View Full Version : HEY COACHES! How about a little consistency?

Michael Heather
July 14th, 2005, 01:23 AM
OK, I'm a Dinosaur. I actually like sets like 10x100 on the same interval all the way through.

Why do all of the sets have to have some kind of break in stride or change in interval or undefined purpose today? I have been swimming in Masters long enough to know that our bread is buttered by the fitness swimmers and their singular lack of desire to compete. But do the coaches believe that we are all ADD enough not to be able to complete one set on one interval ? Or do we as swimmers really pose such a dilemma that the coaches do the very worst thing possible - try to make every one happy. The ultimate result of that is to make virtually no one happy.

If you are giving a set to your swimmers, can you tell them what it (the set) should accomplish for them? What they should get out of it? If you simply gave the same set oveer and over again every day, it would become boring, of course. But it would also become a benchmark to which each swimmer could chart his or her progress. A desireable outcome by any standard, I would venture.

I fully realise that the Masters coach is handed a bewildering array of talent and motivation with his swimmers, but you, as a coach, do not have to confuse, bewilder or befuddle your swimmers with meaningless or useless sets. Keep them simple and straghtforward, with one defining mission per set. There is nothing surer to get me to go home as a (competitive) swimmer than a set with multiple intervals and distances, changing intensity and changing strokes. And don't deny that you give such sets. Many coaches thrive on designing sets that are like circuit training in the water. I would go on and on, but I have to get up early to find out what new torture my coach has in store. Take it away, folks.

July 14th, 2005, 07:43 AM
Well, I'm sure your post will be met with mixed emotions and responses, but I have to say I do share a little of your frustration as far as the secret of success through workouts.

I have participated in coached workouts in the past with Masters(now I have to self-coach for schedule purposes). I never questioned that our coach would get us where we wanted to be, simply because he "walked the talk" and is very accomplished in the pool himself. I realized very positive results through those workouts, but at the same time, I couldn't always decipher the means that got me to that end over the weeks & months... and that part was a little frustrating.

I'm not at all suggesting that it is the coaches responsibility to have a pre-workout briefing to explain the dynamics of every set, but I have often wished that I had access to a weekly summary (printout or verbal) of what it all means.... aerobic Monday - anaerobic Tuesday - Wednesday's distance ties in this way.... and so on.... just to provide a bigger picture.

Now that I'm on my own I find it even more difficult to put together an effective training approach (effective to me being getting faster moreso than fitness and maintenance).

I detected a hint of tonge in cheek in your post so I think overall you will agree.... Anyone who has access to a qualified coach should be thankful even though the coach dosen't reveal all the secrets of success.

July 14th, 2005, 02:58 PM
Whew! Hope you feel you got that off your chest!

As both a professional coach and former athlete, my philosophy regarding practice content is threefold: effectiveness, interest, and progression. Along the lines of the old saying: you can be on-time, under budget or have the job done correctly, pick two out of three. A similar quandry confronts coaches on a daily basis---its really easy to focus on just one of those components, reasonably challenging to incorporate two....but three? Sometimes the creative juices don't permit, nor should they depending on your goals, though. This applies to my entry-level, age group, senior and Masters swimmers.

While I understand your point about one goal, one interval, the vast majority of Masters swimmers and coaches of noteworthy Masters' programs don't just engage the body, but also the mind. Descending efforts, intervals, changing strokes, etc. improves mental awareness, physical conditioning and overall athleticism. I agree that something steady and unidimensional has its benefits, but it often puts swimmers of all ages into 'screen saver' mode, something you don't want athletes to do. Natalie Coughlin recently is quoted as saying, "I never take a stroke without thinking about it".

Personally, I wish some of the creativity I see now was around when I was a kid! See if you can forgo your paleontological ways, and some physical and mental benefits may accrue if you embrace it long enough. Cheers.

Michael Heather
July 15th, 2005, 11:15 AM
I tried not to be very long in my first post, so perhaps I could clarify a little.

I have no particular animus toward the stroke - distance - intensity level changes all in one set, I would just like to know what it is going to do for me or what I should be working on in the set. And I did refer to the boredom of the single purpose set all of the time, but would it really hurt to have one every other day or so?

