Even if you know the right exercises, and how to manipulate those exercises to keep the learning coming, you need to make sure that how you set up your practices is aligned with what you’re aiming to accomplish.
How you set up practice sessions, and how you create sets to be performed, will great impact how effective you are in accomplishing your goals.
When trying to get it RIGHT as quickly and effectively as possible, there are clear training guidelines that you want to be mindful of when designing or participating in any training sessions. When trying to optimize your learning, the overriding consideration is to limit the amount of fatigue created.
While the rules below are fairly prescriptive, if there is ever any doubt, remember that the focus should be on getting as much skilled practice as possible, while creating as little fatigue as possible.
Physiology is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how hard you work it matters what you learn. This is a tough mindset shift for a lot of swimmers and triathletes. Most individuals are used to working hard to make progress, and rightfully so. However, when it comes to learning new skills, the opposite approach is often warranted. The goal is to learn new ways of moving through the water, NOT to enhance your fitness in any way whatsoever. Once you’re freed from the need to improve your fitness and conditioning, you can begin to work in a way that will revolutionize your skills.
Focus on practicing skills instead of developing fitness. This is the mindset one must create when beginning the process of establishing new skills. While it’s a different frame of mind, it’s a frame of mind that will ultimately lead to massive changes in performance. The focus needs to be on how well you move through the water rather than how tired you get. A successful practice is one where you get a lot of great repetitions as opposed to creating a lot of fatigue.
Go as short as you need. If you need to 25s, do 25s. If you need to go 5 strokes at a time, go 5 strokes at a time. The focus is on getting quality practice in, not developing your fitness or your physiology. When in doubt, perform shorter repetitions to ensure that the quality of practice is a high as possible. It becomes much more difficult to learn when you are fatigued.
You’re much better of swimming 20x25m perfectly than 500m straight with impaired quality of execution. It’s not always the total volume that’s the problem, it’s how long you’re swimming without a break. How do you know what the appropriate distance is? Simply pay attention to how you’re swimming. If it feels like a struggle, perform shorter reps. If you feel like you’re executing everything really well, keep rolling with what you’re doing.
Take as much rest as you need. Remember, the goal is to optimize your learning. As a result, you want to make sure you take enough rest to ensure that you are working on your new skills as well as possible. If you’re not taking enough rest, you’ll find that your skills will degrade, and this will impair your learning.
As a general rule, 15 seconds too much rest will never hurt your progress, whereas 15 seconds too little rest will always impair your learning. When in doubt, rest more. If you find yourself fatiguing at the end of each repetition, or slowly fatiguing over the course of several repetitions, take more rest!
Next time, we'll take a look at several more rules to ensuring you're setting up your practice sessions as effectively as possible to maximize learning.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.