Time For A Change Part IV
Having acquired the desired technical skills, it’s time to make sure those skills are robust enough to hold up under the pressures of competition. At this point, the most challenging training should take place to test the skills that have developed thus far.
Importantly, there is a lot of flexibility during this time period. Coaches are obviously free to design any practice that they feel is appropriate. In general, these sessions don’t have to be race specific, but they should be race relevant. If you’re planning on racing at 30 seconds per 50 and you’re training set is at 35 seconds per 50, the skills you’re stabilizing aren’t the same and the likelihood of transfer goes down. The point is not that 35 is bad, just that some swims around 30 seconds are going to be important.
Of course, all aspects of physical preparation need to be considered when designing a holistic program. Brief sets to refocus swimmers on specific technical components can certainly be included throughout the training week as well.
Some important considerations-
Volume and/or intensity needs to be challenging.
The physiological challenge should put swimmers at the limit of what they can sustain technically, only occasionally surpassing that limit.
Challenges should be progressive to further enhance resistance to technical deterioration.
4*25@30 100m race velocity
50@7 As FAST as possible
This is a 100m specific set, similar to what many have probably written. They key is to ensure that technical skills are being maintained according to a minimum standard. The set can be regressed or progressed by altering the rest periods, total volume, or the distances used.
firstname.lastname@example.org 200m pace
2*50@50 200m pace
This is a 200m specific set, similar to what many have probably written. They key is to ensure that technical skills are being maintained according to a minimum standard. The set can be regressed or progressed by altering the rest periods, total volume, or the distances used.
This phase should coincide with the period prior to tapering. Work should be of increasing specificity and intensity. This is important to ensure that skills are becoming more stable under competitive pressure. HOW you design this phase and WHAT you do is up to you, being consistent with what you believe works for your swimmers. The important consideration is that the ability to effectively execute newly acquired skills is given equal emphasis as the development of the pertinent physiological systems.
Practically speaking, these ‘stages’ are not nearly as concrete as they may appear above. It is mostly a process of introducing large amounts of variability to provide swimmers with ‘options’, then targeting those options to drive change in a specific direction, and finally solidifying those changes in race specific contexts.
When designing sets, there should be a smooth transition between the stages. The speed sets in the 2nd stage should slowly transition into what is described in the 3rd stage. Likewise, with the 200m sets. It is also important to note that other training must be performed to continue to develop/maintain other training components (i.e. aerobic work) throughout the process.
It is a simple, logical progression. The skill resides in identifying the tasks that will be most productive, deciding when and how to move the process forward, and finally supporting and guiding swimmers through the learning process.
An effective technical change process involves more thought than the occasional instruction or correction. This is especially true of major technical changes and when working with larger groups of swimmers. The change process must be thought out, progressive, and intentional. While all coaches preach the importance of technique, until we move towards systematic attempts to effect technical change, are efforts will mostly be in vain. By integrating technical change into the entire preparation plan, desired changes can be consistently accomplished.