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View Full Version : Gettting Back into Swimming -- Evaluating Fitness/Ability



flyfish
July 15th, 2014, 04:46 PM
Hi,

I am 24 and, while I grew up swimming, it has been some time since I swam on a regular basis. I can remember some workouts/drills from middle/early high school, but much of that has faded from memory.

For the last 2 weeks, I've been going 3x a week, swimming between 45 minutes and 1 hour at a time doing a mix of strokes, kick, and pull drills (w/ exception of butterfly -- I will attempt that when I'm a bit more fit.) I have remained in shape through other activities and I'm able to swim comfortably for 1 hour. I can feel myself getting stronger every time I hit the pool but I realize I have a ways to go.

I was wondering if anyone has advice for evaluating my current swimming-fitness level. What are some helpful drills/measures of speed and endurance that I can use to evaluate how I might to improve? Any advice of how often and for how long I should train? Starter workouts would be helpful too, but I don't want to ask for too much :blush:

I'd definitely like to be "better than average" for my age/gender. Any advice as to what that looks like and how to get me there?

A bit more information:
Age: 24
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 143 lbs
Occupation: grad student

Thanks and best wishes

Judester
July 15th, 2014, 07:06 PM
The other day, I searched the Internet for some drills and compiled a few of them into a list. Hope these help. Also, there is a workout generator that you can use to generate workouts based on the criteria you set. The site is http://myswimcoachatlanta.com/random-workout-generator/.

Stroke Drills

Bobble Head Drill
Place a small object such as a quarter, sponge, or inhaler cap on your forehead as you start to slowly swim backstroke. See how far you can swim without this item falling off.

Freestyle Head-Tap
Tap the tip of your middle finger to the top of your head with each arm recovery, making sure the head position is facing down at the time of the tap and not while the head is turned to breathe.

Catch-Up
Slow down the stroke rate to help keep your balance in the water. Wait for one hand to catch up with the other. Keep your hand strike shoulder-width apart and don’t touch them together up front; touching in front can lead to overreaching across the centerline of the body.

Backstroke Recovery Drill
Swim five strokes of freestyle, then roll over and swim four strokes of backstroke, repeating until the wall. Not only is this the preparation for a backstroke flip turn (bonus!), it teaches you to use backstroke should you need a recovery period during an open water swim or to adjust your goggles.

Balance Drill
25 left arm freestyle swim (left arm only for the stroke) breathing only to the right side. 25 right arm freestyle swim (right arm only) breathing only to the left side. Count strokes per length. Is it the same for left and right arm in the 25's? Work at this drill until it is. This will help balance your stroke and help you maintain a better streamline in the water. Breathing to the opposite side of the stroke will also help you develop a roll and balance when you swim regularly.

Fingertip Drill
During the recovery, keep the fingertips in contact with the surface of the water. You should feel your fingertips "dragging" in the water as they recover. Good for emphasizing body roll and high elbow.

Fist Drill
Swim freestyle with your hands closed in a fist instead of open. Focus on pulling your arms through all the way to your thighs. Forces you to use your forearm instead of your shoulders. Also helps you train not to drop your elbow during recovery.

Fist Drill with Stroke and Glide
Same as fist drill except arm extension is held out longer to emphasize the glide.

Hesitation Freestyle Style Drill
Push off the wall and do one pull, holding the upper arm to your side. You should be on one side now rather than facing the bottom. The lower arm should be extended out in front of you in a streamline position. Begin counting 10 kicks. Begin recovering the upper arm WITHOUT MOVING THE REST OF YOUR BODY and without dropping your extended arm. Once the recovering arm is at your ear, lift your extended arm at the elbow, roll your hips, pull through, and breathe. Now settle onto your other side, and repeat the 10 kicks and the slow roll. At no time should you be flat (face down) in the water). Normal freestyle allows 2 or 3 kicks per arm-stroke. This drill lengthens the amount of time you spend on each side by increasing the number of kicks per stroke to 10, then to 6. This should enhance the feeling of swimming on your side.

Kick Drills

Blast-Off Drill
This drill (usually done as 25s) starts off with a streamline kick, face down. Build your kick to a fast tempo and when you get halfway across the pool, your legs should really be firing. At this point, begin stroking with your arms as well. The goal is to add your arms without any pause in your kick.

