Another long swim down. I gave myself a rest day on Saturday to let my allover tight body recover from some hard swims and a Friday-night yoga session. Today, I swam a weird combination of 50s, 100s, and 600s. I began with a 1000 warmup, like last time, dividing half into freestyle swimming and half into alternating 50s breast kick and dolphin kick on my back. I honestly think focusing on the latter has strengthened my core, and though I’m still not super adept at making my body go far underwater while on my back, every time I work at it, it gets easier to stay underwater longer. My rhythm is getting better, too. Instead of feeling like a chipmunk bopping around in the water, I’m feeling more like a snake.
I once read that the longer you’re underwater and in motion, the more you improve your lung capacity, and (duh) the more beneficial that is for swimming. At practice one day last week, my coach banned boards. So all the kicking was underwater. It’s painful, especially if your kick set comes after a tough freestyle set and you want to cruise through it. (Ahem. But I would *never* do that.) So I decided not to use a board today, even on the breaststroke kicks. It wasn’t as painful as I thought. Perhaps that was because they came near the beginning of the workout.
Back to my workout. I did 20 x 50s on 1:00 to give me plenty of rest, and really worked at them. By the end, I had dropped 4 seconds, consistently, from my first few 50s. It felt like somewhat of an accomplishment. Next came a set with my teammate: 400, 300, 200, 100. On the 400, I was supposed to get my time at the 300 mark and try to beat it on the following 300. (I didn’t. But not by much.) The same was to be repeated on the latter intervals; fortunately, I did beat the times on these. Then I swam 3 x 600s with a minute rest in between, followed by 11 x 100s, every fourth back, to give me some air! (It would have been twelve, had it not been time for the kiddies’ swim lessons to start.) The 600s were mostly long, slow distance, but on the last one I made every fourth 50 A.F.A.H.P. (as fast as humanly possible, as my coach likes to say). I’m beat, but I’ve now surpassed the distance of my first race, the Nanticoke River Swim, a three-miler, and I’m not dead. I’ve got two more weekends left for long swims until the first big race of the season — this is not counting a weekend trip to my folks’ place in Pennsylvania, and the Zones swim meet at GMU the weekend before, where I will partake in no distance events longer than a 100 (breast).
But there’s always time during the week for “long swims,” which, for clarity’s sake, I’ll define as greater than 5,000 yards. Unfortunately, my low vitamin D status has still got me tired, though compared to a month ago, I am feeling terrific. After extensive Google searching to find out how long it’s going to be before I start feeling normal again, I stumbled upon a chronic fatigue sufferer’s website. I found the following: “If you start taking vitamin D every day, it will take about six weeks for the circulating vitamin D to reach its peak.” I have no idea how credible this is, but I guess I’ll see in two or three more weeks. And does this mean that I could “peak” out at a level that’s not optimal? (I guess I should have just called my doctor. Maybe I will tomorrow.)
So yes, I could do a long swim during the week, but with a typical day-shift work schedule, it’s not really possible unless I get in the water at 5 a.m. and beg Coach to let me swim with high schoolers who are 1,000 times faster than I, or I swim at night when I’m probably too tired; even if I do make it to the pool at 6 p.m., swimming energizes me too much to fall asleep afterward! So, I shall savor the sanctity of my weekend distance swims.
One last thought about my weekly training. After my coach returned from high school nationals last weekend, he encouraged my teammates and I to work on a 6 beat kick. “All the first-place kids were the ones with the fastest kicks,” he mentioned several times in his motivational pitch. Along with adjusting my hand entry, which I’ll talk about in a later post, it was a magic bullet that helped me to make (and get more than five seconds rest on) all of the intervals during my freestyle sets last week. Considering that the legs muscles use a lot of oxygen, kicking harder is a tough change to incorporate into all freestyle swimming all the time. It’s also tough to remember to practice kicking like that when you’re trying to improve so many aspects of your stroke, but all it took to realize I could be swimming faster was ten minutes at the end of the workout to practice this on sets of 25s.
Whether it’s scrutinizing stroke DVDs, kicking harder, or rotating the body just a little bit more, I’ve learned that just a little effort can go a long way.