View Full Version : 'Spring Training' for Open Water Season

May 19th, 2011, 06:01 PM
Just as baseball players have spring training before the season, so can swimmers as they transition from pool racing in multiple disciplines and relatively short distances to longer races most likely swum freestyle.
Some of this training may be done in open water, but most will likely be in the pool. Still, pool practices can be easily adapted to prepare for open water races. I'll use this thread to post my pool practices - at least those I think of as consciously aimed at tuning my stroke for open water races. Perhaps others can share their OW-prep practices as well.

From Dec until two weeks ago, my practices were heavily focused on IM training, because my goals included placing Top 10 at USMS Nationals in multiple disciplines. My training is normally 80% focused on distance freestyle. This year I reversed the percentage with about 80% focused on the other strokes and IM. I enjoyed it a lot, feel fresher mentally coming into open water season and my fitness may be better than usual at this point. I already plan to do the same in 2012.

I normally begin open water swimming by early May (in 50F water) but this year I've stayed pool-bound. I'll probably get my first lake swims this weekend.

My primary constraint is being limited to about 3000 yds, because my calves and feet start to go into terminal cramping after 100+ pushoffs. Consequently I try to devote every precious lap to honing skills I feel are critical for racing effectively in open water races of 1 mile to 5k. That means no warmup. I start my first task on my first lap.
I practice solo at noon during open swim at the local college. Most of the time I split a lane, so no need to circle.
Here was today's practice:
Thurs May 19, 3000 yds at SUNY New Paltz

Swim 200-400-600-800-1000 Free on interval of 3:15/200

I set two goals:
1) Maintain stroke count at 14SPL as far as possible in each repeat, going to 15 when the effort to hold 14 degraded my tempo.
2) Try to increase pace as distance increased.
200 - 2:56 (1:28/100)
400 - 5:47 (1:26/100)
600 - 8:33 (1:25.5/100)
800 - 11:22 (1:25.2/100) I increased to 15 SPL at about 400 on this.
1000 - 13:53 (1:23/100) I started at 14SPL and went to 15 at 200 -- then to 16 at 700 yds because I began getting foot/calf cramps.

When I do a set like this I don't judge the first repeat as good, bad, fast or slow. It's just a data point and tells me what it will take to improve or accomplish the goal I set. Going 2:56 for the 200 simply told me I needed to aim for under 5:52 on the 400, while holding 14SPL.

The main value of a set like this is in honing my ability to increase Stroke Rate, while keeping Stroke Length constant. Race analysis on the USA Swimming site has indicated this skill is the most constant factor separating race winners from also-rans.

Being able to increase SR, while holding SL as distance increases takes a lot of practice. If I can do this effectively during pool practice, my chances of at least holding SL relatively constant as I increase SR during the latter stages of an OW race should be much enhanced. Plus I can measure my performance exactly in the pool. In OW it's entirely subjective.

May 19th, 2011, 08:10 PM
I too am happy to put the pool season behind and think of OW. My practices will also include this ascending set!!!!

Check out this as your OW debut.


May 23rd, 2011, 01:34 PM
Terry, I've been reading and following some of your posts on stroke rate and stroke length, and have been working on finding my optimal "zone" - that combination of stronk rate, length, and glide that seems to maximize my speed and energy management. Your comments have been VERY helpful! Thank you for the free advice!
I had a chance to put my new training into action this weekend in Pensacola, FL. I swam the 3 Mile Bridge Swim (which is actually closer to 3.4 miles), and really concentrated on my strokes. When I was in the "zone" I could really feel my speed increase... and this helped me to swim a very strong second half. I had a good consistent speed and lots of reserve energy.... it worked really well! I'll continue to work on being able to maintain my optimal zone more consistently (sighting, waves, and misc., would throw me off).
Question: What suggestions do you have for getting off to a good OW start? I really struggle to get off to a good start and it takes me 15-20 minutes to get warmed up to the point that I can find my zone. Yesterday, we climbed into the water at about 6:45am and waited until almost 7:20 to start the race. My teeth were chattering by the time we started and I was as tight as a drum. With 175 swimmers all clustered together and being cold, I got off to a horrible start. Picking up five minutes on the start, would have allowed me to place in my age bracket (50-55). Suggestions? Thanks.

May 24th, 2011, 05:21 PM
Question: What suggestions do you have for getting off to a good OW start? I really struggle to get off to a good start and it takes me 15-20 minutes to get warmed up to the point that I can find my zone. Yesterday, we climbed into the water at about 6:45am and waited until almost 7:20 to start the race. My teeth were chattering by the time we started and I was as tight as a drum.

