Purposeful Variety: One Practice, Two Ways
by Terry Laughlin

Posted on May 4th, 2010

I swam virtually the same practice, five days apart, Wed Apr 28 and Mon  May 3. (In between I swam 5 miles in the Hudson River on Sat May 1.)

Why do the same practice twice? To learn the effect of a small, but perhaps meaningful change.  Coaches commonly aim for variety in training, but in many instances it’s hard to see that the variety has a purpose other than to relieve tedium. I never experience tedium in my training because every practice and set has a clear purpose. The variation I included to distinguish these two sets was subtle, but I wanted to learn whether a slight change in rest interval could produce a meaningful change in how I swam.

Here’s the basic practice:

3 rounds of 10 x 100 Free (scy).

And here’s the variation. On Apr 28, I swam the three rounds on intervals of 1:30, 1:35 and 1:40. On May 3, I swam identical sets on intervals of 1:35, 1:40, 1:45.

The question: Would an increase in rest of just 5 seconds per 100 lead to a measurable improvement in my swimming?

Here’s how I swam each practice:

1st round: Hold all 100s  at average of 14 SPL, aim for best average pace.

2nd round: Increase rest interval 5 seconds. Hold same SPL but gradually improve pace on 1-5 and 6-10. I increased pace on each set (of 5×100)  by adding power to my stroke, while aiming to keep same Stroke Length or SPL

  • 1st & 6th 100.  Easy and light.
  • 2nd & 7th 100. Add power last 25.
  • 3rd & 8th 100: Add power last 50.
  • 4th & 9th 100: Add power last 75.
  • 5th & 10th 100: Add power full 100.
  • I added power by increasing pressure on hand and forearm and adding snap to each “toe-flick” on 2BK.

3rd round: Increase rest interval by additional 5 seconds.  Aim to swim as well or better as in 1st round, but with slightly greater ease.

(On May3, having more time, I swam a 600-yard tuneup before the 1st round [4 x 25 + 4 x 50 + 4 x 75, @ 13-14SPL, aiming to hold same average pace as distance increased]. Then I finished the practice with 12 x 25 on :30, holding 13 SPL and aiming to swim as fast as possible. I swam those 25s mostly in 17 seconds, with 2 or 3 at 18 seconds.)

How did an additional 5 seconds rest change my swimming? I found it noticeably easier to hold my intended Stroke Length.

On Apr 30 I swam the 1st round in 1:22 to 1:21, but it was a strain to hold 14SPL after the 3rd or 4th 100. On May 3, I swam the same paces but was far more consistent at 14SPL.

On Apr 30, I descended the 2nd round from 1:22 to 1:17 on 1-5 and 6-10, but my SPL frequently went to 15. On May 3, I descended from 1:22 to 1:17 on 1-5 and 6-10 again, but held 14 SPL consistently, adding a stroke on only one or two lengths.

On April 30, on the 3rd round, I held 14 SPL throughout and swam with slightly greater ease, but my pace slowed from the 1st round to 1:23-1:24. On May 3, I held 14 SPL and swam with increased ease, but my pace equaled the 1st round, improving gradually from 1:22 to 1:21.

What did I learn? That even a modest increase in rest interval can measurably improve ease and efficiency. And that this can translate into an improved pace near the end of  an extended (3000 yard) set.

I plan to swim a virtually similar set at least one more time in the next several days.  Next time I’ll convert the 100s into 200s (i.e. 5 x 200 in each round, rather than 10 x 100). I’ll keep the rest interval  similar. What I hope to learn is how closely I can match my 100 pace and SPL when my repeat distance doubles.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

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One Response to “Purposeful Variety: One Practice, Two Ways”

  1. Rick Vasquez says:

    Hi Terry Thank You for sharing your workouts. I have followed a saying in many succesful business’s and most of my life “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” which brings me to my questions #1 are these workouts in the 25yd pool or a Endless pool? if its a Endless pool how do you accomplish intervals? Are you counting your strokes or do you have a device? If your in a pool using the walls you can skew your stroke count with a great flip turn or bad one. Do you use a swim watch or a common pace clock? If your in the Endless pool how do you know how far you swim? is it time based? Also it seems you use words like “slighly greater ease” what does that mean? is it simply a feeling of efficiency or was there a drop in your heart rate when you experienced the ease and it jibed with the clock? do you wear a heart rate monitor? Sorry for the 3rd degree but I have just purchased a Endless pool and would like Kaizen training routines.

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