What holds back the swimmers is the apparent pointlessness of set after set being given with little other input from the coach than a smile and moving on to the next lane.

Progress is not always pretty or fun. You have to do the work at some point, and if the fitness and tri swimmers don't care when Nationals are, why not let them experience the routine workouts and taper that go along with the experience? It won't hurt them, and the swimmers who are working toward a goal will have some company, rather than feeling like they are getting in the way of ... what? Not progress. Their (fitness and tri) routine does not change if they can help it. They live the screen saver life you refer to. If you listen, the only time they are animated is when you give a set that actually takes effort to accomplish, like 5 or 10 x 200. On a steady interval and steady descending, say 1 second per 200. After that set, every one in the pool will know how fast their average 200 is.

If you give a set like :100 free fast, 3 x 50 back drill, 300 kick, 4 x 50 breast, 4 times through (don't laugh, it has been done), what is the point? What can I work on to improve my (choose one) stroke, speed or stamina?

July 15th, 2005, 11:24 AM
I went to a master club in the new town I moved to last night, in order to get in a swim and meet the gang. The session ??? 50% drills, backstroke and breaststroke. The assistant coach insisted that I follow the workout.

I don't swim breastroke bad knees, I don't do backstroke because when I wear goggles swimming on the back I get sea sick. I guess I will only do lane swimming in this new town or open water swims. Is this right for me do do my own thing in a planned workout or do I have to knuckle under to inflexability of the coach.

July 15th, 2005, 11:46 AM
A gripe I have had while training is the Coach that doesn't publish his workout ahead of the practice but just tells you the next set at the conclusion of the previous set.

In the dark ages in age group swimming and briefly into college there were work out cards at each lane where the coach had specified the workout, the intervals and elapsed time and yardage and recommended effort. Workouts were split into sprinters, stroke, mid distance, and distance groups. The assistant coaches all knew the workouts and could explain the purpose of the drill, offer encouragement etc. You could spend a couple of minutes before practice started reviewing and planning your workout.

Most of the Masters clubs I have worked with would also post work outs split by ability groups. The one exception was a team where the coaching philosophy was to never post anything. Yes the coah had a plan but we were never privy to it - you might come off of a set to hear that the next set would be a 30 minute swim for distance. This approach did not allow you to plan or focus your training. He would just say that if the workout was posted that we might dog a set or two. This really chapped me. At that time I competed in the IM and Breaststroke, and would not particularly care to find that after busting a free style set that we had a set of 3 x 200 stroke or IM to do.

I retired for a while. Now thanks to a cardiologist's wake up call, I am training again. I train solo and am using Mel's workouts. He does provide some good comment about the intent of the sets and going into some of them I know what is going to hurt. I may reduce some of the yardage to fit within the timeframe, or change up the amount of fly (until I get into better shape), but that is my decision.

Rob Nasser
July 15th, 2005, 03:59 PM
I was ok with this thread until that...

I can tell you as a former college, masters, and age group swim coach, there is most likely a reason behind this madness. I can think of a few in particular...

1. I would never preview a workout for the exact reasons you mention. You "plan" for what's coming. Truly, your best efforts and focus should be on EVERY set. The coach should be providing you with the level of desired intensity of a given set. Often, I find that swimmers (I count myself among the guilty here), will hedge one set if they know a harder set is coming. Maybe you like one set over another and decide to hold back on the first and really pound on the second. As a coach, maybe that's not what I want to have happen. I know on most occasions, I would want to put the faster stuff at the later parts of practice to train swimmers to be in the habit of having their bodies be ready to go faster in the back end of races. Sometimes, I would do fast stuff all the way through. The more upredictable you can be, the more you challenge the swimmer and their body. If you get in a totally prediciatble routine, you will not get near as much from your body as you could by keeping things changing. Sure, keep some of the routine things ilke a test set or two, or warm up/down, but on the whole, you're going to uimprove far more by changing it up and focus on each set at a time, rather than where to plan your efforts in what lies ahead.

2. The whine factor. If you see a workout that doesn't suit you, you might moan and compain about it (not that it doesn't happen anyway). However, when these are "surprises", the moment is short lived, and so is the time to dwell on them.

There's other reasons, but these would be my top 2.