Great question. In a situation like that I do the following
1) During the regular warmup period, I start out with very long, slow strokes, trying to find a flow feeling - and tuning my stroke to whatever conditions may be present. I gradually increase rhythm and pace, but only as I feel pulled to do so - rather than pushing for speed. I do this kind of thing regularly in my pool and OW practices so it comes quite naturally now.
After 15 minutes of languid-to-cruisey pacing I do some brief pickups of about 30 strokes at the tempo I anticipate using in the first minute or two after the start. I'm a big believer in sending signals to my nervous system of the tasks I'll ask it to perform. But I keep these pickups brief enough to avoid any fatigue.
2) In events where they line us up in waves, and we may have 10 or more minutes waiting for our wave to go, I'll swim easily back and forth just to the side or just in front of the start line, keeping a close eye on the officials so I am ready when my wave will start. I go 20-30 yds in one direction, then back. I may do some briefer pickups on these.
I hope this helps.

May 24th, 2011, 05:26 PM
Since posting my practice from Thurs May 19 I hadn't swum in the pool until today. Sunday and Monday (May 22-23) I did my first two swims at Lake Minnewaska (with Willie, with whom I've done an English Channel relay and a Maui Channel crossing, and 100s of hours of lake practice), about three weeks later than I usually start. On Sunday, water temp was 58.
Swimming is proscribed there til the official opening of the season June 18, but there was a fairly thick fog hanging over the lake so we felt confident we could swim without detection. Fog lifted after about 17 minutes so we got out.

Monday, the fog was even thicker - low-hanging clouds actually, Minnewaska is atop the Shawangunk Ridge. So we swam once around the perimeter of the lake. After a cold, rainy day, water temp had dropped about 2 degrees. Our loop took about 35 minutes. Our only concession to cold was wearing silicone caps. Water felt absolutely brilliant.

Back to the pool on Tuesday. Here's what I did:
Tuesday May 24 3000 scy at SUNY New Paltz

6 rounds of [4 x 125 Free on 2:00]. Descend each round.
Rest 30 seconds extra between rounds
Round 1 @ 13 SPL. Descend 1:52-1:46 (This round was, in effect, my warmup.)
Round 2 @ 13-14 SPL Descend 1:47-1:43
Round 3 @ 14 SPL Descend 1:44-1:41
Round 4 @ 14-15 SPL Descend 1:42-1:40
Round 5 @ 15 SPL Descend 1:41-1:39
Round 6 @ 15-16 SPL Descend 1:40-1:38 (Calves began cramping on this round.)

This practice was an exercise in two forms of descending sets
1) On the odd rounds descend without increasing stroke count.
This requires increasing Stroke Rate while keeping Stroke Length constant. In fact I don't try to increase Stroke Rate. Rather I focus on doing a variety of things that combine to propel me faster - more attention to holding the water, a bit more precision in catch, small increases in hip drive, etc.
2) On the even rounds, descend by increasing stroke count.
The pattern for the even rounds was like this, using the 4th round as illustration
#1 14-14-14-14-15 SPL
#2 14-14-14-15-15 SPL
#3 14-14-15-15-15 SPL
#4 14-15-15-15-15 SPL
I.E. I added one stroke each successive 125 in the round, looking to 'trade' one stroke for a bit more speed.

Both exercises are useful in wiring my nervous system with skills that help me swim effectively in open water races. It's because there's no way of monitoring Stroke Length - and because wind and chop can make that difficult - that I practice in ways calculated to create durable efficiency habits.

The odd rounds - increasing speed while maintaining Stroke Length - apply more in the early and middle stages of the race. The even rounds - increasing speed while trading Length for Rate and Speed apply more to the latter stages.

But the more compelling reason I do sets like these is that they require unwavering focus. That's good for the adult brain. It also produces the matchless and addictive pleasure of Flow States. In the end, it's my addiction to Flow States, more than competitive urges, that motivates me to the pool.

May 25th, 2011, 12:06 AM
Terry, Thanks for the great tips! I'll practice these in the pool and try them in my next OW event on June 11th in Chattanooga! I'll let you know how it works for me.

May 27th, 2011, 12:29 AM
Waiting for MUCH warmer temps. in Chicagoland!!!!

June 1st, 2012, 01:37 PM
I had a great spring-training program going. I was up to a 5 mile open water. Now, between working at the computer and the kids being out of school I've been unable to get to the lake for a swim. I try to replace the workouts with running, but it just isn't the same. My spring-training is currently :notworking: :waiting: