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Designing Workouts to Benefit All Your Swimmers

Six useful tips

Lionel Moreau | October 30, 2009

How can we make sure that all our swimmers are getting a good workout— one that is challenging for each swimmer’s respective ability and experience level?

There are two things we must remember as Masters coaches: First, most swimmers are coming to us for direction. They need our attention to improve. After all, they could very well swim along the black line with the public, but have chosen to attend a Masters practice instead. And second, the same workout for all isn’t going to do it.

Here are six tips that will be helpful when you are developing your program and planning the different workouts to offer your swimmers. These tips should make it easier for you to ensure that everyone is challenged, happy and excited about swimming.

Know Your Swimmers

In most Masters swimming programs you will find an array of different levels and abilities. One of our biggest challenges as Masters coaches is to provide a workout program that fits the needs of all our swimmers, whether they are young, old, fast, slow, inexperienced or expert. Some swimmers are former college swimmers wanting to compete and others are fitness fanatics who attend practice just to get a good workout. Some just come for the fun and camaraderie. Different practice times are likely to attract different swimmers as well. Additionally, some may come late or leave early. The best way to ensure that you are providing appropriate coaches, workouts and direction is to understand who your swimmers are and what their goals are.

Know Your Pool Space and Make It Work

One of the main obstacles we face as Masters coaches is limited pool space. We often have to share space with age group and senior group swimmers, along with public lap swimmers. A good relationship with aquatics facility directors and managers is an advantage to any Masters program and can sometimes be the difference between three lanes and four. Make sure your aquatics facility staff knows you and the program. One extra lane makes a huge difference!

Pick a Theme and Let Your Swimmers Fill in the Blanks

Having a “theme of the day” can create an atmosphere in which everyone is focused on the same goal, but the means to accomplish the goal may differ swimmer to swimmer. For instance, on Mondays you might emphasize pulling, Wednesdays could be an IM day and Fridays a focus on sprinting. Provide general direction, but allow for freedom regarding what type of equipment is used. Also, using rest intervals instead of regular time intervals allows each swimmer can work at his or her own pace.

Provide Appropriate Feedback

Providing splits or stroke count does not always work, especially with the swimmers who are participating more for fun and fitness than for fastness. Technique advice, encouragement and attention can be far better feedback than raw numbers in many cases.

Organize Your Athletes

Swimmers will often find a buddy of the same level they like to practice with. This should be encouraged, as swimmers of vastly different abilities have a hard time staying out of each other’s way when sharing a lane.

Provide Baby Steps (or Strokes)

Rather than writing the entire workout on the board, experiment with only giving one set at a time. Faster swimmers will complete an entire set as written. Beginner and intermediate swimmers can be given a modified version of that same set, depending on their skills. It is important that each set and its respective modified versions last about the same time, so team cohesiveness is not lost. Each swimmer can choose which set best fits his or her ability and work at his or her own pace, but still be part of the whole group. Swimmers evaluate their own levels and motivation for that day and swim accordingly. This empowers them to feel and read their own bodies, relieves pressure and provides an opportunity for goal setting.

For more information about Coach Moreau and Auburn Masters, or designing workouts to benefit all your swimmers, you may contact the author at au2yo@yahoo.com.

Auburn Masters and the James E. Martin Aquatics Center are honored to be hosting the 2011 U.S. Masters Swimming Summer Nationals.

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