I can sense that all of you have been waiting pensively to hear about our return to swimming. I shouldn't have kept you waiting for information for so long!!!


The Arctic Blast closed down our swimming pool for the better part of ten days because, at first, the management (rightly) decided it was too dangerous on the roads to ask lifeguards and coaches to travel to the pool. When the temperatures went sub-freezing it was also decided that leaving the insulating covers on the pool was a prudent conservation of energy already spent. Finally, the bitter cold damaged pipes in the changing rooms and some ancillary equipment. 

We got the all clear to schedule new workout times and to get back to work swimming at the pool this past Tuesday. The workouts on Tuesday mornings are traditionally the most crowded of the week but this past Tuesday seemed almost overwhelming. Swimmers were so anxious to hit the lanes and get moving again that even chilly water didn't dissuade. The covers came off at 6:55 a.m. and 30+ hardcore athletes hit the water for an hour of hard work under the watchful but somewhat sadistic (kidding, just kidding...) supervision of one of our favorite coaches. 

I loved the pain, the fatigue and the muscle soreness so much I made it back the next day for another dose. At the end of that workout I'd kicked off enough soreness and stiffness to start feeling like normal again. Two days, four miles and change later. I slept very well on Wednesday night. 

But yesterday was the first day that I felt "back to normal." I swam with my favorite lane partner, Matt, and we plowed through 3200 yards with no breaks in the action. We swam many sets of 125s and 75's and finished up the day's workout with four underwater shooters. That's four times 25 yards completely underwater (a long time to hold one's breath after an hour of fast swimming...) with 25 yards of recovery heading back to the starting wall. 

By the time of yesterday morning's workout the water had stabilized and the temperature was a perfect 79 degrees. What a luxury!

I'm sticking with my new tradition of cross training on Fridays so I skipped today's swim and I'm lacing up my running shoes for a leisurely run around the three mile loop at the downtown lake. Slow and easy. Trying just to look like I'm not struggling too much. 

I hit on the idea of mixing up Fridays so I can rest up for a harder effort on Saturday mornings. That seems to be the rhythm of the days. Hard on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. More concentration on technique and turns on Wednesday and Sunday. Something outside the pool on Fridays and Mondays. 

I did a bunch of resistance and weight training during the big freeze, as well as long walks when the weather wasn't too intimidating, so I lost less endurance over the last ten days than I thought I would. Still, it's icky to have too much down time. At least we very rarely have to close down for weather. 

Just FYI for Austin swimmers: Both Barton Springs Pool and Deep Eddy Pool have opened for lap swimming again and admission is free until further notice. Be aware that strict adherence to a waiting in line protocol is expected and enforced. Play nice. Swim well. 


Fred said...

It's good to hear that you are back in the pool. I get my second vaccine shot on March 17th and am figuring April first to get back in the pool. Because the pool at the "Y" is indoors (I'm in upstate NY) I stopped going there last spring before the shutdown. It will be interesting to see how the weightlifting and running/walking effects my lack of swimming shape.

MikeR said...

Coincidentally, my second shot also is on March 17th, and my timing for return to the "Y" is similar. I'm sure my new "Silver Sneakers" membership will translate into a rapid recovery of strength and endurance. Since I'm in the Philly metro area, I think it should be "Golden Slippers," but they didn't ask me. (Philly insider reference, BTW. Along with cheese steaks and soft pretzels.)

JC said...

