Guppy Challenge: Week 1

Itís 10 weeks long, it begins this upcoming Monday. The goal is to make you faster, and to do it not simply through grunt yards but also through fixing some technique problems you may have.

You don't have to sign up for this, you can just follow along and do the workouts, but if you want to sign up, sign-up is here. It requires just the typical reader forum login to be established.

Mandatory equipment: a pool, a swimsuit, goggles, a device to time yourself. Elective equipment: buoy, paddles, symmetric (center-mount) snorkel, neoprene sleeves. If you only have the mandatory equipment, fine, we have drills that will paper over the elective equipment you lack.

Nomenclature

Letís talk pool standards. A couple of days ago I asked you what kind of pool you swim in. About a thousand of you answered and about 6 in 10 of you swim in a 25 yard pool. We call that a short course pool and itís a short course yards pool because itís yards. We abbreviate it SCY.

About a third of you regularly swim in a 25 meter pool and we call that short course meters (SCM). About 1 in 10 of you swim 50 meters (LCM) even during the winter. Thatís rare. A 50 meter pool is typically set up the long way in the Summer because thatís LCM season, and itís set up the other way (widthwise) during the Winter because thatís SCY season. Iím going to give you workouts in SCY. If youíre swimming 25 meters, youíre swimming 10 percent farther. Good for you!

A "leave interval" is the total time it takes you to swim and rest. Let's say you were swimming repeat 100 yards, 10 of them, which Iíll write as 10 x 100yd. If youíre in danger of not making the cut-off in an Ironman swim, a good leave interval for you is 2:30, meaning that you might swim the 100 yards in 2 minutes, rest 30 seconds, and then take off again. Youíre ďleavingĒ every 2:30, so you would "leave" at 2:30, 5:00, 7:30, 10:00, etc., until you had completed 10 of these 100s. Got it?

If you were doing a "ladder" set that consisted of swimming 100yd, followed by 200yd, 300yd, 400yd, and then back down, 300, 200, 100, you might say that you're "leaving" on the "2 minute base." This means you swim your 100yd, maybe you finish that swim in 1:40, you rest 20sec, then leave at 2min. Then you swim the 200 in, say, in 3:35, and then you leave at the 4-minute point. If you're leaving on the "2min base" then you would swim 200yd and leave for your next swim at 4min; if your next swim was 300yd youíd leave at the 6min point, and so forth.

Warm-Up

I like long warm-ups. Weíre going to kill two birds here. The first several hundred yards of each workout will serve as a warm-up and also to work on technique. Some of the better coaches I know put a premium on knowing how to swimming slow. If you canít swim slowly and make good progress with good body position this uncovers stroke deficiencies you paper over by just swimming faster. SoÖ

6 x 50yd leaving on the a slow interval: Where you can swim easily and still have about 10sec to 15sec to recover. What I want is attention to specific elements of stroke mechanics, namely:

Specifics => Hands entering directly in front of your shoulders during the catch. You *think* you are doing this. Maybe you are. But the failure comes during the catch when youíre breathing. Adult onset swimmers pull their torsos out of line when they breathe, so that if you breathe on the left your torso pulls a bit to the left, that is, your torso isnít really pointing to the far wall anymore. Yes, your hand may be hitting the water in front of your shoulder, but because your torso is no longer facing the other end of the pool your hand is ďcrossed over,Ē itís crossing the bodyís centerline.

We have two problems here we need to fix: torso out of line, and hand entering the water crossed over. Rather than overthinking this, I just want you to concentrate on not contorting your torso, not bending at the waist, when you breathe. Then, as for the hands, they need to reach to the far wall with every stroke.

Warm-Up continued...

6 x 100yd leaving on interval easy to make: Much like the set you just did, just itís 100s now, again leaving on a slow interval, where you can swim easily and still have about 10sec to 15sec to recover. What I want now is for you to swim with 1 arm, the other arm straight in front of you. I want you to swim that way, 1-arm pulls, for one length of the pool, then back regular swimming, then the 3rd length is pulling with the other arm, final length is regular swimming.

Specifics => The focus here is on the off-arm. It needs to be STRAIGHT! Hand right below the surface! No sculling with the off-hand!

