Christmas Swim: Choose the best tree for your home and Decorate it!
Did you ever have the opportunity as a child (or adult) to choose your own tree from a farm, cut it down and haul it back home…only to discover it was too tall or too short? I recall setting up a beautiful spruce in our living room when I was 9, 10, 11, 12…(it was a yearly ritual), only to have my father curse, take the tree out of the (&@#%) tree stand, Lay it down one the coffee table and slice off a 1/2″ segment with a orange handled hand saw. Some years this ritual repeated itself half a dozen times before the cursing stopped. Only when the tree was just the right height and standing up straight, did we string the lights–starting at the top– and then finally begin to decorate the tree.
This practice is inspired by that yearly ritual in three parts
- A) Choose the right tree for the house
- B) String the lights evenly form top to bottom
- C) Decorate and hang the ornaments.
Warmup: 500 – Choose the right tree
The tree you bring into your home needs to be just the right height. Not too tall and not too short. When you swim too tall, you risk stressing your shoulder, neck or lower back. Strive to have your posture “just right” so you’re tall from crown of head through heels, and your arm extends forward, but only enough to keep the line of posture and not force you to arch too tall when you extend
4 x 25 sequential focal points. Repeat three times total for 300 y/m total
- Point the crown of your head in the direction you’re swimming (Tall like a christmas tree)
- lengthen your spine by imagining a rope pulling you forward from the crown of your head.
- Gently squeeze your glutes as you extend the arm, feeling how good posture crosses the waist into the lower limbs as well
- Point your toes as you feel a long line form crown of head through your feet.
200 continues freestyle, rotating through any focal points above that felt most helpful
Set 1: String the Lights 1000
We String the lights starting at the top and try to space them evenly. In this set you’ll do a body scan from head to toe as you did in the posture focused warmup. Look for symmetry between right and left sides as you do so.
5 x 50 sequential focal points. Repeat for a total of 500 yds
- Head Stable – head doesn’t wobble side to side as you rotate the body with each stroke
- Arms extend on tracks – send arm forward as the body rotates, not across the body. Slide the arm out a little bit away from the center if you sense any crossing in front. Make each side even
- Shoulder Blade (not full shoulder) clears the water with each rotation. How far do you rotate? See if you can rotate “just enough”, so that the shoulder blade and back of shoulder clear the water, but the entire shoulder doesn’t come to air.
- Hips align with shoulders. The hips should rotate as a unit with the shoulders. Pay attention that when the right shoulder blade clears the water and comes to the surface, the right hip should come to the surface as well.
- Legs quietly respond – Try to quiet the legs instead of kicking the legs. Allow them to respond to the symmetrical rotation and stability created with the focal points above.
500 Freestyle Swim – Rotate or pick and choose from any of the preceding “top down” focal points as you string the lights on your tree. Occasionally check in to make sure that the height of your tree is still the right size for your room. In other words check in on your posture once every hundred or so.
Set 2: “Decorate the tree”
In swimming we can think of decorations as all the fine points that happen in the periphery of your stroke. Fingertips, toes, elbows, knees, nose, chin etc. These small body parts are of course attached to the bigger parts and usually follow where the core, shoulders and hips go. But directing awareness and attention to them can heighten your ability to improve quickly and make a smoother, more efficient and faster stroke.
4 x 75 rotate focus by 25
- Chin – is your chin jutted forward, pulled back, teeth clenched or face puckered? Focus on a soft chin gently drawn back to help align your cervical spine with good posture
- Elbow – allow your elbows to swing toward the sides of the pool building during your recovery rather than up towards the ceiling or behind your back. Pair this with the torso rotation focal point to really stabilize your side to side rotation with each stroke
- Knee – Focus on the back fold of the knee and try to keep it open and pressing gently toward the ceiling when you bring your leg up prior to your kick. This helps lengthen the legs by helping remove excess knee bend. Soften the knee during the down beat of the kick, then press the back of the knee toward the ceiling again.
