By Jim Harper //U.S. Masters Swimming
This article is part of U.S. Masters Swimming Masters Swimming 101 series
Like a good play, a good workout develops in three main acts: the warm-up, the main action, and the cool-down. A sufficient warm-up is essential for mature athletes, and a relaxing cool-down will help to fight fatigue and sore muscles.
A typical workout lasts for an hour or more. The main part of most workouts consists of sets of varying distances. Repetitions divide each set into manageable parts, such as “5 x 100,” which means that you swim 100 yards (the length of a football field), stop to rest, and then repeat that distance four more times, for a total of five repetitions.
In addition to sets, you may be asked to complete skill drills that challenge you to think about body position, parts of each stroke, and other essentials of swimming. For example, your coach may ask you to swim with your fists clenched, to draw attention to the importance of high elbow and unbroken wrist line.
As a new swimmer, or someone returning after a long absence, you must be prepared for a challenge—especially to your lungs. Breathe often! Do not try to impress yourself or others by holding your breath, or your workout will be over very soon. Swim smart and build up your endurance over time. It can take six months before you can make the workouts as written—even for skilled athletes who have endurance in other sports—swimming is different. Give yourself plenty of time, enjoy your new friends, and communicate any concerns to your coach.