Start Fast. Stay Fast.

In Dryland, Injury Reduction by Admin1 Comment

It is championship meet season! That means it is time to put the pedal to the metal and finish this season strong. Whether you have a large swim team or a smaller swim team, championship prep is months and months of work. If you’re an athlete, the championship meet, and hopeful personal best, is what you have worked so hard for. 

However, how many times do swimmers leave a championship meet feeling like they didn’t swim the meet they deserved to swim? 

How many times does it seem like your team starts slow and then gradually picks up steam? 

How many times does it seem like you start fast and then fade hard as the days pile up? 

Start your week off with this case study on championship meet performance. 

A Complete Strength Training System

SURGE TRAINING SYSTEM is Specific to Improving Swimming Performance

The Championship Meet

Let me set the scene for you. It is your National Championship swim meet. Your team has worked hard, battled through adversity, and is ready to race. 

Day #1 arrives and as a coach, you’re hoping your leadoff swim sets the tone for the rest of the meet. There’s nerves, excitement, and reflection on the swim season’s body of work. 

Then out of 22 swims on day 1, your team has 20 PRs. 

You go home excited and full of energy. Day #2 begins. Is this where the hangover from day #1 occurs? No. 

The team continues to push the gas pedal to the floor. Your team has has athletes that drop massive time in finals and find themselves as the top three swimmers in the nation for their events. 

Your women’s 400 medley relay drops 13.25 seconds and takes 3rd. In this relay, your national runner up backstroker swims breaststroke due to team need and drops a ridiculous season best that would make her a contender in the 100 breast.

Day #3 hits. Surely the team will start slowing down now. Fatigue has to be setting in. 

During the day #3 prelims, your team drops 122.63 seconds in the morning session ALONE! 

At your pep talk before the finals you bring up the stat to your team.

They ask, “is this for the entire meet.” 

You smirk and answer, “No. That was just for this morning.” 

Day #3 finals arrive and surely there has to be a slip up. No. You leave day #3 still able to count all of the non-PRs on one hand. 

To close out day #3 your 800 free relay teams swim school records. The women drop 42 seconds off of a tech suited, semi-tapered in season meet. The men drop 15 seconds and swoop in to finish national runner up after being seeded 5th. 

The final day of the meet is here. Surely your team has to be gassed.  NO! 18/20 morning swims are PRs and result in a total of 3:23.22 of time being dropped by the team. The finals that night finish out in spectacular fashion with more time drops and moving up spots. 

Your 50 fly athlete moves from being seeded 14th to finishing 3rd in the nation. 

This is exactly what Coach Sandra of SWOCC Swimming experienced this weekend at the NJCAA National Championship. Coach Sandra took a group of athletes, some who haven’t been swimming more than a year or two, and turned them in to national competitors. 

Some of these athletes ended their high school careers thinking they wouldn’t have a chance to swim in college. Now after two quick years at SWOCC, the graduating class has athletes who will be continuing their careers even further (NCAA DI, NAIA). 

How did this happen? Even more importantly, what can you take away from it to help your team come championship season? 

Let’s start by looking at Coach Sandra’s season of work. With a limited budget and no “home” facility on SWOCC’s campus, Coach Sandra has to get creative with pool rental space and practice times. She also doesn’t have the funds for a full coaching staff. 

Her first goal, sustainability.

After experimenting with some in-person strength coaches in the past, she realized that the coaches were not bought in since they were only there a few hours a week. 

Coach Sandra ended up utilizing RITTER’s remote team dryland opportunities. Although there wouldn’t be a coach in person a majority of the time, she wanted consistency to grow with the program and a similar face to perform some of the duties of an in-person assistant coach. 

She knew it would be an adjustment going with the remote aspect. However, she also realized that student athletes can adapt very quickly to technology, so switching to a more remote system would actually highlight this pathway. 

Due to the lack of time with pool space and practice time, she continued her education with Race Pace Training 2.0.

On the dryland side, the team went through a customized program. This factored in major meets, individual athlete assessment, coach’s goals for the season, the equipment available at the school, and the athlete main events. 

Due to the NJCAA format, swimmer resiliency was a major focus. They would each be required to swim a wide variety of events for their team. This meant they had to be ready for the demands of the swim and also have a vast skillset. 

Coach Sandra also opted to take advantage of the site visit. This involved having me heading out to Oregon for two days on-site at the school. Sandra also took advantage of having our Technique Coach, Abbie join a site visit during winter training. She felt this was a critical step to build the foundational relationship for the program and start the team off on the right foot. 

Accountability is key!

The next thing that was critical for SWOCC’s success was buy in! Now this did not happen overnight but once the team sunk their teeth into the programming, the results started surfacing. 

With a remote dryland program, there’s a few different ways to implement. The team can complete it individually, in small groups, or scheduled time as a team. 

The swimmers at SWOCC found their solution with team scheduled times. This allowed for accountability and still the flexibility to pair up with training partners. 

They also didn’t have their own training space. The community recreation center was regularly busy, so the training parter format worked with the flow of their facility. 

On the RITTER side, I constantly reviewed SWOCC’s training data. This included everything from logged sessions to how the swimmers were performing during monthly “challenges.” These challenges were measuring different aspects of a swim.

For example, we would do a bodyweight squat in a minute test. This was used to measure how well the athletes could continue to buffer as intensity started to result in hydrogen ion buildup (think lactic acid). Our goal was for everyone to get close to the pace of one squat a second. 

Adaptable but bound by a common goal

The common goal was to swim to the best of their ability at nationals. The pathway to get there was different for each athlete.

The last key point of the dryland program was having a program adaptable for all levels. Some swimmers could do pull-ups some couldn’t. However, each swimmer needed the value of vertical pulling in their program. 

SWOCC’s dryland programming had three levels. The three levels started as, beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The levels then grew in specialization as the season progressed.  

At the end of the season, the levels were based off of the swimmer’s most high performing event.

With the pull-up in mind, here’s what a scaling of the training sessions looked like. Video 1 is the entry level. Video 3 is the advanced level. Keep this in mind when working with your team. There are multiple ways to get the same training effect. 

When you’re ready to implement a dryland program for your team, remember these principles: 

  • Make it sustainable!

  • Hold your swimmers accountable!

  • Make it adaptable but bound by a common goal!

A Complete Strength Training System

SURGE TRAINING SYSTEM is Specific to Improving Swimming Performance


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