- Run through a contrast set where you deliberately alter your stroke to experiment with how it feels. You'll be surprised what you learn and how different it feels from normal drill work.
- Try swimming 400m at 90% effort (you might just set a PB).
- Seek out conditions you would normally avoid, for instance when it's windy and choppy at the local lake. See how you need to alter your stroke to cope effectively in various conditions.
|introducing a variety of training environments could be just what you need|
- Equip some of your less experienced swimmers with fins and move some of your fastest swimmers to their lane to lead them through a high speed set. It's great experience for the novice swimmers and your top lane athletes will love the leadership role.
- Practice open water skills in the pool with friends. Include drafting and sighting practice, and short sprints to surge and get on the feet of a drafting partner. Wear some fins if your friends are a bit quicker than you - this isn't cheating, it's a way of giving you the experience of drafting that you'd otherwise miss out on.
- Experiment with changes to your stroke technique in your wetsuit. For instance looking further forwards, using less kick, trying a higher stroke rate and employing a straighter arm recovery.
- Swim some longer distances without thinking about technique - perhaps to music from a waterproof MP3 player. Your body may settle into a more efficient swimming rhythm all by itself.
- Try drafting close to the side and slightly behind a friend - breathe in towards them to judge the distance accurately. Get this right and you might get a bigger draft than when sitting on their feet.
- Experiment with different breathing patterns, for instance try breathing every 3 strokes then every 5 strokes then every 7 strokes. It's amazing how much air you can exhale into the water during these longer durations (there's more in there than you might think) and how easy breathing every 3 feels afterwards.
- Use a Wetronome to run through a variety of stroke rates over a set of 50m repetitions. See how they feel and experience different elite athlete's stroke rates along the way - e.g. Ian Thorpe's 76 Strokes Per Minute (SPM) and Emma Snowsill's 86 SPM. You might even like to give Laure Manadou's amazing 110 SPM a crack! Also try 45 SPM to see what Overgliding feels like (you'll feel the loss of speed and efficiency).
|give your swimmers an interesting experience and they'll become really engaged|
- Keep your brain engaged by training in a different length pool or an open water venue with different conditions and challenges.
As a coach try putting your whole squad through some of the experiences above and see what each swimmer individually learns about their swimming. Because of their differing body types, skill and experience levels they'll each learn something different that's useful to them as an individual. Don't enter into too much technical explanation, instead throw in a few thought starting questions and relevant facts. At the end of the session your swimmers will be open and happy to share what they have learnt, which is the perfect opportunity for you to help them interpret their experiences.