(Some of the skills presented here are going to be very difficult to approach "cold". For example, without a process-based approach to developing different kick rhythms, 2 beat and 6 beat kicks are very difficult to simply jump in and execute properly. That is not to say, don't try, just be aware. As we state in paragraph 3 below, developing these rhythms is a large part of what we do in our 12 Week Basic Course and Advanced Program)
I am very, very pro-diversity - I like a diversity of ideas, and activities. In workouts, even more. That's not to say that I don't get into patterns- I have "go-to" workouts that I love, but I believe that diverse stimulus in workout is absolutely critical to improving technique - and technique development is critical in swimming. And when it comes to distance freestyle training, not only can this diversity make a workout more technically stimulating, but it can also make the yards slip by quickly. Perhaps even more importantly, I believe that if you are training for an open water swim race, training at a single speed, with a single breathing pattern and single kick frequency, you are not preparing yourself adequately.
Today we present a medley of swimming, pulling, and "passive technique" swim activities in a framework that is based on the following formula : Alternating a single straight swim of varying distance (300 minimum), with sets of 6 x 50 speed-play in between these long swims. Everything is on short rest, such that your heart rate should stay elevated for a solid hour.
To really understand what we do, one must understand kick frequency, and be able to control it.
To many, a 2-beat kick means "don't really kick", and a 6-beat kick means "kick a bunch". For us, this is not the case. Our program centers around the concept that one must have excellent timing of arms, legs, torso and head in order to reach your fastest speeds, and that controlling your kick frequency is the best first step that you can take. Thus, one of the key elements of diversity that we employ is that of kick-frequency variation (in the workout in table 1 we will refer to 2-beat & 6-beat which are self-explanatory and "pulse", which without going into the gory details involves cycling ones’ kick frequency). Now, your garden variety endurance swimmer might not think in these terms, but observe a cross section of elite distance swimmers and you will find that they: 1) have excellent kick/arm/torso/head timing, and 2) many of them employ varying kick frequencies during the race (see Video 1 of Sun Yang who effortlessly morphs between 2, 4, and 6 beat kick in a race).
Look at the 1 x 700 in the middle of the set in the workout for a great example of what I am talking about: we alternated 100 swim breathing every 3rd stroke, 50 pull, and then 25 swim with a PERFECTLY-TIMED 2-beat kick (repeated 4 times for a 700). The elements of timing and frequency variation in this are hugely stimulating, and the goal of "perfect timing" on the 2-beat is, simply speaking: challenging as hell. I have been at this for a lot of years, and I can tell you that very, very few swimmers are capable of excellent kick timing, on both sides of their body with a 2-beat kick. Those WITH perfect timing are nearly all capable of sub-1:10 per 100 yard threshold paces (provided that they are under 40 years old and in shape that is!). Perhaps even more importantly to the attention-span challenged among us, swimming 700 with this pattern will literally fly by.
Lots of demo videos today:
PULL without BUOY - https://youtu.be/h1o_kJ75I40
SWIM w/ ONE LEG KICK - https://youtu.be/ffXiXCgjdvA