60th Birthday Practice
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on March 26th, 2011

Many Masters swimmers observe a birthday by swimming X number of 100s, where X = your age in years. A good friend who will turn 60 on April 10 told me his whole team will swim 60 x 100 that evening, followed by a champagne toast.

I wanted to do a “60-themed” practice for my 60th birthday yesterday, but swimming 60 repeats of any distance isn’t my style. Old friend Coach Ira Klein of Sarasota FL suggested I focus instead on 60 strokes, rather than repeats. I warmed to that idea instantly. Here’s what I came up with, and why I enjoyed it.

Set #1 Descend X Repeats of 125 Free @ 12 SPL on 2:10 interval.

Five pool lengths X 12 SPL = 60 Strokes.

I did this as an open-ended set. I keep going as long as I continue to improve my times. I did 6 repeats, descending from 1:58 to 1:41

This is an ideal warmup because:

  • I start open-ended sets as gently as possible, trying to eke out as much improvement as I can from honing my feel for the particular task I’ve set myself. Moving gently is a good way to start any exercise.
  • Holding 12SPL requires me to excel at Balance and Streamline. Balance because it takes a very low Stroke Rate to cross the pool in 12 strokes. Streamline because I also have to minimize resistance. Balance and Streamline are the two foundations of efficient swimming; ‘tuning’ them in warmup assures me of a good practice.

I was pleased with: Improving by 17 seconds, without adding a single stroke. A key characteristic of highly successful swimmers is their ability to increase speed while maintaining Stroke Length. Any repeat set in which you gradually swim faster without adding strokes will improve your ability to finish races strongly.

Set #2 Descend X repeats of 100 Free @ 15SPL on 1:45 interval.

I swam with similar focus as on the 125s. I did 11 repeats, descending  from 1:27 to 1:15.

Going into this practice I was mildly curious about how long it would take me to complete 60 strokes, spread over four lengths, compared to 60 strokes spread over five lengths. There was 26 seconds difference between the fastest 125 and 100.  If I repeat this set in the future, I’ll strive to reduce the difference in rate and pace between the 100 and 125 repeats.

I was pleased with: Like the 125s, I improved my 100-pace significantly (12 seconds) without adding a stroke. Also I improved my time slightly on each of 11 consecutive 100s, which takes great control. Finally my last 100 was at the pace I’d like to maintain in my next competitive 500 race, but at a lower SPL.

Set #3 Swim 4 x 125 [75BK+50BR] on 2:30

I intended this as a recovery set, with a focus on consistently hitting specific stroke counts [14+15+16 SPL for 75 BK and 7+8 SPL for 50 BR = 60 strokes]. When I swim this pattern of a ‘controlled increase’ in stroke count in Medley races, I can maintain or increase pace during each stroke, while minimizing effort.

I was pleased with: Though I stayed at a very low effort level, I descended from 2:23 to 2:13 on this set, mainly because with each repeat, my nervous system felt better ‘tuned’ to the task of hitting those stroke counts.

Set #4 Swim 4 x 50 Fly on interval of 1:15. Maintain 15 strokes (7+8SPL) on each, for total of 60 strokes.

I intended this as a ‘broken’ 200 Fly, a race simulator. The main challenge in a 200 Fly is to maintain pace. If I could maintain stroke count and improve my time, on each 50, that would be an encouraging indicator for 200 Fly and 400 IM races I’ll swim in coming weeks at the Zone and National championships.

I held 7+8 SPL and descended 49-48-47-46 seconds.

I was pleased with: My 50s added up to a 200 time of 3:10, faster than I’ve swum in a meet this year, but not as fast as I hope to swim (I’d like to break 3:00). However it’s enormously satisfying to descend 4 x 50 Fly, and particularly without adding strokes.

Why I Like This Practice

  1. Every set presented an exacting task to master or problem to solve – requiring constant keen focus.
  2. Every set was objectively measurable.
  3. Every set honed skills that relate closely to successful racing.


3 Responses to “60th Birthday Practice”

  1. carlos says:

    Happy birthday ! Here in Israel we say “mazal tov ad mea ve essrim” Or in Brazil ( where i was born) , feliz aniversario e parabens !!!! I will do my laps !!!

  2. Clare says:

    Fabulous idea and wonderful set.

  3. surfsalterpath says:

    good variation to your ‘exacting task’ mantra
    happy birthday TL

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