Friday, July 13, 2012

The Red Mist Set

Our Wednesday 5:30am squad in Perth are a tough bunch, they are all experienced triathletes and open water swimmers looking to improve their performances. They come to this session expecting a challenging 90 minute swim and last week we gave them a classic training set, one that distance swimming coaches have used through the decades to test their swimmers physically and mentally.

At Swim Smooth we call this session 'The Red Mist Set' and it comes with a special warning:


Around 80% of the squad become irritable, grumpy or came close to giving up during the set. This is the 'Red Mist' at work, giving you feelings of resentment or perhaps anger for being pushed relentlessly. But cope with this session well and you've proven yourself physically and developed yourself mentally, leaving you perfectly prepared for great performances in your races.

Paul: If you are an intermediate or advanced level swimmer give this set a crack and see how you fare. It's perfect for anyone racing Ironman or doing a 5km or longer open water race. When I was training with the British Triathlon Team at Bath University we used to swim this set every Monday morning. I make no qualms about it, I hated every last meter of it and used to dread it because it tackled a weakness of mine head on - the ability to stay focused and maintain a strong pace when things get tough. Is this something you struggle with? I think we all do at some level.

The Red Mist Set

This corking set is deceptive simple, it's just 10x 400m rolling straight through at a gradually faster pace:
4x 400m at CSS pace + 6 sec /100m
3x 400m at CSS pace + 5 sec /100m
2x 400m at CSS pace + 4 sec /100m
1x 400m at CSS pace + 3 sec /100m
There is no additional rest between the 400s - you must swim faster than the pace to get some rest between! So if your CSS pace is 1:30 /100m, your target pace for the first 4x 400m is 1:36 /100m and the second 3x 400 at 1:35 /100m etc. If you own a Wetronome or Tempo Trainer (highly recommended for CSS training), use it in lap interval mode at this pace and try and get ahead of the beeper over each 400m to gain some recovery time before going again.

Find out how to calculate your CSS pace here and use SS Coach Steve Casson's Swimulator+ app to help programme your beeper.

Red Mist At Play

Squad Board: The Red Mist Set
Paul: In the middle of this set you'll tell yourself that it's pointless 'thrashing around', 'imprinting bad technique' and you'd have been 'better off doing some drills' but this is your head looking for an excuse to stop. But time and experience has taught me that this session really works and if you can get your head around the seeming 'boredom' or 'tedium' or 'slog' of this session, you stand to make some massive progress with your swimming. After all, how often in a race have you had these same mental tussles with yourself?

Yes this session puts you under pressure and forces you to maintain focus and push away negative thoughts from your head. To reach your potential as a swimmer it's essential that you put yourself in this pressurised position regularly (perhaps once a week). My old gym teacher at school called it 'Moral Fibre' as he forced us to go cross-country running in sub-zero temperatures in just shorts and a vest!

I jump in myself and swim this session every week with another of our squads (our elite triathlon group) and compared to those years as a junior athlete at Bath I now really look forward to it. I crave the challenge of taking on the red mist because I know that by getting through this set every week it will give me a real sense of confidence and 'flow' to my swim training. This is a key lesson I learnt from swimming swimming sets like this when training for the Rottnest Channel and English Channel swims.

Even if you don't normally swim 4km in training, set yourself the challenge, turn off the negative thoughts in your head and give it a crack. Let us know how you get on!

Swim Smooth!

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