Thursday, January 04, 2007

Checking Out My New Backstroke

This morning I swam a workout definitely orientated towards backstroke. Normally I try a more balanced approach since I’m only in the beginning stages of my conditioning but today I decided to really work my back. I was also curious as to my new stroke’s cycle rate so I threw in a short swolf set.

Warm up: 200 fr bth 3/5
200 IM K (w/fins)
400 fr P
200 IM K (w/fins)
200 fr bth 3/5

Main set: 6x50 bk swolf at est. 200 race pace w/0:40 rest
bk ladder 100,150,200,200,150,100 @1:00/50
Sup set: 4x50 fl (alt sw/dr) (w/fins) @ 1:30
Sup set: 4x50 br @ 1:30

Warm down: 100 K (easy)
200 free (easy)

Total meterage: 3,100 meters. I’ve been throwing in a lot more sprinting lately as my aerobic capacity is really bad and the only way to build this up is to work at 80% effort or better. I’m also old and slow which doesn’t help so its short sprints rather than fast endurance distances. Actually building aerobic capacity is best done going 100% and, as an added bonus, if one does it for very long at all you get to work on your anaerobic capacity too. Everyone who’s tried to build their lung capacity knows this is a very unpleasant process: essentially what you’re doing is telling your body if it doesn’t better utilize what little oxygen it’s getting you’re going to kill it (stupid body!). But when restricting my breathing to every five strokes exhausts me aerobic capacity is a major problem. Oh dang – another major problem!

For my back swolf I set my pars using my freestyle stroke rate as I had no idea of my backstroke cycle rate, a complete cycle being two strokes (breast and fly have only one stroke for every cycle). My first fifty was bang on time wise but a full six strokes under my crawl’s stroke rate. Figuring I must have miscounted I swam again without any modifications; and got the same results! Now I’m thoroughly confused because this is my new fast turnover stroke. What cycle rate was I swimming before? So on my third go around I deliberately sped up my stroke … managing to add a piddly extra two but at the ‘cost’ of swimming the fifty a full two seconds faster, thereby tying my personal swolf record of six under par established the previous two reps! That exclamation point is not excitement or elation – it’s “what the hell is going on?” punctuation. I make it through the remaining three reps and as soon as I returned home looked up the actual cycle rates of real Olympians on the internet. Surprisingly my new backstroke has the same rates as those recorded (in this case the
U.S. 2004 Olympic Time Trials) for the likes of Aaron Peirsol and Lenny Krayzelburg. Instead I discover it’s my free cycle rate which is way out of sync with elite swimmers. If I was ever thinking my crawl might possibly be more competitive than my back this certainly puts the kibosh on that thought. For the life of me I don’t know how they can swim so fast while stroking so slowly – well OK, I just don’t like thinking they’re that much more efficient at freestyle than I.

My swolf back set had a second purpose which was to tire me out before I started my ladder and so better work endurance. That I accomplished all too well. I’m glad I was the one who came up with this workout because if it was Brad I’d be thinking deeply malevolent thoughts. A very good practice which achieved its target objectives, but the sort of workout which makes people seriously reconsider their choice of swimming for a sport. Workout rating: 5/10.

No comments: