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What To Do When The Pool Is Packed

Too crowded to do your 10x100s? Don’t bail.

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Too crowded to do your 10x100s? Don’t bail. Here’s how to get a decent workout in when the entire town seems to be in your lane.

Get your head in the right place.

Don’t get wrapped up in how you’re not going to accomplish your workout’s original purpose. “You have to throw your original workout away,” says Debi Bernardes, founder of U Can Do It Coaching (Ucandoitcoach.com) in King George, Va. Make your new purpose to be more efficient with your stroke by the time you get out of the pool.

The bonus: Focusing on your stroke might make you faster than that timed set would have, anyway. “Efficiency through proper biomechanics has been proven to be more important than power,” says Los Angeles swim coach Drew Porter, founder of Quixotic Racing (Quixoticracing.com). “So use that as a great excuse to have a nice drill workout.”

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Avoid your favorite drills.

Those are the ones that make you feel good, not the ones you need most. Use your pool time to discover at least one new thing about yourself as a swimmer. “Play with hand pitch, head position and kicking. Or focus on balance, relaxation and sculling. See how each change feels and whether it makes you more efficient,” Bernardes says. “Make up some drills, or combine two of your favorites. When you experiment, you learn more about your relationship to the water.”

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Shorten your sets.

Trying to do 50s or anything longer is likely to just annoy you and everyone else. Plan on doing 25s until the pool clears out a bit.

Swim workouts from Triathlete.com.

Practice race skills.

A good set in a stop-and-go pool, recommends Lance Ogren, swim coach at New York City’s Chelsea Piers, is to “accelerate to a speed much faster than race pace and then settle back into race pace without completely falling apart.” And don’t forget to practice sighting.

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Keep your “crowded pool plan” in your swim bag.

“When you get to the pool and it’s crowded, it will be hard to think about the drills you should be doing and the strategies you should be using,” recommends Ogren. “You might need to write them down and carry them with you.”

Make wall time work for you.

Don’t just stand there. Do this:
Vertical kicking. If you sink when you try to flutter kick vertically, “it’s an indication you’re not getting a lot out of your kick,” says Jim Bolster, head men’s swim coach for Columbia University. If lane dynamics allow, he says, aim to kick vertically for as long as it would have taken you to swim your 100s.

Press-outs. Put your hands on deck shoulder-width apart, pull yourself out, lower back down. This is the same motion as the pull and is a surefire way to get your heart rate up, says swim coach Drew Porter. Repeat until a comfortable amount of real estate opens up in the lane.

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