Author Archives: Paul Zaich

New Easy-to-Use Upload and Video pages on Stroke Lab Update

Stroke Lab™ now offers new features that make uploading, sharing and coaching videos even easier. Let’s take a look at the new features offered:

Public & Private Settings for Videos
All videos now offer the option of a public 0r private setting managed by the owner of the video. Private videos are only viewable by athletes tagged in the video and by coaches who manage the team. Public videos allow you to share your video with anyone on the web. You initially set the privacy of the video when you upload the video.

Change the privacy setting of your video at any  time via the new video toolbar available on each video page.

Share your Coaching videos
Once you set one of your videos as public you have several easy ways to share your videos with friends and teammates not using Stroke Lab.

  • Public Video Link- Each public video now has a selectable public link that can be shared.
  • Embed Video Link- Share coaching videos on your website or blog using the embed code. The embed feature creates an easy way to share technique analysis with groups outside your team.
  • Share via Facebook or Twitter- (coming soon)

US Swimming Nationals: Learn from Watching the Best

This week the US Senior National Championship are being hosted in Palo Alto, CA and will feature 1800 elite swimmers. In previous years, only those local to the meet had the opportunity to watch these amazing swimmers compete. If you were lucky, you might have been able to catch some races on Youtube, posted by a swim parent. Now times are changing and USA Swimming has a free Live Webcast viewable for the entire meet!  It is now easier than ever to watch elite international athletes compete.

The Webcast of Nationals is an opportunity to learn from these elite athletes. Learn how they race, examine their stroke technique, and enjoy the energy level and excitement of the high-caliber swim meet.

Here are few things to focus on while you are watching Nationals this week.

Watch the heats of your favorite/best event.

This is your chance to watch elite swimmers in your favorite event. Focus on observing the stroke technique of these athletes. Observe the technique of the heat & event winners and compare it to the swimmers that finish behind them. Often you can see differences in technique that directly translate to faster swimming. Close your eyes after you watch the race and visualize yourself swimming the race you just watched.

Watch Starts & Turns

On all of the other races that you watch, be sure to focus on the turns and starts. Even if the swimmers aren’t swimming your event or stroke, you can pick up a lot about proper technique in both of these areas. Concentrate on finding the swimmer in each race that is beating everyone else on the turns and underwater. Often it will be the swimmer winning the race!

Enjoy the Racing

Ultimately, competitive swimming is racing, and racing is competition in its purest form. Enjoy watching the mental toughness that the competitors exhibit as they push each other to best times and new levels of performance.

Every day this week (through Saturday), you can watch the US National Swimming Championships Finals starting at 6PM PST. CLICK HERE to watch. Enjoy!



Track your warm-up.

A good warmup is an essential element of any workout and crucial to success in competition. Studies suggest that 15-20 minutes of low to moderate intensity effort (50%-60% of maximum heart rate) can increase endurance performance by 6% and sprint performance by 7% (compared to no warmup). Some studies are now even showing that higher outputs in the 70-90% range during warmup actually harm performance. Make sure that you are warming up enough by checking your heart rate throughout warmup. Once you have reached a sustained heart rate in the 50%-60% of maximum, you are probably ready for competition or the more intense portions of your workout.



Warm Down by Heart Rate

After a big competition or tough practice, many swimmers don’t warm-down enough. They may swim until they feel “loose”, but in reality they probably need to go further. When worked to the max, the muscles need more time to recover and the lactic acid build-up needs more time to flush out of your system.

One good way to make sure you have warmed down enough is to continuously warm down until your heart rate is below a certain threshold. A good target would be around 80-90 bpm. At this point, your body is telling you that it has recovered and your cardio-vascular system has relaxed. Continue swimming (without stopping to chat with friends) until you hit that 80-90 bpm target. You may have to do a few more laps than your used to, but your body will be much happier and you will be more prepared for your next swim.


Workout at a Specific Heart Rate Goal

In swimming we often set target time goals for aerobic repeat sets. To try something different, set a specific target heart rate for your swimming set. For example, try swimming 10×100 freestyle at a heart rate of 140 on 10 seconds rest between each 100. You can gauge how well you are doing on the set by comparing your times to your heart rate to better understand your performance. To make this feedback even more useful, try swimming the set first at a pace where you think you can maintain 10 seconds rest at a 140 heart rate. Then swim the set on a resting interval and see if you can beat your previous pace without letting your heart rate peak.

Accurate Heart Rate Technology While Swimming?

Heart rate is an effective indicator of effort and monitoring that effort is vital for athletes to train and perform at their highest potential. Unfortunately, swimmers just don’t have access to the same heart rate technologies as other athletes. The chest straps and watches of current HRM’s were specifically designed for runners or bikers, and they become cumbersome when worn in a pool. Further, swimmers need to stop and look at a HRM when they train, effectively slowing down their true heart rate value. Meanwhile athletes on dryland are getting accurate real-time results. So what is the right solution for swimming?

What if I said we built a new HRM from the ground up…a device that gives instant feedback to swimmers while they swim and doesn’t use chest straps or watches…a HRM developed for swimmers by swimmers…wouldn’t that be awesome?!


A Quick Start Guide to Resistance Training

Resistance training gives a swimmer the unique ability to focus specifically on producing power during their training. When used correctly resistance cords and swim parachutes produce a swimming specific workout very similar to weight training. Let’s discuss the cord products produced by FINIS and each of their specific purposes in training.

