on the body and as a result, your perceived exertion for the same heart rate will differ. This means that your perceived exertion during Running will be lower than while Cycling and far lower than that for Swimming.

While different sports will tax your system in different ways, it is best to stay in your training zone regardless of how slow the effort feels.

Is MAF heart rate zone training effective?

There are many benefits to slowing your training paces down.

Spending more time training slower, in our experience, has benefited our athletes more than adding more and more intensity to their weekly training schedules.

There are many sports training theories that work but we feel that we achieve our goals for our athletes more consistently by teaching them to adopt MAF-friendly life choices and doing the vast majority of their training in their MAF training zone.

You can get faster by first training slower.

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Swimming Training Tools

Swimming is one of the most complex sports to learn as requires the coordination of a range of upper and lower body movements, timing and breathing.

Good swimmers master the combination of these components faster than less good swimmers.

Using swimming training tools can help all levels of swimmers to improve their form, fitness and power, and ultimately become faster, more efficient swimmers.

 

Having been a swimmer for over 40 years, I can guarantee one thing:

In swimming, there is always room for improvement.

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What are swimming tools?

Swimming tools are buoyancy, resistance or breathing aids that are “illegal” in competition but help to isolate sections of the body or sectors of the stroke.

Why should you use swimming tools?

As swimming is so complex, it makes trying to learn and do everything all at once somewhat overwhelming. This is where training tools can play a huge role in helping make you a better swimmer.

 

While training tools are fantastic for helping you become a better swimmer, you should never feel that the only way you can swim well is with them. In other words, you should use them to build your swimming skills, so you can be a better swimmer.

 

Integrating the use of training tools into a program so that they are an asset and don’t become a crutch is essential for novice swimmers. Often, these swimmers take great confidence from training with the tools but are unable to translate the skills learned into improved times on race day.

How to improve using swimming tools

All training tools will require some getting used to. If you have a chance, try them out on your own outside of a structured session so you don’t have the added pressure of the set or the clock adding to the overwhelm.
Tools like Paddles and Snorkels should be adjusted to fit your body. Fins need to be the correct size for your feet. Make sure you have all the sizing done well in advance of your swimming session.

 

Largely, the type of swimmer you are is determined by your body position in the water. A coach on the pool deck would easily identify this for you, or you could do this by completing our CSS swim test.

Calculate your Swim Training Zones

What are YOUR optimal paces for each section of your swim training program?

Use our CSS swim pace calculator.
Try This

The category of swimming training tools will largely be determined by the category of the swimmer.

 

  • Novice swimmers mostly need to correct their Form.
  • Intermediate swimmers mostly need to develop Fitness but will still work on their Form.
  • Advanced swimmers  will continue to work on improving their have good Form and Fitness.  They will benefit from increasing their Force.

Categories of Training Tools

There are 3 broad categories of swimming training tools.

They are Tools for Form, Tools for Fitness and Tools for Force.

 

  • Tools for Form are used to improve the body position
  • Tools for Fitness are used to improve aerobic, anaerobic or muscular “fitness”.
  • Tools for Force are used to improve power, torque or strength.

During a training session, each tool will be used to target a focus area. Some tools, however, will have a use, to a greater or lesser extent, across two or three of the broad categories.

Some tools can be used across the spectrum from Novice to Advanced swimmer, while others should only be used by certain swimmers.

Some tools can be used in combination, others are used exclusively.

List of Swimming Training Tools

Below is a list of swimming training tools. 

Click on each to go to a seperate blog post that deals specifically with each tool.

Snorkel

Pull Buoy

Kickboard

Fins

Paddles

Ankle Band

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Technique-Specific Swim Sets

female swimmer
Technique-specific swim sets are often neglected as most athletes (especially triathletes) are focussed on completing the most distance possible in their allocated time for each swimming session.
 
The tragic result is that many will get injured, many will plateau in their performances and most will start each race nervously because they have no confidence in their swimming ability.
 
Technique-specific swim sets will improve your efficiency, decrease your susceptibility to injury and lead to major improvements in your swim times.

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Why include Technique-Specific swim sets?

