These sets can be helpful when it comes to figuring out what you need to improve
Discovery sets are one of the best things swimmers can do, especially if they swim by themselves or in a group without a coach. Discovery sets show swimmers and coaches how the athletes perform and what opportunities there are for fine-tuning. Everyone, not just competitive swimmers, can benefit from this.
Doing them is as simple as picking a challenging set and slowing down just enough to be able to swim “perfectly,” as if doing it as a demonstration at a clinic. Discovery sets reveal opportunities for improvement in fitness level, turns, transitions, stroke technique, and more. The key is to be thoughtful and break down each element of the swim into separate parts.
Here are a few examples of effective discovery sets.
Four Quarters and the Truth
This is a great set for telling you how good your turns are.
Swim 4 x 25s with 10 seconds rest between each one. Subtract 30 seconds from your final time on the clock for a good indicator of what your 100 time can be. Add a few seconds to that time for a target and swim a 100 straight. If you swim significantly slower, what does that tell you about your turns? Or your fitness level?
Remember to review every part of your swim and think about what you can improve.
Repeat this set with a short recovery in between, making sure to change your focus to different aspects of your swim, such as breakout or streamline, and try to incorporate that into your 100.
You can do this set for all strokes or extend it to distances longer than 4 x 25s and 100s for a challenge.
Believing Isn’t Always Seeing
One of the more interesting things about our brains is that we tend to pay attention to one sense—for most people, it’s sight—more than others depending on the situation. Swimming is a tactile sport that depends on where and how you put pressure on the water, so changing patterns of movement is all about feel and touch.
This set involves finding your own lane and swimming an easy 25 (or 50 in a long-course pool) while counting your strokes. Subtract at least three strokes from that count and swim again with your eyes closed and open them once you get to your number. Were you bouncing off the lane lines? Could you “feel” the water better? Do you need to change some things to make it feel better or less awkward?
Try this a few times before opening your eyes for the whole distance. You can do this with all strokes, and swimmers are often amazed at what they discover about how they move in the water when they take away sight and pay attention to feel.
Take a Breather
Although it’s not a good idea to hold your breath when swimming, it’s a great idea to focus on how much you need to breathe and how you do it.
Start with easy swimming and relaxed breathing for a 25 or a 50. Gradually increase your speed but try to keep the breathing relaxed. How often you breathe will be a function of effort, but how you breathe is a matter of being thoughtful.
Some key things to ask yourself: Are you gulping at the air? Are you breathing so much that you are making yourself hyperventilate? Do you breathe to both sides or just one?
Easy, controlled breathing allows you to really figure out how to get your body the oxygen it needs under different circumstances. Many swimmers take their first breath after a bunch of strokes and then more frequently as they go. It’s better to even that out and stay relaxed, especially if you’re swimming an appreciable distance.
The Final Word
Discovery sets require a lot of introspection, and you may not be able to work them into a regular organized workout, so a trip to the pool outside of practice may be just the thing.
You can learn a lot about yourself when you take away the pressure of the clock and the volume of the workout and just concentrate on being thoughtful about your swimming and adjusting as you go along. Keep in mind that it will take a while for changes to become habit, but the more thoughtful you are, the quicker it does.
- Technique and Training