This section aims to give you as much information about your training regime as possible. We'll be updating this page over time so please come back regularly and familiarise yourself with what we have here. It will improve your performance and enjoyment of the sport.
This information will help you to understand what different types of training we do and why we do them.
Yes, you know it, without energy we can’t train or race properly! But where does this energy come from and how can we best train our bodies to produce this energy quickly and effectively?
Energy is provided by a complex breakdown of foodstuffs within the body. In fact, energy is produced by the splitting of a chemical bond in a small molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). This molecule then becomes adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and energy is released.
ATP -> ADP + P + energy
But there is only enough ADP stored within the body to keep you going for a couple of seconds once you start exercising. So to keep going, your body needs to change the ADP back into ATP so that the cycle can start over again.
ADP - >ATP
Your body has three ways of regenerating ATP – these are called the THREE ENERGY SYSTEMS. We use different types of training (for example, slow and easy sessions or fast and hard sessions) to train our bodies to train these energy systems so that they work better and for longer.
The Three Energy Systems
- The ATP-PC (phosphagen) system or Anaerobic Alactic system.
- The Anaerobic Glycolysis or Anaerobic Lactic system
- The Aerobic System
Phosphocreatine (PC) is a chemical stored in the muscle cells and is broken down to provide the bond to convert ADP back to ATP. But there is only a small amount of PC stored and it will only provide enough energy to last a maximum of 7 to 10 seconds in a highly trained sprinter. This energy system is the fastest at replenishing ATP but is the shortest acting and is usually used for fast bursts of speed at the start of the race.
Glucose from the blood or carbohydrate in the form of glycogen stored within the muscle rapidly break down without oxygen (hence anaerobic) to form ATP and pyruvic acid. This is not a very efficient system and will use up the body’s glycogen store quite quickly, but it is the main way of replacing ATP (and therefore providing energy) in fast races of 50m to 100m. Pyruvic acid is broken down into Lactic acid which is felt by you as a burning sensation in the muscles.
The aerobic system can generate ATP from the breakdown of carbohydrates and fats in the presence of oxygen – the Krebs cycle. This system replaces ADP more slowly than the other two systems, but it produces larger amounts and more efficiently. After about one minute this energy system is the main one which the body uses to create energy. When you are swimming aerobically (that is you are swimming at a speed where you can get enough oxygen into your body to produce energy using the aerobic system), the lactic acid which has been produced by the anaerobic lactic system is converted back to pyruvic acid. This pyruvic acid is used to produce more ADP and the burning sensation in your muscles disappears because the lactic acid has gone.
Carbohydrates (found in such foods as cereals, bread, rice, potatoes, beans, pasta and lentils) are needed to fuel your training. Without them you have less glycogen stored in your muscles and therefore less energy to train or race at your best. We use different types of training sessions to train the three energy systems to work efficiently and for longer (see below), but you can’t train effectively without the glycogen store to produce that energy.
There are 7 different types of training which help you to perform at your best.
- Basic Endurance Training (A1).
- Anaerobic Threshold Training (A2)
- Aerobic Overload Training/ VO2max (A3)
- Anaerobic Lactate Tolerance Training (SP1)
- Anaerobic Lactate Production Training (SP2)
- Anaerobic Endurance Training (SP3)
- Race Pace Training
The first 3 types, A1, A2 and A3, are used to train the aerobic energy system. The next two, SP1 and SP2, are used to train the anaerobic lactic energy system. The 6th type is used to train the ATP-PC energy system and the last type of training is used to practice for you race using all three energy systems as you would in your race. These training sessions are used throughout our training cycles (see below). If we train the energy systems properly, they increase their capacity i.e: you can race faster for longer because the energy systems are working better.
In our club we use 3 training cycles per year. One starts when we come back in September and finishes at Christmas. The second cycle starts in January and finishes at Easter and the third cycle starts after Easter and finishes in the summer holidays.
We start each cycle with lots of sessions working at A1 pace. This builds up your aerobic fitness (the aerobic energy system) and builds a base to enable training at higher workloads. A1 training is all done at slow pace, with a target pulse of 130-150 beats per minute (bpm) and with short rests of between 10 and 20 seconds.
We then start to increase the number of sessions of A2 and then A3. These sessions all help to increase your aerobic capacity; increasing your heart and lung capacity, your muscular endurance and strength. Don’t be tempted to skimp on the A1 sessions or you will find that A2 and A3 sessions are very difficult! A2 sessions are swum with a target pulse of 160-170 bpm with rests of between 15 and 30 seconds: for example, 16 x 100m off 1 minute 45 seconds. We work out the repeat times for these from your average 100m pace during the T20 tests you swim at the beginning of term (there is method in our madness!). A3 sessions are hard with a target pulse of 180-190 bpm and rests of between 30 seconds and 1 minute, for example: 12 x 100m off 2 minutes.