Three-Stroke Breathing
Try kicking on your stomach with your head in the water, face down, and arms in streamline. When it's time to breathe, take three strokes. Breathe at some point within the three strokes and go back into your streamline kick. Did your kick stop during your breath? It shouldn’t!

Side kicking with a kickboard
Extend one arm out on the board and the other down at your side. Lie on your side with your head on your shoulder, stretching your body as long as possible. Begin kicking. Switch arms each length of the pool. If this drill feels too difficult at first, use fins. When you get more comfortable, stop wrapping your fingers around the edge of the board and just place your hand on top of the board in the middle. This takes a great deal of strength and balance.

Four-kick Rotation
Kick butterfly on a streamline, all underwater, starting on your front, then rotating to the side, back and other side for four kicks each. Most people are OK on the front because of a strong down kick in this position but the minute they go to the side or back they have problems. This indicates that the kick is not balanced. Do this 25 yards at a time, breathing whenever necessary. It’s about finding the balance and making sure there is propulsive force in both the up and downward portions of the kick.

Underwater Flutter Rotation
Do this just like the four-kick rotation, only with eight kicks. Breathe as needed.

Kicking on Your Back
Kicking fly on your back is all about being able to kick both directions. When swimmers get a wash of water moving up towards their face while kicking fly on their backs, typically it means that they are pushing at the water with the tops of the feet and not kicking down with the bottoms of the feet. For backstroke keep the knees under the water and hold a kickboard on top of the knees to prevent the pawing at the water that also indicates an asymmetrical kick.

Backstroke Hug
Swimmers on their backs turn the kickboard upside down and hug them across their chests with their arms wrapped around them. Board is snug across the chest and stomach. The goal is to keep the head looking up at the ceiling and keep the tummy in contact with the board. Swimmers should not "sit" in the water and they should pull up their hips if they start to sink.

Tombstone Drill
Swimmers hold the kickboard out fully upright in front to look like a tombstone and start kicking. The goal is to keep only the minimal amount of the kickboard in the water. It is an excellent body awareness and balance drill and stresses the legs. If you have strong kickers in the group, they can rotate the kickboard onto its side for greater surface tension.

Weighted Dolphin Kick
Dolphin kick on your back with a weight in hand and arms in streamline position. Start with 50s and alternate with and without weight. This works the core muscles and helps in balance.

Welcome back to swimming! (Psssst.. You should try the butterfly now even if you are still a little out of shape for it. It can't hurt! And you might be surprised at how well you can do it).

flyfish
July 16th, 2014, 07:53 AM
Wow! Thank you so much, Judester. This is wonderful information. The workout generator is awesome!

DeniseMW
July 17th, 2014, 12:34 PM
I'm tired just looking at these drills. I'm confused about the balance drill - how do you keep from sinking before you rotate to one side to breath? Also, I see a lot of folks in our pool doing freestyle by "clawing" with one hand underwater while they reach with the other and breath on one side only, and wonder if this is some strange swimming style I've never heard of.

flyfish
July 17th, 2014, 02:06 PM
I think the stroke you are describing might be sidestroke, which is an older style of stroke that's not used in competition.

DeniseMW
July 17th, 2014, 03:20 PM
I can do the side stroke. This is more like clawing underwater with one hand and doing freestyle with the other.

Swimosaur
July 17th, 2014, 03:52 PM
... I was wondering if anyone has advice for evaluating my current swimming-fitness level ...

Many swimmers use what are called "test sets" or "reference sets" to measure current fitness. The idea is to pick a distance, interval, and stroke that's challenging and meaningful to you, then do the set every so often. You can use the times you achieve in the set as a measure of fitness.

My favorite reference set is very simple. 5 x 100 free on 1:30, best average. A couple of years ago, I was happy to make 1:12 - 1:13 on all intervals. Now I can hit 1:08 - 1:09. I'm far from the fastest guy in the pool, but since I've been tracking this set, I know I've made progress.

