Thursday, July 18, 2013

Swim lingo decoder: diary of a newbie Part 2

You can't teach an old dog new tricks they say.  Learning how to read a swim workout is a new trick I wasn't prepared for.  I thought swimming involved nothing more than a large body of water, arms and legs moving simultaneously and breathing. In some sort of coordinated effort. Oh what a simpleton I was to think that!

Once I figured out how to work on that coordination, which by the way I am happily improving on with every Masters class I attend, I realized that there is a shorthand of terms that are thrown about haphazardly around the pool.  I never noticed before because I was busy with the basics or perhaps I was thinking that was a "pro" language that surely I would never have to learn.  I was wrong.

Whenever a coach can't make practice, the weather is bad (it's cold) or if there is a long holiday break when no classes are being held, it is customary to get an emailed workout from the coach.  My first email back when I was pregnant with #3 in 2011, looked like this:


I did not follow this workout. Obvs!  My eyes crossed a little and I gave up on trying to translate this into English.  I just went up to the pool and swam mundanely back and forth, trying ever so hard to not lose count of how many laps I'd put in (was that 19 or 21? Ugh!).  This particular coach is not very consistent with how she writes her workouts up because the next one looked like this:


Oh my goodness.  Whaaat??? I could decipher about a 3rd of that message (and reading it now, there are still things that I don't know!)  So, I passed but going to the pool again and just counting 1, 2, 18, 32, 47 can get REALLY boring.  I started looking into buying a waterproof mp3 player to help pass the time and after a few web searches I instead decided to put that effort into LEARNING what the heck all that mumbo jumbo meant.

So here is a swimmer's lingo translator for beginners.  FOR BEGINNERS.  Which I am still.  I am sure there are bunch of other terms and shorthand that I am completely unaware of and I'll be sure to include that in the Intermediate or Advanced installment of this post (if I ever get there).

First and foremost...laps or lengths?  I thought a lap was point A to B. WRONG.  THAT is a length. Point A to B and BACK to A is a lap.  So...if you swim 20 laps, you have gone the LENGTH of the pool 40 times.

Pool distance.  That's another doozy beginner's are unaware of.  How long is the length of pool you are swimming in?  Most people have no clue but in my case, the club owner and the swim director are always willing to stop by and chat and they for sure knew the answer when I asked.  The majority of lap pools are 25 yards or 25 meters.  Bigger fitness facilities or aquatic centers will have a 50M or Olympic sized pools.

So, in a 25M pool, if you swim a "100" you've gone 2 laps or 4 lengths of the pool.  Easy peazy, right?

100M = 2laps = 4lengths

To expand on that for the sake of relativity:

1 mile = 1609.34 meters = 32.19 laps = 64.37 lengths
.5 mile = 804.67 meter = 16.09 laps = 32.19 lengths

Sprint Triathlon - usually .5 mile or 750M (but can be shorter (200-500) & sometimes referred to as a "Super Sprint")
Olympic Triathlon - .93 miles
Half Ironman (IM) - 1.2 miles
Full IM - 2.4 miles (!!!!!)

Easy to see how counting back and forth can be a chore, not to mention incredibly easy to lose track.  In my case, I end up swimming "extra" just in case so I don't short change my work out.  And that's just crazy talk.

Usually a swim workout is structured like any other workout, start with a warm up, have a main work out and then a cool down to wrap it up.  My warm up has consistently looked like this:

200 easy free
200 pull
200 kick
200 1 arm free

That's a half mile warm up right there.  In my past life, I would just call it a day right then! But in layman's terms, this is what that means:

Free - Freestyle swimming or the "Front Crawl"
Pull - Using a pull buoy between your legs so only your arms are activated during your swim.
Kick - Using a kick board so your arms rest and your legs do all the work.
1 arm - I am sure there is a more technical name for this but it basically means swimming freestyle using the right arm only going up one length and only the left coming back.
Easy - or "EZ" not necessarily slow, but a good time to be aware of form.

The main workout can be configured in many different ways to either focus on speed, form, breathing, etc.  I really like that there is a format because the monotony goes away and before you know it, you've swam at least a good mile and probably more in an hour's long class.

What I didn't know until last week that I know now is the "3,5,7 breathing" talk going on in that second email up there.  Since I started drafting this post, I had a workout that consisted of something just like it.  It's a breathing interval workout where (as in the above example) you'd swim 200 (4 laps) using a Pull Buoy (arms only) and every 50 within that (1 lap) you alter breathing patterns by taking a breath every 3 arm strokes, then every 5 strokes for the next 50 and so on. 

As someone (a 29 week pregnant lady) that needs every bit of air they can in a workout, my intervals were more like 3,4,5,4,3 and when things got tough at 5, I'd ratchet down.  The rest of my class this week was going up to 8 I think.  (Also while my workouts tap out at about 1800M theirs usually go to anywhere between 2000-2400M).

Sometimes the workout will say "drill" which means you can choose what drill to use during that particular part of the work out.  I have not been exposed to a whole lot of drills but since you're out here on the internet, you know there is a plethora of information out here with ideas.  I did a quick search a found a few places that have more useful information including drill and full blown workouts...check them out!

http://100swimmingworkouts.com/
http://beta.active.com/swimming/Articles/Swimming-Workouts
http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/premium/swimming_technique/2009b.asp
http://www.ironman.com/triathlon-news/articles/2013/06/ironman-101-swim-workouts.aspx#axzz2ZQm8KaAc

This is all just scratches the surface of what all you can do during a swim workout.  It's always nice to have a class to join for the comraderie, motivation and extra push but if you can't and do have access to a pool, there's no reason to make it a fruitful and fun workout.  In addition to the pull buoy, kickboard, swim cap and goggles in your bag (and the snorkel I mentioned here), you can also add some extra gear to make things a little more interesting.   Paddles, flippers, ankle weights and gloves can all work on conditioning and technique...you'll just need a bigger bag! And don't get me started on the gadgets...mp3 players, lap counters, stop watches and watches that track everything from heartrate to distance, pace, splits, stroke rate, etc.  
Photo credit: http://brendanrake.me/2013/02/
For me, I'm keeping it simple and just trying to keep up with the Master Swimmers by doing as much of the workout as possible while still feeling comfortable and not over doing it.  I'd love to swim all the way through the end of the pregnancy and get started back up post baby as soon as I am able. My coach, who has been very encouraging and who called me a "hero" this week, has already been alerted that my goal post baby is to come back ready to ditch the snorkel and kick it in to high gear.  We will do just that and then watch out! Ha!