Here is the Axiom:
If I would like to swim a Perfect 1500 meters, I first need to learn to swim a Perfect 500 meters. If I would like to swim a Perfect 500 meters, I first need to learn to swim a Perfect 100 meters. If I want to swim a Perfect 100 meters, I first need to learn to swim a Perfect 25 meters. If I want to swim a Perfect 25 meters, I first need to learn to take 16 Perfect Strokes. And if I want to take 16 Perfect Strokes, I first need to learn to take just one Perfect Stroke.
The Pieces of The Perfect 25
No matter how short or how far we intend to swim, it starts one 25 meter (or yard) pool length at a time. The excellence of the whole swim is never greater than the excellence of each part of the swim- so why permit inferior parts? Excellence does not happen by accident, only by deliberate focus on important skills. Not all 10,000 hours of time spent in practice are equal. Only an excellence-oriented 10,000 hours will produce excellence.
So I’ve set out to build my Perfect 25. Here are the basic components of it:
- The push-off & underwater glide
- The break-out
- The stroke
- The finish
We must also eventually add the flip-turn (or open-turn) if we intend to swim for anything beyond 25. And we must add the block-start if that will be used for the first lap. I won’t. I intend to set my PR from an in-water wall start.
The Concepts Behind It
Following the understanding that Speed is simply Stroke Length (SL) x Stroke Rate (SR) by ‘Perfect 25’ I mean the longest SL I can achieve at a certain SR, and then hold it consistently for every length of my chosen event, and better, to hold that SL as I increase SR, thus speeding up. In every component of my 25 meter length I am working to maximize my abilities and put them together in a finely-tuned choreography.
Just to clarify- I am using a Tempo Trainer (TT) to set my SR (1/tempo) constraints. Another way to view my goal is that I am trying to get to the other wall in as few beeps of the TT as possible. Since I get one stroke per one beep, I need to take as few strokes as possible and make each of those strokes as effective as possible- which means I am making each stroke as long as possible (long SL). Longer SL means less SPL (strokes per length of the pool). The Tempo Trainer fixes my SR, and counting strokes tells me SL.
I’ve been developing this Perfect 25 training concept for the goal I have set for achieving an new lifetime PR in the 100 meter sprint. Although I would designate myself as a marathon-distance OW swimmer I recognize that the kind of skills and the manner in which I am training for my 100 meter sprint will directly translate into strengths which will serve me on long swims. This is counter to the traditional muscular mindset and training methods which view sprint work as contrary to distance work. I am not limiting my muscles to a certain kind of movement pattern (e.g. fast-twitch or slow-twitch), I am expanding my ability to control them with precision in a wider range of EFFECTIVE patterns- to employ those patterns at will, as needed, like gearing on a bicycle or sports car. An open-water swim will often involve a wide range of patterns to negotiate the conditions and competition to keep best position.
For 100 meters I need to swim four Perfect 25 meter segments. Before I attempt to execute 4 of them (or 400 of them) I need to be able to make just one good enough that it can hold up under the inevitable exhaustion that comes with each consecutive length. I first build a perfect prototype then work on duplicating it.
The key element of this training strategy is that I am confronting my neurological threshold and expanding it- a concept that Terry Laughlin has coincidentally, just recently started a TI Forum thread about.
What I have exposed in this training process is that my ability to hold my targets for the Perfect 25 is much more about the strength of my focus than it is about the power in my muscles, though power is developing as a natural result of my neurologically-oriented training. When I notice that I lose focus, I lose SPL. And when I lose SPL it means I am slowing down. If I cannot preserve stroke length I have to increase stroke rate disproportionately (in terms of effort) to sustain my pace.
For instance, if I have been holding 15 SPL at .95 tempo to hold a 64.6 second 100m pace, but surrender one stroke to swim with 16 SPL, I have to increase my tempo to .89 seconds per stroke just to maintain the same pace. That’s a huge increase in tempo and a huge increase in power output just because I lost focus on stroke quality.
Once we start losing SL, we start slipping into a battle to minimize loss. This is why ALL swimmers slow down at the end of their sprint race although their stroke rate increases- it becomes a race for who loses the least amount of stroke length, not who spins the arms the fastest. This is why protecting SL is the paramount challenge for any swimmer in any event.
In the next essay I will talk about how I am training for the Perfect 25.