Congratulations, you just turned out a stellar performance at your last meet or competition. From the second you entered the water, you were riding high, feeling strong, and confident. Now its over and you are starting up your training again, and you wonder how you are going to replicate that stellar performance this season. Obviously what you did this last season worked, so why not do it again?
Or maybe, you didn’t do so well. Maybe you were surpised to find yourself feeling sluggish when just days before you were feeling on top of your game. Maybe the day of the race you were left with only one gear: moderately fast. This is not how you were supposed to feel!
Both of these scenarios begs the question: What DID you do this past season?
Sadly most of us don’t know. We went to practice, followed coach’s orders, or if you swim alone, did whatever felt right at the time. Weekly training varied based on our life schedule, cramming in the distance when there was time and taking time off when the kids had that week-long soccer tournament.
While most of us cannot train like the pros do (i.e. follow carefully and scientifically designed season training plans which outline parameters like weekly distance, number of workouts, and the percentage of distance done in the specific energy levels), you can at least document and track your workouts.
Minimally, you should keep a training log in which you track your workouts, pace, and a least a few “feeling” notations, such as “Started out feeling very sore, but by second round of the main set I began to loosen up and get fast” or “Slight head cold made it very hard to swim above aerobic pace” or even “Stretched the night before and felt amazing from the start.” The more information, the better. While this can be very low tech with a pace clock, notebook, and pencil, you can also use a SwimSense Performance Monitor and upload the info to the SwimSense Training Log.
Even before the season is over you can study your training log to look for patterns. Do you always feel terrible on a specific day? If so, make that day your recovery day, and save your hardest workouts for days that you generally feel good. Do you find yourself getting slower and slower as the season progresses, even degenerating down to illness, even though you are training hard? You are probably overtraining.
At the end of the season, you will have a record of every yard or meter you swam. You will get an idea of your weekly distance, how much and at what rate you were able to build over the season, and when you started resting or tapering for your big meet. Did you hit your taper just right? Good, then try and taper the same way next time. Did you feel your best a week after your big competition? Next time extend your taper a few days. Did you feel your best 4 days before your big competition? Next time start your taper later. Did you find yourself lacking in the speed you need to take it out fast in your 5k? Take a look back to see if you were doing an adequate amount of speed work. Did you have the speed but lack the endurance/pain acclimation for your 10k race? Check the log for the frequency and duration of your long open water sessions.
When you find something that works, stick with it, but don’t be afraid to continuously tweak your training! Everyone is different and responds differently to training and rest. It took me twenty years and forty seasons to figure out that I do best with a drop taper that is longer than a normal drop taper, a fact I only figured out because of a shoulder injury. Even if you train with a team, you can take this information to your coach to discuss how you can personalize your training. Most coaches will be happy to make recommendations on ways to modify the workout to help you achieve your goals.