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by Kerry O Brien

August 12, 2011

Most would agree that a pool full of Masters swimmers creating a thunderous roar of kicking and splashing is a very good thing. But can you have too much of it? The Master’s workouts at the USAS Annual Convention may have been balancing on that fence, averaging eleven swimmers per short course lane on Thursday and about eight on Friday. Though all agreed that a crowded practice is better than no practice, it would take some creative lane dynamics to allow for repeated distances over 75 yards.

During the mid-distance free workout at one convention, we experimented with a set of 3 x 150.

  • We broke the swimmers in each lane into two groups.
  • We sent the first group of four off, with the second group of four falling in behind them after the first 50, each cognizant of when their interval began.
  • At the end of their 150, the first group knew to slide out of the way and let group 2 swim through.
  • The interval worked out so that the Group 1 started before Group 2 finished.

This allowed for only 100 of each swim to have the turbulence of eight swimmers and give some calmer water to both groups. Once we were satisfied that the two-group method would work, the swimmers launched into a 1,500-yard set of 6 x 150 and 6 x 100, holding pace on the first three of each, and then descending from that pace on the last three.

Another common challenge for teams and workout groups with limited lane space is offering training options in a confined environment.  For example:

There is a sprint pentathlon on the upcoming weekend, and some of your tri-athletes are starting their base training.

Consider 6 x 200 as the main set:

  • Sprinters lead the lane, and swim a 25 sprint from the front, then slide to the side of the lane out of the way.
  • After the 200 group passes through, Sprinters do a 25 easy from the back.
  • After a brief break, sprinters begin the next 25 sprint before the 200 group comes back around, again retreating to the back of the line for recovery.
  • Sprinters do three rounds to total 150 yards instead of 200.
  • Repeat this sequence on #’s 1, 2, 4, and 6 of the 200s.
  • During 3 and 5, sprinters do an easy 100, but always give the 200 Group swimmers the right of way, and sprinters need to be prepared to lead next repeat.

Middle distance swimmers need some 200 pace work, others are interested in longer, descending swims.

Consider: The Main Set is 4 X 400.

  • Pace swimmers will begin leading the lane, by doing a 50 at 200 race pace and move to the side to let the distance swimmers swim through, falling in behind them to swim an easy 25.
  • After a short break, pace swimmers are off again before the pack comes back around.
  • Pace swimmers repeat this scenario three times plus an additional easy 25 to get back to the start side. This gives pace swimmers three quality pace 50s, and 250 yards to the distance group’s 400 yards per swim.

When you experiment with creative lane dynamics, it is best to create a small test set to make sure swimmers and intervals are compatible, and everyone has had a dry run. It’s like the “Fumble-rooski” in football. When it works, it changes the whole complexion of the game.