Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 2: Swim

In Part 1, I reviewed a whole bunch of things that apply to the swim as well as the bike and run. This will focus on sets that are specific to the pool. Two things to keep in mind- first, you need to adjust swim times and intervals for your own ability. Second, I am of the less yardage / more quality school. As a sprinter at Tufts, under the tutelage of the great Don Megerle, it was all about race-specific, high quality training. I got good at 100 yards (:49 free), but typically crapped out at 150 (never under 1:52 for the 200). As a result, many of the distance ideas here are from seeing what "Lane 2" was doing, talking with Coach, experimenting, and the Y group.

1. The long, straight swim. Like riding over 80 or running over 18, different things happen when I go more than 1,000-1,500 yards straight. My core hurts all over and my technique falters. So it's obviously something that needs work. But a long time trial is incredibly boring and easy to bail out of. Two things help. First, get someone willing to do the same in the lane next to you. Notice I said in the next lane. This is best done when you and friend have lanes to yourselves, or at least can lead the lane. Friend can help with the pacing and provide a little competitive energy. Second, wear a watch with a countdown timer that you can hear underwater. I set mine for 2:36, and pay attention to where I turn every 200 yards. Not only does this keep me at an even pace, I'm also able to count yards. Otherwise I'd lose count after 150. Wondering how far you've gone is a sure thing for losing interest.

2. Rotating strokes. Often during warmup, I'll cycle through 100 free, 50 back four or six times. Again, it makes counting easier, and I'm always close to some sort of change.

3. Blasting. Swimming really fast is fun. Every now and then I'll dedicate a workout to swimming a couple of 100s at max effort. The entire workout is only a little over 2000 yds. Warm up for 500, descend 6x100 on 1:30, then 8x50 on 1 with 25 at max. That 25 can be the first 25, last, or middle, which incorporates the wall. The main set is 3x100 on 4. We do this so everyone gets a lane to themselves and clean water. Every swim is FAST, trying to break 1:00. The last 30-40 yards of the last one is pure hell. There's also time in there for an easy 50 inbetwen each one.

4. Tricking the body. Some fast 50s can trick the body into swimming a faster "controlled" pace. For a main set, do 3 x 4x200 on 3 with 6x50 on 1 (2x(ez, med, hard)) between each group of 4 200s. Drop your times on each set.

5. Use thinking as a distraction from the boredom and pain. Make the set so involved, with lots of changes, so that you really have to think to figure out what's next. Go 6 x (50, 100, 150), on a 45 sec per 50 yd. base interval, rotating easy, medium and hard- easy 50, medium 100, hard 150, medium 50, hard 100, easy 150, etc.

6. Turn it off. Occasionally, it's OK to tuck in and draft. Turn the mind off, let someone else do the counting, and enjoy the ride.

7. Know when to work. Instead of slogging through an entire workout at an even pace, alternate hard / easy. A great set is to alternate 8 x 150 with 8 x 100, all on 2. Descend the 150s. An interval of 2 forces you to at least put in some moderate work, even on the first one. The 100s are really slow, allowing you to focus on the 150s.

8. Start a challenge series with the group. On Wednesdays this fall, we did 30x100, 3000 mixed, 40x100, etc., up to 8000. Everyone knows what's coming, and in a sick way, looks forward to it.

Variety, from one set to the next, and one workout to the next, is the key. Enjoy!


  1. I printed out this one too. Thanks. Any more tips on swimming workouts would be SO appreciated...
    My coach does a lot of these things in the workouts she assigns--but there are definitely a few fresh ideas in here for me to use. Thanks again.

  2. I'm looking forward to reading more of your anti-boredom ideas. I'm not a swimmer anymore, but I use a lot of the same principles in my running. I find tempo runs and fartleks keep me from getting bored during a 6-mile run. I just need to do them more often.

  3. Some very good tips in there, thanks a ton for those. Swimming is not exactly my thing, but I'm begining to like it more. I like a lot of your ideas, really good ones for being able to increase some enjoyment out of the pool.

  4. Great list of ideas to break the boredom in the pool. Now if only my coach would give me some swim workouts!! (I'm sure they'll be coming soon enough)