Friday, June 27, 2014

Bits and pieces...

Dear Swimmers

I've got a few minor points to list for you today before wishing you a great weekend and giving the number bods something to crunch over the weekend too!

  1. I will be delivering Sally's 1-2pm squad session at Claremont Pool tomorrow (focus: open water skills) and would love for as many of you to join me as possible! Consider it an open invitation to attend, so bring a mate or three! I'm going to be delivering an open water clinic in the UK for the Jenson Button (he of World Formula One racing car fame) Triathlon Trust and am keen to take you guys through a similar routine if you're up for it! No need to email back…I'll just see you on the pool deck if you can make it!
  2. Julian Nagi (one of our Swim Smooth Coaches in the UK) has an athlete who is conducting a Masters study on female athletes and their nutrition habits and she's keen to get as many ladies completing this 10-15 minute survey as possible: - thanks in advance for your time!
  3. I will be leaving on Thursday morning for 2.5 weeks in the UK. It's going to be a full on coaching clinic series, with the entire series selling out in less than 15 minutes when it went live on last Friday - a new record for us! I will be leaving you in the very capable hands of Sally, Sandy, Brad and Marie this time (sadly Cyndy is away on holiday at the exact same time).
  4. Anyone running low on PAYG cards is kindly requested to purchase before I leave if possible to save admin duties for the coaches as much as possible: - remember, despite the increase in lane fees at the pool starting 1st July 2014, we are refraining from raising our coaches fees at this time - hope that helps! Please, please keep up your great attendance whilst I am gone!
  5. Don't forget, the Time Trials next week will be conducted in all the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday sessions - please aim to attend to see how you're tracking.
  6. I have been busy beavering away to leave the coaches with some really sound parameters for you to follow whilst I am away based on how I feel each group in each lane in each of the squads (apart from Monday's technique squads and Saturday's open water skills squads) is tracking currently. This might need to be adjusted slightly following next week's Time Trials, but I think it's pretty close. I though you'd benefit from seeing how this works (please excuse the absence of information for the evening squads - I'm just waiting for this to come through from Sandy and Sally next week) and also to explain the concept behind "RM Cycles" too:

CSS Pace:

You should be very familiar with this type of training now - we do your 400m/200m time trials and calculate your CSS pace per 100m. This is the pace which in theory you should be able to maintain for 1500m as a continuous, 'fresh' swim. Typically the Tempo Trainer will be set in Mode 1 (to allow for fractions of a second to be used) at this pace but on an increment of 25m and all you have to do is STAY WITH THE BEEPER often taking 1 beep recovery between intervals. If I want you to swim slower than CSS pace (usually on a Tuesday) I will typically refer to that as CSS +2s/100m etc, i.e. 1:42/100m for someone with a CSS of 1:40/100m. Having this simple reference point is great as it allows me to ensure that everyone is working at a similar level of intensity irrespective of their group / lane. This type of training is also very exacting as you need to be ultra-precise with your pacing. For the vast majority of you this is majorly beneficial but it can have two draw-backs: 1) you're having a "down" day and can't hit your times and get frustrated / demotivated because of it; 2) you're having a great day (or are on a steep improvement curve) and it actually holds you back. For this very reason, in the last 8 weeks you'll notice that we've often been using the Tempo Trainers for just the first 50% of the main set, the other 50% has been self-selected pace on a cycle time using the clock. This nicely leads me onto the concept behind "RM Cycles"…

RM Cycle 5 (or numbers 0-10 typically):

For those whom have attended our Wednesday 5.30am and the new Friday 9.30am sessions (arguably now our most popular sessions in the whole week!), you'll recognise the value in doing some longer intervals focused more on endurance than threshold speed, often with very short recoveries. The Ironman and marathon swimming brigade certainly luuuuurrrrve these sessions as you end up averaging a swim speed very close to these types of race paces and also experiencing some of the emotional stress and strain that these types of events entail. The busy / dynamic nature of the lanes further adds to this, but rather than try and control that too much, I like to see you working your way around other swimmers in the lane whilst maintaining calm control over your emotional state…this of course doesn't always happen (!!), hence the nickname for these sessions "Red Mist" - we all see it at some time or another, the point is: can you become better at controlling it, to be courteous to your fellow swimmers, even when you're right on the rivet? That's the skill of a true champion…someone who can hold their head together even at times of extreme adversity.

Whilst these sessions very rarely feature anything other than normal freestyle (and from the outset can just seem like a "smashfest") you actually develop a lot of emotional control and pace awareness, knowing just how far you can push each before blowing up! Rather than making these sessions ultra rigid in terms of prescribed pace, your job of BEATING THE BEEPER within a highly motivated and competitive session, pushes you to find that point which allows you to survive to the end - just!! We've actually been running these sessions since January 2011 and have always used a 50m cycle time in whole seconds with the instruction to simply "beat the beeper for your rest" - I'm still frequently asked "but what pace should I swim at?" or "how much rest do I take?" and I simply respond with "you decide! Your speed / effort determines both!" This makes for a much less prescriptive session from me in terms of pace targets, but challenges you to see what you're capable of on any given day. Sometimes you'll get it right, sometimes you won't, but one things for sure, do this session consistently and your times will really start to improve!

I spend most of my time during these sessions providing you with status updates on what speeds you're actually sustaining and to also chivvy your motivation too!

