By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent
Growing up, I had a love/hate relationship with holiday workouts. The holidays’ long and schedule-free break meant swim practice took full focus, which was great. I loved swimming. There was plenty of time for recovery (re: naps). There were minimal distractions from school or other responsibilities (re: no homework). “Holiday training” was a more fun version of Swimming Boot Camp: the tough got tougher, practices became epic challenges, and my teammates and I pushed the boundaries of what we thought was physically, mentally, and emotionally possible.
But it was still really, really hard.
I imagined my coaches furiously brainstorming holiday practices 50 weeks of the year, pacing, salivating over a sheet of blank paper, conjuring up the most insane, back-breaking, emotionally-scarring workouts possible. Once, our group was tested with a set that sounded so impossible, and seemed so daunting, that it actually brought tears. However, our group completed it; we finished the set successfully, and we had a great season. I still remember the set ten years later. Completing those holiday workouts was the difference-maker that season. It gave us confidence we needed to step on the blocks, look our opponents in the eye, and believe, “I have worked harder than you. I will beat you.”
Of course, all swimmers think that way. That’s the beauty of competitive swimming.
Now I reflect on those holiday practices not as horrible, no-good, emotionally draining hours of monotony, but as positive opportunities: That’s when we became better swimmers. While some moan and groan about long, staring-at-the-black-line-all-day practices, holiday training provides the meat ‘n’ potatoes of a swimmer’s season. There are few opportunities for a swim team to come together without the worry of school, homework, or extra curricular activities. Holiday vacations provide that opportunity.
This holiday season, I asked swimmers on Twitter what were some epic holiday sets they accomplished this year. I was floored. Swimmers sent set after impossible-sounding set -- sets that make me cringe, sets that surely make coaches smile, sets that make athletes tough, mentally and physically. Here are a few. (Including a few swimmers who did, indeed, finish the most infamous set of all-time: 100x100s.) Congratulations to those swimmers for finishing these…
dewthegu: 10,000 for time. I was 1 hour and 51 minutes
EmilyThirion100: 8x25 500 kick 10x100 5x200 All fly
ultraswimfast: obviously retired, but 1998 was a 9,800 IM without stopping and you had to do full stroke fly to earn the shirt @cliffak
HetzeLucas: IM's of Death: 300 fly, 300 IM, 300 back, 300 IM, 300 breast, 300 IM, 300 free, 300 IM. Then repeat with 200s and 100s
mikah_choah: well today we did a 12,000 IM
@_gracelynch: celebrated 2013 with 13x1000's
firebright4: My coach thought she was being creative on NYE when she gave us 20x100s and then 12x100s to celebrate 2012.
natalie_davis22: Distance Group did the Triple Crown. 1000 free all out, 500 free all out, 400 IM all out, 3 times through, w/ no swim down
MattGustafson02: main set was 38 x 200, including warmup totaled 10,000 yards in 3 hours. Then we went outside and ran a 10K....
ShackAttack15: 20 times through 13 50s. 13,000 yards total.
carston_hernke: 12 days of Christmas practice. 12 sets, starting with 12x, then 11x, 10x, etc. as the repeats go down, the distances go up.
cindyAU08: last year I did 100 x 100 with age groupers... Later today it's the Dallas @MastersSwimming Polar Bear swim - only 50s!
CoachWeston11: reverse-disappearing 4IM - 400, 375, 350, 325, etc. taking off a 25 at the end so that final 100, 75, 50, and 25 is all fly.
jgiles95: 100 100's are never fun...
aquaman6367: every event for time
zambeetoe: 100x 100s!!!! pic.twitter.com/GR9DzcGl
caitlinklemme: 25x400 IMs, every 5th all out from the block
@mikelgustafson 100x100 on the 1:12 (exactly 2 hours)
Sarahswim99: 100x100 woo!
hauser_jen: 4x1650s free. That was sooo fun. Not
kristineeeleee: 100 100s stroke....
Meagan_Thompson: how about 50 x 200?
The_iSack: 4x12 50s 4 on 50 seconds 4 on 45 4 on 40 4 on 35
bieberchord: yeah it was fun *note sarcasm*pic.twitter.com/dotdLzVb
orangejuice5798: 6600 straight for time
emilykeem: my coach has a New Year’s party... 365 25's #sotired