This was a HUGE, planned over-reaching week for me, meaning that I purposefully took myself way beyond my capacity, knowing that I'd have week 4 to rest and recover. Aquacrest's swim team began the 4-week, anaerobic training period this past week. That means on tuesday, thursday, and saturday, the swimmers did a damn hard set. Aquacrest head coach, David Wright, is as knowledgable and experienced of a coach as I've ever met. Although a longer read than my normal posts, here's how head coach David Wright describes the anaerobic training,

The way the anaerobic sets are swum is critical to their effectiveness. Most squads and coaches are aware of the principle at work - that the more arduous the exercise the more lactic acid accumulates in the muscles and diffuses into the blood stream. Performance declines once the amount of blood lactate reaches a certain level. “If that’s the case,” says the logic of many coaches,” the more arduous the training schedule, the more lactic acid accumulates, the better.” I’ve seen some amazing schedules written in the belief that harder is better. Toni Jeffs read an anaerobic schedule written on the white board at a national training camp once and walked out. I thought she was right, the schedule was horrendous, so was trying to explain where she had gone.

Lydiard’s program does not view anaerobic training this way. The swimmer’s metabolism has to be stressed in a sufficiently controlled manner that the very highest levels of lactic acid are accumulated throughout the body. Crashing into a flat out set of 100m will not do this. All that happens then is that large amounts of lactic acid build up in the muscles which seize up before the lactic acid has had time to diffuse in any significant way into the blood system. In our program each set is 2400m to 3000m long irrespective of the length of each repetition. This means the sets will take 25 to 30 minutes of actual swimming time to complete. This is important, very important. The swimmer must swim as strongly as he or she can but must last the full 2400m and the full 30 minutes. Go faster and lactic acid will seize up the muscles before diffusing fully into all parts of the blood stream, go slower and lactic acid will not accumulate sufficiently to provide the desired training benefit. In summary anaerobic sets must be swum at a speed that the swimmer can keep going for 30 minutes of actual swimming time. Completely stuffed, but only at the end of 30 minutes, is the instruction.

This is why Lydiard never worried whether anaerobic sets were run on a track or the road or a golf course. Lydiard got New Zealand’s 1974 Commonwealth Games 10,000m champion, Dick Taylor to do most of his anaerobic training by running the various length fairways at the local golf course as fast as he could for 30 minutes.

The other thing Lydiard never worried about was timing these sets. One of the real problems with swimming training is it always takes place between concrete walls an exact distance apart. The temptation to time everything is overwhelming. With an exact distance and an exact time and an exact heart rate and a pH monitor and a book of mathematical tables your average swimming coach can predict just about anything, including the exact time and location of the next space shuttle landing. I’m forever falling into the same trap. We all need to be more relaxed. As long as the swimmer is going as hard as possible for 30 minutes for about the number of repetitions planned the physiological adaptations expected will occur.

It is important the coach teaches the swimmer that an anaerobic session is all about achieving the required lactated state. If the swimmer starts off too fast and tires too soon then he or she should stop. Pushing on when the purpose of the session has already been accomplished is possibly doing damage. Similarly, if the swimmer reaches the end of the set in 30 minutes and is not fully fatigued the session should be extended until the swimmer feels the purpose of the session has been accomplished. How you feel, is as good a measure as any heart rate monitor, lactate test or (even) stop watch. In fact studies at the International Center For Aquatic Research determined that, “Training performance can be accounted for by using perceived exertion. Perceived exertion correlates well with established categories of work and can be an effective and accurate method of having swimmers train more specifically for their event requirements.” So there you have it, how you feel works.

When Wright says that the anaerobic training lasts 30 minutes, I need to clarify something. That DOES NOT mean the we start the watch, swim all out for 30 minutes, then stop the clock. It means the total swimming time is 30 minutes. For example, when we swam anaerobic 50s, we swam them on a 2min 15sec interval. That means that we swam for 25-40 seconds, depending on one's ability, then rested for the remaining time. And, then we repeated that 40 times.

Around rep 20, when my body wanted to quit and my mind wanted to cry, I looked down the lanes and saw some 12-year olds dominating the same set, and I had to continue. However, these are some of the strongest 12-year old swimmers in the world.

So, why did I jump into three hard anaerobic sets when I am still 3 months out from the Blood, Sweat, and Gears ride? The main reason was to stretch my mental barriers. I get so used to cruising along at the 120-140 bpm, aerobic pace, that when I kick it up to hard, race paced efforts, my brain tries to convince me that I'll die if I push that hard. These anaerobic sets teach my brain that I can work hard and not die, so when it comes time to ascend the 4200ft. Snake Mountian climb in North Carolina, my brain won't try to psych my body out.

In addition to these hard swims, my key bike on the week was a 63 miles powercranker on Sunday. See below for the pictures. I fit in some aerobic bikes during the week, and two weight sessions, as well.

Quote of the Week:

Ain't it funny how the factory doors close
Round the time that the school doors close
Round the time that the doors of the jail cells
Open up to greet you like the reaper.

-Ashes in the Fall by Rage Against the Machine


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