PDA

View Full Version : How important is pleasure and stimulus in training?



KaizenSwimmer
November 21st, 2006, 06:55 AM
Yesterday someone posted this query on the TI Discussion Forum:

>> Tried something tonight that a friend told me about. Pull without a buoy, with ankles "tied" so you can't kick, to strengthen your pull.
I did 1000m that way, alternating between 50m without a buoy and 50m with. My legs kept dropping, no matter how hard I focused on keeping my chest and head down. By the time I reached the end of the pool (25m), my legs were almost 90-degrees to my trunk. In fact, when I untied my ankles and began doing regular swim, it took me 300m before I was able to get my positioning back to where it should be.

Angus MacGowan replied
>>Many, many years ago I had a coach who used to give us rubber bands to tie our legs with. The complete absence of swimming pleasure that this caused was at least in part the reason why I didn't swim for the best part of a decade.>>

This reminded me of my earliest coaching experiences and to ponder how often pleasure or stimulus is considered by coaches as a consideration when planning training.

When I began coaching, in Sept 1972 , I had just graduated from college where - as a political science major -- I'd received no training or education in coaching or phys ed. All I had to guide me were very definite ideas about the kinds of sets my two coaches (one club, one college) had given that I found stimulating -- those I had a keen appetite to repeat -- and those that seemed interminable and without point. I reflected on those experiences as I planned training every day, minimized the pointless tedium and maximized the interesting items. I didn't fail to consider whether a set was more appropriate to distance swimmers vs. sprinters, but always synthesized the elements that made training pleasurable.

Having that as virtually my only guiding principle in my first year of coaching, at age 21, my team - the US Merchant Marine Academy - broke school records in every event, demolished the conference records in every freestyle individual and relay event and won me Coach of the Year honors at the conference championship where one year earlier, as a senior, I'd watched morosely from the sidelines while other swimmers competed in finals for which I'd swum too slowly in morning prelims to qualify.

I've never forgotten that lesson while planning any of what must be approaching 10,000 practices since.

I have since included consideration of many other kinds of stimulus -- particularly how much nervous system adaptation can be concentrated in any set or hour. But I still suspect that a set's effect on the psyche is probably more critical than its effect on energy metabolism.

nkfrench
November 21st, 2006, 09:33 AM
I've had different coaches give these two sets:
Set A: 10 x 100y Free @ 1:30 (at the time, I could hold 1:25-1:26)
Set B: Another 1000y set at easy pace, and long rest, mixing up kick, drills, and swims and strokes just to "keep it interesting"

Give me set "A" any time over set "B". I would much prefer to have something where I can set a discrete goal for the set and know what it is supposed to accomplish rather than something that just "mixes it up" to "keep it interesting". And with set B the chances are that the "fastest" person in the lane on kicking won't be the fastest swimmer, some will do breast while others are on their back, so there are the distractions of "who goes first" and "what stroke are you doing" or else having people impede other's workouts.

Sets that are fun: :)
* They are benchmarks for gauging my progress in something important.
* They are within my grasp to succeed at (making the interval, no "cheating" to finish) even if they are hard
* They help me feel like I am swimming smoothly and powerfully
* They are simple enough to understand so I can concentrate on my swimming rather than trying to figure out what I am supposed to be doing this repeat

Sets that aren't fun:
* They are way too fast (a coach once told me to do 4 x 500 free on 6 minutes when my best time was 6:45. Change it to 7:30 interval at that time and it would have been fine)
* They require a skill I don't have or hurts (heads-up free hurts my lower back, can't breathe in that arched position, and ends up more like treading water due to weak kick).
* Anything where I wonder if I am actually moving forward or where I get run over or anything that feels like wallowing rather than swimming.
* No discernable purpose (too slow to be sprints, too much rest to be aerobic, no focus on technique, can't talk to teammates and coach not watching)
* They are not "inclusive" where some swimmers will be told to "sit out" or do something to kill time and stay out of the way while the others do the set.

I'm not very good about doing things "because I am supposed to" and I need an element of "fun" in much of what I do. My profession is something I chose because it is "fun" for me to develop software. I like swimming because it is "fun" for me each day in practice. My definition of fun may not be the same as yours. When things aren't "fun", I don't do very well at them either at work or in the pool or whatever. I need to find joy in life especially while doing the things that are important and take up a lot of time.

