If you've worked on Extending Your Skills and Speeding It Up, it’s time to make your skills bulletproof. The most difficult time to execute your skills is when you are swimming fast AND you’re getting tired.
You’re faced with two challenges- you’re working to swim as fast as possible, challenging in its own right, and you’re trying to overcome mounting fatigue. At the same time, it’s not enough to simply maintain your effort. You need to swim WELL. To overcome these challenges, you need to be prepared.
This getting 'race ready' will only work if you’ve spent the time making your skills more robust with solid exposure to short, fast speed work and long, slow endurance work. See the articles linked above for details.
If you haven’t put the time and the focused work in on these areas, your skills are much more likely to fall apart. Be sure to do the foundational work first. It will help you improve in the short-term AND the long-term.
Assuming you’ve already worked on improving the basic speed and endurance of your skills, let’s take it to the next level. This approach is all about executing your skills while facing progressively increasing challenges. As with any training goal, there are strategies that you can use to make the most out of your training. Some behaviors are going to move you a lot closer to your goals a lot faster, and some behaviors are going to stand in your way. Below are some guidelines that serve to help you navigate the challenges you’ll face when aiming to make sure your skills are race ready.
Skills still come first. Throughout this process, you will be REALLY challenging your skills. It is VERY difficult to maintain your skills under physical pressure, which is why we have to train this ability. To do so, you will be challenged and you must keep the execution of your skills at the forefront of your focus. Rather than trying to swim harder or faster, the focus must be on maintaining a high level of execution, all while swimming fast and tired.
Remember that you are training your skills as much as you are training your physiology. If you fail to swim with great skills, you’ll likely improve your physical fitness, but you’ll fail to improve your physiology. Skills are that important. If you find that you’re unable to execute your skills, you need to scale it back, regardless of how badly you want to keep it going.
SOME skill degradation is acceptable. While skills undoubtedly come first, you will experience some technical degradation during a practice session. This is particularly true towards the end of repetitions and sets. While excessively compromised skills are certainly a problem, a small amount of degradation can actually promote learning. It’s through the struggle to maintain your skills that you can learn. However, you should do anything and everything you can to minimize any degradation that occurs. If your skills fall apart to some extent, it should be in spite of every intention to ensure that they don’t fall apart. If the skills fall apart to a large extent, something needs to change. You’ll need to refocus on your execution, or change the set.
Intent matters as much as outcome. Building off the previous point, it is the intent of your execution that matters as much as the outcome of your execution. If you are very focused and swim with full technical intention, this will enhance your learning, even if you’re unable to execute your skills to the standard that you would like. It is the effort and the fight to swim well in the face of mounting fatigue that matters. Keep your intention clear, and learning will still happen.
Be honest. Know the difference between a learning environment and an environment where you are simply struggling with a challenge you can’t meet. This type of work is hard. In spite of the difficulty, you should be successful more often than not. You should be able to swim the way you want to swim, and achieve the speeds you want to achieve. If you aren’t performing to an acceptable standard, you’ll be best be served by taking a step back and making your training more manageable.
Be patient. Progress doesn’t happen overnight. Executing your skills in challenging situations is hard to do. It takes time and it takes patience. Being too aggressive will work against you as you’re much more likely to be too aggressive in your training, ultimately compromising the skills you’re aiming to develop. More than anything, you need to give yourself time to learn to focus on your technique in spite of the pain and fatigue of intense effort.
If you want to your skills to be race ready, you need to take the appropriate approach to accomplishing that goal. That starts with following the guidelines described above.
If you just 'work hard', it won't happen. If you just swim smoothly with great skills, it won't happen.
You need to find a way to incorporate both.
More to come.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.