Long-distance swimmers:

Water is 784 times denser than air. This means it takes considerably more effort to move through water than it does through air. 
To swim faster, therefore, you have 2 choices;
  • exert more effort, or
  • reduce your drag.
Exerting more effort requires a lot of muscle strength and energy to propel the athlete forward. Big efforts can only be maintained for very short periods. 
 

It stands to reason that reducing drag should be the first priority when aiming to improve your swimming times.

Drag is the greatest contributor to slow swimming speeds. Poor body position is what causes this drag.
 
An example:
How often have you seen a big muscular Crossfit athlete or rugby player getting lapped in the pool by a waifishly built teenage girl?
In distance swimming, elegant efficiency trumps brute strength.
 

Triathletes:

While the swim makes up a small percentage of a triathlon race, a lot of energy (both nervous and physical) is wasted in the swim that could be saved for the bike and the run.

 By being more efficient in the water, triathletes could swim faster and while saving energy for the next 2 legs of their race. 

What intensity should Technique-Specific swim sets be performed at?

The goals of technique-specific sets are improving body position, correcting mechanical errors and maximising propulsion.
The goal is of these swim sets is never to cover vast distances or to record the best average pace per 100m.
 
The pace of these sessions often mirrors that of the warm-up and loosen down as the focus is to master each movement and then repeat it as many times so that it becomes automatic.
 
Technique-specific swim sets are very focussed and mentally tough but the pace is relatively slow.
 
Often “toys” are used during these sessions to support, isolate or emphasize biomechanical actions.

Calculate your Swim Training Zones

What are YOUR optimal paces for each section of your swim training program?

Use our CSS swim pace calculator.
Try This

What distance should a Technique-Specific session be?

“The greatest mistake is to continue to practice a mistake.”

Bobby Bowden

The distance of technique-specific swim sets depends on the ability and fitness of the triathlete/swimmer. The more a particular action or drill can be practised correctly, the greater the benefit will be to the athlete.
You can manipulate the length of the work intervals and the rest periods to accommodate the athletes’ ability and fitness level. 
 
The Warm-Up:
The warm-up could be between 600m (for novice athletes) and 1000m (for advanced athletes). The pace for the warm-up will be in Zone 1 and Zone 2.
 
The Main Set:
In the main set, the intervals need to be long enough that the athlete can demonstrate the correct actions as often as possible without becoming so fatigued that they resort to employing a poor technique to complete the interval.
There also needs to be enough rest between intervals so that the athlete can perform the correct action for the next interval.
  • Drills for Novices will usually be in intervals of 25m to 50m repeats.
  • Drills for Intermediates will usually be in intervals of 50m to 100m repeats.
  • Drills for Advanced will usually be in intervals of 100m to 200m repeats.
The number of repeats will vary depending on the difficulty of the drill and the skill level of the athlete.
 
The Loosen Down:
The loosen down could be between 200m and 400m and be performed in Zone 1.

How many Technique-Specific swim sets should you do?

Depending on which phase the athlete is in their training program, technique-specific swim sets can be performed once or twice a week.
 
During the base phase, we have all our perform at least 2 technique-specific sets per week.

During the build phase, at least one technique-specific set is performed per week.

During the peak phase, technique-specific sets can be used to replace easy swim days or even as recovery sessions.

An example of a Technique-Specific swim set.

Below is a swim set we use regularly as “marker set”.
It is usually the first in a series of technique sets used in an 8-week block.
 
WU:
300m Swim
300m Pullbouy
300m Kick
 
MS:
13 x 100m (25m kick without a board, 50m catchup drill, 25m swim), 20 secs rest
 
LD:
300m Swim

Swim set for Novice Triathletes / Swimmers

As improving body position is the key area of focus for this type of swimmer/triathlete, the pullbuoy is included in the Main Set.
The pullbuoy can be replaced with neoprene swim shorts.
 
Endurance is often also a limiter, so either the number of repeats can be reduced or the rest period is made a little longer.
 
WU:
200m Swim
200m Pullbouy
100m Kick
 
MS:
10 x 100m (25m kick using a pullbuoy as a board, 50m catchup drill pullbuoy between legs, 25m swim), 30 secs rest
 
LD:
200m Swim

Swim set for Intermediate Triathletes / Swimmers

Further reduction of drag by rolling the body on to one side is the key area of focus for this type of swimmer/triathlete.
The Fingertip drag drill makes up the major part of the main set. This drill over emphasizes the rolling of the shoulders.
 
A snorkel can be used to eliminate the need to turn the head and breath thus allowing more strokes to be performed correctly for each interval.
 
WU:
300m Swim
300m Pullbouy
300m Kick
 
MS:
13 x 100m (25m kick without a board with a snorkel, 50m Fingertip drag drill, 25m swim), 20 secs rest
 
LD:
300m Swim

Swim set for Advanced Triathletes / Swimmers

Advanced triathletes/swimmers have developed an optimal body position and have mastered rolling the shoulders through the stroke further reducing their drag.

Therefore these athletes would focus on improving or increasing their forward propulsion; this would naturally start with the “Catch” and “high elbow” entry type drills.

For these athletes, we would also increase the length of the warm-up, loosen down and main set distances.
 
WU:
400m Swim
400m Pullbouy
300m Kick
 
MS:
17 x 100m (25m front scull, 50m Fingertip drag drill, 25m swim), 15 secs rest
 
LD:
400m Swim

Summary

Technique-specific swim sets can go a long way to helping you improve your swimming times.

There are many different swimming drills and “toys” that can be used to correct mistakes and improve specific segments of the swim stroke.

The distance of the technique-specific training sessions and sets will differ depending on the athlete’s ability.
 
  • Novice athletes need to focus on drills that improve body position.
  • Intermediate athletes need to focus on drills that improve the rotation of the torso.
  • Advanced athletes need to focus on drills that improve propulsion.
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Why use a Heart Rate Monitor?

The use of a Heart Rate Monitor gives athletes an easily quantifiable measure of the intensity of their workouts which could help benefit race performances.

The use of a heart rate monitor by athletes give the coach an easy to prescribe training intensities for the warm-up, the main set and loosen down phases of each workout.

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Why we prefer our athletes to use heart rate monitors.

We encourage the use of heart rate monitors by all our athletes because it is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout.

To simplify, coaching endurance sports is based on the interplay of three variables: Frequency, Intensity and Time.
F-I-T

The secret to “fitness” is a combination of how often, how hard and how long you exercise. 

A good training program will include different workouts spaced out so that you have time to recover: some workouts are short and some long, some are hard and some are easy. It’s the variation of sessions that makes a training plan good.

Frequency and Time are easy to understand, but Intensity is a little more complicated — and that’s where the heart rate zones come in.
Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout and unlike a purely subjective evaluation (e.g. Perceived Exertion) of the workout intensity, your heart rate is a trackable (and measurable) number, just like frequency and time.

Training Zones: Heart Rate Part 1.3

What are heart rate zones?

We all have individual waking and maximum heart rates. Between these values are different heart rate zones that correspond to training intensities and training benefits.

*(You should never compare your heart rate measurements with others; they should only be compared to your baseline measurements.)*

There are different ways to specify your heart rate zones, one simple way is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate. Heart rate zones are closely linked to training benefits. Accurate individual training zones can be determined by completing a battery of tests.
Our preferred method of calculating heart rate zones is by using the Heart Rate Reserve method. This method forces you to measure your Waking Heart Rate (WHR) on a daily basis. This means that you will have a daily indicator of your recovery from the previous day (or days) of training. 

 V800 and Polar Flow syncing Syncing the Polar V800 with Polar Flow

What are the five basic heart rate zones?

There are essentially five different training zones, 1–5, and your training plan could, depending on your targeted event,

include workouts in all of these five zones. Below is a breakdown of what each zone means in terms of your heart rate and also what the benefits of training in that heart rate zone are.

Heart Rate Zone 1:
50–60% OF HRMax

This is the very low-intensity zone (Z1). Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones.
We prefer our athletes to do active rather than passive recovery understanding that the movement does more to increase blood flow and thus clear metabolites and providing nutrient-rich blood to tired areas.

To train at this intensity, pick sports during which you can easily control your heart rate, such as walking or cycling on an indoor trainer

Heart Rate Zone 2:
60–70% OF HRMax

Exercising in heart rate Zone 2 (Z2) feels light and you should be able to keep going for a long time at this intensity. This is the zone that improves your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing fat (using fat for energy) and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.