SolarEnergy
November 21st, 2006, 10:20 AM
>> Tried something tonight that a friend told me about. Pull without a buoy, with ankles "tied" so you can't kick, to strengthen your pull.
I don't think that the *pleasure* or the *efficiency* of a set resides solely in the set itself. In other words, it's not what you do, as much as how you do it.

That's why I'm very cautious before criticizing other coaches approach. In fact, I don't remember having done that since I started contributing/learning on forums.

I've been using this drill during all my coaching career, with success. However I know for a fact that if you don't sell it properly, and if you don't supervise it closely, you gonna end up with less and less participants in your class.

Can anyone on this site translate the expression *delicieuse incertitude*? Would that be *sweet uncertainty*?

Any challenge posed to swimmers should fall in this zone. That is challenging enough to trigger uncertainty, but no so that it becomes too stressful. As simple as that. No matter what you do, if you can bring the swimmer to develop a curiosity as to if she can meet the challenge, people will never quit.

KaizenSwimmer
November 21st, 2006, 05:31 PM
I've been using this drill during all my coaching career, with success. However I know for a fact that if you don't sell it properly, and if you don't supervise it closely, you gonna end up with less and less participants in your class.

I should've been more careful in posting that. I didn't mean to infer that pulling with legs tied necessarily is tedious. I too used this exercise at times when coaching. But I was also careful to assign repeat distances for which the swimmers could maintain body position - seeing no benefit to dragging legs up and down with poor body position.


challenging enough to trigger uncertainty, but no so that it becomes too stressful. As simple as that. No matter what you do, if you can bring the swimmer to develop a curiosity as to if she can meet the challenge, people will never quit.

Well said. In 1978-79 I was fortunate to coach a swimmer who trained with Paul Bergen at Nashville the previous summer (when NAC swimmers almost single-handedly won the World Championships for the US) and had kept an accurate log. I copied the log and regularly pored through it for inspiration. I was struck by just that quality in many of his practices. Virtually nothing was predictable - except that you were going to be challenged to swim very fast about twice a week. Many sets were designed to produce a series of "climactic" repeats in rounds. Example
4 or 5 rounds of 3 x 100
1 Free Drill
1 IM Count Strokes
1 Specialty FAST
And knowing Bergen, HE decided what qualified as FAST.

I adopted that mode of set design and had sensational results. At the end of the season I asked the highest performing swimmers what they thought had made the difference and they said "You gave so many sets where we really had to wonder if we'd be able to do what you asked. Each time we succeeded, our confidence grew."

KaizenSwimmer
November 21st, 2006, 05:39 PM
I'm not very good about doing things "because I am supposed to" <snip>I need to find joy in life especially while doing the things that are important and take up a lot of time.

My personality chafes with "supposed to's." I'll do anything that seems meaningful and can maintain my interest for hours when that's so. That's why I focus my training so relentlessly on finding ways to rehearse situations from various races. What makes training meaningful is training to swim the "perfect race." Despite the fact that I'm a "drop-dead distance swimmer" training to increase my aerobic base is far too abstract a concept to maintain my interest.

Because I will never achieve the perfect race, that goal will continue to tantalize for as long as I'm fortunate to have the health to keep swimming.

SolarEnergy
November 22nd, 2006, 09:09 AM
I should've been more careful in posting that. No please. Don't be too careful and let the opinions continue flowing like water.


I didn't mean to infer that pulling with legs tied necessarily is tedious. I too used this exercise at times when coaching. But I was also careful to assign repeat distances for which the swimmers could maintain body position - seeing no benefit to dragging legs up and down with poor body position. Which drill(s) do you now use to improve natural balance? Or put in other words, natural buoyancy, ability to naturally keep the legs at the surface despite upperbody actions?

Kevin in MD
November 22nd, 2006, 11:12 AM
In the asca coaching manual, the go through how at different ages kids swim for different reasons and ifnd different things motivating. You can say the same things for different adult swimmers, we have very different motivations.

Terry's book and writings here indicate that he has a very internal sense of what is going on when swimming. He thinks about how things feel probably more than most of us. In coaching I find there are folks who take to this and some folks who just don't and or won't. In those cases the person ends up just going through the motions of what we are supposed to be doing. In Terry's terms, easy sensory skill swimming without practicing the senosry skills is pretty well useless.

I don't think it is necessarily good or bad, but rather just one of those things that some people are wired differently. I can take some of the internal focus, feeling type workouts, but I also like the external motivated workout.

