Every now and then you have a breakthrough workout, and it makes all of those so-so workouts worth it. Because you don't get to have breakthrough workouts without the groundwork, and that's what the so-so workouts are. You just don't see it until you break through that plateau.
The last time I went swimming my main set consisted of 3 sets of 300 yards on 6 minutes, which means I start the next set every 6 minutes (3 x 300 on 6:00). The faster I can do the set, the more rest I get. I did each set in about 5:30. Typical. Then I finished up with 2 sets of 100 yards for a cool down. I do those pretty slow and focus on form.
My form has improved quite a bit in the past few months, but my speed hasn't followed and I've been getting frustrated. I convinced myself that I needed to work on my balance and that my legs were sinking and creating drag and that's what's been slowing me down. While doing my cool down, I focused on balance and pushing my chest into the water to keep my legs from sinking. "Pressing my buoy" as they say in Total Immersion. While doing that, I pressed my legs together for some reason and I suddenly started swimming faster and cutting through the water. I've read a lot about swimming form and they always tell you to keep your kick small, but it never really sank in (pun intended). They don't just mean short kicks, but keep it tight too. Keep your legs together.
So tonight I focused on keeping my legs together. I imagined they were tied together at the knee. I started to feel skinny in the water, so I started focusing on keeping my arms tight too. Close to my head. Shoulder to my ear. Extend. Streamlined. Like a pencil slicing through the water. No drag.
I did my main set of 3 x 300 on 6:00 faster than last time. 5:08, 4:58, 5:02. Finally a speed increase in the water. It felt great. But I'm still convinced I need to work on my balance because I think my legs are sinking. I'll need to add some balance drills.
Tonight, I also used swim fins for the first time. I bought some TYR split fins (pictured), and they were pretty fun. You can really cruise with fins on, and they make drills easier and more fun. I've been doing some drills that focus on your arms, and I've been going so slow when I do them that I've been sinking. So I focus all of my effort on staying afloat and that's been making it difficult to do my drills. The fins help you keep your speed up so you float and allow you to focus on what your arms should be doing. It's a little weird though when you take them off and swim without them. You feel really slow (maybe they contributed to my new found speed). It's like motorpacing.
I really believe that part of my speed increase is due to going to the pool with a workout, a plan, instead of just showing up and swimming for a while. I've also been very committed to improving my form lately and the drills are definitely helping. Here's the workout I did tonight. 2,000 yards and it took about an hour.
2 x 100 - fins, easy, slow, focus is on good form
5 x 100 - 25 yards of each drill so the total set is 100 yards with fins
- One arm drill - right arm
- One arm drill - left arm
- Catch-up drill
- Whole stroke (normal stroke, focus is on perfect form)
Breathing on left side
2 x 100 - no fins
3 x 300 on 6:00 - no fins (focus is on speed while trying to keep good form)
2 x 100 - no fins, easy, slow, focus is on perfect form
10 Flip Turns