Let's be honest here. Swimming can be boring. Especially if you're like me and swimming up and down that black line with no one else in your lane.
I used to see other people turn up to the pool and I'd be hoping that they wouldn't jump in my lane. I didn't want them in my lane interrupting my groove and affecting my tumble turns!
But now that I've been swimming on my own for so long I welcome the interruption. Even though we don't know each others names and hardly speak to each other except for an offhand comment about the weather.
So yes, the solitude of lap swimming means that we are forever searching for some excitement in the pool whether it's another person in your lane or a crazy new swim set you've found on the web. Now here's the bad news - if you want to improve your swimming and are swimming on your own there is a benefit to be gained in repeating the same sets.
I've been using three of our Time Crunched Triathlete swim sets for 5 weeks now (the good news is I'm going to give them to you) and it's by repeating these sets that I've not only improved my swimming through the consistency but I've been able to track my progress.
The first set that I've been using works on your strength and endurance and is as follows:
Warm-up: 300m swim, 200m pull
Main Set: 4-5 x 400m pull/paddles with 30 seconds rest
Warm-down: 4-6 x 50m pull with 15 secs rest
When I first started I was aiming for 3 x 400m efforts but after the first one my arms and shoulders were burning so much that I had to do the second 400m with fins! My time for each of these 400m was around 7:30. Up until this point my swim sets were quite lazy. I would call them exercising as opposed to training. They weren't getting my heart rate up and there was little strength work involved as I needed more to motivate me in the pool on my own.
Funnily enough my long lost (I thought it was dead) competitive spirit kicked in the following week when I decided to repeat the same set. I still only managed 2 but this time my times were about 7:25 so even though it was small it was an improvement.
I have found that each week I complete this set that I want to be better and it's that desire that pushes me harder in the pool. I've actually been quite surprised by the improvement and now 6 weeks later I'm swimming 5 x 400m around 7:00 pace. If I didn't have these benchmarks from the previous week's sets I don't think I would have enjoyed that feeling of success and realised how much my swimming had improved.
Now as promised I have two more swimming sets to give you. The next set is a speed set and for this one it's crucial that your hard 25m are exactly that - hard. Otherwise you won't get the intended training effect from the short session. Over 25m you should see a difference of atleast 5 seconds between your easy and hard efforts.
Warm-up: 300-400m easy swim
Main Set: 12 x 25m on 30 seconds, every 4th 25m hard; 100m pull
12 x 25m on 35 seconds, every 3rd 25m hard; 100m pull
12 x 25m on 40 seconds, every 2nd 25m hard; 100m pull
12 x 25m on 45 seconds, all hard; 100m pull
Warm-down: 200m easy swim
The third set is a middle distance set again working on speed and change of pace. For this swimming set you should find you need every one of those 30 seconds for recovery.
Warm-up: 300-400m alternating backstroke/freestyle with fins
Main Set: 4-6 x 150m (easy 50m, moderate 50m, hard 50m) with 30 seconds rest
8-10 x pull/band holding best possible average with 15 seconds rest
200m streamline kick / freestyle with fins
It's far from exciting repeating the same sets but if you want to be able to track your swimming progress and make improvements it is well worth repeating the same sets in the pool. In fact that is the excitement can happen when you start to see those times come down on the clock and know that you are just that little bit better than you were yesterday.