An “Effortful” Practice Example: To swim the Channel FASTER.
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on February 6th, 2010

Friday Feb 5 3100 LCM at Coronado Pool (LCM = Long Course Meters, or 50-meter course)

Set #1 4 x 50 + 2 x 100 + 1 x 200 + 2 x 100 + 4 x 50 on interval of 1:00/50

SPL: 50s – 37; 100s – 37-38; 200 — 37-38-38-38

Times: 50s: 52-51-50-50;  100s: 1:40-1:38   200: 3:14   100s: 1:34-1:33        50s: all :45

Notes: My goal was to use the SPL from the first four 50s as a basis for the rest of the set, and let the “tuneup effect” improve my times throughout the set.  I descended the first 4 x 50, swam a faster pace on the 2 x 100, improved my pace again on the 200,  improved it again on the 2nd set of 2 x 100 (these were 5-6 seconds faster than the 1st set of 100s) and held a constant pace on the final set of 50s (average of 5+ seconds faster than the initial set of 50s. This set illustrates what I call the “tuneup” effect.

When your training focus is physiological you start workout with a warmup. This is designed to have physiological effects – increased heart and respiration rate, increased body  temperature, decreased muscle viscosity (i.e. they “loosen up.”)

When your training focus is neural, you start practice with a  tuneup – sending signals along brain circuits both for keen attention and for skilled movement. As these circuits are tuned, the body also experiences the physiological effects of warmup. The difference is that while the swimming is relatively easy, the skill elements require exacting focus and precise, consistent execution.

As the tuneup and warmup effects took hold, I was able to improve pace, even while increasing swim distance, with no change in Stroke Length.

Set #2 12 rounds of [effortful 100 + recovery 50] on 3:00. The effortful 100s averaged 1:30 @ 75 strokes. The active-rest 50s were Backstroke, averaging 75 seconds, which left 15 seconds of passive rest before starting the next 100.

Notes: I plan to swim an “effortful” set twice a week, usually Tues and Fri morning. Virtually all other pool training will be designed to imprint efficiency – i.e. to help me get across the Channel more easily. The effortful sets are intended to increase pace-holding capacity – i.e. to help me get across the Channel faster. These sets will be 30 to 45 minutes in duration, and include an approximately equal ratio of work-to-rest. The rest will mostly be active – i.e. recovery-pace swimming.

The difference between effortful sets and efficiency sets is that I’ll aim to maintain a more challenging combination of Stroke Length and pace or tempo. These sets will be more metabolically demanding, leaving me somewhat more fatigued and possibly with sore muscles. Thus (because of the overall volume of my training, and my age) I have to be careful not to overdo and to allow sufficient recovery between them.

I swam this set 1 SPL higher than Set #1 – a minimal difference moving from tuneup to effort. My first 100 was 1:30, the next two 1:32, then a long string at 1:30 with one at 1:29. The last two were 1:29 and 1:27. In the middle, on two consective 100s I took 74 and 76 strokes. The other ten were all at 75 strokes.

Swimdown: 200 [50 Back @ 42 SPL + 50 Breast @ 21 SPL]

2 Responses to “An “Effortful” Practice Example: To swim the Channel FASTER.”

  1. Jim Hopkins says:

    What time (hours and minutes ) and speed ( min and sec per 100 yards ) in an endless pool would get someone close to the Maui Channel crossing times and capability you have accomplished.

  2. Jim
    I couldn’t think of a way to estimate EP to Maui Channel. First because I’ve never used the EP for training, only for “stroke tuning.” Second, I haven’t used it when I was in peak condition. Mainly when I was rehabbing from injury or surgery.

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