When you say 3200 yards with no breaks in the action, does that mean without stopping? Or are there rest breaks between the 75s and the 125s? How long are the rest breaks, if there are some? The underwater shooters...that's 25 yards, then coming up for air, and then going down for another 25? Or 100 yards without coming up at all? I'm sorry that I'm so ignorant of all this stuff, but I'm sort of doing the swimming on my own.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi JC. We mostly do stuff in sets, with intervals. For example the 75s might be a set of 10 on an interval of 1:10 minutes per 75. If you swim them right you might have five seconds rest between each 75. Every "set" has an interval in which you complete the distance. If you are slow then you might be swimming the distance continuously but we separate the lanes by speed and the coach will say, "Do these on an interval where people in your lane get about five seconds rest". For longer distances, maybe ten seconds rest. Between sets we pause for just enough time to read and understand the next set and then we go. My favorite "mindless but fun" set is something like 20 x 50 yards on a minute interval. If I swim each 50 yard distance in 35 seconds I get 25 seconds rest. The more rest you get the faster you can sprint each 50. Doing them on a minutes gives one enough time to actually focus on best technique and makes working with the pace clock easier, since you are departing for each 50 "on the top" or on zero on the clock. Most of our sets have much shorter intervals.

On the shooters: down on way, one way, all underwater. Recover on the way back with an easy swim. I do backstroke on the way back so I can really suck in oxygen! Each one is 50 yards. We do these on a minute interval so I get about 10 seconds of recovery before starting the next one. Holding your breath for a full length under water is more of a psychological stress than a lack of oxygen stressor.

But occasionally the coach will say, "Today we're doing distance" and we'll do something for the main set like: See how far you can swim in 45 minutes; watch the clock. And you go, watching the clock at each flip turn until you've hit 45 minutes while keeping track of your yards. It's much more routine to do interval training which means more small breaks but faster pace.

Thanks for asking!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Important training note: most people starting a swim exercise program try to swim too far, too fast at first. It's a lot better to take it easy when getting into the groove of swimming by doing shorter intervals rather than trying to swim continuously for something like a half mlle or mile. The reason is that you WILL get tired when you first start training and as soon as you get tired, run out of breath, etc. your stroke will fall apart. You lose your good mechanics. Your technique will default to "path of least resistance." It's much better to select a shorter distance and couple it with intervals that are comfortable so you can work on making your stroke as efficient and effective as possible. If you start feeling your stroke fall apart and everything gets rougher your are better off taking a minute long break, catching your breath and then returning to the swim than if you just try to power through. Once you swim enough yards/months/years good stroke mechanics become embedded in muscle memory and even when tired you'll stick with good technique. For people just getting started with fitness swimming I suggest selecting a shorter distance, say 100 yards, and swimming each 100 yard repeat on an interval that allows you to catch your breath. If you are young, healthy and have a decent stroke you might start out with a 2 minute interval and progress downward in 5 second bits as you build endurance over time (weeks). If you are older, haven't exercised in a while, etc. try starting with a shorter distance like 50 yards and do that on a 1:30 minute interval for a while. The objective is to swim well and efficiently not to try for maximum yardage. A set of 10 x 50 yard swims is a nice starting point. Add distance and repeats as your fitness improves.

I find it's the same in running. Mixing running with walking is a great way to build fitness without making it so unpleasant that you never want to do it again.

At my age, when swimming, I try to keep my heart rate under 145 bpm when swimming at a good, hard but repeatable pace. An indicator of cardiovascular fitness is how quickly your heart rate drops between sets. If you come into the wall at the end of set and take a pulse rate and it is 145 you are probably in good shape if the bpm drops to under 100 in less than a minute. A drop to under 80 would indicate very good fitness.

Finally, I find a good measure of overall fitness is to keep track of your resting pulse rate. If you are sitting around reading a book you could stop after 15 minutes or so and measure your bpm. I use an Apple Watch 6 for this. My resting heart rate is normal when it's between 52 and 55 but if my resting heart rate is above 60 then I know I'm either mentally or physically stressed in some way and try to figure out where.

The only warning I can think of about over exercise is to watch our blood pressure. HIgh blood pressure and tough exercise might be a less safe mix as the exertion will increase your BP in the short term which could lead to an increased chance of some sort of cardiac event.

Take all of this with a grain of salt, or the whole shaker of salt, because I am not a doctor and none of what I've written here is meant to be medical advice, only what I've experienced in my own regimens.

I do know that daily exercise makes one smarter, prettier, more creative and happier. It also makes pants fit better and keeps your tummy in line with our belt instead of hanging over your waistband like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. And that's all good.