300 Freestyle Swim – Rotate through each of these three “decorations” as you swim a continuous 300.
The first time I met Terry was at my coach training course. When he walked in the room, he illuminated it with his smile, and greeted me by name without hesitation. I felt as if we had known each other for years, even though we had only corresponded by email for a few weeks. His capacity for remembering names, details, focal points and moments of mastery, even after years had elapsed mesmerized me. Every time I listened to Terry speak or coach, I learned something new from him. His capacity for bringing in fields seemingly unrelated to swimming and tying them into the sport was uniquely academic, insightful and set him apart from any other coach I’ve ever met.
During my coach training course, we discussed a test set at the deep end of the 50m pool. He leaned over the edge, while sitting on the diving block and asked me for my times and stroke counts. He took the time to not only suggest how I modify the set to try and achieve better master, but also explained his thought process and multiple options. He empowered me to become a better coach, not just a better swimmer.
Here is a swim set you may want to try, inspired by that first impression of Terry coaching me in a sunny California pool.
Terry’s Mile (1600 y/m total)
(200) Swim 2 Rounds of 4 x 25, 10 seconds rest. count strokes for the 25 as follows. #1 Count hand entries. #2 Count hip rotations, #3 count kicks (can you do it?) #4 count what felt easiest.
(300) 4 x [3 x 25] rest 5 seconds between 25s, leave “on the top” of the pace clock for each set. Use the stroke count from swim #4 above as “N”, and for each 25 swim “N-1”, “N”, “N+1” Try to calibrate your recovery speed to hit your stroke count. Slow your recovery to lower count, speed up recovery to increase stroke count
(600) 4 x [3 x 50] Rotating through these three focal points focusing on “shaping the vessel”
#1) Let the hand and forearm slice into the water through a small hole
#2) Let the lead arm part the water as it extends forward
#3) Let the body follow the path created by the lead arm
(300) 4 x [3×25] use each focal point above and while counting strokes (do the streamlining thoughts decrease stroke count?)
(200) 2 x [4×25] Count strokes as follows #1 Hand entries #2 Hip rotations #3 Count kicks (2bk), #4 count what felt best. Did your SPL decrease from set #1?
His and Hers bread
Also, I wanted to share something about my last exchange with Terry…words are so inadequate to describe the loss of such a wonderful teacher, friend and mentor. He had an infectious laugh and could find something wonderful in nearly any topic…even bread.
He loved to travel, try new foods, and especially seemed to appreciate artisan breads and unique lodgings.
The last time I saw Terry in person was at a Total Immersion clinic in Yellow Springs Ohio. For the clinic, fellow TI Coach Vicky and I stayed at a grand hotel in downtown Yellow Springs. Terry bought two loaves of bread for us, they were sold as ‘his’ and ‘her’, fresh, whole grain seeded loaves. ‘Hers’ had seeds on the inside and ‘his’ had seeds on the outside. We texted about the amazing bread and the clean lodgings with the cute café.And the best part of this memory was how funny he thought the names were and his belly laugh when he explained why they were called his and hers loaves.
His last text to me was ‘Everyone here enjoyed your company and Vicky’s’. Heartwarming.
Last weekend I had the rare opportunity to see dozens of dolphins swimming, leaping, spinning and playing in the ocean. They were Atlantic bottlenose dolphins gathered at the mouth of the Ogeechee River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean near Savannah, GA.
What’s our hurry? Dolphins are particularly interesting to us as swimmers because like humans, dolphins are also mammals and must breath air regularly…they don’t have gills. This means that they need to surface often. Granted they can hold their breath for a long time, but they always need to return to air even momentarily. Babies are assisted to air by their mother or an aunt if mom is out feeding somewhere. Thus they often surface in pairs.
However this was different. The dolphins surfaced in groups of three, four and five. And there were several groups of them. They didn’t seem to care that we were nearby, and they also seemed to enjoy circling and swimming under the boat.
