Boring training makes good athletes.” That was the mantra of my old coach and, for the most part, I have found it to be true. But I’ve also found that a little spice, now and then, also helps make good athletes. Fridays at a Mercury Rising Swim are “Fun Fridays!” The thing with “fun” swim sets is they inevitably encourage some intense efforts. Here are some of the sessions you might find on a Friday down at the Crystal pool.
This “to failure” set is a staple of any fun swim program. There are several ways to execute this session, but one of the most effective ways is as follows:
Swimmers start on the 00 and then 10 seconds apart. They must finish first the 50 by the time the clock is back to the 00 (or their start time). For the next 50 they leave on the 01, 11, 21, etc. BUT they must make it back by their start time. Then they leave on the 02 and always they must to the wall by the 00. Once they fail to finish the 50 by the time the clock returns to the original leave time they’re out. Inevitably you end up with almost the entire group of swimmers cheering like mad for one or two remaining swimmers to make just one more.
This set is tough for swimmers who can’t swim a 50 in less than 50 seconds. The math gets tough. For those swimmers, I might give them a set that looks like this:
4 x 50 on a leave time of 75 seconds, 4 x 50 on a leave time of 70 seconds, 4 x 50 on a leave time of 65 seconds, etc. They continue to descend the times until they can’t make the time.
Any “to failure” set is always fun.
I usually save Swimopoly as a Christmas session. It’s a once or twice a year deal, because it’s a bit of work for the coach:
I draw a giant square – comprised of 25 smaller squares (like a chess board) – on a white board. Inside each of the squares is a 200- to 400-metre set. Some examples include: 4 x 100 progressive (increase the effort) with 15 seconds rest, 4 x 50 kick with 10 seconds rest, or 200 fly or a 400 IM (typically challenging ones for triathletes). There’s also a few “go back 3 squares” (which lands you on the 400 IM).
Each lane gets a dice to roll. The session starts with a roll of the dice, and the coach counts the number of squares from the start, marks the space and then the lane has to do the set. Once they finish, they roll again. The first lane to get to the end of the 25 squares wins.
I’ve seen coaches who have written different sets on Popsicle sticks then start with each lane drawing a stick. They roll a dice after completing the set on the stick, which advances their “piece.” The board is left blank and only used to mark progress. This makes it easier for the coach if they want to do this session with any kind of frequency.
Either way, the energy gets pretty amped up for this one.
The Upside-down Pyramid
Swimming solo? The Upsidedown Pyramid is a “challenge” set, as opposed to a “to failure” set. Here’s how it looks: 15 x 200 (or 100) broken down as follows: 5 x 200 on a leave time that gives you about 20 seconds rest. (So, if you’re swimming your 200s at around 3:30 at a moderate effort, then you would do the first 5 x 200 on a leave time of 3:50.) Then you do: 4 x 200 on 3:45, 3 x 200 on 3:40, 2 x 200 on 3:35, 200 on 3:30. There are no breaks between sets. Adjust accordingly for 100s. By the time you hit those last few 200s (or 100s), you should be testing your limits, which is always fun.
Relays and Racing
Coaches should do more of this in training, because swimmers always leave everything in the pool. It’s great team building – there’s nothing like having the pressure of lane mates looking for the win to get that last bit of energy out of a swimmer. To minimize the standing around, I usually keep the distances to 50s and 25s, but doing a 3 or 4 x 100 relay is a nice way to trick swimmers into setting 100 PBs. Mix it up with kick or medley and novelty ideas, like carrying two golf balls to be used as a baton.
These swims create positive energy within your club and they also encourage high-level swimming. The distance of the workout usually takes a hit, but the efforts are certainly intensified. And, above all, they’re fun.
If you have a fun swim workout, I would love to hear about it. Reach out to me at [email protected]curyrisingtriathlon.com
Clint Lien is the head coach of Victoria’s Mercury Rising Triathlon, mercuryrisingtriathlon.com
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