By Emily Sampl//Contributor | Monday, April 8, 2019
Spring is in the air, and in the swimming community, that can only mean one thing: long course season is approaching. As the short course championship season comes to a close in February and March, the focus of many programs across the country shifts towards the summer months and the many long course meets of the summer.
Unfortunately, many teams don’t have access to long course training until the summer begins, or they don’t have access to a long course pool at all, making that first competition in a 50m pool all the more daunting. After months of training in a 25-yard pool, for many swimmers, hopping into a long course pool suddenly feels like swimming across an endless ocean.
So, how can you stay one step ahead of the game and be ready for long course practice and competitions without the opportunity to train long course? Here are a few training tips to make the most of your training in preparation for a successful transition to the 50-meter pool, provided by National Team coach Catherine Vogt of Trojan Swim Club.
Focus on Stroke Rate and Tempo
The obvious difference between yards and long course is that in long course, swimmers are covering more than double the distance in between each wall. Many swimmers lose speed when transitioning to long course simply because they are unable to maintain the same stroke rate as in a yards pool over that longer distance.
“Anytime you’re transitioning from short course to long course I think it’s important to think about your stroke rate,” Vogt said. “That means counting your strokes in breaststroke and butterfly, and thinking about your tempo on freestyle and backstroke.”
For both breaststroke and butterfly, two strokes up/two strokes underwater can be a great drill to work on stroke rate, or three right arm/three left arm/three full strokes on butterfly.
A great freestyle drill for maintaining a high stroke rate is freestyle with dolphin kick. There should be one dolphin kick per arm stroke, which will force the swimmer into a higher stroke rate. The drill can be done over varying distances and points within the pool—at the beginning of a 25 to practice a high stroke rate at the beginning of a race, or at the end of a 25, to practice maintaining a high stroke rate as fatigue sets in.
Combining speed and drills within longer sets can also help prepare swimmers to better maintain their technique and speed over longer distances. For example—6x150 backstroke, done as 25 drill/50 build in and out of the turn/25 drill/50 fast.
Turns, Underwaters and Breath Control
When you’re swimming twice the distance between each wall, there are several things you’ll need to be prepared for—swimming farther without a turn, holding your breath longer and kicking continuously for a longer distance, to name a few.
Add a 25 to the distances you’re swimming during your main set. For example, instead of swimming 5x200, make it 5x225 instead, to prepare for the extra distance you’ll be swimming in long course; 200 meters is the equivalent of 218 yards.
Incorporate more breathing patterns into your sets to help prepare for the lack of turns in long course. Vogt says that at Trojan Swim Club, they like to mix pull sets with breathing patterns and 50’s race pace.Prepare your legs to kick continuously for a longer distance by adding longer kick sets into your training. Make the most of your time coming into and out of turns by speeding up your kick in and out of each turn.