My entire extended family was gathered on that day to recognize the lives of my grandparents who lived in Savannah for many years. We co-mingled their ashes as my aunts & uncles poured them into the ocean and we watched them drift away…the two of them finally together again after fourteen years apart.
The captain gave a thoughtful speech about water & ocean and how central it is to all of our lives…water being a part of us all.
I thought about what a rush we all seem to be in as athletes, swimmers, triathletes, competitors, and how impatient we always seem to be waiting for improvement to happy, rushing the process of discovery, taking shortcuts to speed…and simply wondered, what’s our hurry?
All too soon the days and months and years will pass by. Our children will grown, our friends will change and move on, our parents will age. New pets will come into the family and old loved ones will be remembered.
I felt compelled to keep my athletic and coaching ambitions in perspective. I want to swim faster and I want my athletes to swim faster as well, but even more importantly I want them to experience and enjoy the life they are living now, no matter their swim ability.
Slow down…enjoy the pace…speed will find you, so enjoy the ride.
1000 Meter Freestyle Workouts for Triathletes
Whether you are looking to swim a sprint distance or an Iron distance triathlon, having a few “goto” 1000 meter or 1000 yard freestyle workouts will help keep you from getting into a rut when training. For the long course triathletes, do these 1000 meter/yard sets 2 or even 3 times through to cover the distance needed in your training.
Creating a Mini-Project Accelerates Your Progress
You can use these sets to create mini projects or tasks to challenge yourself. It is a great way to stay engaged with your swimming and take control over your own training plan.
For example, a 1000 yd improvement project may look like a sequence of 3 sessions cycled through for 3-6 rounds before retesting. You can use these 1000 meter/ yard sets as the main set, add a 500yd tuneup or warmup to swim exactly 1500m (a swimmers mile). If you are swimming in a yard pool, just add on a 150 yard cool-down for an imperial version of the swimmers mile (1650 yards)
If you are looking for a main set that’s longer, such as 2000 or 3000 yards or meters, you can repeat the main set, or combine two of these into one practice.
Suppose you’re looking for 2000yd main sets, you could take these three suggestions below, each at 1000 meters/yards and to them in any of 3 combinations (1 & 2, 2 & 3, 1 & 3). Rotate through these combos for a unique set of 3 main sets, each having a set that you do twice before taking a break from it. There are a lot of ways to customize this practice idea.
Here are sample 1000 meter practices sets for you to play with
Pre-project test set: favorite warmup, 1000yd TT with splits & stroke counts, cooldown
Swim #1: 5 x 200
Swim #2: 10 x 100
Swim #3: 5 sets of 4×50
For each of these swims you can choose some element to improve like…consistent SPL across all sets, or consistent tempo (use a tempo trainer). When you gain or if you already have good control, manipulate a variable…like 5 x 200 swimming the first 50 at one SPL, the next 100 at SPL + 1 and the last 50 at SPL + 2. This should result in a build within each 200.
Vary the rest intervals to create a bit of variety. Since the 200s are more aerobic, keep the RI short in that practice. Since the 50s *can* be anaerobic, maybe choose to swim descending 50s with 30 sec rest, rest 2 minutes and repeat that 4 more times.
Then you cycle back to the 5 x 200 set and have some comparison…choose 1 metric to try and improve.
After 3 cycles of this…whether you swim every day, every other day or 2 times a week…you go back to your 1000yd TT and by that time you should KNOW before you swim it that you’ve improved based on metrics from the previous sets.
Maintain Focus on Form and Skill During this time as well.
Be sure to toss in at least 1 swim, possibly 2, of un-timed, form only swim sets, other strokes, or a team workout for variety. Or a water aerobics class.
Comment below with how you are using these sets!
For more ideas on creating swimming improvement projects consider downloading this Fresh Freestyle Sampler for 3 practice swims from our book.