Main set

6 x 150yd: Weíre keeping this short, because I donít want you to swim to the point where you canít hold our technique any longer. What I hope for in the warm-up set is that weíve gotten into your head the notion of straight-ahead swimming. Reach for the far wall. Keep your kick tight and concise, with your feet not crossing over during the kick, or with your legs splaying wide when you breathe. Remember those 1-arm pulls? Where the off-arm was straight in front of you, hand near the surface? Thatís where that hand should be during the catch and extend phase. Try not to let your hand drift down during the extend phase.

Donít try to swim this overhard. Make sure you have 10sec to 15sec between each 150. See if you can establish what you think your leave interval is or will be, at least for now.

Thatís your first workout for Week-1 of the Guppy Challenge. Itís 1800 yards, or meters if youíre in a meters pool. Weíll write it like this:

Guppy Challenge, Week-1, Workout-1

=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
=> 6x100yd alternating 1-arm pull and freestyle, moderate pace, 10sec rest between each.
=> 6x150yd, moderate pace, leave interval allowing 10-15sec rest between each.

For that final set especially, Brett Sutton once wrote that triathletes look like ďfrogs in a blenderĒ when they swim. The idea is to swim like youíre a torpedo, or a missile, rather than a frog in a blender.

Total yards this workout: 1800

ó

Guppy Challenge, Week-1, Workout-2

=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
=> 3x100yd alternating 1-arm pull and freestyle, moderate pace, 10sec rest between each.
=> 3x100yd using a symmetric (center-mount) snorkel if you have one, AND some of De Sotoís Extreme Sleeves if you have them. Why? The point? Remember when, in the 1-arm pulls, I stressed the off arm, the one out in front of you? And that this arm needs remain near the surface during the extend phase? If it all works as it should, the De Soto Extreme Sleeves (or other similar product made by any company) should help your arms remain near the surface. When you take the sleeves off, make sure your arms stay near the surface. You're going to need to work a bit to make that happen.

If you donít have all this paraphernalia filling up your swim bag fine, then youíre fine simply doing what we did in the first workout: 6x100yd alternating 1-arm pull and freestyle.

=> 5 x 200yd: Just like the 150s, think about technique.

Total yards this workout: 1900

ó

Guppy Challenge, Week-1, Workout-3

=> 4x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
=> 4x50yd freestyle, with pull buoy if you have one, endeavoring to keep your body in-line rather than swiveling at the waist.
(If you donít have a buoy, then with a center snorkel. But not both. Either the buoy or the snorkel. If neither, then fine, simply 2 sets of 4x50yd)
=> 4x50yd kicking. Flutter kick (freestyle kick). Kickboard if you want. I canít use a kickboard and look forward. Old age, bad neck. Are you like me? Two options: kick on your back, hands over your head facing the opposite wall. Or, with kickboard or without, kick with a snorkel. If you canít make it across the pool kicking, just keep trying. Keep kicking. Find a method by which forward propulsion happens. Trial and error. Itís frustrating, yes. Youíll get there.

Main set: 4 x 300yd: Just like the 150s, think about technique.

Total yards this workout: 2000

ó

Guppy Challenge, Week-1, Workout-4 Extra Credit!

Many of you will do just 3 workouts a week swimming. Fine. But for those who want to go down deep and stay down long, here are workouts #4 and #5.

=> 4x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
=> 4x100yd alternating 1-arm pull and freestyle, moderate pace, 10sec rest between each.
=> 4x50yd, with buoy or with symmetric snorkel.
=> 200yd/150yd/100yd, a 50 kick in between each swim, twice through. Thatís a 550yd set x 2 = 1100yd
=> 200yd easy warm down

Total yards this workout: 2100

ó

Guppy Challenge, Week-1, Workout-5 Extra Extra Credit!

=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
=> 4x100yd technique: either 1-arm pulls, snorkel swimming, buoy swimming, your choice.
=> 200yd swim/50yd kick, 4 times through (1000yd set).
=> 6x50yd, 1-arm pull out, freestyle back, every second 50 itís pulling with the other arm.

Total yards this workout: 2000

ó

Total weekly yardage

If you do the first 3 workouts: 5700yd
These plus the 4th workout: 7800yd
All 5 workouts: 9800yd

Questions? There's a thread on our Reader Forum, you may ask them there.