During periods of lighter, less structured training (such as the off season we keep hearing about), it's important to maintain fitness in the pool, but you don't necessarily want to be at your peak. Sometimes taking a mental and physical break from Masters swimming can help you push harder when mid-season rolls around. Below are two of my favorite swim sets for maintaining fitness and keeping you fresh.
Maintaining swim fitness can be done with just a few swims a week in the off season. As you start to ramp up your training again you may want to focus on some weak areas (perhaps band swimming?) or strength.
Set #1: Fitness and maintaining your feel for the water.
1. Warm up for 500 meters (m).
2. Complete four sets of 50m with band tied around ankles and 100m of swimming, relaxed.
Why: Swimming with a band around your ankles keeps you from kicking and forces you to keep your body on top of the water, rather than dragging your hips and feet through the water. This is also a quick indicator as to whether or not you are currently swimming streamlined and with good body position. If you find your feet pointing toward the bottom of the pool, this would be a great drill to add to your regular swim technique practice. When swimming the 100m relaxed right after the band work, concentrate on keeping those hips on top of the water.
TIP: Don't have a band? No problem! Next time you are out on a ride and get a flat, tuck the punctured tube in your pocket. When you get home cut the tube so it's a long single tube. Tie it around your ankles so they are tight and cut off the extra ends, then slide it off your ankles and store it in your swim bag.
3. Complete two sets of 100m kick, 100m pull, 100m relaxed, 100m fast.
Why: This is breaking down your stroke into pieces and building it back together. When you do the 100 relaxed really focus on your technique. The 100 fast should feel controlled and strong.
4. Complete two sets of 100m easy, 100m build building every 25m, 200m strong,
Why: You have done some technique work, now this part of the workout allows you to try to hold that technique while swimming faster.
5. Complete 500m steady.
Why: A bit of endurance—think of this strictly as building some base. Chances are you will also incorporate a bit of what you worked on previously without even realizing it.
6. Cool down with 100m backstroke and 100m breast stroke.
Why: Doing alternate strokes allows you to get a feel for the water and it stretches out a few alternative muscles while cooling down.