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How To Modify Sets For Skill Part II

We're continuing to explore how to modify sets to improve your skills, building upon what was discussed in PART I. Check out these strategies to find a way to continue to work on your skills, regardless of the set you're doing.


Add a twist. Rather than overhauling a set, simply make a minor adjustment to what’s being done, often with the use of training equipment. Here are some simple ideas to try-


  • If you’re doing a long swim set, you could simply perform some of the laps with different hand positions. You could switch between different paddles or you could change your hand configuration. Alternatively, instead of varying the hand position, you could contrast it with the right hand using a different surface area than the left. This is a great way to work on what you’re feeling with the hands

  • You could also throw a snorkel on for some swims and not for others to work on feeling how your breath is affecting your body position and rhythm.

  • Add fins to see how your body position is affected at higher speeds. Where do you feel pressure along the torso that would indicate your body position isn’t optimal? How can you change that?

  • Add a pull buoy to focus specifically on what your upper body is doing.

  • Change your breathing pattern to practice making the breath feel as seamless as when you aren’t breathing.

  • Add small amounts of resistance in the form of a drag suit or a pair of shorts. A small amount can make a big difference in terms of what you feel, all without disrupting the flow of the practice for others.


This is just a start. Anything you can think of is fair game, provided you have a reason and you're using your twist to improve, rather than simply using a crutch.


Rotate your attention. A key part of learning to feel the water is simply paying attention to what you’re feeling. The sensation is ALWAYS there. However, we’re not paying attention most of the time. During the course of the set, you could simply shift your attention around your body each repetition. During each repetition deeply focus on what you’re feeling in a given area of your body.


If it’s the hips, how are they moving, or not? If it’s the hands, where are they creating great pressure, and where is the pressure lost? If it’s the head, how is the pressure changing as water flows over the head, and how does it change during the breath? These are some simple ideas. ANY area of the body is fair game, and you’ll be surprised by what you learn.


It will work better if you keep the time spent in any one area brief. By keeping the time spent short, you’re less likely to get distracted, and you’re more likely to consistently experience novel sensation. Of course, you can keep the focus on a given area as long as you’d like. Just make sure that you’re focused on what’s happening rather than what’s for dinner.


Paying attention is a skill. Working on it during any set is a worthy investment. You’ll learn something valuable about how you’re swimming, you’ll strength your ability to pay attention, or you’ll accomplish both.


Scull on the wall. During your rest periods, you can lightly scull on the wall. This will help you get a feel for manipulating pressure between each swim and it doesn’t require any adjustments to the actual set you’re performing. You can change the type of scull you’re doing each time to increase the variety. Depending on the situation, you could perform this sculling vertically. If that’s not much of an option, you can even hang on to the wall with one arm and scull with the other. This will provide you with the opportunity to play with pressure, and use that insight in your next swim. Little interventions add up over time.


Warm-up and warm-down. Most coaches provide swimmers with more latitude during the initial stages of warm-up and during warm-down. It’s usually something like a X00 loosen, with some coaches providing more time and others providing less. This is a great time to invest in some feel work. Do whatever helps you get ready for a great practice, or helps you leave the pool feeling great.


Remember, getting a great feel for the water is about accumulating a lot of practice. Every little bit adds up. Small amounts of work done on a daily basis during warm-up and warm-down will add up to something special over time.


Stay tuned for next time where I provide you with a practical example.

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