Q: I’m stuck in my longtime masters lane. what can i do to move up?
A: To work your way into a more advanced lane, do these four things:
Be consistent. Don’t take weeks off from swimming. Make it a habit to show up for your swim group and, better yet, have accountability partners within the group that notice if you aren’t there. Call each other before practice, or call each other out if someone doesn’t show!
Increase your frequency per week by one workout. If you are swimming the typical Masters Monday-Wednesday-Friday, then get in an extra swim over the weekend. A rule of thumb I like to follow in all disciplines: two times per week—you are losing fitness; three times per week—you are maintaining fitness; and four times per week—you are increasing fitness.
Consider a change of scenery. For your extra swim over the weekend, make it an open water swim or, if that’s not an option, seek out a 50-meter pool. Both will give you the extra endurance you desire by not giving you that rest at the wall. (Plus you don’t get that nice streamlined push-off when you’re racing a triathlon.)
Lastly, mix up the pace. Don’t just do your favorite 300-yard pull intervals every time you get in the water. When was the last time you did this workout: 8×50 all out on a 5:00 interval. Yes, you are reading that right—tons of rest to make you go faster. “But coach, that’s only 400 yards of swimming?! That won’t make me faster.” Well, if you want to get faster, work on spreading out your paces and not just going near threshold all the time. If your threshold pace is 1:40, sometimes you need to swim 1:50s and sometimes you need to swim 1:15–1:20s. That’s a 30-second range in zones!
Jon Mason is a USAT Level II coach, and serves as the head coach for both the Colorado State University triathlon team and MP Multisport based in Fort Collins, Colo.