Rob Nasser

Michael Heather
July 15th, 2005, 04:29 PM
I agree with both of those items. I have only once had a coach post workouts, and I do not like knowing what is coming up for the reasons given. I will coast through one to get to another. I only ask that the sets actually mean something. If I perceive tham to just be filler, I do not whine, I get out and go home.

July 15th, 2005, 08:57 PM
I agree, Michael, with your sentiment and creating benchmarks for yourself. I have recently tried swimming at a team in So Cal that is making no sense to me. A large fee to swim there and workouts are all over the place with no coherence among teammates. I suppose my biggest gripe is that though I have been there for over a month, the coach keeps assigning me to the slower lanes (ex: 5 x 200yds free on 3:30) when I usually hold 3:00 intervals. I have had to be proactive about what lane I should be in at every workout in order to actually get a workout. I think he has no idea what my capabilities or really cares for that matter. He also likes to do things three and four times through. A real nice guy, but I am confused most of the time. Anyway, I like your ideas. I think I will swim on my own on Monday and do a set of 10 x 100's. Thanks!

July 16th, 2005, 11:20 AM
I think Michael raises some good points. Is there "science" behind the mixed sets? In Swimming Fastest, Maglischo seems to discourage these. Today I worked out on my own, swam 4 sets of 4x150, descending each set. The last set was the fastest. Simple (didn't need to write it down), and I got a good workout.

July 16th, 2005, 04:21 PM
I will participate again on a team where the coach and I share a training philosphy and we work together towards my goals. A planned and posted workout is part of that process for me. I will not swim for a club that doesn't post the workout. Its my choice.

I swim breast stroke. I have been doing it enough years to focus my training around that stroke. Yes I will swim strength drills, lactate drills, long slow distance as called for in the season.

But I would rather know going into a workout that I had an opportunity to set workout goals and to push certain things. If I see that there are 3 x 300 stroke desend by 100s I would set that as my main set vs worrying about desending 20 x 100's free style 1-5, 6-10 etc.

It does not mean that I would necessarily slack off on another set; I eventually took up the 400 IM competitively because I enjoyed it as a challenge set in practice and I have set my personal bests in the 100 fly starting out a 400 IM.

But I train to compete in the 100 and 200 breast stroke. I was never and will never be competative in the 100 free, my personal best 100 fly beats my 100 free. Swimming a few thousand more 100 frees sets is not going to make me a competative freestyler.

The only time I will be swimming backstroke (other than an IM Set) is when I am in Purgatory atoning for my sins .
That's my choice. An unannouced 30 minute swim for distance is not what my program is about and if a coach blindsides me like that, he or she is going to hear about it.

July 16th, 2005, 09:00 PM
As you pointed out Rob, some people will complain on deck when they get a sneak preview of the practice. Others will prepare for a challenge. And some will strategically save their reserve energy for their favorites. I vote on seeing the workout before hopping in the pool.

I agree with Michael about the predictability of a set rather than bouncing around all over the place. Sets like (10) 200's with descending intervals are much better in my opinion than mixing up stroke drills, and kicking within a swim set. This stuff should usually occur during warm-up rather than interrupting the rhythm of a set.

Also,..familiar sets from week to week create a benchmark for understanding how the improvements are coming along. One will never know if they can go 10 x 100 on a tighter interval without lowering the "limbo bar" just a bit. Repitition isn't necessarily a bad thing. ...at least not in the pool. (Unless it's that 30 minute swim for time. That's just outright dreadful.) No offense to the distance people....

July 17th, 2005, 12:27 PM
everyone has a valid point, and short of ruining a practice for others in your lane, I think adapting a practice to fit your own needs is OK in masters.

But what struck me about the posts was that there seems to be a communication breakdown between coach and swimmer. If you don't know the focus of a particular set, why not ask?? As well, I find it helpful to communicate with my coach about my goals - not something to be undertaken between sets or two minutes before practice starts...

July 17th, 2005, 12:38 PM
I cannot understand why coaches who have 5 or 6 lanes can't set the workouts for the strokes people can swim, crawl, fly, backstroke, breaststroke, and let the swimmers choose the workout they want. I believe workouts should be stroke specific.

July 19th, 2005, 01:27 AM
Wow, you'd love my workouts...

A mix of moderate paced 1000s and fartleks (usually 1000-2000 with sprints every 25 to 75 yards randomly thrown in).

