Friday, January 15, 2016

Training Sets And Beating The Beeper

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Video Analysis Workshop Reading Jan & Feb

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Lanzarote Swim Camp March 2016

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3 Day Camp, Florida April 1-3

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Hong Kong Video Analysis
If you've been using the Swim Smooth Coaching System (our training app) you'll know there's two ways to use a Tempo Trainer Pro for training sets. The first way, which you might be familiar with, is to simply set a pace to beep at you every length, we call this Staying-With-The-Beeper.

If you want to swim 2 minutes per 100m/yds in a 25m/yd pool, you set the Tempo Trainer to beep every 30 seconds, wait for the beep to set off and then pace your swim so you turn and push-off when the beep goes. This works well for CSS sets and has the added benefit of helping you pace things so you don't start too fast and get ahead of the beep, only to blow up and fade for the rest of a set.

To get recovery you would take a one-beep-interval rest. So for someone swimming 2 minutes per 100 as their CSS pace, a simple CSS set might be:

7x 200 on 30 second beep + 1 beep rest

This means you finish each 200 on a beep and then set off on the next beep (giving you 30 seconds rest). If you are designing a set with longer rest then take 2 beeps.


However, there is a second way of using a Tempo Trainer which is useful for longer sets and often works better if the pool is busy and you're having to work around other swimmers. Here you set the beeper to a slightly slower speed but deliberately get ahead of it, taking the time you gain as recovery when you stop between swims. You don't wait an extra beep - you wait for it to catch you up again and then you go.

Long sets beating the beeper are perfect preparation for longer open
 water swims and Ironman triathlon

Since we're doing longer sets with this setting, we normally set the beeper every 50m/yds rather than every 25 to stop you going beep-crazy! So you double the CSS number going in the beeper and in this case we're going to give you 5 seconds additional recovery per 50 swum (in the jargon "RM5").

For our 30 seconds / 25m CSS swimmer above, this means setting the beeper to 65 seconds (1:05). Still following? There's a bit of maths involved and if that's not your strong suit then no problem, the SS Coaching System does all the maths for you on this and tells you exactly what to program in for every session you swim!

An example Beating-The-Beeper set might be:

1x 600
3x 200
6x 100
12x 50
all on RM5 beating the beeper
(1:05 beep for our swimmer)

That's 2400m/yds - a nice testing set! You swim this straight through, getting ahead of the beeper and immediately starting the next swim when it catches you up. So the beeper is actually your 'cycle time'. You should have time for a quick sip of drink, compose yourself and then you're off again.

Try the set above yourself, it's a good one to get familiar with how all this works. Remember, to set the beeper work out your current CSS pace per 50 and add 5 seconds. Use Mode 2 on the Tempo Trainer Pro.

Since you're not staying with the beeper you now have a choice of how to swim: If you're feeling great you can push on and get more recovery time but remember these are long sets so don't go too bananas early on! If you are feeling a little flat then swim a little slower. And if you get held up for a few seconds by another swimmer the only thing that will happen is you lose a few seconds recovery at the end of that swim, no problem.

An interesting quirk of this way of swimming is that the shorter swims (e.g. the 12x 50s above) are actually harder because the recovery time is so short, you might only stop for 2 seconds before having to go again. In fact you end up looking forward to the longer swims to build up a decent buffer of recovery! You might gain 30 seconds or more over 600.

Red Mist Sessions

If 2400m sounds like a long set, how about 4000m? We call a 4000m set swum with a beeper a 'Red Mist' session because it's so mentally tough and at some point you're likely to feel like throwing in the towel (that's the red mist rising). But get through it without breaking down and you're going to get some great benefits to your aerobic fitness (and feel like superman to boot)!

Red Mist sessions are perfect for those training for Ironman or strong age group / pro Olympic distance athletes. The fitness (and psychological) benefit of these sessions can be huge if you have time for them in your weekly training routine.

The classic Red Mist session is 10x 400 - try it all through on RM5 to begin with but you can also make it harder using the classic progression:

4x 400 on RM5
3x 400 on RM4
2x 400 on RM3
1x 400 on RM2

The RM# notation does of course stand for 'Red Mist' - and these numbers take on meaning all by themselves. See RM10 or RM8 and you know it's going to be quite easy, RM6 and RM5 are challenging but RM3 or RM2 is very hard!

If you prefer you can swim this set 'Staying With The Beeper' instead which we often do:

4x 400 CSS pace + 6 sec /100m
3x 400 pace + 5 sec /100m
2x 400 pace +4 sec /100m
1x 400 pace +3 sec / 100m
stay with the beep and take 1 beep rest between 400s

Comparing The Two

Staying-with-the-beeper and beating-the-beeper are two ways of skinning the same cat, with pros and cons to each. Mix them up to keep things interesting in your training.

In summary:

Staying-with-the-beeper is normally used for CSS sessions and gives you immediate feedback on your pacing so you know exactly how you are doing at any point during a swim. Recovery periods are rigidly locked at the beep interval (without using the reset button). Sets with shorter intervals become easier as rest intervals are more frequent.

Beating-the-beeper is normally used on longer Red Mist sessions, lets you adjust your pace depending on how you feel and is easier to manage in a busy lane. You are putting round-numbers into the Tempo Trainer (use mode 2) which are easier to remember and program in. Sets with shorter intervals become harder as rest duration reduces.

Don't Forget Pink Mist!

4000m is a long and challenging set, so if you're swimming 2 minutes per 100m or slower, you might try 'Pink Mist' instead. Pink Mist is a set 3000m in length, the classic being 10x 300. Again, start on RM5 and progress from there.

We've previously mentioned Pink Mist on the blog here:

The Swim Smooth Coaching System

If you haven't tried the SS Coaching System app then you're missing out:

One of the beauties of the system is that once you've configured your CSS pace, the system does all the maths for you and for every training session tells you exactly what to program in your Tempo Trainer Pro:

As well as all of our stroke correction expertise to improve your stroke technique, it's packed with training plans for every distance of race and level of swimmer. In fact in there's a complete library of 75 (!) Red Mist sessions to choose from:

All the thinking's done for you!

Swim Smooth!


Anonymous said...

Can we please have some posts for beginner swimmers? I only learnt to swim about 4 months ago, after 47 years of being petrified of water, following a near drowning when i was 6 years old. I'm now able to do 30+ 25m lengths, with breaks in between in one. I'm looking forward to being able to do some of the drills and sets you talk about but would like some 'newbie' stuff now and again, please :) Thanks.

Adam Young said...

Hi Anonymous,

No problem we'll do that! By the way, did you see this post? :