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Alex's swim journal

Stroke work is killing me... softly?

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by , January 7th, 2013 at 06:18 PM (983 Views)
Apologies to Roberta Flack. I also could have titled this post "The experiment continues." After my first exclusively freestyle workout in a while (the 20 x 200 on 3:30 Saturday) I went back to the Y on Sunday expecting really just to get in a warm-up and cool-down, maybe some turn and start work in between. During my 1000 warm-up I did 400 fr in 6:40 and then 4 x 100 on 2:00--my 100s felt hard but relaxed and I was bringing them in at 1:24-1:25... in a warm-up! Last week (or maybe the week before, the holidays have me all goofed up) it was 1:26-1:27, but certainly not the day after a distance workout. What's going on here? I have some theories ... maybe you have some of your own, feel free to share, here goes:

1. My freestyle yardage is down, but I'm not doing anything slower than BASE (1:40), a lot at the threshold 1:32-1:36, and often throwing in sets with faster work. So it's quality, rather than quantity. By comparison, the first 7 days of 2012 I swam a total of 18,400 yards, 16,850 of which was freestyle (almost 92%). In the same time period in 2013 I have 20,750 yards but only 13,400 freestyle (64.6%): the total freestyle amount is down, the percentage is down, but the quality for the most part is much better; no garbage, maybe this is what is driving me off the plateau finally.

2. Incorporating more drills and stroke work for IM is benefiting my freestyle as well. This theory seems to contradict the concept of specificity, so I better qualify this... I'm sure there is a point of diminishing returns, but introducing the other strokes into my workouts is helping my range of motion, balance, core, and stability of muscles that work differently in freestyle... while still providing the same aerobic effects, if not enhanced aerobic effects, since I have to work that system so much harder in training new muscles, movements--while simultaneously providing extra recovery and injury prevention for my freestyle.

Those are the working hypotheses; unfortunately when I began this journey into the land of middle-d and IM a couple of weeks ago I didn't have the foresight to add controls to my personal experiment; so it may very well be that 1 and 2 are working together in mysterious ways that I don't fully get (isn't that part of the fun?).

Oh, but this is a love-hate relationship (enter Ms. Flack ). I love mixing in the stroke work; it's very challenging, but...

My fly, my back, and my breast strokes are HORRIBLE! I would say they "suck," but I want to keep my G-rating. There are slight, ever so slight improvements. For example, my back is now slightly less sucky than my breaststroke. This is very strange, since I probably did 4% of my overall yardage last year as breast... whereas back accounted for like .0008% (not an exaggeration, by the way) of my total 2012 yardage; and fly, even less. So basically, I've been working on fly and back for about 3 weeks and already they are both faster than my dang breaststroke. Ugh.

Today's workout exemplifies this love-hate thing (3850 SCY/90 minutes):

Warm-up (1000/20:00):
400 swim (100 fr, 100 bk, 100 br, 100 fr)
4 x 100 on 2:00 (1:28-1:32)
200 IM, relaxed (3:30)

Main sets:
5 x 100 IM on 2:30 (1:36-1:40)
5 x 50 bk on 1:30 (:54-:55)
5 x 100 br on 2:30 (mostly around 1:48)
5 x 100 fr on 2:00 (1:30-1:32*)
3:00 rest
500 free in 8:12*

Cool Down:
12 x 50 on 1:30 (used IM order: 1-3 fly, 4-6 bk, 7-9 br, 10-12 fr)

*My freestyle at the end of this workout was tanking big time , the stroke work had me so exhausted...even with a 2:30 interval (or 1:30 on 50 back set). That kind of interval in a freestyle workout would have me snoring after 10 reps, I'd probably be so cold I would tear something anyway, but with the new (for me) strokes I was looking at the clock and saying "Really?! I've got to go already?"

I was disappointed in the times throughout; I wasn't trying to swim AFAP, but thought that 85-90% effort might bring better results; I think I might be worn out from yesterday's 2000 in which I didn't in fact do a good enough cool-down and, feeling good from my warm-up, decided to race Scotty in some 50s back and breast, ending with a 100 IM (1:32)... love/hate.

IM; Killing me softly!

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  1. pwb's Avatar
    I don't have a great rationale for this, but my freestyle race times are always best when I do a combination of free and IM training. Aside from the fact that I absolutely adore the 400 IM, that's a primary reason for me to train for the 400 IM and 500 free. I hypothesize that when I do too much freestyle, I get tired and devolve into bad form; by mixing up strokes, I keep better form on each stroke and then race better on all strokes.
  2. mcnair's Avatar
    Yeah, I know the shorter swims with focus on technique and faster times is helping me in free; but I don't feel so bad about cutting the yardage back on free because of the added stroke work. And now that I know what I torture fest the 400IM is, I'm completely committed to adding it to my repertoire of insanity... so, maybe I should be in the animal lane for a little while this winter-spring.
  3. Celestial's Avatar
    I'm pretty sure that everyone benefits from mixing up mcnair! I know that as I get stronger in my butterfly, I will see improvements in my freestyle, so while I hate the fly, I do it for my free! Also, I hate backstroke, possibly even more than I hate fly, but it is an excellent way to preserve the shoulders (forward rotation, backward rotation, yada yada yada), and interestingly enough, by protecting my shoulders, my freestyle benefits! Not sure how the breast helps my free, but I enjoy it, so it must be for my mind!
  4. jaadams1's Avatar
    I know for me, when I do an IM based workout, I leave the pool a much more tired guy, as compared to an all free workout. You end up using a lot more different muscles too, and it's actually nice because your body keeps switching muscle groups every 50/100/etc. IM workouts also keeps your mind engaged more in the practice vs. just going back and forth freestyle for hours on end.
  5. mcnair's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jaadams1
    IM workouts also keeps your mind engaged more in the practice vs. just going back and forth freestyle for hours on end.
    Yeah, last year even when I was doing long continuous swims I would do a 100 br every 1000 fr... just to help me keep count.