Monday, September 17, 2007

A Little Irritated

A couple of days ago I was struggling in a yoga class and getting more irritated by the minute, made more so because our session’s instructor was a very perky, cheerful girl who continually had us holding positions longer than required (I count strokes so why wouldn’t I count off the time?). But my irritation really wasn’t her fault. Right now I’m back into what I euphemistically call ‘Full Training’ trying to ramp my swimming all the way up to 30k (12 hours) a week while doing four weight sessions and two yoga classes at the same time. I find it very hard work – last spring when I tried to do this over training ended up costing me three weeks off to recuperate – and the workload leaves me in a perpetual state of fatigue and soreness (hence my irritability). Weight training especially has a hugely negative impact on my swimming performance, but this is expected and the reason why strength building is always restricted to the off season. My real problem is my swimming is suffering so much I’m having trouble even handling practices. I guess this is what comes from getting old.

My club, the Hyack Swim Club, schedules ten workouts a week for Master swimmers using three pools. Unfortunately the program is split between four groups and scheduling conflicts/group demarcations means the most anyone can swim is three times a week. Obviously three hours a week isn’t enough to compete on so I schedule practices on my own at the Hyacks' main pool where I can train both long course and short course. For my first year I was quite content to just put in some meters for general conditioning purposes and so would dash off a workout on paper in a few minutes before heading off to the pool. Now that I’m looking for better times I figure a little more attention should be paid to the composition of my workouts and perforce have had to teach myself some up to date theory and training practices. I finally settled on Bill Sweetenham’s book ‘Championship Swim Training’ as my training guide and so far (this being my first month) I think I’ve made an excellent choice. I admit my first encounter with this book left me wondering if perhaps it's aimed at too high a caliber of swimmer for me to use, but since he does make regular references to masters I figure where it gets too much I can just slow it down and stretch it out. In his preface (yes, I’m the sort of guy who reads prefaces) he writes about the amount of work which is necessary for best results in swimming:
Swimming 8 Hours a Week
This level offers participation, fun, involvement, and significant health benefits, but it is not competition swimming and never produces a competitive result.

Swimming 10 to 12 Hours a Week
This amount of swimming is too much training to be fun but not enough to produce a competitive result. The swimmers in this middle ground never feel good, and in time they become frustrated. We call this the competitive swimming twilight zone.

Swimming 18 to 24 Hours a Week
This level can be termed competitive swimming. Athletes in this program are committed and gain satisfaction by attaining improved competitive results.
Son-of-a-bitch! That pretty well takes care of us masters. Thankfully I don’t need to be competitive as I would be absolutely delighted to just settle for holding one or two Masters world records, but still his suggested minimum hours for ‘competitive swimming’ floored me when I first read this. Remember this is only the time spent actually in the pool. Start adding in travel, dry land training, physiotherapy, and all the rest and you’re looking at effectively a full-time job equivalent. Seems he’s referring to world-class when he writes about being ‘competitive’. Regardless his attitude indicates how important and necessary training is to swimming your best. I’d love to know what he thinks of Dara Torres’ success, coming as it does from only ten hours in the pool a week.

Update: New information from a New York Times article dated November 18, 2007 about Torres' training program reveals she is only training ninety minutes a workout, making for an average of just 7½ hours training a week.


Rob said...

After a twelve year lay-off, I started swimming again six years ago when I was 36. During the heart of my training season, I swim no more than 4 times a week for a total of 20K-25K a week (appox 6-7 hours per week in the water). Every year I have seen improvements in my times. I am also a highly competitve long-disance masters swimmer.

Scott, your notions are misguided, and your understanding of swimming is shallow at best.

PS - I don't dope.

Scott said...

My notions? I'm quoting Bill Sweetenham, former coach of four Australian Olympic teams and the British 2004 Athens swim team, who is considered at the very least one of the top three swimming coaches in the world. Go tell him his understanding of swimming is shallow at best, not me.

Rob said...

"Thankfully I don’t need to be competitive as I would be absolutely delighted to just settle for holding one or two Masters world records"

You better get to work then.

Matt said...

Well... if you can make it over to Toronto's Airport Marriott this weekend, you could ask Sweetenham, yourself. He's schedule to speak at Swimming Canada's Coaches Workshop there...

'Course, I'm not sure how his recent departure from heading the British National Team will have effected the trip...