Training in heart rate zone 2 is an essential part of every Endurance athletes program. Be strict about staying in this zone when doing your base work and endurance sessions and you’ll reap the benefits later.

Heart Rate Zone 3:
70–80% OF HRMax

Training in Zone 3 (Z3) is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. This is the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream.

Training in this zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.

Heart Rate Zone 4:
80–90% OF HRMax

Zone 4 (Z4) is where the going gets tough. Your breathing will labour and your body will be operating at or around your anaerobic* threshold.

If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.

Heart Rate Zone 5:
90–100% OF HRMax

Heart Rate Zone 5 (Z5) is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes, you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.

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If you’re just starting out or have only been training for a short time (2 full seasons without injury), you probably won’t have to train at this intensity; there are risks to very high-intensity training. If you’re an advanced athlete or an intermediate athlete with at least 2 full seasons (without injury) completed, look into incorporating Z5 interval training into your training plan for peak performance.

*anaerobic means without oxygen. At no point do you stop using oxygen, the body is just unable to produce energy through the aerobic channels and there is a build-up of metabolites at a faster rate than it can be cleared.

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Swimming Terms and Abbreviations

Swimming, like other sports, has its own language that makes absolutely no sense to anyone who hasn’t been exposed to it.

To help you get the most out of the blog, this page has a list of the terms and abbreviations we regularly use when coaching open water swimmers and triathletes.

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Swimming Terms

Freestyle

– Most people know that there are four strokes in swimming; freestyle, backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke. For open water swimming and triathlon, freestyle is the stroke of choice for racing and most of your training.

2-Beat Kick

– For long-distance, open water and triathlon swimming the kick is used mostly to stabilise the body during the stroke cycle rather than to push the body forward. The 2-beat refers to the frequency of kicking vs each stroke. Faster swimmers may use a 4 or 6 beat kick at the start of the race to quickly accelerate away from the pack, but then their kick will slow to a 2 beat once they are into their race pace rhythm.

Tumble Turns

– A quick and efficient technique to change direction upon reaching the end of the pool. Tumble turns allow swimmers to push off from the wall for the next length without losing too much speed. Performing Tumble Turns is not essential for open water swimmers or triathletes to master, but they do help when swimming in a squad.

Body roll

– This refers to the tilting of the body from one side to the other during the stroke cycle. Your body should be tilting between 40 and 60 degrees, but your head should remain straight in the water until you go to breathe.

Bilateral breathing

– Breathing to both left and right sides. This helps to create smooth and even strokes. It also helps to develop a balanced body roll. This is essential to swimming great freestyle. Usually, you breathe after a set of three strokes, alternating with breathing in on the left stroke on the first set, and then on the right on the second.

Drills

– Starting with simple exercises focusing on a particular part of your swim technique. They may be used to correct biomechanical “mistakes” or to strengthen sectors of your stroke.

Glide

– Gliding is when there is a pause in your stroke where you are not being propelled through the water. Gliding shouldn’t last too long but it is useful for long-distance swimmers.

Body position

– The position of the upper and lower body relative to the surface of the water. For you to be as streamlined, your body should be as flat in the water, and as close to the surface as possible.

Catch Phase

  • The front sector of the propulsion phase of freestyle swim stroke after the hand has entered the water

Pull Phase

  • The middle sector of the propulsion phase of freestyle swim stroke after the catch has been completed

Push Phase

  • The rear sector of the propulsion phase of freestyle swim stroke before the hand exiting the water behind the hips

Recovery Phase

  • The non-propulsion phase of freestyle swim stroke when the hand is above the water travelling to the entry point

High Elbows

  • a technique used to ensure the hand (after entry) is propelling the body forward for as much of the propulsive phase as possible.

Swimming Workout Abbreviations

WU: – Warm-Up. The preparation phase of the workout to get the muscles ready for the demands of the main set.

MS: – Main Set. The “work” phase of a workout. Also MS2: Main Set 2 when the main set is split into two parts.

LD: – Loosen Down. The recovery phase of the workout that helps transition the body back to a normal pre-workout state.

Z1, Z2, Z3, Z4, Z5 – Training Zones expressed in pace or heart rate ranges. You can calculate yours by completing the CSS test.

CSSCritical Swim Speed. A field test used to determine the fastest pace you can maintain without accumulating fatigue, to benchmark your progress between training phases and calculate your training paces.

