When you're aiming to ensure that your skills are race ready, technical exercises still play a huge role in maintaining the skills you’ve worked so hard to develop. However, the role they play, and where they’re optimally inserted, differs from the previous phases. Because you’re focused more on sustained your skills during physically demanding repetitions, there is less opportunity to insert technical exercises during those challenging repetitions. Rather that attempting to do so, you’re going to place your technical exercises where they’re more likely to help, during warm-ups and during warm-downs.
Let me show you how.
When warming up, you’re not only warming up your body, you’re warming up your skills. You need to warm up your technique as much as you need to warm up your muscles. Your technical exercises are an excellent way to do this. Throughout your warm-up, sprinkle in these exercises to reacquaint yourself with the sensations you need to feel and recreate when racing. This will help you swim with great skills, retaining what you’ve learned previously.
You can incorporate these exercises in any manner you choose. You can perform a dedicated skill set followed by progressively faster swimming, or you can simply perform a couple repetitions in between progressively faster repetitions of full stroke swimming. There is no right or wrong way to do so, provided that your warming up and locking in your skills.
After performing a series of challenging efforts, you’re going to be fatigued. To get ready for the next set or the next training session, warming down is a smart choice. Further, it’s a prime opportunity to reinforce your skills. Rather than floating on your back, perform your favorite technical exercises while you keep moving to recover. While you don’t worry about how fast you perform these exercises, you should focus on executing these swims to a VERY high standard of performance.
Doing so serves two very important purposes. In the first case, this technical work during recovery periods is extra training. As you’re working intently on your skills as you’re in a state of fatigue, this will continue to reinforce the key concept of executing skills when you are tired. While this is a little easier to do when you’re not worried about speed, it’s just as valuable in enhancing your long-term progress.
The second benefit of performing technical exercises during warm-downs is in re-establishing your skills. When you perform any hard, fast swimming, there is typically some loss of technique that occurs as a result. By performing technical exercises in between tough efforts, it not only facilitates your recovery physically, it helps you recover technically. This will help you ensure that you start each set with a great feel for how to execute your skills. Otherwise, you may find yourself slowly performing worse and worse as you tire physically and technically.
If it’s a warm-down at the end of your training session, you’re re-establishing amazing skills so that you can start your NEXT training session in a really good place. Rather than spending the first portion of your training session trying to find your skills, you’re much more likely to be able to hit the ground running if you start off in the right place. The last thing you do is what your body remembers, so make sure your body is remembering something excellent!
On the flip side, completing your warm-downs poorly is actively working against yourself. If you simply slop through your warm-downs, you’re training yourself to move in exactly the opposite way of what you want. You’re teaching yourself that when you get tired, the appropriate response is to do anything and everything you can to recover, rather than doubling down on your skills under fatigue.
Keep It Going
Technical exercises still play a large role in ensuring that you are maintaining your skills during progressively more difficult situations. By placing them before and after the main work, you can lock in your skills before getting to it, and then re-establish those skills so that you remain ready to perform at a high level, even when you’re being to physically tire. This will increase the likelihood that you continue to swim well, regardless of the situation.
FASTER. EASIER. BETTER.