September and October are the months to relax in the pool. For most, the season has concluded and a mental break is needed for both the coach and the athletes.* I’m a proponent that it's ok to get a little out-of-shape so you have something to get back into. This means that you continue to attend your regular swims and maintain your feel for the water (and as you always do: arrive on-time so as to not be the cause of discontent to the coach on deck) but you know that the intensity level will be less than at other months of the year.
* For those who still have some season left, I am glad to accommodate their yardage needs within a workout.
During this 8-week phase, we work on drills-skills-&thrills, with that last one in the form of games and silly sets. After a 10-15 minute warm up period, we take the next 15-20 minutes as a group to work on specific drills that focus on certain parts of the stroke. We do these in the form of slow 25s with feedback from the deck. This is a very very important component of our season: working on the building blocks of your stroke. In case you think this isn't for you, please know that elite athletes of every sport do technique drills on a DAILY basis. “One size doesn’t fit all” aligns closely with the notion that not every drill is perfect for you. However in order to be the best swimmer you can be, it's essential to know a lot of different drills so you can figure out what works best for you on this particular day. To know what you like and what you loathe, what you're good at and what you really suck at aids in one’s overall improvement. From the deck, I am carefully watching which drills work for which individual and often mention as much.
The technique phase of each workout segues into a training set that encompasses the skills we've just been working on. Whether it's turns, bilateral breathing, wide catch, kicking, and anything else I think up, you get to incorporate your concentrated technique work into faster-by-just-a-little-bit swimming. By stressing the athlete just a little bit I can see where break down occurs and previous habits surface. Feedback comes at various decibel levels to various athletes, and you’d be spot-on to accuse me of sounding like a broken record. A memorable quote from a VQ IMer seems to sum up the hands on attention: “Marcia totally saved my ass on race day - after 8 months of kicking it."
When an individual masters one skill level, another one is introduced, keeping the cognitive process moving forward, with the hope that the body will follow. I have yet to find someone in our swim pool (pun intended) who can bilaterally turn.
Finally, I try to end each workout with something short and (possibly) fun. We often do 25s with poolside pushups – some of you are becoming quite adept with these! There are wheelbarrow races to entertain us, hypoxic work to challenge, and occasionally, choice sets. There are times the entire workout follows a theme. Last week, we played “The Dice Game.” We’ll certainly plug into the upcoming holidays: Halloween, Election Day, Thanksgiving, and the 12 Days of Christmas. From both sides of the pool, it’s important to keep people mentally engaged, especially adults. Right now is the time of the year we’re doing this from the base of the stroke and building a strong foundation. See you in the Water!