Paddles – A training tool that fits on the hands to provide a greater surface area and to help correct sectors of the stroke.

Pull Buoy – A training tool that fits between the legs to provide lift for the legs and a little resistance.

Kick – kicking set. Usually performed with a kicking board otherwise with no board, are out ahead of you using a snorkel to breathe.

Send Off Time – the duration to complete one and start the next interval. For example, 10 x 100m on a 1:40 send off means swim ten 100m intervals starting each interval after 1 minute and 40 seconds. If you swim the 100m in 1 minute and 30 seconds, you get 10 seconds to rest before starting the next one until you have completed ten.

Rest – duration, in seconds, of rest periods between intervals or set of intervals.

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Drills for Open Water Swimming and Triathlon

triathlon swim start

Swimming is a very difficult sport to master. Getting the timing of the arms to synchronize with the opposite action of the legs while keeping the body straight requires massive concentration…and then you still have to remember to breathe.

Swimming drills are the easiest way to learn to swim efficiently by breaking down the stroke in “bite-sized” chunks that can be mastered individually and then combined later.

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What are swimming drills?

A drill is a technique exercise done specifically to improve your swimming technique. They are usually a scaled-down version of one of the stroke.

A technique exercise or drill is only efficient if it’s done in the correct way.

Why do swimming drills?

Water is extremely dense in comparison to air. At sea level, water is 784 times denser than air.

Drag is a type of friction – a force acting opposite to the relative motion of any object moving with respect to the surrounding fluid.

Reducing one’s drag in swimming is the single most important component to improving swimming speed and endurance.

What are the benefits of doing swim drills?

Efficient open-water swimming and triathlon swimming is 70% dependant on correct body position and technique, 20% muscular endurance and 10% strength. Together with improving body position, drills are crucial to improving swimming technique.

Drills make it easier to learn to efficient swimming technique

Learning a new skill like swimming can definitely be overwhelming. Coordinating arms and legs while holding the body straight and breathing is just too many things to focus on.

Drills are useful in correcting biomechanical issues

Often athletes who have no formal swimming training history, have poor biomechanical habits.

Drills, together with using training tools like a pull buoy, snorkel or fins, make it easier to isolate sectors of the stroke so that biomechanical issues can be corrected.

Drills are used to avoid future injuries

When athletes start adding extra distance or intensity on top of poor biomechanical form, overuse imbalances and injury soon follow.

Correcting imbalances early with the use of swimming drills and land training means athletes can safely add distance and intensity to their training regime.

How do swimming drills help swimmers and triathletes?

You can quote me on this:

"Fast efficient swimming develops not from overcoming drag, 
it comes from offering less resistance to the water."

Drills are used to isolate the problem

Swimming is a very complex series of movements. For the novice swimmer, it is overwhelming to have to consider the position of the feet, bending the elbows, swinging the arms and rotating the hips all while remembering to exhale. Being overwhelmed, many novices are driven into panic mode and cannot then focus on correct swimming form.

The easiest method of dissipating the overwhelm is to break the swim stroke down into easier, “bite-sized” chunks. Isolating each part of the stroke and concentrating on that in the form of a drill.

Drills are used to help correct the problem

Practice makes perfect. People are lazy and will more often than not choose the path of least resistance. Once the poor technique is learned, it is extremely challenging to unlearn it. Even when we understand the right thing to do, we tend to gravitate back to old bad “comfortable” habits. The new stroke or body will always feel “awkward” and “uncomfortable” at first. 

To reinforce the correct habit you have been learning by doing the isolation drill, you should swim a length practising the exact technique you have just drilled.

Drills are used to help keep the problem corrected

Devoting one extra swim session per week to just doing drills and drill/swims is a way to get faster. We usually mark these sessions as recovery swims.

While getting fitter is an important component to swimming faster, spending a few minutes at the beginning of each practice working on specific drills to help correct your weak points will help you become a better swimmer.

Drills for the Novice swimmer/triathlete.