Externally motivated workouts are those where the goals are mesaured in distance, pace, heart rate, effort, etc. The set is 10 x 100 on 1:25 in 1:10. Wirtten in black and white. You can feel however you like about it, but the measure of success is either making the paces or not.

In that respect, I often find wokrouts written by some coaches ot be too "cute." In the UK they'd call it too clever by half. It is along the lines of a workout with no clear purpose. Mixed strokes thrown in all willy nilly, not long enough to be an aerobic set, rests too short to be a speed set, and then there's 150 yards of kicking right in the middle of it, etc.

If the set is technique, let;s do technique, endurance, let's do it, speed let's do that, but putting them together in a mish mash makes me lose interest because I just don't see the point other than to have the time required for thw workout add up to an hour.

poolraat
November 22nd, 2006, 11:41 AM
I was a bit surprised how many people actually considered themselves "sprinters."

I'm probably one of those people. I know that there are a lot of swimmers whose pace for a 1650 is faster than I "sprint" a 100 free.

KaizenSwimmer
November 22nd, 2006, 12:43 PM
Externally motivated workouts are those where the goals are mesaured in distance, pace, heart rate, effort, etc. The set is 10 x 100 on 1:25 in 1:10. Wirtten in black and white. You can feel however you like about it, but the measure of success is either making the paces or not.

In that respect, I often find wokrouts written by some coaches ot be too "cute." In the UK they'd call it too clever by half. It is along the lines of a workout with no clear purpose. Mixed strokes thrown in all willy nilly, not long enough to be an aerobic set, rests too short to be a speed set, and then there's 150 yards of kicking right in the middle of it, etc.

The unifying element of the stimulating set is that you are engaged by it. The internal and external motivations can be seamlessly integrated if you look for the opportunity to do so.

Last night's Masters practice might serve as a good example of how I take something that has the potential to be tedious and create meaning that keeps me fully engaged. Our "coach emeritus" turned 67 yesterday so our entire workout was 67 x 50 on 67 seconds with no further guidance as to how we should do them.

This is the kind of set that has great potential to become the swim equivalent of "99 bottles of beer on the wall..." I could see that most of my teammates did their best to keep it interesting by varying how they swam them...but to my eye a lot of their variety looked a bit like "mish-mash."

I decided to start them at a gentle warmup pace at 12SPL until I got an idea for making the set matter. It came to me that the generous interval was a good opportunity to do a sustained bout of race-pace swimming. My goal for this season is to break 19 min for 1650 which is a pace of just under 35 per 50. Lacking natural speed or strength I virtually never break 35 in training so I knew that holding a pace like that for 3000+ yards would be very difficult.

So after doing the first 7x50 at warmup pace I started trying to repeat 34s. To ensure that I would also be practicing efficient pace work I aimed to swim them in 27 strokes. I assumed I might be able to hold this pace for 8 or 10 in a row, then need one or two recovery 50s before resuming the pace.

I could only go 35s initially, so I went harder. Got down to 34, but felt ragged and rushed and was taking 29 strokes. So I started easing up just a bit. Over 6 or 8 x 50 I kept throttling back, to see how easily I could go and not cross the threshold to 35.

Anyway, long story short, I was able to establish a remarkably controlled way of swimming that made me feel that the 34 sec @ 27 strokes that had felt "hard and hurried" previously, now felt "controlled and leisurely."
What's important about that effort is that it made that pace and count "sustainable" - i.e. something I was able to maintain for 60 x 50 unbroken, rather than in the bouts of 8 to 10 x 50 I'd been hoping to achieve. Which is exactly what's required to swim distance well.

The external factors were the reps and interval the coach imposed, the pace and stroke count targets I added. The internal factors were the feelings and skills I hit upon that made the set achievable. In my case the combination that "cracked the code" of this particular set were:
1) Achieving great control on the very first catch/stroke of each lap as I broke out made the difference in reaching the far wall in my 13th/14th stroke of the length.
2) Achieving great synchronization between my hip/leg drive and arm-spear provided the needed combination of speed and economy to hold 34s without fatiguing.

And what makes it meaningful is the expectation that the same thinking process and sensations will apply when I swim the 1650 in which I try to break 19:00.

A revealing anecdote from afterward. I enthused to one of my teammates how much I enjoyed the set. He said "yeah it was nice to have time to kibitz between 50s." I barely said a word to anyone the whole time, bcz it took total focus in order to keep on track. And I went far behind my lane-mates so I wouldn't "cheat" by drafting.

