• How do I learn to swim on an interval set?

    Learning to swim intervals is an important step to making your swim workouts more effective. Instead of simply swimming a certain yardage or time with no breaks, using intervals can help you improve faster with less monotony. The first step to learning to swim intervals is getting to know the pace clock at the pool. A pace clock has a sweeping second hand or a digital readout that counts up. It is usually a large clock so that you can see it from either side of the pool. Watching that clock will allow you to swim on specific intervals.

    There are two types of interval sets. In the first, example the workout is prescribed pace with a predetermined rest interval. In the second example, the interval pace has a bit more variability which determines your rest interval. Let’s see how these play out in a swim set.

    Example 1:

    200 Swim @ moderate pace (RPE 7)(R:20)

    50 Easy (R:10)

    200 Swim @ moderate pace (RPE 7) (R:20)

    50 Easy (R:10)

    4 x 50 @ hard pace (RPE 9) (R:15)

    For your swim workout, you will do the first part by swimming 200 yards a moderate pace. Start the 200 by the clock, at the top of a minute for convenience. It’s easy to start your 200 on the minute, but each time you return to the wall you need to check the clock to make sure you are on an even pace. Once you reach 200, your workout calls for 20 seconds of rest. Watch the clock and make a mental note of where you are on the clock when 20 seconds is up and you start your next set, which is 50 yards at an easy pace. Once you rest 10 seconds after the 50 yards, it’s time to start another 200 at moderate. You can’t choose when to start this set, so you must start while making a mental note of the time on the pace clock and do the math for where you should be when you return to the wall to stay on pace.

    Example 2:

Swim 5 x 100 on the 1:45

  • You typically see workouts written this way in a masters or swim class. In this case, ideally your lane of swimmers will be of a similar speed. In this case, you will swim each 100 in such a way that it gives you enough rest (ideally 5-10s) to begin the next rep on the 1:45. So use the pool clock to your advantage. If you leave on the :45, you next interval begins on the :30 (for digital clocks take the time and add 1:45). The following interval will be on the :15. And so on. If you weren’t prescribed a particular interval set, find one that is attainable yet challenges you.

  • I am always bonking on my long rides while my friends seem to keep riding. What is the secret that I don’t know?

    The secret is that your friends are doing their workout, and so are you. You shouldn’t be doing your friend’s workouts, you should be doing your workout. We know how great it is to exercise with friends – we make a living out of helping people do just that! But there is a down side to always training with other people, and it’s that you are never really focusing on your own individual needs as an athlete. If you are with a group of people, you will gravitate to the mean. The slowest people will be really pushed to keep up, the fastest people will be cruising, and the people in the middle will worry that they are slowing down the fast people and dropping the slower people.

    If you are too wrapped up in the dynamics of training with a group, you probably aren’t paying close attention to what your body is telling you. You may be forgetting to eat and drink because you are trying so hard to catch up to the group. They get to stop and wait for you but as soon as you catch up everyone takes off again! Make sure you are eating and drinking enough.

    Bonking is almost always a matter of running out of fuel (glycogen). If you are eating a gel, drinking a sports drink, or using some other kind of sports nutrition product every 30-45 minutes during long rides and runs, you should be able to finish without bonking, AS LONG AS YOU ARE DOING YOUR WORKOUT. If you are doing your friend’s workout that is 15% longer than you have ever gone, expect your fitness to reflect that and save your group workouts for your easier efforts during the week.