If you're attending tomorrow's 5.30am or 6.30am session (or indeed tonight's 6.15pm session), we have a little experiment for you!
The main set will consist of 3 blocks of 4, 5 or 6 x 100 +10 to 15s rest at CSS pace with the beeper set per 25m (stay with the beeper!).
Block 1 = breathe left only (preferably every 4)
Block 2 = breathe right only (preferably every 4)
Block 3 = breathe bilaterally (preferably every 3)
…the 9.30am Wednesday crew did this yesterday and there was mixed feelings about it. Some liked the challenge, others didn't like the feeling of being "forced" to breathe to their least favourite side; but that's the idea! Whilst myself and Sally won't be holding a gun to your head to follow this breathing pattern, it is worth you being diligent about it as the results might surprise you!
I've been back swimming now for 6 or 7 weeks following a few shoulder niggles and a busy year last year with our two apps that we've developed (the squad one and the www.swimsmooth.guru one released earlier this month). When I started back at the start of April I was struggling to hold times under 1:30 per 100m. So a set of 10 x 200 might see me hitting 2:58 to 3:02 on a 3:20 cycle. This is all about context, having seen my CSS as quick as 1:12-1:13 per 100m before Rotto 2015, you'll know I'd have been a little disappointed with this. However, fast forward to earlier this week and I was holding 1:20 per 100m for the Goldilocks set. Much more pleasing. So for this set which you'll do tonight or tomorrow, I set myself the target on 1:19 per 100m when I tried it yesterday. My least favourite side is my LEFT, my favourite is my RIGHT, but I ordinarily breathe BILATERALLY for all the reasons that I recommend it to you; yes, I'm a goody two-shoes! I swam with a Garmin Vivo Active and the Tempo Trainer set at 19.75 seconds per 25m and these were the results (thanks Mike Fischer for compiling!!):
…on average I was 0.6s per 100m faster breathing to my least favourite side (LEFT) than to my favourite (RIGHT), and whilst I was about to write that off as perhaps because I was less fatigued breathing to the LEFT as it was at the start of the experiment, the real eye-opener is that at the end of the set I blitzed my 1:19 per 100m target and averaged 1:17 per 100m or a full 3s per 100m faster than only breathing RIGHT (my favourite).
Only by experimenting like this was I able to see the difference and now go on to use this information over the next few weeks and months.
But what will the experiment show for you? Even if you don't have the beeper tonight / tomorrow or a Garmin to measure your times, or are worried about the drafting effect of swimming in a group etc etc (which can be limited of course by you being diligent about "minding the gap"!), you can subjectively measure how you go varying up the sides like this relative to your squad buddies and equally relative to the known constant, i.e. the pace which I set for your lane. If nothing else, it should provide you with a slightly different perspective on what is otherwise a tough session.
For me, the results show that bilateral is indeed the way forwards and that my CSS time is coming down nicely now that I'm on a roll with my training. All good stuff to know.
What will you discover in this session about your own swimming? The only way to know is to pop down, give it a try, and do your best to stick to the plan*
*if anyone is concerned about unilateral breathing to one side causing / aggravating possible shoulder concerns, then by all means just swim it as a normal set of CSS-paced 100s - I won't hold a gun to your head!