Guppy Challenge: Week 3

If you’re following this program and the comments on the attendant Reader Forum thread you can read, and maybe experience yourself, the stroke problems that are uncovered by some of these drills.

When you have a hard time doing these drills – or can do them at all – you should rejoice! Imagine if you were sick, and you didn’t know what was wrong with you. After innumerable tests your doctor says, “Sorry, we can’t find anything.” Would that give you comfort? No! You know something’s wrong, and you’ll be much happier having the problem identified (especially if there's a pathway to a cure, which is the case for your swimming).

Here’s what readers wrote on our forum: "Tried the band with a pull buoy and I definitely snake through the pool!” and, "Any advice on fixing the fish tailing?” and, "Picked up the wheelbarrow innertube. Swam with it and felt like my legs were going from side to side. Felt somewhat rigid, but like a pendulum in the lane.”

About that wheelbarrow innertube: I got some questions about “banded ankles,” and by this I take it to mean simply tying the ankles together. Unless you are an exceptionally good swimmer you either need to kick, or you need a flotation device, to keep your feet on the surface. Simply banding the ankles allows you neither, so, unless you’re near the front of your swim wave I think you need to back off any drill that you simply have no chance of performing. (I don't mean cease drills you can't do now; rather drills you have no reasonable chance of learning to do in the near term, and all the drills I've given you are near-term achievable.)

My recommendation to some folks on our forum was a wheelbarrow innertube: fat, floaty, but with a small hole through which you can fit your feet. Or, banded ankles with a pull buoy. You can band your ankles with a flatted bike tube.

What you’re hearing on our forum from your fellows is that even this (banded ankles with flotation) is hard to do because you fishtail. Why are you doing that? Because you have a hitch in your stroke and it’s probably occurring when you breathe. Instead of rolling your body to take a breath, like a log, rolling your head a little more than your body, mouth facing down and a little back, just in front of your shoulder, you’re twisting at the waist. You're contorting yourself, and probably looking more forward than down and angled backward when you breathe. This pulls your body out of line. You compensate by splaying your feet. When you band your ankles you can’t splay your feet. If you have this problem when your ankles are banded here's what is probably happening: when you breathe to the left your feet fishtail to the left.

What is the remedy?

1. Expose the problem. Shine a magnifying glass on the problem by banding your ankles.
2. Stop fishtailing. Easy for me to say! Still, just keep doing the drill. You will eventually get better and better.
3. Stop breathing! Okay, not practical. But you can stop the way you typically breathe during swimming by doing half this drill with a center mount snorkel. I use this one, the folks at Powerbreather know about this swim training series and here’s a – good until December 31 – code for 15 percent off: GUPPY15. You all can get center snorkels quite inexpensively. Here’s Swim Outlet’s page on these snorkels. You want a center-mount or “symmetric” snorkel.

Just note that I'm saying you should do only half your banded ankle sets with a symmetric snorkel: the first half to show you what it should feel like, the second half to expose the problem with a very recent memory of how it should go.

NOTE 1: I'm going to start giving you style sets now that say, "Banded Ankles." You can do these one of three ways:

1. Wheelbarrow innertube;
2. Band them with a bike innertube but float your legs with a pull buoy;
3. Band them with a bike innertube that allows you to kick, but limits the max distance between your feet.

Believe it or not, all of the drills you’re doing right are gauged to fix this fishtailing problem. We’ll move to other swim stroke problems, but first we’re going to work on solving this.

NOTE 2: For kick sets you may, but are not required to, use a kickboard, a symmetric snorkel, zommers, or any combo (but at some point we'll lose the Zoomers). If you don't use a kickboard you'll probably be kicking on your back, hands in front of you, clasped, pointing toward the far wall.

NOTE 3: Are you getting a feel yet for your leave interval, if the set consists of moderately-paced freestyle, where the set totals at least 800 yards, with 5sec to 10sec rest per 100 yards in between each swim? If you don't have a number in mind, have that number by the end of this week. When I ask you should be able to say, "My leave interval is [1:45, or 2:00, or 2:15]," or if you're a Speedy Gonzalez, maybe 1:20 or 1:15.

