Coach’s Corner: How to Prepare for Long Course Season
The long course season is considerably shorter than the short course season, making the integrity of your training and meet preparation even more critical. As you get back into the water, having a clear direction in your training cycles, meets, and end-of-season goals will help you stay on task. Let’s discuss what you can focus on to get ready for a great summer of long course racing.
1. Set monthly goals
Talk with your coach about setting goals that you can use as checkpoints throughout the season. This strategy gives you smaller things to focus on in the path to your end-of-season goals. The checkpoints can be during training, such as a particular set in practice or a timed fast effort at the end of a main set. They can also be goals during competition, such as increasing the number of kicks underwater in a race. These goals can even be in dryland as you strive to lift more weight or complete more repetitions in a timed exercise. Whatever goals you set, make them tangible, quantifiable, and relevant to your races.
2. Get in shape
Now more than ever, you will need to ramp up your conditioning quickly. You need to have more endurance for racing long course meters because you swim about 15% more than you do in the same race during short course yards. Because the season is so short, April is the time to get your cardiovascular endurance sets done in the pool and to set a solid fitness baseline in dryland. Like a dose of good medicine, the grind of a long set now will help you maintain speed in your racing this summer.
3. Swim Tall
With half the number of turns and underwaters, distance per stroke is the name of the game in long course swimming. In practice, focus on the length of your stroke and count your strokes during different sets. Sets that focus on descending your time while holding a specific stroke count will help you stay disciplined about swimming tall and will help you find that right stroke rate to stroke length ratio. Your strength training in dryland will also have a huge impact on your distance per stroke by increasing the efficiency of your catch.
4. Race often
Again, with a short season there are fewer meets before the championship meet arises. Attending about one meet per month, a reasonable schedule for most swimmers, leaves you with 4 meets prior to the end of season competition (sometimes 3 if you have no meet in April). Instead of squeezing in additional meets, which can take its toll mentally and physically, add in more race days in practice. In any training cycle, high quality race days are a great way to polish your race details and improve segments of your race before you reach a meet. Discuss with your coach about what race components you need to focus on—be it closing harder on the back half, negative splitting, maintaining stroke rate, or getting out faster. Racing in practice is simply a fun way to get some quality work done.
Most of all, head into this new season with optimism, excitement, and focus. Know where you want to be at the end of the season, but more importantly, understand the journey you need to take to get there.