Friday, May 28, 2010

Question of the Day: How To Read A Swim Workout

After yesterday's swim workout post, kgseymour asks:

I have a horribly embarrassing question -- can you tell me how to follow this workout? I love to swim, and do a lot of it, but have never been a swimmer competitively or anything, so I'm not too clear on how to go about reading this workout. That's going to sound so dumb to you, and I'm sure you have a post somewhere that explains it -- I just don't know where to find it. Any help is much appreciated. Thanks!
First of all, nothing to be horribly embarrassed about! Reading swim workouts is a bit like reading hieroglyphics or physics notation. If you're not used to it, it all looks like gobbledygook. When I teach my Swim Conditioning classes, one of my aims is to help people become comfortable with reading the whiteboard. At our pool, there are always three workouts written up on the whiteboard: My swim conditioning class, the latest Master's workout, and the Noon Coached Swim workout. So if you go to swim, you can always pick from what's up there if you can understand what it's saying. So being able to read the board is very useful, as it opens up the door to a whole bunch of different swim workout possibilities.

But, it can be really confusing! So here's a post from awhile back that has a link to a site that explains many of the abbreviations and terms. And here I'll deconstruct yesterday's posted workout to help make sense of it for those of you not used to reading these crazy things! My notes will be in red.

First of all, it's important to understand that my workouts are written up for a 25 yard pool. That means that every 4 lengths of the pool will be a "100" or 100 yards. If your pool is a different length (most common other lengths would be 25 meters or 50 meters) then you need to adjust the times accordingly. A 25 meter pool is a bit longer than a 25 yard pool.

Warmup: Note: perform the warmup at an easy pace and get your heart rate up gradually

200 Swim, 200 Pull  Swim 8 lengths (200 yards) at an easy pace. Follow with 8 lengths done with a pull buoy (no kicking, just arms)
4 x 50 Drill with board  
This is the drill that I linked to in the post. Make sure you watch the video as it really gives you an idea of how to do the drill. 4 x 50 just means that you will do 50 yards (2 lengths) of the drill, take a brief rest, and repeat that three more times.
200 Swim  Swim 8 lengths (200 yards) at an easy pace.
4 x 50 Drill no board This time you do the drill with no kickboard. Again, four times you do 2 lengths with a rest in between
2 x 100 Kick IM Order  100 Kick means that you'll be doing 4 lengths with just kicking (no arm strokes), kickboard is optional. "IM order" means that you will follow the stroke order of the IM, or "Individual Medley", which is Butterfly, Breaststroke, Backstroke, Freestyle. So you'll kick one length of each, take a rest and repeat that one more time.

Main Set
Okay, this main set is kind of intense, time-wise. So make sure you have an easily visible clock, or a watch with a chronograph on your arm. Here's how it's going to work. You're going to pick a column based on your swimming speed. It may be that none of these columns will work for you, this workout was written for fairly experienced Master's swimmers, so if you need to pick a slower interval you can. Here's how to determine: Swim one length at a moderate-to-intense pace and time yourself. Take whatever time (in seconds) it took you, and add 5 - 10 seconds to that time. This will be your base interval time. So if it took you 40 seconds, your interval for every 25 (one length) will be 45 seconds. This means that your interval for the 50 will be 1:30 (doubling the :45 seconds) and for the 75 will be 2:15 (tripling the 45 seconds) and so on.

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume that you're going to use the 30 second interval. 

2 X 25     :20         :25          :30
2 X 50     :40         :50         1:00
2 X 75     1:00      1:15        1:30
2 X 100   1:20      1:40        2:00
2 X 125   1:40      2:05        2:30
2 X 150    2:00     2:30        3:00
2 X 175    2:20     2:55        3:30
2 X 200    2:40     3:20        4:00

You will  start your timer,  swim one length (25 yards), look at the timer. When the timer hits 30 seconds, you'll take off to swim your next 25 yards (one length). 
Now when the timer hits 1:00 (one minute), you'll leave for your first 50 yards (2 lengths). 
Come to the wall, look at your timer, when it hits the next 2:00 mark, you'll leave for the next 50 yards. 
Get to the wall, when your timer hits 3:00, you'll leave for your first 75 yard (3 lengths). 
Now you'll wait at the wall until the timer gets to 4:30 to leave for your next 75.

You'll leave at 6:00 and 8:00 on the timer for each of the 100s (4 lengths each), 10:00 and 12:30 for each of the 125s (5 lengths), 15:00 and 18:00 for each of the 150s, and so on. Each time the distance increases by one length, your interval will increase by 30 seconds. As the distances get longer,  you should get slightly more rest each time.

Approximately 60 seconds extra rest Now you take an extra minute of rest (but no more!)

Same thing going back down the ladder. Reset your timer to 0:00, swim 8 lengths (200). Rest at the wall and leave for your 175 when the timer hits 4:00. Leave for your 150 when the timer gets to 7:30, and so on.

1 X 200    2:40      3:20        4:00
1 X 175    2:20      2:55        3:30
1 X 150    2:00      2:30        3:00
1 X 125    1:40      2:05        2:30
1 X 100    1:20      1:40        2:00
1 X 75       1:00     1:15        1:30
1 X 50       :40        :50         1:00
1 X 25       :20        :25          :30

Total: 4100

Hope that's helpful and explains the workout. Let me know if it's still confusing or if you have any more questions!


Anonymous said...

That is SO helpful -- thank you, thank you, thank you! I can't wait to see how well I hang in there ...

(PS I should get to do my first open water swim of the season this weekend. Assuming I can avoid the alligators, it should be a blast!)

Robin said...

Great! I hope your open water swim goes well. At least we definitely don't have to contend with alligators here!

midlife_swimmer said...

great stuff!

CashCrateAggie said...

I've been a swimmer for years but never knew how to read the master's swim boards. Thank you. I'm about to try this knowing how to read the boards now.