I hit upon a new swim set last night that I really enjoyed so I thought I’d share it with you all – although I apologise for the lack of pictures in the post! It’s really hard to get pics of a swim set in a pool especially as we are not allowed to take pictures of the pool so sorry about that.
The swim almost didn’t happen. Firstly I had left my bike lock at home so couldn’t lock it up outside the pool. Luckily my office stayed open late enough and was near enough for me to leave the bike at work and walk back after swimming. Secondly, as I put my swimming costume on and reached for my hat I realised my goggles were not in their usual place inside the hat… yep I had left them at home. I only had a short time to get the swim in before heading to a pub quiz so I wavered and then decided I’d just have to buy a new pair at reception. £15 later and I had a pair of the most uncomfortable goggles I’ve ever worn – an expensive purchase as I doubt I’ll wear them again!
Anyway – time to get in the pool.
The set below is good for when you don’t have a full hour to swim. After Saturday’s long swim of 500m sets and using the pull buoy, I wanted to work my legs for strength and do a bit of technique work on rotation. So I brought my fins along with me.
Fins are great for improving leg strength in the pool. You don’t want those big ones that scuba divers use, little ones are much better for use in the pool. They are handy for allowing you to slow yourself down and focus on stroke and arm/rotation technique – however, as they displace more water, they increase the resistance. If you kick as hard as you normally might, they target muscles on your legs that you may not be using properly when you swim without fins.
They also help with ankle flexibility – something that many runners and cyclists struggle with when they get in the water (with my ballet background, I’ve never had a problem with ankle flexibility but it’s always good to work on it!) Having flexible ankles will make your kick more streamlined and efficient.
Finally, the buoyancy of the fins helps get your body into a good, high, streamlined position – practicing being in this position with fins on will help you stay in the position when you take them off!
The other thing that fins are great for is giving you an added bit of propulsion and buoyancy when you are trying to work on something else. The other aim of my set yesterday was to work on my body rotation in the swim. This means rolling your shoulders, body and hips at the same time as you take your strokes. Doing this is really important for a fast stroke, especially when wearing a wetsuit in open water. Why?
Firstly, the wetsuit constrains your shoulders. Rolling your body makes it much easier to bring your recovering arm over the top of your body with the shoulder high. When you are on your side, the recovery is a much easier action than if you are flat on your front in the water.
Secondly, rolling means you are able to use larger, stronger muscles in your swim. Rather than just your arm and shoulder muscles, you can use your back, core and side muscles. You know its a good swim workout if you come out the pool with your sides aching!
It also makes you more streamlined in the water, makes turning your head to breathe easier, and allows for a longer stroke. BUT it is often really difficult and feels unnatural at first. The drills below are great for getting you used to the position and I was so surprised by how easy the body roll felt afterwards, and how much easier it made swimming! P.s. for more information – the Swim Smooth website is always fantastic and this is a very useful article about why rotation is important.
Okay – now all the theory is out of the way, here’s the actual set.
1) Warm-up: 2 x 200m front crawl – although, because I can’t count, I did 2 x 250m front crawl (10 lengths). I wore the fins for the first rep to get used to how they felt and warm up my leg muscles, and then no fins for the second rep. Note: fins are slippy on the bottom of the pool and pushing off is hard when you’re wearing them!
2) 4 x 100m with 10-30secs RI. Each 100m went as follows:
– 25m front crawl
– 25m on my side, with the bottom arm outstretched in front of me and the top arm lying across my body. My head is facing the bottom of the pool so my eyes are staring right at the bottom and I am looking past my shoulder.
– 25m with both arms relaxed lying back along my body. Start on one side, with your head facing the bottom of the pool. Without moving your head, use your back and side muscles to roll your body from lying on the right side to lying on the left. Repeat throughout the length (rolling up more to breathe when needed).
– 25m front crawl – I couldn’t believe how much I was rotating and how easy it was on this length!
3) 4 x 100m with 10-30secs RI. Wearing fins, each 100m as follows:
– 50m holding onto a float in front of me, kicking as hard as I can
– 50m front crawl
4) Warm-down: whatever you like! My warm-down involved 50m breast stroke, 50m front crawl, 50m backstroke (all without fins), 100m slow front crawl with fins to finish.
Total: 1550m and 40mins of swimming.