Of course, not everyone wants the same things. Some find workouts stimulating and satisfying if they get to kibitz. I don't kibitz til I get to the locker room. Some might call that obsessive.

Dave Barra (Chaos) did the entire set Fly -- in a pool with very narrow lanes, and never broke stroke . Maybe he'll add his own thoughts.

SolarEnergy
November 22nd, 2006, 02:31 PM
Terry you managed to scare the heck out of me. And what if I was recommending things that were'nt as effective or pleasant as I thought they were? :shakeshead:

Therefore I pm the member of an other forum with whom I remember having gone through the process of "band around the ankle" drill. Here's what he had to say :


Listen I just wanted to gather your feedback on few things. We worked together several months ago. It was to improve some aspects of your stroke.

I'd like to know. And very important be totally frank !!

1- Do you feel that band around the ankle drill was effective?
2- Did you continue working on it?

3- Do you feel "One-arm" drill was effective?
4- Did you continue working on it?



I felt that all the drills you gave me were effective, I have still been using the band drill and one arm drills. I find that after swimming 6 to 8 25m repeats with the band, my balance becomes much better, i feel like Im leaning on my chest much more and as a consequence (see note 1), my feet float better, and I can swim really fast and smooth after it, with a really good glide.

I have kept up with the one arm drills less, but still do them at least once a week. They have been frustrating for me as I remember what the guy in your video clip looked like, so smooth, and I am just thrashing. I find it hard to use any rotation with this drill, and feel like I am just pulling down the pool with one arm, the other shoulder is not rotating through like the guy in video clip - so I feel that its not really doing me any good (note 2), as its teaching me to swim in the 'wrong way' - legs all over the place, head up too far when i breathe etc.


Note 1 : I never mentionned anything about the pushing the chest or anything. If it's a discovery he made himself, then it's a huge victory for me. My philosophy as an instructor, is to not explain what I secretly wish the swimmer may discover by himself.

Note 2 : He's talking about the "One arm drill the other on the side" here. I agree that it's a difficult drill. After several months, he's lost interest in this one. It seems that it's well over this delightful uncertainty zone I mentionned earlier.

Terry, if you could maybe suggest me few drills to help this folk (balance / body motion), I'll reply to his pm with those suggestions.

Thanks.

chaos
November 22nd, 2006, 05:03 PM
The unifying element of the stimulating set is that you are engaged by it. The internal and external motivations can be seamlessly integrated if you look for the opportunity to do so.

Last night's Masters practice might serve as a good example of how I take something that has the potential to be tedious and create meaning that keeps me fully engaged. Our "coach emeritus" turned 67 yesterday so our entire workout was 67 x 50 on 67 seconds with no further guidance as to how we should do them.

Dave Barra (Chaos) did the entire set Fly -- in a pool with very narrow lanes, and never broke stroke . Maybe he'll add his own thoughts.

Re: 67 x 50 on 67 seconds...fly
Call me a martyr. I really enjoy such sets occasionally (as well as T-30's, 60's etc) The interval was relaxed enough that I could focus on trying to maintain a steady pace (35 sec) and regular stroke count (8spl). At the halfway mark, I let my pace slow to 36 sec but brought it back down to 35 sec with a bit more than 1000 yds left (This due partly to the fact that the age groupers were starting to assemble on deck, and I wanted to be a good role model to them by demonstrating a superior streamline off of each wall)

Looking forward to my birthday (42) practice.

6 Rounds of: 200 fly
2x 100 fly
4x 50 fly
4x 25 fly

I imagine this set would rate low on the pleasure meter, but stimulation...off the chart.

Care to join me anyone. Feb. 13, 2007 (postal!?!?)
Froggers welcome too!

KaizenSwimmer
November 22nd, 2006, 07:10 PM
Care to join me anyone. Feb. 13, 2007 (postal!?!?)
Froggers welcome too!

How can I turn down an invite like that?
I'll join ya'

At the Ithaca Masters meet last Sunday I counted for John Sherry as he did the 1000 (Free) Butterfly. Inspired me to try a 1000 Butterfrog.