But then I don't set my workouts ahead of time, and I coach myself. :)

July 19th, 2005, 08:37 AM

I totally agree that many coaches do a poor job educating their minions regarding sets' purposes. A point I always attempt to stress is the 'why' of a set----connecting the dots for kids and adults alike (combining the lecture and lab if you will). Random constructs often aren't anything but that. Creative shouldn't be confused with nonsensical.

Some swimmers do prefer predictable routine, no matter how persuasive your lobbying. Give 'em the same stuff all the time, and as long as physical exhaustion sets in, the endorphins offset any other focus they may require. Unfortunately, this mindset reduces the ultimate benefit they'll derive. The horses have been led to water, but.....you know the line. Personal agendas are something we really can't do anything about. Those swimmers end up providing more fiscal benefit and are 'easy customers' more than anything----don't mind being politically incorrect about it.

Thanks for clarifying as well as noting an on-deck weakness many coaches have.....do they have a suggestion box at your program to register such comments?


July 20th, 2005, 10:26 AM
One thing thats been overlooked in this discussion is that a good deal of us are now swimming w/o coaches. After a few years of having a deck coach I definitely miss it. Sorry, but a lot of these posts are starting to sound like you're taking it for granted. Take what you can!
IMO, the best aspect of having a deck coach is that the workouts are NOT consistent. In any athletic endeavor, variety is what keeps you, and your body, progressing. If you do the same thing day in and day out, your body will eventually adjust and you won't get any better. As someone else stated, I love Mo's workouts. Stroke work on some days, sprints another, distance another. When I blew out my knee and breatstroke wasn't an option I just doubled up on another stroke. Try fly..its fun. :-)
I'm also reading a lot of "I'm only this kind of swimmer" or "I don't swim that". Try it! The more well rounded a swimmer you are, I think the more challenged you'll be. Its rewarding for me. Even you sprint guys could use a 1650 from time to time. :-)

July 20th, 2005, 11:13 AM

Some of us cannot do certain things in the water and if the workouts that are given don't meet our requirements why do them with a reacreation center coach who read MO's workout and enterprets it in his , or her own way and then throws in a work out of 50% drills and 50% of strokes that I cannot do eg breaststroke nothig else, I personally refuse to do them. I am not bashfull, I would rather work on my own and design my own workouts and steel stuff from MO's or Ande etc etc. Most of these reacreation coaches are taking money under false pretenses...

July 20th, 2005, 11:55 AM
Well...This thread has shown how difficult it is to do just what the title suggests... "Consistency". If you put together a team of the 10-12 of us who have participated here, you would be challenged to put together workouts that appeal to all without having about 8 different workouts laid out for each day!


July 20th, 2005, 12:05 PM
I think it would be easy, stroke of choice in the lane of stroke.

July 20th, 2005, 12:16 PM
Originally posted by jkurlanski
Even you sprint guys could use a 1650 from time to time. :-) :eek: :eek: :eek:

16 (50's)? :)

July 20th, 2005, 01:58 PM
Geochuck - you make a great point: There are folks who certainly cannot do some things due to physical limitations. If your coach can't work with you on that, then what IS the point? If you can't work it out with them, you probably are better off on your own, and thats too bad.
When I did have a deck coach (Dick Jackson, Pennypack Aquatics outside Philly), one of the first things I talked to him about was what his expectations were. The last thing I wanted was a "gung-ho, do it all, and make every practice on time or don't bother coming" kinda guy. His only requirement was that we competed. He wanted to see us progress. He made great attempts to design workouts for all levels (we ran the 19-90 gambit) and "choice" strokes. He kept it fun, and his "payment" for spending his time with us was watching us get better. I'm sure I was lucky. (Thanks Dick.)
While fitness and a getting better were my goals, I certainly wasn't going to be working out with that team if I wasn't going to enjoy myself too. I guess that all helps explain why I miss having a deck coach. Of coure Mo, you're filling in pretty well yourself. 7 months of those workouts and I've lost over 20lbs and I'm competing in the annual Peaks to Portland swim this Saturday: 2.4 mile open water swim in Portland Harbor, Maine. Wet Suits allowed, but not required! Brrrrrr. (Feel free to think of that as 87x50's Valhallen! :) )

July 27th, 2005, 10:31 PM
I hate freestyle. Really. But it's always in my workouts even though I have to modify it to save my legs for backstroke. There are elements in freestyle that aid my technique in backstroke. Breaststroke is harsh on my back, but I work some of that in too.