Early in 2012, pwb posted this (as part of a longer workout (http://forums.usms.org/showthread.php?19940-Week-starting-January-2nd-2012)),



Workout #1 = 3 x 300 Test Set
I got the main focus of this workout, the 3 x 300 test set, from Dave Saloís lovely book, Complete Conditioning for Swimming. The end goal is to determine your threshold pace, the maximum pace you can sustain over a steady, constant pace swim. Iíve been doing this set for the last couple of years and have found it useful for:
* Setting intervals
* Setting target times in workout,
* As a good predictor of my in-season pacing on distance events at meets

<snip>

Test Set (1200 set / 2900 total):
3 x 300: free
* The goal is swim hard, but to even / perfect split each one and to be consistent across the 300s.
* Set an interval after #1 that gives you about 45 to 60 seconds rest.
* Define your BASE interval as the average 100 pace across these 300s rounded up to the nearest 10 seconds. For example, when Iím feeling great, I do my 300s around 3:30 to 3:35 in SCM, so my Threshold pace is about 1:11/1:12 and my BASE interval is 1:20


That's the idea. Good luck!

flyfish
July 17th, 2014, 04:44 PM
Thank you! This is great!

flyfish
July 17th, 2014, 04:44 PM
I can do the side stroke. This is more like clawing underwater with one hand and doing freestyle with the other.

Hmmm. The only other thing I can think of might be the Navy SEALs combat swim stroke.

knelson
July 17th, 2014, 05:18 PM
I'm confused about the balance drill - how do you keep from sinking before you rotate to one side to breath?

If you are kicking and maintaining a good body position you shouldn't sink. Perhaps you are holding your head too high?

DeniseMW
July 18th, 2014, 07:38 AM
Thanks, knelson. You are probably right.

Swimspire
July 18th, 2014, 10:37 AM
Hi,

I am 24 and, while I grew up swimming, it has been some time since I swam on a regular basis. I can remember some workouts/drills from middle/early high school, but much of that has faded from memory.

For the last 2 weeks, I've been going 3x a week, swimming between 45 minutes and 1 hour at a time doing a mix of strokes, kick, and pull drills (w/ exception of butterfly -- I will attempt that when I'm a bit more fit.) I have remained in shape through other activities and I'm able to swim comfortably for 1 hour. I can feel myself getting stronger every time I hit the pool but I realize I have a ways to go.

I was wondering if anyone has advice for evaluating my current swimming-fitness level. What are some helpful drills/measures of speed and endurance that I can use to evaluate how I might to improve? Any advice of how often and for how long I should train? Starter workouts would be helpful too, but I don't want to ask for too much :blush:

I'd definitely like to be "better than average" for my age/gender. Any advice as to what that looks like and how to get me there?

A bit more information:
Age: 24
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 143 lbs
Occupation: grad student

Thanks and best wishes

Sounds like you are coming back into the sport at a sustainable pace, which is good for avoiding injuries. Especially good to see that you know your limits and also which strokes to avoid at this point in your comeback. I would certainly not recommend randomly throwing in strokes that you haven't tried yet just for fun. It CAN hurt and consequently can cause setbacks in your overall progress.

Your next step should be to get your stroke analyzed by a coach or independent consultant so that you can determine exactly what drills you need to implement into your workouts. There are hundreds of drills out there, and each one is geared towards correcting or strengthening a specific aspect of a swimmer's stroke. This means that not all drills are appropriate for all people. In your case, you might need more of one drill than another. Doing drills that are not geared towards your specific needs will be a waste of time.

Meets are one great way to determine your progress and what you need to continue to do to improve. You can keep a log of your times at meets to really see where you are.

You also might want to consider joining a team, so that you have a coach who will hopefully be able to monitor your progress, and teammates who will be able to continue to motivate you along the way.

On the subject of motivation, I wrote an article about finding the motivation to train, which might be useful! http://www.swimspire.com/the-motivation-to-train/

Good luck! :)

flyfish
July 21st, 2014, 10:31 AM
Thank you, Julia! This is very helpful. Unfortunately, I'm a full-time student at the moment and I'm not sure how feasible it will be for me to join a team with such a crazy schedule. It is definitely something I will look into, though, particularly once I am back out of school! Thank you for the awesome article as well.

Swimspire
August 4th, 2014, 10:18 AM
Thank you, Julia! This is very helpful. Unfortunately, I'm a full-time student at the moment and I'm not sure how feasible it will be for me to join a team with such a crazy schedule. It is definitely something I will look into, though, particularly once I am back out of school! Thank you for the awesome article as well.

You are very welcome! I know first-hand how difficult it can be to balance school and swimming. Wish you all the best!