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by Bob Jennings

March 14, 2016

The Value of Written Workouts

How one team helps its swimmers get with the program

Meeting the needs of all the swimmers on a Masters team during a practice can be a real challenge. It’s even more daunting to present the workout and stroke corrections at our practices because my swimmers range from 55 to 90 years old in age. We’ve tried walking up and down the lanes giving verbal directions and also used three white boards spread out along the eight lanes, but these approaches just didn’t work all that well.

Since the majority of our swimmers are in their late 60s or 70s, they couldn’t read the workout written on a white board unless it was right in front of them. We also have a number of swimmers who wear hearing aids when they’re not in the pool, so hearing and understanding verbal instructions can be difficult. Even still, remembering what to do in a set after it has been delivered is a challenge for others.

To combat these difficulties our coaching staff decided to type and print each workout, place it in a plastic Ziploc bag, and put a copy at the end of each lane for every practice. We still give verbal directions, but now swimmers don’t have to wait for them. Those swimmers who couldn’t read the white board now have their own copy of the workout right in front of them. And what’s more, swimmers have more success in completing complex sets now that every lane has its own copy of the workout for references—swimmers don’t have to rely on memory anymore.

Because each lane has its own set of directions, that frees up the coach to provide more stroke corrections and encouragement to all swimmers. This also allows the coach to work with one or two lanes on a specific drill while the rest of the team continues the workout. Variations of sets for different abilities are built into the workout. For example, lanes 1 and 2 might do 10 x 100, while lanes 3, 4, and 5 do 8 x 100, and lanes 6, 7, and 8 do 7 x 100. The interval for each set is written on the workout, which also helps some swimmers remember what they’re supposed to be doing.

Since the workouts are typed and saved to the computer, it’s easy to email the week’s practices to swimmers who are out of town or can’t attend a practice. We have several Canadians on our team who only swim with us six months a year. By sending them the workouts, they can stay on the same page as everyone else on the team even when they’re not in town.

The typed workouts are not for all teams, but it is a win-win situation for our swimmers and coaches. Our swimmers are getting more swimming done in the same amount of time, directions are easier to follow, and more individuals receive stroke corrections and positive reinforcement.