My coach is in the water with me, not on deck giving me sets. Sets can be done on my own time. During coaching it's all about how to get me moving faster - getting me more streamlined - and helping me believe that my goals are possible.

I declined a coach's offer to have me join their masters sessions because paying someone to give me workouts seemed pointless. Everyone has individual physical and mental limitations that need to be taken into account.

August 4th, 2005, 08:26 AM

Easier said than done, as most Masters programs can't reserve all lanes of a public pool. From a coach's perspective, its really difficult to permit different people to do different workouts simultaneously, as it does create intra and sometimes interlane chaos. If you're that interested in doing your own thing, performing your practice during general lap swim time is probably better for coach, other swimmers and yourself v. trying a mass customized approach in limited space.

August 8th, 2005, 12:07 PM
Interesting topic.

I am relatively new to swimming with a coach and workouts, and have mostly encountered the extremely varied type workouts until recently. A couple of weeks ago our coach gave us a workout with tons of repeats.
20 25s
10x100 etc...

and for the first time, I finally noticed a difference in my times. I actually got faster. we all did, on the 20 25s that were at the end of the workout. That was the first time I actually got to measure and see an improvement, and it felt like I had accomplished something other than just working out. I had time to do the same set over and over and each time concentrate on how it felt vs what my time was. I can't believe it made a difference and we were all surprised at our ability to improve times especially at the end of the workout.

I think I see the light on this type of workout and would like to do more of them. After you do it, you realize why it makes sense. (at least for me it did)

August 8th, 2005, 12:10 PM
You must be fit, if it was me I would be unable to walk let alone swim.

August 8th, 2005, 05:48 PM
Well I did neglect to mention that after that mornings swim (saturday) I dragged my husband out of bed because I was ravenous for Ihop.. when I got there I thought I might actually get sick. It took me awhile to get over feeling exhausted and shakey and generally terrible.
so yes.. that was one of the hardest swims I've done, but it was good. (could've done without the sick feeling though. )

August 8th, 2005, 06:09 PM
Originally posted by jswim
Well I did neglect to mention that after that mornings swim (saturday) I dragged my husband out of bed because I was ravenous for Ihop.. when I got there I thought I might actually get sick. It took me awhile to get over feeling exhausted and shakey and generally terrible.

Did you have any carbs before or during (ie a sports drink) the workout? When you wake up your carbohydrate stores are pretty much depleted.

August 8th, 2005, 06:19 PM
yeah good point. I ate a banana and had some juice beforehand, but I guess it wasn't enough.
Next morning workout I do I will be sure to eat something more substantial,

August 9th, 2005, 04:54 AM
You burn a lot of sugar so something sweet afterwards helps get the blood sugar back up. Or so I've read and been told. Fruit juice seems to help me not feel so dizzy.

August 11th, 2005, 03:03 PM
I sometimes keep a bottle of water that's spiked with orange juice. about 1/2 and 1/2 or so. Perhaps on those morning swims I will do the half juice thing as well to keep me from getting that shakey feeling..

I have a love/hate relationship with that feeling.. not much fun, but I it makes me feel good to know that I worked really hard that day.

August 11th, 2005, 03:34 PM
Originally posted by jswim
I sometimes keep a bottle of water that's spiked with orange juice. about 1/2 and 1/2 or so. Perhaps on those morning swims I will do the half juice thing as well to keep me from getting that shakey feeling.. ;) I have a better solution for that Shakey Feeling it is called a 7-77 (Seven up and Seagrams 77)

August 11th, 2005, 03:52 PM
Originally posted by geochuck
I have a better solution for that Shakey Feeling it is called a 7-77 (Seven up and Seagrams 77)

lol, hmmmm... perhaps I should change my workout drink. ;)

Peter Cruise
August 11th, 2005, 04:17 PM
such a workout drink would solve the old problem of losing count on a long set...you just wouldn't care, woops, I'm getting dehyrated, just a sip...what was that stroke I was doing?