View Full Version : Need something slow but intense

September 23rd, 2003, 03:44 PM
I'm an au-pair in Germany, and the daily afternoon cake-and-coffee is starting to hit... I love swimming, and did a few seasons during high school. Hopefully, I'll be able to continue at my university (Div-III), when I start college next semester.

What I need, however, is to first get back into swimming shape. There's a lovely little 8-lane, 25-m pool about 5 minutes away. Facilities are not a problem. The other swimmers are :rolleyes:

The vast majority of the swimmers there are nice little German grannies, who believe that the afternoon coffee talks should be continued in the pool....the hair never gets wet, and I've seen one or two with their glasses still on. The idea of lanes and circular swimming has not yet hit.

It's frankly impossible to swim as a normal speed without zig-zagging all over, or causing some major accidents. So, ending this book, does anyone know of anything that I can do fairly slowly that won't ruin any technique I might still have? It would be nice to still be able to swim fast and decent in those rare times when the pool is empty. I've been doing a lot of pulls and kick sets, and catch-ups...but they're getting pretty old. Other drills? Or something else? Anything with times would be excellent, as I do best when I have either another person or a clock to work against. There's a Deutschland Masters Swimmer I see once or twice a week at the pool, but he's going to internationals...a bit out of my leauge.

Matt S
September 23rd, 2003, 04:34 PM

From the sound of what you describe, working on the conditioning side of your swimming seems impossible. So, work on something else.

Flexibility: I like yoga for this, but go for any stretching program (preferably with a group of people, so you won't be bored) that is available. Intensity is not important; on the contrary, a gentler program will provide most of the benefit without the risk of injury.

Stroke technique: since your opportunity to swim seems to dictate lower speeds, take this chance to tear your stroke technique apart, and rebuild it with fundamental skills. I really like Total Immersion, and you could do worse than spend the $20 for "Swimming Made Easy" which has excellent drills for all 4 strokes. However, any set of drills that build from basic skills would work. If you have a friend with a video camera, you might ask them to record you swimming, and look for things you'd like to adjust. A live coach would be even better, if one is available. You also might want to break down your turns and work on those.

Cross training: if you really must work on aerobic conditioning, or just do something to keep the calories from killing you, go ahead and do some running or biking--anything cardio that will not bore you. Does your heart really know the difference between heart beats while you are running vs. swimming?

Will you be ready to rip off a personal record the week you get back to school? Clearly not. However, you are young. Your conditioning will come back pretty quickly, AND if you can make fundamental improvements to your stroke technique (say reduce your average strokes per length by one or two), those improvements will stay with you and add to any conditioning base you establish over the coming season. This can be an opportunity to get out of your aerobic rut, and look at your swimming as a whole.

BTW, which Div III school? I swam at Lake Forest College myself (more years ago than I'd care to admit). Good luck.


September 24th, 2003, 08:07 AM
For me, head-led undulation (wave your body and do dolphin kick) is pretty slow and I can take a peek frequently to see what's in front of me. I do it alot when stuck in a slow lane. It has helped my fly immensely.

The other thing I do when extremely frustrated at the pool is vertical kicking. Flutter kick with my hands crossed over my chest. Then try to get your hands out of the water while flutter kicking. Eventually people can do it in a stream-lined position. I can't yet. That's straight up and down in deep water.

When I'm playing with my kid (and can't swim laps) I sometimes scull with my arms. Try it in 3 feet deep water. Keep off the bottom of the pool (my body is in mostly a sitting position), don't move anywhere, and stay there just by sculling your arms. Also, vigorous kicking holding the side of the pool gets the blood & air flowing ... but doesn't do much for your feel for the water.

Maybe you could also get an edge to practice your flip turns and hammer those back into perfect shape if you need to.

That's all I can think of for now. Short of buying a bike. Good Luck!

October 1st, 2003, 11:05 AM
I am headed to a German pool the minute I am done with this email. I have been struggling with your very issue for 8 months: fabulous facilities full of very slow people doing breaststroke in random directions. I recommend the following:

1) Try to figure out if there are times when the pool is less crowded. Here it is always somewhat crowded, but it is best around 3pm (i.e., between lunch break and when people get off from work) and early on weekend mornings.

2) Avoid frustration by not planning a workout in advance. Go with what the crowd gives you. If you get lucky and the pool thins out for awhile, work hard. If it's really thick do slow drills.

3) As for drills, I find freestyle or backstroke kicking to be the slowest useful activity. Then there's breaststroke kick or pull, or one-armed fly, or the catch-up stuff you've been doing. I also do a lot of min-stroke-per-length work, and breathing games (e.g., swim 200 or 400 or whatever, not very fast, but breathing every 3 on the first length, every 4 on the second, and so on, until I can't go any higher, and then I bring it back down. The trick for me is not getting bored while not being able to do real sets, so I still think in terms of reps (5 x 200 or whatever), even though it's very rare that I'm doing them on the clock or even able to swim (as opposed to doing the various drills).

4) If I had to do it all over again, I think I would look for a team or Schwimmverein that I could practice with. Maybe there's one near you ...

Best of luck -- I'm headed back Stateside next week, and though I'll miss Germany I can't wait for my American pool!

October 1st, 2003, 01:22 PM
P.S. It also helps to get a pull buoy and/or fins, so you can fend off the boredom with increased variety.

And if you can read German check out the books of John von Dueffel, a writer and swimmer who writes really good fiction and non-fiction, a lot of it having to do with swimming. In particular try Kleine Philosophie der Passionen: Schwimmen and Wasser und andere Welten: Geschichten vom Schwimmen und Schreiben .

October 8th, 2003, 02:57 PM
Thanks for all the replies, everyone. I'll try to incorporate the suggestions into my workout. Heck, I'll even go jogging, when the weather allows, altho running is an evil and inherently silly-looking sport in my book. If only my coaches felt the same way...
Matt, my school is DePauw in Indiana. I'm really excited about going there...big change from California. I considered Lake Forest when I was applying...looked like a nice school.

October 8th, 2003, 05:16 PM
i sometimes get the same at the pool i use,i normally now do sets of either 125m,200m or 250m,depending on how many people are about or how clear the lanes are,i find that it helps training to swim around other slower swimmers also it encourages them to speed up especially when they see you rest at the end of the sets,they think"i'll catch them up and show em!!"
another thing i tend to do is work on reducing strokes per length this is a good technique for speed,but the training is less abrupt in the pool so as not to disturb the headup,harlaquered breastrokers,also working on the streamlined position from kick off helps,remember you was once a slow swimmer(i know i used to be..)