Guppy Challenge, Week-3, Workout-1

Warm-up:
=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
Style + Kick set:
=> 6x100yd, alternate 1-arm pull and 50 kick. You don't need much if any rest in between these.
Main set:
GUPPIES => down-ladder: 400, 300, 200, 100yd, on your leave.
TARPONS => down-ladder: 500, 400, 300, 200, 100yd, on your leave.
TUNAS => up-down-ladder: 100, 200, 300, 400, 300, 200, 100, on your leave.
Warm-down:
=> 200yd, easy, alternate freestyle and “stroke”.

Total Guppy yards this workout: 2100



Guppy Challenge, Week-3, Workout-2

Warm-up:
=> 2x50yd, 2x100, 2x150 freestyle, easy! On a leave interval 5sec to 10sec slower than your regular leave interval.
Style set:
=> 6x100yd: Banded ankles. Use a symmetric snorkel for the first 3 if you have one. Do not flip turn. Stop and catch your breath after every 25.
Main set: repeat through the following sequence twice (or more if you're above Guppy):
GUPPIES => 2x150yd followed by a 50 kick.
TARPONS => 3x150yd
TUNAS => 4x150yd
Warm-down:
=> 300yd: again, first 50 very slow, second 50 normal, then repeat. Were the “slow” 50s easier to swim, easier to maintain form, than earlier in the workout?

Total Guppy yards this workout: 2200



Guppy Challenge, Week-3, Workout-3

Warm-up:
=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
Style set:
=> 10x50yd w/Banded Ankles: first 25 the goal is to take the fewest number of strokes to get across the pool; return with a strong freestyle.
Kick set:
=> 4x50yd
Main set:
GUPPIES => down-ladder: 400, 300, 200, 100yd, on your leave.
TARPONS => down-ladder: 500, 400, 300, 200, 100yd, on your leave.
TUNAS => up-down-ladder: 100, 200, 300, 400, 300, 200, 100, on your leave.
Warm-down:
=> 200yd, easy, alternate freestyle and “stroke”.

Total Guppy yards this workout: 2200

— EXTRA CREDIT! —

Guppy Challenge, Week-3, Workout-4 Extra Credit!

Warm-up:
=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
Style set:
=> 10x50yd w/Banded Ankles: first 25 the goal is to take the fewest number of strokes to get across the pool; return with a strong freestyle.
Kick set:
=> 4x50yd, don’t kick hard, relax, just make your way across the pool, rest 5sec or 10sec, go again.
Main set:
GUPPIES => 5x200yd, moderate pace, leave interval allowing 10-15sec rest between each.
TARPONS => 8x200yd
TUNAS => 10x200yd
Warm-down:
=> 200yd, easy, alternate freestyle and “stroke” and when we simply say “stroke” in swimming that’s parlance for anything other than freestyle (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly).

Do you have a “leave interval” established yet? I get posts and emails asking, “What’s the leave interval? How do I know? How fast do you swim? You have to determine a leave interval. A typical leave interval for a main set, perhaps a set of 100s or 200s that is 1200 yards long in total, will give you maybe 10 seconds to recover after each swim. Maybe you “leave” every 1min40sec for a 100 (which means leaving every 3min20sec in a set of 200s). Do you know what your leave interval for a typical main set is yet? If not, starting thinking about this.

Total Guppy yards this workout: 2200



Guppy Challenge, Week-3, Workout-5 Double Extra Credit!

Warm-up:
=> 6x50yd freestyle, easy, slow, establish a leave interval that gives you 10sec rest between each 50.
Style set:
=> 6x100yd alternating 1-arm pull and freestyle, moderate pace, 10sec rest between each.
Main set + kick set:
GUPPIES => 2 sets of 2x200yd swim, on your interval, 50 kick after each set
TARPONS => 2 sets of 3x200yd swim, on your interval, 50 kick after each set
TUNAS => 2 sets of 4x200yd swim, on your interval, 50 kick after each set

=> 200yd, easy, alternate freestyle and “stroke”.

Total Guppy yards this workout: 2000


Total weekly GUPPY yardage

If you do the first 3 workouts: 6500yd
These plus the 4th workout: 8700yd
All 5 workouts: 10,700yd

Image above shows former world best and supercoach Siri Lindley, whose new book Surfacing is one of the most noteworthy a triathlete has written in my memory.]