KaizenSwimmer
November 22nd, 2006, 07:27 PM
Terry you managed to scare the heck out of me. And what if I was recommending things that were'nt as effective or pleasant as I thought they were?
<snip>
I never mentionned anything about the pushing the chest or anything. If it's a discovery he made himself, then it's a huge victory for me. My philosophy as an instructor, is to not explain what I secretly wish the swimmer may discover by himself.

Note 2 : He's talking about the "One arm drill the other on the side" here. I agree that it's a difficult drill. After several months, he's lost interest in this one. It seems that it's well over this delightful uncertainty zone I mentionned earlier.

Terry, if you could maybe suggest me few drills to help this folk (balance / body motion), I'll reply to his pm with those suggestions.

The nice thing about doing things with a purely curious spirit is there's no rules to break. Anything that produces some kind of awareness is valuable. Along the way I've gone down countless paths that later turned out to be less promising than some alternate path.

Take chest-pressing for instance. I probably spent six or seven years (89-96) advocating that as the way to balance in Freestyle. When people raised the issue that the balance sensation produced when buoy-pressing in a flat-on-the-breast position disappeared with rotation, I said "um, press harder."

Finally I realized the reason the sensation went away with rotation was that chest pressing would help raise the hips so long as you had a broad, flat surface on which to press, but when that surface got narrower - i.e. as you rotated toward either side -- it no longer had that effect. So we continued to advocate buoy-pressing to balance in Short Axis strokes, but needed another way to do so in Long Axis.

That's when the Fish, Skating, UnderSwitch and ZipperSwitch drills replaced all flat-on-breast drills in our freestyle sequence. And the new focal points for balance became head-aligned and extended hand below head with fingers angled down.

And when buoy-pressing went out, I no longer used the ankle-tied pulling, mainly because, as your student discovered, buoy-pressing solved it and I'd rather not teach a Short Axis strategy for a Long Axis stroke.

We followed still one more unproductive path even after dropping the buoy-press emphasis. We initially said you should aim to "stack" the hips and shoulders in Fish and Skating. Over time we found that those who most rigorously followed that instruction frequently ended up with excess rotation in their stroke, and some with a crossover stroke.

So we now emphasize that one should not stack the hips and shoulders. Rotate less than 90 at all times.

Life is for learning.

KaizenSwimmer
November 22nd, 2006, 11:37 PM
I was able to establish a remarkably controlled way of swimming that made me feel that the 34 sec @ 27 strokes that had felt "hard and hurried" previously, now felt "controlled and leisurely."

Feels odd to quote myself, but I'll do it again below. I'm posting an excerpt from a thread on the TI Discussion Forum that touched on the same insight or strategy.

From: Marc Arcidiacono (http://webboard.totalimmersion.net:8080/userpeek?8752)
Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2006 12:26 AM

I have recently begun to swim with masters. Previously I made a home in the lap lanes next to masters practice. I am currently finding a home in Masters lane 4 -- the 1:45 lane so a typical pace per 100 is 1:30 - 1:40 or so and descending sets get a little faster (forgive the explanation I am a complete newby when it comes to organized swim practice.)

Just yesterday as the pace descended a little bit I started to struggle some to keep up .. Mid-pool I mentally reviewed my form. I realized I was arching up to air ever so slightly. Instead of swimming harder I focused on lengthening from the back while remaining streamlined.. I immediately caught back up with significantly less effort .. I finished the 3 x 200s with ease - perhaps crowding some of the better swimmers (sorry i'm getting more aware.)
Then on a subsequent set, some descending 100s, I found myself again laboring and struggling as my stroke count climbed to 22/length in my effort to power faster.. I refocused on a more patient catch and keeping my head in line while rolling to breath ..on the subsequent lap my count stroke count dropped back to 18 and again I silently caught back up with the group.

...I have to agree that changing form and technique to slip through water faster is Really Amazing and deeply satisfying.

From: Terry Laughlin (http://webboard.totalimmersion.net:8080/userpeek?123)
Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2006 08:02 PM

And not just that. Perhaps the more important realization is what Brian van de Krol recently pointed out -- that when we encounter a situation in training that normally causes an adrenalin rush -- the guy in the next lane eye to eye on the last turn of a repeat, those ahead of us in the loop pulling away, the interval tightens, the coach urges you (or you urge yourself) to swim faster -- it's amazing how much the situation is improved by actually REDUCING the effort, SLOWING the stroke, LIGHTENING the pressure by a minuscule amount -- and deepening concentration instead.

And when we internalize that response to pressure in training, we've gained an incalculably valuable tool for racing.