I wanted to be able to quantify the level of intensity that each group/lane's respective cycle time would have, and as such have developed the "RM Cycle" (or Red Mist Cycle) - the idea being that an RM Cycle 5 would give you 5s rest per 50m if you were to swim 50m at CSS pace. An RM Cycle 3 would give you 3s rest per 50m and an RM Cycle 7 would give you 7s rest per 50m. For distances above 50m, you simply accumulate the rest per 50m by staying ahead of the beeper. A low RM Cycle number makes for a very challenging session, a high number gives you much more rest, but even then, the cumulative rest in this type of session is significantly less than in a CSS Pace-based session which is why many of you (despite swimming faster in a CSS Pace-based session) find a Red Mist session much more demanding - it's like a long, hard slog at what works out to be approximately CSS +2s to +4s/100m and over a significantly longer distance. 

Many of the sessions are formed around an RM Cycle 5 (as depicted in the table) - myself and the coaches just work from this number to assign other intervals. As we only use the Tempo Trainer in Mode 2, we are dealing with whole seconds (rather than fractions) and as such it's very quick to switch between RM Cycles which helps to keep the session flowing.

Whilst this type of session lacks ultra-prescriptive pace targets, it does allow you to take what you learn about your pacing in the CSS Pace-based sessions and apply it here, just with greater flexibility for if you're either having a good day or a bad one.

Your Feedback:

I would love to hear your feedback from those of you who have a) been doing these sessions for a while now and b) those who've never done one before - have I explained the concept above well enough? Does the numbering convention make sense? How would you recommend we describe it better? Is there any confusion as to why we'd base CSS Pace off 100m paces (and set the beeper per 25m), but set RM Cycles off a 50m cycle and sometimes even have the beeper beeping less frequently, like every 100m, 150m or 200m? Both methods have their benefits and tap into different physiological profiles, but which method do you prefer / get most motivated by: beating the beeper or staying with it?



Friday, June 20, 2014

So there's good news and there's bad news...

Dear Swimmers

Hope you're doing well and survived the heavy fog this morning! 

A quick thanks to all of you who've swum this last week and suffered my slightly croaky voice! I had full-on laryngitis at the end of last week which started to come good over last weekend but has since then deteriorated over the course of this week again. Mish says it's "Man Flu" (see for her description), but my suspicions are that it's been brought on by being run down from a need to get my pesky wisdom teeth removed and also my daughter Isla not sleeping very well this last week…in fact, this is how she's been doing it lately - fully stood up or leaning over a table / bed fearful that "the frogs in my bed are going to bite my cheeks Daddy!" and screaming as such every 20 minutes or so - any sage advice from anyone would be very much appreciated! I think we've averaged 50 minutes per night sleep this week - urgh!

End of Mojo Program Time Trials:

A few of you have been asking when the final round of 400/200 Time Trials will be held from the 8 Week "Get Your Mojo Back" Program, they will be:

  • Tuesday* 1st July 5.30-6.30am, 6.30-7.30am, 6.15-7.15pm
  • Wednesday 2nd July 5.30-7am (as part of a longer session) and 9.30-10.30am
  • Thursday 3rd July 6.15-7.15pm

*ordinarily we run the Time Trials for the early morning squads on a Friday, not a Tuesday, however, as I leave for my next UK coaching trip on Thursday 3rd July and return to squad on Wednesday 23rd July, I didn't want to miss out on taking you through this! If you don't normally swim on a Tuesday / Wednesday but want your CSS assessing by attending that morning as a one-off and can't make any of the other test sessions, please let me know via email return which session you wish to attend so that we can add you provisionally to the squad that morning for this very specific purpose - there will of course only be limited spots for this.

Remember, the main focus of this last 8-week Program was to simply establish some good, consistent training habits going into winter and that certainly seems to have been a success with your tremendous attendance of late - it'll be a double bonus if we see some good CSS improvements too!

There's Good News & Bad News…

Let's start with the bad news first - the fees at the pool will go up again as from July 1st 2014. This is of course fairly standard practice in most industries inline with inflation etc, but if you recall last year we copped a 33% increase in lane hire from 2012/13 to 2013/14, which will increase by a further 10% this 2014/15 FTY. This will amount to approximately a further $5,000/annum increase in our overhead charges which of course is quite significant. As a pool user you'll also be paying an extra $0.20 per swim on a full-fee entrance:

However, all is not lost! As a consequence of:

  1. running our recent 8-week "Get Your Swimming Mojo Back" initiative, and
  2. changing the Friday 9.30am Technique session to a 90-minute Endurance session (a-la the Wednesday 5.30am "Red Mist" session)

…our squad numbers across the board are the highest they've ever been at this time of year, and as a small gesture of thanks for your support and commitment on these colder winter months, I have decided to make the decision to NOT increase our coaching fees until 1st October 2014 at the earliest. If things are still going especially well at that point, we might even defer the increase until the start of 2015!! So please keep coming down - it truly has been amazing to see everyone's commitment at an all time high! Well done! Every little helps, right?

Session Availability:

For your reference, our weekly sessions look like this with respect to availability at present - please let me know if you'd like to attend a session where we have a spot or two available:

  • Monday 7-8am (Technique) = FULL
  • Monday 9.30-10.30am (Technique) = FULL
  • Tuesday 5.30-6.30am (Technique / Endurance) = 2 places (swimmers capable of 16:00/km or faster)
  • Tuesday 6.30-7.30am (Technique / Endurance) = 2 places (swimmers capable of 18:30/km or slower)
  • Tuesday 6.15-7.15pm (Technique / Endurance) = 6 places (2 spots in each lane of ability)
  • Wednesday 5.30-7am (Endurance) = FULL
  • Wednesday 9.30-10.30am (Threshold) = FULL
  • Thursday 6.15-7.15pm (Threshold) = 3 places (1 spot in each lane of ability)
  • Friday 5.30-6.30am (Threshold) = FULL
  • Friday 6.30-7.30am (Threshold) = FULL
  • Friday 9.30-11.00am (Endurance) = FULL
  • Saturday 1-2pm (Open Water Skills) = 9 places (3 spots in each lane of ability)