Getting In Some Weekly Discomfort

You're swimming a set of 8x 200m and you are on number three. Your heart rate is high and your breathing deep, and you're feeling some heaviness and burn from your muscles as they resist the effort. There's still another five reps to go, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes of hard work ahead of you, which right now seems like an eternity.

Sustained speed training is critical to reach your
potential as a distance swimmer.
What are your thought process in this situation? Are you longing to stop? Thinking of a good excuse to shorten the set? Or perhaps you avoid training sets completely knowing they are uncomfortable?

This 'discomfort time' is the critical period where your body's systems are challenged so that after the session they adapt and you gain fitness. Without reaching this point you won't gain the fitness improvements you are looking for. So this 'discomfort time' is not just unavoidable when fitness training, it should be something you are actively seeking out.

The psychology here is very important, don't think: "God, this is really tough."

Instead, replace that thought with: "OK, this is what it is all about. Swim it out, one stroke and one lap at a time."

Embrace the discomfort as a place you want to be and you will have fundamentally changed your thinking. From there on training sets start to feel much easier.

Staying In The Moment

It's a sporting cliché to tell someone to 'stay in the moment' but within a challenging fitness set it's absolutely critical that you do. Never think ahead but simply focus on your stroke movements and your breathing rhythm as the effort becomes challenging. It can be a good idea to monitor your technique but only ever think about one thing and keep it very simple, for instance you might choose to focus on:

- Exhaling smoothly into the water

- Lightly tapping your big toes together as they pass - 'tap tap tap'

- Keeping one goggle in the water and one out when you breathe

- Pressing the water backwards, not downwards

It's essential you keep these thoughts very simple as most of your focus will be required to maintain your effort and pace things out well.

Make Sure You Are Distance Training, Not Sprint Training

If you've been following Swim Smooth for a while you will know we are big fans of CSS / threshold training. This involves sustaining a strong pace for longer periods will short recoveries and is quite distinct from sprint training which is attacked at a faster pace but with longer recovery periods.

Swimming at this pace does not feel like sprint training and the effort progressively builds over the set while holding the same pace. Initially it may feel around 6 out of 10 for effort but progressively builds up to a 9 out of 10 by the end of the set. Pacing these sets well is essential (with the same pace for each repetition) even if you have to start a little slower, that way you will get the right fitness gains and can maintain your stroke technique throughout.

CSS / threshold pace targets the energy systems critical to distance swimming performance so that they adapt and improve. Sports scientists call this training principle 'specificity' and it really works - experience some consistent weekly discomfort in your CSS sets and your swimming will come on leaps and bounds. It could be just what you are lacking with your swimming.

Swim Smooth!

PS. We're very sorry if you couldn't get on our UK clinic series announced last week - the whole series filled up in just 30 minutes with over 200 people on the waiting lists. The level of interest is extremely high which is flattering for us but at the same time also stressful because we know a lot of you feel frustrated to miss out. We'll be back in the UK as soon as we can be, and yes also in the US hopefully towards the end of the year. :)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, that could have been written for me.......

Unknown said...

That's a perfect example of the body following the mind. Thanks for the advice. I need that mindset going.

Chris Morgan said...

that is me ! i'am off to the pool now. great blog.

abambino said...

When will you bring a clinic to the northeast U.S.?

claire said...

This is somewhat off topic although everything on the site is gold.In the pool last night I tried 'moving my body past my hands instead of jamming my arms through the water (50m). This felt super slow - almost zero effort. Then did another 50 guns-a-blazin' and the difference was about 3-4 seconds. You guys need to come to Canada or I'm going to have to rob a bank to fly to Perth. Any suggestions in the mean time?

Grumpy Typewriter said...

Going to the UK and US is great and all, any chance of popping over to the east coast of Australia, Melbourne, specifically.

Nice blog BTW.

Costas said...

Great mental tip!

I also read the CSS training article which makes sense. In order to time the 200m and 400m swims, what pace (%level or stroke rate) one should maintain?


Adam Young said...

Thanks for your comments guys.

abambino, hopefully later this year - watch this space!

claire, thinking about moving your body past your hands is good technique but there's no reason why shouldn't be able to combine that with a bit more rhythm to swim quickly. That's the key really, don't think about blasting it, just swim at a higher tempo to go quicker. Do you think that you could be pressing down on the water in front of your head? If you try and swim quicker when you do that then you tend to lift up at the front and so sink your legs more. This means the harder you work you also add drag, which means you don't accelerate as much as you should. A bit of catch work could be very beneficial to you - thinking about pressing water backwards not downwards.

grumpy-typewriter, (love the name!) it is a bit odd isn't it that we don't spend more time in the eastern states. We do have a lot of commitments in the UK which mean you are heading there more often than not and the level of interest from the US is huge. We'll be over as soon as we can schedule.

Costas, 100% effort for those, they're time trials! Make sure that you pace them well though - it's 100% over the whole thing not the first 50 or 100m! That will probably only feel like a 6 or 7 out of ten over the first 50m - get someone to record you splits every 25m or 50m to see how you paced them.



Rob Rusconi said...

I'm about three months into using these techniques for my swimming and I am really loving it and feeling the benefit. I agree that the worst of an 8x200m is the third rep. What surprises me is how good I feel by the seventh. That's not just because I'm nearly done but because I find my body settling into the rhythm of the threshold training pace and finding itself comfortable at just the right level of stress.

Thanks for a great site. Last week I finished my first attempt at a 10km.


Anonymous said...

Great stuff as ever. I know just what you mean about the 3rd repeat! Since you are focussing on coaching the coaches while in England, it would be great to know where there are SwimSmooth coaches round the UK. Any chance?

Adam Young said...

Keep up the good work Rob!

Hi anonymous, keep an eye on the blog for an announcement soon!



Unknown said...

I just wanted to let you know that what you do really affects peoples lives and that people - like me - truly appreciate it. |

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