Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Establishing Priorities

I had the above title, or at least something along those lines, in mind for the post announcing I had spent enough time trying to find what I could do in the pool and had decided to move on with my life. Some day that post will come but not right now, as I’m going to write instead about my beginning to understand my training priorities: the things I need to concentrate on to swim fast. I guess the most obvious will be to spend more time in the water. It seems the general consensus amongst our elite master swimmers that twenty thousand meters a week is necessary with more (much more) being better. The few programs I’m privy to are all closer to thirty thousand every week. As I’m right now treading water at something less than twenty klicks I’ve a ways to go but the plan is to work my way up to thirty over the next three to four months. This is going to be my third attempt at dealing with the physical exhaustion coming from training several times a week; but with each attempt I’ve gotten a little stronger and with a year’s training behind me I’m sure this time I’ll prevail. Time in the pool is essential for learning and perfecting the various stroke techniques, building aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, technically mastering the various starts and turns, gaining an understanding of pacing, race experience, as well as building specific muscle strength and acquiring a better feel for the water. Clearly it’s really important. After studying all the various drill progressions for each stroke, the training cycles, and test sets an Olympian needs to incorporate into training I can understand why they need to do upwards of sixty thousand a week to do it all. Looking at it from this perspective thirty thousand a week becomes the minimum commitment required to discover my personal limits. Anything less would leave open the question, “could I have swum faster if I’d trained harder?” Another important aspect of my training will be rebuilding my strength back up from injury and a general lack of serious exercise in recent years. Unfortunately I’m going to have to rely primarily on all those meters plowing up and down the pool lane to rebuild myself back to something close to where I was in my mid-thirties. A weight program was intended to supplement this and so accelerate the process, and to that end I completed the first out of this year's planned three cycles by September’s end; but I’ve come to realize I’m not physically capable of sustaining both a serious weight program and a significant increase in meters at the same time. Just too much likely, but the limitations posed by my age need to be seriously considered. Consequently, to avoid overtraining and the downtime which happened last season, I’m deferring all weight training other than simple maintenance to another year. And lastly I need to continue my progress in overall flexibility. The more I study the technical side of swimming the more evident the need to acquire a better feel for the water becomes and flexibility is crucial to that end. While I pat myself on the back for a body which is naturally stronger and better in the water than most I’ve no qualms whatsoever in saying my flexibility has always been inferior than average and has only grown worse as I’ve gotten older. Yoga classes and some daily stretching exercises are my intended route to remedy this deficiency, and since I’ve only scheduled two classes a week they have become my ‘must do’ workouts. It’ll be interesting to see how my new training schedule translates into actual times in a couple of months, at which time I’ll undoubtedly have learned a little more about swimming, technique and my body which will require further changes to my program. Self-improvement should be a never ending search and without a doubt this will be the case for me and swimming.

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