Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Swimming and Maths help fitness

I'm not a great swimmer, although I have done the Midmar Mile (1600m) a few times. I get lost counting lengths in the pool, and I battle to stay motivated, let alone fit.
But I do understand maths, and I use it to my advantage when training. In a 25m pool it takes 40 lengths to swim 1km. Most people assume that if you want to swim 40 lengths its best to do 4 sets of 10. That may work for them but if I try doing that I battle to swim the last 10 and get completely demotivated for next time.
Instead, I do 5 descending sets of 10-9-8-7-6 lengths. That's 4 breaks instead of 3, but the last set of 6 isn't as tiring. If you don't want to look spare resting at the "wrong" end of the pool, do a descending set of even-numbered lengths, like 10-8-8-8-6 or 12-10-8-6-4. If you're doing even steps then the middle number multiplied by the number of sets gives the total no of lengths.
At present I'm not even managing that number, but if you're unfit and start a 5-4-3-2-1 set you've already done 15 lengths. Next time do 6-5-4-3-2 and that's 20. At present I'm doing 10-8-6-4-2 (30), and then I add a couple more at the end to keep motivated.
In order to stop getting lost when counting lengths, I do 2 lengths of crawl followed by 1 length of breaststroke. If you are swimming 10 lengths, start and end with breaststroke. Then lengths number 1, 4, 7 and 10 are breaststroke, with 4 and 10 in the "back" direction and 1 and 7 in the "away" direction. It's easy to tell where you are in the set simply by knowing what stroke you did in the previous length and which direction you are swimming.
When I was training for Midmar and wanting to keep count of 64 lengths, I used coins at the far end of the pool. I moved 16 coins from one tile to the other, and then moved them back again, i.e. 32 moves for 64 lengths, swum in pairs. That's 15-14-13-12-10 if you're doing 5 sets, but I was trying to do the entire lot without a break. After all, there are no "sides" at Midmar dam.

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