You've determined the type of set you want to create. Now, you need to decide how complicated you want to make that set. As we'll see, more is not always better. BETTER is better.
Decide how many subtasks you can handle
You can make sets simple or you can make sets complex. Both have advantages. With simpler sets, you can focus on accomplishing one specific objective. This tends to work really well for those just beginning their journey. Trying to accomplish more than one objective can leave you frustrated. The old adage ‘chase two rabbits, catch none’ applies. You’re much better off zeroing in on one goal and dominating it.
At some point, you might need more of a challenge. When that becomes the case, it’s time to add more than one task to your set. This makes it more difficult to accomplish your primary objective. You’ve already demonstrated the ability to accomplish your goal in simple situations. Now it’s time to tackle that objective in more difficult situations.
Let’s take a look at a specific example where we go over the difference between working on achieving a singular objective versus multiple objectives.
6x100@1:30 Single paddle freestyle; ODD right paddle EVEN left paddle; maintain equal pressure on both sides
In this example, you’re going to need to focus on maintaining equal pressure on both hands throughout the duration of the set, regardless of which hand the paddle if on. It might be easier to do on the right, or it might be easier for you to do on the left. Regardless, that is your singular objective and all of your focus should be on achieving that goal. When you do it, you’ve achieved success!
6x100@1:30 Single paddle freestyle; ODD right paddle EVEN left paddle; maintain equal pressure on both sides; 2nd 50 take fewer strokes; des in pairs
With this set, we’ve taken the same set and added several objectives that will make achieving the original objective, maintaining equal pressure, much more difficult. First, you will now need to swim faster with each pair of 100s. The 2nd time you swim with the paddle on your right hand, it needs to be faster than the first time. Likewise, the second time you swim with the paddle on your left hand, it also needs to be faster than the first time. The third time needs to be faster than the second.
All the while, you’re still expected to maintain equal pressure on both hands. Now that you’re expected to swim faster, this will be more difficult to do. Not only does it require more skill to swim well faster, you’ll also be experiencing more physiological stress. You’ll be getting tired!
But we’re not done. Beyond the speed requirement, you also will need to take fewer strokes during the 2nd 50 of each 100 than you do during the 1st50 of each 100. In addition to the speed requirement, this will also make it more difficult to maintain equal pressure on both hands as you’ll be searching for a way to get more length. So, while you still need to maintain equal pressure on both hands, challenging in and of itself, you have to do so with only one paddle, while swimming faster, AND while changing your stroke count in the middle of each swim!
As you can see, the second set is much more technically challenging than the first set. Achieving equal pressure on both sides is a noteworthy accomplish during the first set. If you can accomplish the same goal during the 2nd set, you’re demonstrating a much higher level of skill. If you’ve been successful with the first set, it makes sense to tackle the challenge of the second. At the same time, if you jump right into the second set, you’re just going to be frustrated. It’s simply too much.
The key here is to start with a challenge that you stand a good chance of accomplishing with some regularity. Ideally, you’ll struggle, but not too much. You’ll experience some failure and some success to start. Too much failure will be demotivating and you won’t learn anything. Likewise, too much success will be demotivating and you won’t be challenged to learn anything.
Start with what you feel confident you can achieve. When in doubt, do a little bit less. If it’s too easy, you can always do more. It’s going to be a lot easier to make something more difficult than it is to be forced to scale back. Play it safe, and then ramp it up as you’re successful.
With the type of set clear, as well as what you'll be doing during the set, it's time to decide on volume. It's all about how much you can do WELL. Stay tuned for part IV.