Swim Practices


Below are some of the more common questions we have heard over the years regarding swim practices.  We hope these help you understand when, where and how we practice and why we do some of the things we do in practice.


Questions About the Practice Schedule and Attendance:

What is the practice schedule for this season and where do you practice?

In general, we practice weeknight evenings at the pool located at Mandarin High School beginning in early May and ending the Wednesday before the RCSL Championship meet in late July.

How many practices am I required to attend each week?

While the obvious answer is all of them, we understand that many of you have other priorities, especially during the school year.  Because of this, we don't set a practice requirement but you should try to be at as many practices as possible as this is the best way to improve your skills and fitness.  A good target is 3 out of 4 practices (or 75%) per week as this will allow you to "keep up" with your teammates, both in terms of stroke development and conditioning.

What if I have to miss a week or two for vacation or camp?

We believe that swimming is a family sport; therefore, we understand that family plans like these take priority over practice and even meets.  If you do find that you will miss a substantial number of practices, we encourage you to find a pool, lake or even the ocean near where you are going and try to swim on a daily basis.  You should try to swim for at least 30 to 45 minutes and include some distance of each stroke.  In this way, you can avoid that "rusty, out of shape" feeling when you return from your vacation.

Questions About What We Do in Practices:

Why do we spend so much time on stroke drills?

Like all sports, competitive swimming has its own set of motor skills that must be learned in order to compete effectively.  We believe the best way to practice these skills is to break down the strokes into their various components and focus on developing these components properly.  Many of the stroke drills are designed to do just this - allow the swimmer to concentrate on performing a specific skill properly.

For this reason, we spend some part of every practice working on these skills through stroke drills.  The amount of time spent on stroke drills will vary based on the group a swimmer is assigned to (which is usually based on the skill level of the swimmer as well as their age) and the point of the season we are at.

Why do we swim so many laps in practice when most of the races are very short?

In addition to trying to improve stroke mechanics, swimming all those laps allows us to condition our athletes' cardiovascular systems (get them "in shape").  Swimming short distances fast is an anaerobic activity - that is, the body requires more oxygen than one can take in over that short period.  For someone to perform an anaerobic activity well, they must develop their cardiovascular system's efficiency and the absolute best activity to develop cardiovascular systems is swimming!  By using sets of repeats, we can stress the swimmer's cardiovascular system, which causes the system to adapt by improving its efficiency.

What is the reason for doing kicking sets?

The biggest muscle groups in our body are the ones found in our thighs (the "glutes", "quads", "hamstrings", etc.).  The bigger the muscle, the more oxygen and energy used by it to contract. From the discussion above, you should know one reason why we kick so much in practice - kicking hard places a high level of stress on our cardiovascular system as these big muscles demand oxygen to work right!

But there are other reasons we kick so much.

First, a contracting muscle burns sugar and oxygen to create energy to contract.  A by-product of this is a chemical called lactic acid.  When the muscle creates more lactic acid than the bloodstream can remove from it, the muscle "spasms" and you get a cramp or "charley horse."  Because of this, you want to build the efficiency of this reaction in your muscles to avoid cramps and you must, therefore, exercise the muscle. 

Finally, one fundamental law of physics is that the denser the matter, the less buoyant it is.  Muscle tissue is very dense, therefore, it tends to sink in a pool.  If we don't get our leg muscles "in shape", we will stop using them when we tire and now we must drag these heavy muscles along for the balance of the race.  When the legs don't provide enough propulsion to even keep them afloat, they also cause our efficient, streamlined body position in the water to deteriorate and we find ourselves swimming in a "/" position.  This now makes us work even harder as we push all that extra water in front of us!

What is a "pull buoy" and how do we use it?

A "pull buoy" is a device used to help keep your legs still and floating. Much like a kick board helps us focus on our legs, so a pull buoy helps us focus on the arms.

Our arms provide over 80% of the propulsion to move us through the water in all the strokes and the proper technique and conditioning of the arms is critical for success in swimming. Pull buoys are used by all of the older groups to help in doing stroke drills aimed at improving the technique of the arms and our older groups will also use them to do sets wherein we "overload" the arms for conditioning purposes. These sets also can include work on specific breathing patterns to help us learn to control our breathing during races.