Conditioning Versus Technique And Why You Need Superior Training Partners


Hi folks,

My new run coach, Duncan. Chip off the old block! Photo by Meg Fee.

My new run coach, Duncan (left), with his Dad, FitOldDog. Chip off the old block! Photo by Meg Fee.

Learning new skills always seems to be a kind of stepwise process, be it learning a foreign language, running a business, playing a musical instrument, or becoming an athlete. You reach a plateau, stay stuck for ages, have a breakthrough, and with your new found knowledge work towards the next sticking point. This certainly seems to be true of swimming. I’ve made major progress in the last month or so, simply because of some coaching by a great swimmer, Rick Fee, who told me to focus on conditioning. Prior to that point I had been obsessed with technique. I knew that there was a perfect stroke out there, and I was determined to find it. The problem with this kind of thinking is that one assumes that there is a perfect stroke for all levels of conditioning or speed in the water, which is just not the case. Working on technique when swimming slowly will not teach you what you need to know at a much faster pace.

First Rick checked my stroke, and decided that it ‘wasn’t all hacked up.‘ This means, “OK, he’ll take me on.” Then we started training with strict times off of the wall, which we know is not your friend. Rick would set the workout interval times, wear a swim drag suit to slow him down, and we would start every set together, with Rick watching my times and adjusting rest intervals accordingly. Within two months I managed the fastest 100 yards I’ve done in 25 years, 1:27, and the other day I managed a near perfect set of 8×100 yards towards the end of a short workout (3000 yards), coming in on 1:31, 1:31, 1:31, 1:31, 1:29, 1:29, 1:27, and 1:26. This gave me the fastest 100 yards I can remember ever doing. For a skilled swimmer these times are not impressive, but for a 68-year old triathlete they are not horrible either.

Why did this occur? Because Rick told me to stop all that technique work and focus on conditioning. This resulted in a faster pace, lifting me higher in the water, and most importantly it revealed water conditions that were new to me, which with a little practice gave my power stroke greater purchase. Tips from my triathlon coach, Chris Hauth, to change my shoulder position and reduce the amplitude of my kick, whilst keeping my ankles together, also contributed. As Rory, a superior cyclist, helped me to improve on the bike, Rick has done the same for me in the pool. Guess it is time to look for a running partner, and my son Duncan said that he would give it a try!

Furthermore, since my recent bonking (dehydration) experience, I’ll never do hard swims without a water bottle on the end of the pool. Now my goal is to lock in at this faster pace, and start all over again, waiting patiently for the next breakthrough.

Thanks, Rick!

-k @FitOldDog

Today’s workouts:

Workout PLAN Coach: Chris Hauth
Duration: 01:30:00
This is the final and most important phase. Following the same format as the previous Phase, perform 3 sets of 10, then 8, then 6 reps on each exercise with the exception of leg press (1×15, 2×12), sit-ups(3×25) and leg ext. / leg curl (still 2×15). Again, increase your weight significantly so that you may need a spotter to help you complete the last 2 reps of the 2nd and 3rd set – but you see we also reduce the number of repeats to help facilitate this. Ideally, you should only be able to complete 6-8 reps on your last set by yourself. Rest 60-75 seconds between each set.10′ jump ropeCore exercises: 2′ hold of position or 2′ of continuous repeats (1x through only):
Plank – Side Plank – Lunge – PushUps – Supermans – Back Extension – Abdominal Scissors1. Bench Press (chest)
2. Incline dumbbell flyes or Machine Pec Dec
3. Squats (glutes & quads)
4. Calf Raises
5. Lat – pull downs (lats)
6. Dumbbell Pullover
7. Low Row (or bent over dumbbell rows)
8. Upright Rows (shoulders)
9. Alternating Dumbbell Curls (biceps)
10. Dumbbell Kickbacks (triceps)
11. Leg Press
12. Leg Extensions
13. Leg Curls
14. Incline Situps or your choice of preferred ab work

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.