Benefits of Balanced Training
As the paradigms in swim training shift from the high-yardage philosophies to shorter, more specialized workouts, race-pace training is playing an increasingly important role. Though utilized occasionally as a diversion for aerobic-based distance programs or used as a sharpening tool during taper, most teams do not take advantage of the potential benefits of training consistently at or close to race pace.
Dave Salo, head coach of the Irvine Novaquatics, is probably America’s premier proponent of race-pace training, having coached world record holders Amanda Beard, Lenny Krayzelburg and Aaron Peirsol, as well as countless junior and senior national champions.
Australia’s Denis Cotterell, coach of 1500 meters world record holder Grant Hackett, does race-pace training nearly every practice. Leisel Jones, world record holder in the long course 100 meter breaststroke, broke two short course world records in the 100 and 200 meter breast at a FINA World Cup meet in December while untested, attributing her stronger finishes to race-pace training three times a week.
Tacoma Swim Club’s Jay Benner, coach of Stanford superstar Dana Kirk, believes that for swimmers to get the most from a race-pace training set, it’s necessary to build a strong aerobic base.
“Most of our race-pace sets are done as EN3 or lactate threshold sets. We don’t do a lot of race 100s and 200s unless it’s getting closer to the end of the season. Our primary workout focus is distance-based, hard aerobic work.”
The University of Georgia’s Jack Bauerle agrees: “It’s necessary to build the aerobic base. You can only get so much from anaerobic training if you don’t have the aerobic work behind it to round it out. Otherwise, the bottom falls out.”
To prevent this, Bauerle focuses on race-pace training one workout a week: “Saturday (race pace training day) is our most important training day of the week. Our kids leave nothing in the pool during those practices. You have to be really careful with it, though, because there’s a fine line between overworking it and just pushing it enough.”
Nort Thornton, men’s coach at the University of California at Berkeley, believes the answer is a more balanced training program: “At Cal, we start our season by doing more aerobic and drill work, then move to more anaerobic work the closer we get to the end of the season.” Like Bauerle and Benner, Thornton agrees that coaches have to be really careful with race-pace training: “You can really fatigue an athlete if you’re not cognizant of how you do it.”
Regardless of whether your team follows a distance-based or a race-pace philosophy, kicking should be an integral part of your program.
“Absolutely, kicking is essential,” says Bauerle. “About 15 to 20 percent of our total daily volume in practice is kicking.” Thornton adds, “When designing race-pace sets, by all means, create kick-only sets as well. We’ve found that when you overload the legs, they can recover by the next day. When you’re overloading the arms, it takes two or more days for a full recovery.”
Copyright Sports Publications, Inc. Jul-Sep 2004
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