How much can you do well?
Once you’ve decided what you want to do and how you want to do it, the final decision to make is to determine how much of it would you like to do. You could make this decision based upon time or you can decide based upon volume. For instance, you can do an hour of work, or you could do 2,500 yards. Either works well, although it makes sense to stick with one so there is consistency in how you’re measuring.
What should determine your decision? The primary driver should be the amount of work you believe you can do well. If you want to make progress, quality is a lot more important than quantity. You are better off doing less work performed at a high level than you are to do more, yet sacrifice the quality of that work. If you believe you can perform 60 minutes of work with a high level of engagement, focus, and effort, do it! If you believe your limit is 2,000 yards for a given type of work, that’s how much you should do.
Be aware that the amount of work you can do is going to depend on what you’re doing. 60 minutes of low intensity skill work is going to be a lot more manageable than 60 minutes of racing. There may be pretty large differences in the amount of work you can do for one type of training as compared to another. That’s completely normal. You may even find that you can tolerate a lot of one type of work and much less of another, whereas a friend can do that opposite. It’s individual.
The best indicator of what’s going to be appropriate is past experience. Think back about you’ve done in the past, particularly when you felt strong for the majority of those practices. That’s probably a good indication of what’s going to be appropriate workloads for you now.
How long do you typically swim for? That’s a good frame of reference.
Are you engaged for most of that time? If so, that likely means you can handle those volumes. If not, less might be more.
What do you love to do? If you’re having fun and loving it, you can probably handle more work.
What would you rather not do? You’re probably going to want to keep the volumes and the time lower here.
If you are really not sure, there’s a simple solution. Start with a volume or amount of time that you KNOW that you can do, and then do it. If it goes well, and you’re sure you could have handled more, add a little bit more the next time around. If you’re happy with where you’re at, then simply keep it there. If you really want to, you can continue to slowly add work until it’s no longer productive. At that point, scale it back. While I’m not sure that’s the best approach, it works. Another way to think about it is to do as much as necessary, not as much as possible. Challenge yourself, don’t bury yourself.
Check out the next article. I'll lay out how to put it all together.