Stationary Cords Hip Belt

These are the most basic and elementary resistance cords designed for general resistance training. Attached at the hip and secured to a fixed point on the pool deck or gutter, these cords are designed to stretch 7-10 yards. Swimmers will encounter increased resistance as they stretch the cords farther. For turn training, try turning and pushing straight off the wall while wearing the cords. Extend your streamlining underwater before starting to swim.

Stationary Cords Ankle Strap

A variation of the Hip Belt, these cords attach to the ankles, allowing the swimmer to train with a full and unimpeded kick while using the cords.

Stationary Cords Lane Belt

Perfect for the crowded team environment, these unique cords attach to parallel lane lines allowing several swimmers to be setup in a single lane. They are also perfect for working on increasing core strength. Take 4-5 powerful strokes against the resistance before proceeding into a fast mid-pool flip turn. After turning, swim in the opposite direction until you hit significant resistance and perform another turn. Work on faster turns by repeating this pattern on a rest interval.

Swim Parachute

Swim parachutes are unique in this group of resistance training tools because the parachute resistance is directly related to the velocity of the swimmer. Further the resistance will stay relatively constant throughout a lap or interval if the swimmer’s speed is maintained. Many swimmers use parachutes in lower intensity training sets like pulling sets, where you can combine resistance with paddles to work on upper body development. I would also recommend trying swim parachutes in sprint workouts. During high intensity 10-20 second bursts, the higher sprinting velocity will create a tremendous resistance workload for the swimmer. Try swimming 2×25 all out with the swim parachute with a good deal of rest to allow for muscle recovery. Focus on maintaining good technique even if it means a loss of power.  Then take off the parachute and swim 2×25 at max effort.

- Paul



Speed Training: My training update for USMS Nationals + Sample Workout

With the championship meet only a week away, I am now focusing on race-pace speeds. There are many names for speed training: anaerobic capacity, explosive power, “easy speed”, sprint work etc. Whatever your name for it, just know that speed training is a critical element for the first 15-20 seconds of your race. Just like aerobic capacity, anaerobic capacity needs to be trained and developed over time. The following workout works on this energy system after warm-up and kicking. While it has some breaststroke drills, feel free to use your choice of stroke and substitute your preferred drills.

400 mix warmup

200 kick, build and “wake up” your legs

4×50 breaststroke @ 1:00

Alternate 1easy, 1 fast

2×50 @ 1:00

Double pull-out breaststroke @ 85% effort

2×50 @ 1:15

25 kick fast underwater / 25 easy free

3x {

2x 25 @ 0:45, 12.5 fast / 12.5 easy

50 easy @ 1:00

50 fast @ 1:00

100 easy @ 2:00


100 warmdown

Total: 1850 yards

- Paul


Using your Core: My training update for USMS Nationals + Sample Workout

I’m two weeks into my four-week training cycle leading up to USMS Nationals in Mesa, Arizona. My goal was to get in the water 3 times a week in preparation for the meet. So far, I’ve only managed to swim twice each week.  Additionally, I have focused on emphasizing core stabilization in my out-of-water training. Because I am on such a constrained training cycle, I’m targeting areas where I can make the most gains.

The abdominal muscles are very strong and tend to be the first to atrophy. At the same time they can take a substantially larger workload than most other muscles because of their strength. As a result your core often needs the most work but it can also tolerate a heavy workload! Your core strength brings subtle but crucial changes to the way you swim in the water. For instance, my back position in the water is substantially better. As my core gains strength, my lower back flattens helping me sit more efficiently in the water (related to the concept of swimming downhill).

Yesterday’s Workout:

400 free/back warm up

400 easy warm up kick

4×100 body dolphin kick on back with Zoomers @ 1:40

Try to emphasize a full range of motion and power driven from the core. Zoomers are great in forcing you to engage your core while maintaining a higher kick tempo as if you were kicking without fins.

100 easy/loosen

4 x (3 x 50 Breaststroke + 1 x 50 Easy Freestyle)

All 50s @ 60. Descend the 50’s Breaststroke 1-3 with the third at 100% effort. Rounds 3 & 4 swim breaststroke with a dolphin kick using Zoomers.

200 easy warm down



An Entire Training Season – In 4 Weeks! My preparation for USMS Nationals!

It’s that time of year again. Time to shake off the rust of 11 months without consistent training. Time to train for USMS Nationals to avoid making a complete fool of myself. With only a month left to train before the April 28th start date, I will be attempting to recreate an entire 4-month training cycle condensed into a 4-week period. Due to my time limitations, I am hoping to swim 3 times per week for the next 4 weeks, reporting each workout along the way.

The Plan:

Week 1: Aerobic Focus. I will swim mostly at a 130-150 heart rate to build my endurance. Each practice will be around 2500 yd.

Week 2: Aerobic Focus with a threshold set. I will continue to focus on moderate paced swimming for 2 workouts before building in an anaerobic threshold set.

Week 3: Anaerobic Focus. This week I will focus on lactate tolerance and swimming at a higher energy level (heart rate around 170-200  beats/min). These workouts will feature higher speeds with more substantial rest intervals.

Week 4: Taper/ Speedplay. This will be the “taper” portion of my training cycle where I will focus on my body’s muscle memory. I want to make sure I have the explosive power that is used during the first 10-15 seconds of a race.