Visualization, Emulation, Relaxation

This is Week-9 of the Guppy Challenge, in partnership with FORM goggles, and we're nearing the clubhouse turn! I have some hopes for you as we close out these final weeks.

My first hope is that you know what you need to look like when you swim, or that you want to know, or that you know that you need to know and you have a plan for this. This is visualization. Remember, we have a swim video thread on our Reader Forum, if you’re brave and shameless enough to post a video of your own swimming. Also in that thread is a video of Grant Hackett. You could do way worse than just watch this video over and over.

I remember the 8 months that I devoted to swimming, back in the 1980s. My measuring stick was a time trial I would perform from time to time, 1000 yards, starting from the wall. When I finally got fed up with the state of my swim my PR was 13:52. Eight months later my PR for this time trial was 12:26. A big part of what I did was watch good swimmers swim. I would get to a particular swim workout 30 minutes early, where a group of high caliber swimmers were finishing their workouts. I remember watching one of them swim 100 yard interals repeating on the 1:05, looking effortless. I just watched them swim, and absorbed what I saw.

That’s the first part: visualization. But that’s not enough. Emulation – the ability to copy, to mimic, to parrot – is a skill. Well, it’s at least a gift. Whether it’s a skill – whether the ability to mimic is learnable – I don’t know for sure. But I think it is. I believe it’s learnable because it’s how not just humans, but mammals, survive. But you can’t just assume that watching is enough. Emulation should be a discipline, I think. Imprint the important elements of the good swim stroke in your mind. You need to watch a lot of good swimmers and watch them a lot. I spent hours, in the aggregate, just watching good swimmers swim, with the goal of emulating them. As I lay my head on my pillow most nights, instead of counting sheep I would just watch, in my brain, good swimmers swim. The more I absorbed and internalized images of good swimmers the more I swam like a good swimmer.

This last point is a little divergent from the first two, and I’ve wanted to write about this here on Slowtwitch for many years but I never really knew how to convey the idea. When I was a runner in high school I vividly remember track workouts that were just over-the-top hard. As a 15 year-old the plan was to run 12 x 400 yard repeats and run them in 64 seconds. After the first 3 of them it was, like, no way! No way am I going to get through 12 of these, at least not at this effort level. Here is the thought that came to me – my mantra if you will: Figure out a way to do the last 9 of these 400s, at this pace. Jettison the effort that is not necessary. Find a way to relax, rather than to contract.

What I find in sport is that there are a lot of moments during an activity when relaxation is available to you, and I don’t mean 5 or 10 seconds prized out of a 15 minute race. I mean a fraction of a second – a tenth or two tenths – inside of every stroke or cadence cycle. Or, a moment heading into the wall of a flip turn.

Or, maybe there’s a part of your body that you can relax while the rest of your body is engaged in the work. Your arm carriage when you’re running fast, perhaps.

I find that relaxation is – ironically – an active endeavor. You have to work at relaxing. You must actively seek moments or ways to relax inside of a hard effort. You must focus your energy toward the job of propulsion at the pace that is required in order to win the race; and if you’re like like me you’re not talented enough to win the race based on what God and your parents gave you. Physically gave you. But they gave you another edge, perhaps, and that is the capacity to figure out how to strain less. How to think your way to straining less while going that required pace.

So, visualization, emulation, relaxation. Whether swim, bike or run.

What you’ll see in this week’s Guppy workouts is your first 3000 yard day. Bravo if you do it! Once you get to 3000 yards, those are pro yards. Not pro swimmer yards, but pro triathlete yards. You can do this workout knowing that a lot of pro triathletes are not going to swim any more than this in a workout or, if they do, a “3” is the first number in the yardage total.

If you want to swim a 4th workout this week, here you go. This is my typical nonstandard swim workout that I like to do and in fact I did this yesterday:

12 x 50yd, repeating on an interval giving you 10sec to 15sec rest
4 x 75yd, repeating on a tighter interval, giving you 5sec to 15sec rest
12 x 50yd, repeating on an interval giving you 10sec to 15sec rest
4 x 75yd, repeating on a tighter interval, giving you 5sec to 15sec rest
12 x 50yd, repeating on an interval giving you 10sec to 15sec rest

This is a 2400 yard set. One set. One set and you’re done. No break in between any of these elements, like it’s a straight swim. The hard part is figuring out how to create the interval so that after each element you’re ending with the clock on the top, to start your second element.

But it’s not that hard to figure out. If you perform your 50s repeating on the :50, the :55, the 1:00, the 1:05, or the 1:10 in each case after 12 of them you’ll finish ready to leave on the top. If you perform your 75s leaving on the 1:15, the 1:30, or the 1:45 you’ll finish 4 of them ready to commence your next set of 50s on the top. So, those are your possible leave intervals.

There is no warmup or warmdown because the first and last elements of this mega-set kind of amount to those. The leave interval should be pretty easy on the 50s. It’s just a case of making the interval and not working too hard. The 75s is where you work hard during this workout.

The Guppy Challenge Series, in partnership with FORM goggles, thus far:

Guppy Challenge Week 1; Workouts for Week 1
Guppy Challenge Week 2; Workouts for Week 2
Guppy Challenge Week 3; Workouts for Week 3
The High Elbows of Good Swimmers; Workouts for Week 4
Swim Paraphernalia for Guppies; Workouts for Week 5
Swimming Isn’t Intuitive; Workouts for Week 6
Debunked Swim Mythology; Workouts for Week 7
Every Swim Workout is a Race... Not! Workouts for Week 8
Visualization, Relaxation, Emulation; Workouts for Week 9