Good Workouts and Bad Workouts

100×100 may be “the most famous of all distance swimming sessions” – but I’d never actually done it… until last Friday. Mark invited me to his team’s morning practice, for reasons unspecified, and had this “special surprise” waiting for us: 100×100 (SCY), as:

Normally this would be a make-able (if challenging) set for me. Unfortunately, Friday was not a normal day. For whatever reason, my body was just not cooperating. I lifted weights on Thursday, but I don’t think that entirely accounts for it. It was just one of those days.

I have a “lead balloon” day once a month or so. I recognize it within minutes of getting in the water. Wow… I’ve got *nothing* today. On such days, I usually adjust my plans. Slow drilling, sculling, kicking… anything but a distance-overload set on tight intervals.

By the second round of 10×100 (1:20 interval), it was clear I was having “one of those days.” My body position felt off. I was having trouble hitting my stroke count (14), which on a normal day I can do with my eyes closed (literally). I was approaching the wall in-between strokes (e.g., 14 & and a half), and thus either jamming or floating my turns. It didn’t help that I was swimming in an end-lane without visual targets on the walls. One time I actually “whiffed” on a flip-turn - like, I totally missed the wall - which I can’t remember _ever _doing, even when I was 7 years old.

I was a mess.

And yet - at the end of that second round, I still had 80x100s to go! 240 flip turns. Ugh. If this were a solo workout, I’d probably try to get through an hour and call it a day. If this were Masters - probably the same. But this was different. When you swim with kids half your age, your pride is at stake. You can’t just bail a third of the way through the workout.

So, I kept swimming. I didn’t make every send-off, but I completed every lap. If you look at the “main set” of 60×100, you’ll notice every 10th repeat is on 2:10 - providing a buffer for those who missed one (or both) of the 1:05 send-offs to catch up. This buffer was my saving grace.

As much as possible, I tried not to struggle. I focused on good technique - on trying to feel smooth, even if I felt like a lead balloon. My goal was to finish 10,000 yards without hurting myself. As much as possible, I ignored the clock. Speed was a secondary consideration.

Much like a channel swim, actually. In my younger, pool-swimming focused days, I might have considered this a “bad workout.” In pool swimming, “good” and bad” is defined by speed. In a channel swim, though, the primary consideration is: Did you make it across? Did you keep swimming for as long as it took?

And in that sense, this was a useful workout. Not a “good” workout, exactly… but a useful one.

Posted 18 June 2012 in: training Tags: sets