We also work on the other two energy systems: SP1 and SP2 to increase your body’s ability to produce and tolerate lactic acid and SP3 to help your body to use CP better. These sessions are swum at a very hard, fast pace over shorter distances with a lot more rest. SP1 sets are swum with a target pulse of 190-200 bpm with rests of between 10 seconds for very short distances to 4 minutes for longer distances. SP2 sets have high pulse rate but are swum over shorter distances again and have active rests (eg: swim easy or walk back to starting block). SP3 sets are over 15 to 20 metres with no more than 18 seconds of hard work at once.
Over the cycle the training gets harder and increases in volume until it is time to ease off into a taper and practice race pace training for the main competition at the end of the training cycle. Within the cycle, we try to follow hard sessions by an easy long session to help your body to recover ready for the next hard session. We also practice starts, turns, finishes and stroke drills. At the end of the cycle we have a rest and recovery period. This can be time off altogether (Christmas) or fewer sessions with more time to practise skills (eg: water polo).
BETTER UNDERSTANDING = BETTER TRAINING = BETTER RACING!
This information sheet gives basic nutrition guidance for swimmers and parents for both training and competition.
It is important that you eat and drink healthily so that you have the energy to train properly, to race at your best and to grow! Every day you should try to eat the following:
• 3 to 5 portions of vegetables and 2 to 4 portions of fruit
• 4 to 6 portions of carbohydrates
• 2 to 4 portions of calcium-rich foods and 2 to 4 portions of protein-rich foods
• 2 to 4 portions of healthy fats
• 0 to 1 portion of junk food!
Fruit and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and fibre which are vital for health. Carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, breakfast cereals, beans, lentils and potatoes, are stored in your body to provide fuel for training.
Calcium is needed for strong bones and is contained in dairy products, nuts, pulses and tinned fish. Protein is needed to help your bones and muscles grow, so include lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, soya or quorn. Beans, lentils and dairy foods also contain protein.
Healthy fats include olive oil, sunflower oil. They are also included in nuts, seeds and oily fish. Fat is used by the body as fuel, especially in long training sessions.
Eat foods such as biscuits, sweets and cakes sparingly because they contain too many calories, fats and sugar.
Eating and Drinking before, during and after a training session
- Before you train make sure you have something to eat and drink, e.g: a banana, a bowl of cereal or toast or a sandwich and some fruit juice (please don't expect to train properly or happily on just a cup of coffee!) Try to eat over 30 minutes before training.
- Bring a drink with you so you can drink throughout the training session, e.g: diluted fruit juice, squash or a sports drink. You will lose a lot of fluid during a training session and if you become dehydrated you will tire more quickly.
- After training make sure you have something to eat to replace the energy you have used, e.g: pasta or rice-based meal, potatoes, meat, vegetables. You should try to eat within an hour of the end of your training session if you can.
HEALTHY EATING = ENJOYABLE TRAINING!
Eating and drinking before, during and after a competition
It is vital to eat the correct types of food before and during the competition because if you eat the 'wrong' foods you may swim badly.
Fatty foods such as chips, burgers, doughnuts or an English breakfast take along time to digest. If a swimmer eats these foods just before they compete, blood rushes to the stomach to help it digest the food at the same time as the exercising muscles need their maximum blood supply. Sadly, the body cannot do both well, so it may mean that you don't swim as well as you could.
BEFORE YOU COMPETE MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A MEAL WHICH CONTAINS PLENTY OF CARBOHYDRATES.
Pasta, cereals, bagels, breads, fruits and vegetables are digested within 2 hours of eating them. That means that if you swim more than 2 hours after eating these foods, you have plenty of energy for the race.
DURING THE COMPETITION, THE AMOUNT YOU EAT DEPENDS ON HOW LONG YOU HAVE TO WAIT BETWEEN EVENTS
ONE HOUR OR LESS: Banana, crackers, diluted carbohydrate sports drink, juice. You should only eat and drink a small amount. You don't want to have tummy ache or need to go to the toilet just before you race!
TWO TO FOUR HOURS: bagels, cereals, fruit, sandwich, fruit juice, non-fizzy drink.
AFTER THE COMPETITION, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO EAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Eat plenty of carbohydrates and protein and drink plenty of fruit juice or water. It is especially important to eat a healthy, balanced meal if you are also competing the next day. You need to replace all the energy you have used!
IDEAS FOR HEALTHY SNACKS: For use before or after training or during over a competition period. Sandwiches, rolls, pitta bread, toast with jam or honey, banana, breakfast cereals, popcorn, breadsticks, fresh or dried fruit (eg: raisins, sultanas, apricots), current buns, muffins, malt loaf, raisin bread, oat cakes, rice cakes, garibaldi biscuits, fig rolls, muesli bars, jelly cubes, jelly beans, jelly babies (not too much though!), sports drinks (eg: Lucozade Sport), orange squash, cordial.
HEALTHY EATING = FAST RACING!