The novice swimmers’ stroke generally displays the same problems:

  • they bend at the hips dragging their feet
  • they kick from the knees
  • their shoulders are flat with no rotation and a short reach
  • their pull is led by the elbow; they do not catch

The best “fixes” for a novice are: 

  • teaching them how to catch, and
  • correcting the body position

One-Arm Drill

One of the best ways to learn to pull with a high elbow underwater is by doing one-arm drills. Holding one arm in front, swim with one arm only, rotating from side to stomach, but focusing on the high elbow position as the single-arm pulls through. It is much easier to grasp the concept of swimming with high elbows, after practising with each arm alone.

One arm drills will help you:

  • work the “catch”, “pull-through” and “recovery” phases of your stroke, as well as
  • help you understand the important part your core plays in developing an efficient freestyle

An easier method for the novice is to learn this drill is to do 5x 1-arm strokes with the left arm, 5x 1-arm strokes with the right arm, then do 5x full strokes. 

As you become better at the drill, do 7 strokes, then 9 ….until you can complete a full length with just 1 arm.

Remember, as with ALL drills, master the technique and don’t race to the other end of the pool.

Catch-Up Freestyle Drill

One of the classic freestyle drills and one of our favourites, it is a little more advanced than the one-arm drill. Once the One-Arm drill can be comfortably practised, it is time to include the Catch-Up drill. 

We use the Catch-Up drill for swimmers and triathletes from novice age-groupers to advanced Ironman athletes.

Like the one-arm drill, holding the left arm in front, swim with the right arm only, rotating from side to stomach, but focusing on the high elbow position as the right arm pulls through. On the recovery, place the right hand on top of the left hand, then repeat the process with the left arm. 

Catch-up freestyle helps isolate the arm movement, which makes it easier to teach novice swimmers, proper mechanics. It helps with distance per stroke while also promoting a good hand entry that doesn’t cross-over the midline. 

The Catch-Up drill also encourages the swimmers to use a fuller and more balanced flutter kick in order to sustain propulsion and maintain a good, low drag body position.

“If you can’t do it slow, you can’t do it fast.”

my first girlfriend –

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How can you achieve your best results in 2021?

Xterra runner on trail

2020 has been filled with disappointment for most athletes. Lockdowns, race postponements and race cancellations have really affected motivation levels.

What are your goals for the new season?

What would be the best way forward for you to achieve your 2021 goals?

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No more races or different races?

I think it is safe to assume that when the new race calendar is announced for 2021 that the events calendar will look a lot different. 

Some races will be cancelled, some race will be postponed and some races will be very different from what they were in the past.

Different Goals

As a result of  the uncertainty created by lockdowns, many athletes cancelled their coaching contracts because: “There are no races in the near future that I need to train for.”

Unfortunately, this has led to many athletes to piecing together their own training schedules. Many have taken to “competing” in Virtual Races and completing Social media inspired high-intensity resistance training routines many times a week.

There are now a disturbing number of injured, “burned out” and overtrained athletes who have been chasing virtual podiums, prizes and recognition on social media platforms.

The goals they had before were transformed into a range of weekly personal bests without considering the medium and long-term downsides of this approach. 

3 big mistakes you could be making

In the last 6 months, we have been watching the training trends very carefully.

Without the objective eye of a coach watching over the athletes, 3 trends have become quite apparent.

  • Slow training is not slow enough
  • Hard training is too frequent.
  • Athletes are not resting enough.

Calculate your MAF Training Zone

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Slow Down!!

Improved fitness = Work (Training) + Recovery.

As a lot of training is being done indoors on treadmills and trainers connected to apps, data and statistics seem to be the focus of conversations between athletes. Each one is trying to outdo the other.

Unfortunately, all the data needs to be shared

Don’t take the bait

Breath

Get a coach, or at the very least, a training plan

Complete the questionnaire to win

2020 has been a bit of a mess. Did you achieve what you set out to?

Complete the questionnaire and we will direct you to the most appropriate coaching option to help you achieve your best in 2021.


The questionnaire is split into 4 sections:

  • About you – some questions about you.
  • General sport and training questions – your preferences. 
  • Your preferred sport  – 
  • Your goals for 2021

**Total time to complete the questionnaire: 5 minutes**




Each month we will draw 6 winners from the completed questionnaires for that month.

Each of the 6 winners will have a 12-week base training plan set up for then in their TrainingPeaks account.
The base training plan will be based on the answers provided in the questionnaire.

December 2020 winners

– 6 winners

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