Be flexible when training

2009-07-07 14:11
Sport24 columnist Roland Schoeman (File)
Roland Schoeman

The typical old school swimming mentality of racing and preparation is that you train hard throughout the year and you find one or two specific meets in which to peak.

A typical season would start off with lots of running, cycling, and a great deal of aerobic swimming. After this large aerobic component was concluded coaches would have their swimmers moving on to speed and speed endurance kind of work.

Based on the build-up of the swimming season, rarely would one ever see any fast times being swum at the beginning The season would show a clear progression with swimmers getting faster and faster throughout the season and eventually peaking for a major competition.

If you take a look at the comparison between athletics and swimming you will get a clear indication of what I mean.

In my opinion athletics has always been ahead of swimming in terms of training and training philosophies. If you look at Usain Bolt’s training and race preparations throughout a season, you will rarely if ever find him running anything slower than a 9.90. Imagine his confidence if he started off the season being unable to break 11 seconds because of the sort of work he was doing. When have you ever seen athletes being more than a few tenths off of their best in the shorter distances 100m – 400m. Swimmers on the other hand can start a season over a second slower in a 50m event.

Lack of recovery

I spent 10 years in the States and this was without fail the typical way in which things were done. The huge amount of mileage and lack of recovery put serious strain on our bodies. The majority of us ended up sick or with some sort of shoulder injury. In those 10 years, the way of doing things never changed. Since I have left Arizona I have heard that things have still not changed. The same is the same.

Most Europeans and Australians have a far different approach to training. From the beginning of the season there are healthy elements of racing and sprinting. Why only sprint the last three weeks on the season when you could’ve been sprinting since the beginning!

They really believe in specificity. The old school principles have been replaced by a new wave of creative thinking. There is still an aerobic component that exists, but instead of long aimless kilometres in the pool, everything has a purpose. Those aimless kilometres have been replaced by specific drills and a focus on skillful smooth swimming. When they aren’t swimming aerobically they are focusing on race specific work. They are breaking down a race into specific energy systems and they are training those energy systems accordingly throughout the course of a season. What you are now finding is that competitions in Europe are faster than anything else in the US. The swimmers are racing day in and day out and are always within a couple tenths of their best.

There are always going to be different train ideas and philosophies. It’s about being flexible enough and possessing enough insight to know when to make changes. I’ve never been afraid of making changes. I’ll always be the first to try something new. I guess the hardest thing for me could be staying put with something that has worked.

Either way, it’s the most flexible people out there that are able to perform best.

Roland is a multiple Olympic medal winner... and an avid Blue Bulls supporter.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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