One of the biggest issues (and I am sure you can all relate) I have faced in project #swimreboot is not the workouts themselves (although they have been challenging in a good way). It is trying to fit everything in. Over the past four weeks, I have found some good ways to not only manage but optimize my time, while seeing major gains in training and my life.
Create a weekly plan. Every Sunday, I spend 15 min laying out my week in my master calendar. I fill in my family commitments, classes, labs, meetings, workouts, and down time. If a stressful event like a presentation is scheduled, I will be sure not to add extra stress around it. This means that I will avoid a strenuous workout before or immediately after so that I can give more time and energy to that event. Personally, I like to use a teacher’s planner for this because of all the different sections that it has.
Communicate with my wife and coworkers. After I have laid out my week, I make sure that my wife knows what is going on. Then we make adjustments as needed. Communication is critical!
Use the bricks. Brick workouts might be the “secret” to my success so far. While there is a benefit to going into a key workout with fresh legs and energy, doing workouts back to back is an ideal use of time. My favorites are Erg-Turbo bricks (see the bonus workout below). In fact, the majority of my rides are preceded by Vasa SwimErg workouts. After all, if I am going to be doing it in a race I should do it in practice. Many of my base building running miles also come after my rides. Usually these runs are 20-45 minutes in length and allow me to cut the warm up out, and go straight into my endurance zone. Put the SwimErg with a bike workout and a quick run, and you have yourself a tri day.
I will do some key runs on fresh legs so that I can really make them count, and not jeopardize performance. While more difficult at the pool, by making friends with the coaches there and the lifeguards, you can sometimes sweet talk your bike onto the pool deck or at least into the swim studio so that you can get these in. Bricks also cut down on wasted time taking extra showers.
Meal prep. Regardless of what diet doctrine you follow, preparing meals ahead of time saves you time, money, and the urge to raid the vending machine. I typically make a soup or chili or roasted dish for the whole week. Then I can simply heat up when I need it for lunch or dinner. The Instant Pot, the Aeropress, and the Vitamix might be my favorite appliances ever.
Coach/video/Erg trifecta. I borrowed this phrase from a recent Slowtwitch article and I could not agree more with its importance. I video tape my key sessions and tests on the Swim Erg and send them over to Coach Eric Neilson for analysis. When he pairs the video with my workout metrics, he can see what I need to focus on and adapt my future workouts so that every workout and minute of that workout counts. When you are time crunched, why waste time doing drills or sets that do not address your limiters or build your strengths?
Micromanage the workout. With the exception of my fun/GoPro/Instagram exploration workouts, all of my sets and workouts have some sort of purpose. For example, a SwimErg workout will have some sets to address my strokes per minute and a set to target my endurance. Then in the pool, I will have a mix of drills to target my stroke flaws, and some main sets to help with my speed or aerobic endurance. Bike workouts and runs will have the same types of targets. It is rare except when I….
Shut it all off. Personally, I find metrics can be overwhelming at times. So to avoid this paralysis by analysis I will go out and just have fun. I might run a route I have never explored before or mix it up even more with a trail run or mountain bike ride. I will stop take pictures of what I see and not care one watt about the workout itself. This gives me a good break from everything and tops off my “joy battery”.
Shut it off part 2. Similarly, I also have a time each day when I just shut off everything: Garmin, iPhone, email, laptop, tablet, and anything else that buzzes or pings, so that I can just be. I typically do this when I get home from work so that I can spend quality, mindful time with my family. Also, knowing that I have this down time coming makes me work more efficiently leading up until then so that I will not have any project looming over me.
Get it in when I can. Consistency is key in any endeavor and swimming is no exception. If I do find that I have an extra lunch break or come home from work a bit early, Coach Eric has encouraged me to just take 10-20 minutes to get in the pool or hop on the SwimErg. These micro sessions I have found to be very helpful for keeping my feel for the water alive between key workouts. While they might seem small and “irrelevant” from a calorie burn or endurance perspective, they have certainly helped me from a neuromuscular standpoint.
Let it go. Obviously events and unforeseen work events will come up. That is 100% normal and should be expected. If they cause you to skip a workout, let that workout go and focus on the next one. If they happen a lot, it might be time to reshuffle the workout schedule and your training expectations. This is 100% OK to do. Focus on what you can get in and enjoy that. Do not be distracted by the fantasy of what you can’t do.
There you are. 10 tips that have made the past 5 weeks of this project just a bit easier and my progress faster.
There is one more, strong strategy that I have been using which has added an extra boost to Project #swimreboot. But you will have to wait till next week… (can you guess what it is?)
Workout of the Week–AquaVelo Brick Edition:
On the SwimErg:
5 min warmup
8-10 x 1 minute on :15 sec rest. During each 1 min segment include 6 strokes where you lift your head a bit like you were sighting. After the 6 strokes head back down and return to your normal swim stroke. (For an extra bonus and more realistic open water current feel, change the Damper Door setting around each minute). Note: If training for a Half Ironman do 10-15 sets; if training for an Ironman, do 15-25 sets.
Straight onto the bike/turbo trainer for
10 min warm up building cadence and effort to a moderate effort (or if using wattage 90% functional threshold effort (FTP))
6-8×5 min with 2 min recovery between each as 5 min at race effort
If training for a sprint or an olympic distance tri, shoot for a 9-10/10 on the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) scale or if training by power go for 95-105% FTP
For a Half Ironman, aim for 7-8 on the RPE scale and do 10-15 sets
For an Ironman, aim for a 7 RPE or 70-75% FTP and do 15-20 sets
Cool down as needed
Maximize your power and stamina while improving your technique outside the pool with a Vasa ERG.
- Take your swimming up a notch
- Increase your power, speed, and stamina
- Improve your swim technique
- Measure performance gains
Try it for yourself for 3 months, risk-free—your improvement will be dramatic!