Baseline training (BT), the foundation of an effective competitive athletics program, should be standardized and used at all levels to encourage development and progress of individual athletes. A data driven strategy, BT uses the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative information to evaluate and adjust training methods.
As in all other sports, the objective of BT is to collect as much information relevant to every key area contributing to swimming success. This information can include but is not limited to:
- Breakout times - Streamlining / Starts and turns (every stroke)
- Timed turns
- DPS / Tempo
- Heart rate / Recovery speed
- Kicking - Speed and DPS (25's) Specific speed (100/200)
- Pulling (isolated)
- Specific speed (25's, 50's 100/200/500, ect)
- Specific Swim sets that measure recovery, endurance/aerobic capacity, pain tolerance / lactate tolerance, efficiency, pace, technical proficiency (video)
- Sample Baseline Trainine Templates
The information you collect should also include your favorite sets, but should be based on the USAS Training Categories and Training Design Guidelines. It's important that all swimmers entering your program from 4 years old to 100 realize that the information you collect is based on science and not on a whim.
The USAS has files of data from Olympic level swimmers on various sets as they were growing-up. This information can be used to compare your swimmers' progress to National caliber swimmers, and is just one example of how BT and data can become a motivational tool.
BT helps novice coaches understand that there is a method to the often presumed madness of swim training. The information a brand new swimmer acquires from his or her first coach is data that should serve as the benchmark for all future success. Every swimmer entering and exiting a program has concrete, standardized data that can be used by future coaches.
Baseline training (BT) gives coaches the information they need during the season to stress their athletes properly and at the correct time. Done correctly, BT will help coaches and athletes avoid plateaus during the season and take the guesswork out of tapering. Documenting every workout allows the coach to inspect yardage, drills, and sets so they can increase, change and adapt them to increase stress / effectiveness.
Baseline training begins when you help your swimmers develop specific goals / times for the season. Times can be garnered from preset standards (i.e. Olympic or National qualifying times, school records, varsity letter times, practice times / test sets, etc.). Goals will be tweaked as the season progresses and they must be realistic, meaningful, and challenging enough to cause you and the swimmer to celebrate them when they are reached. Help your swimmers set lofty goals because, as motivational speaker Les Brown puts it, "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
It's a mistake to rate the success of a practice or training strategy solely on how much yardage and/or pain the coach gets a swimmer to tolerate. Making a workout longer and more difficult is relatively simple. It makes more sense to rate training success to the training goals that are met during a practice. Baseline training helps coaches build a season plan that increases every swimmer's opportunities for success and will help move a program and swimmers to the next level.
The collection and analysis of your data not only identifies swimmer's strengths and weaknesses but it's critical for setting, resetting, experimenting and even scrapping, how your swimmers train. Baseline training involves practicing every day with measurable goals and objectives. BT helps guide most of the things your swimmers do and must be included as a dry-land and exercise strategy.
Urging a certain effort level from your swimmers takes on a new and exciting perspective when it is based on data. BT gives you data in hand and allows you to really coach. Now when you talk to your swimmers you can show them concrete data and give them suggestions on what they can do in and out of the water to improve.
By celebrating PRs in practice, swimmers become more motivated. Giving swimmers things like a jellybean for every practice PR (save the green ones for extra special accomplishments) adds excitement to training. If you prefer intrinsic rewards, hearty and honest praise works just as well for many swimmers. Collect data so you can identify great efforts, and make the process of recognizing excellence an important event to be shared by everyone.
Collecting data is time consuming but it must be done properly. If done sloppily, it can seem like a waste of time. Prevent a "waste of time" attitude by educating your swimmers before and during the season about the value of developing a comprehensive baseline of swimming data.
Baseline training will forever change your practices. Swimmers will be constantly looking at the clock and discovering boundaries set by their pain tolerance, dedication, aptitude and attitude. Coaches will also discover their strengths and shortcomings and stay motivated to find more effective training methods.
Post the collected data so it can be analyzed and tracked. Develop a routine so that specific sets / skills are performed on a consistent schedule. It is important to have a consistent routine to report and analyze data (see templates below), but you also need to be flexible. Flexibility allows the coach to refocus on different skills and training loads as warranted. A flexible style lets you adapt calmly so that your swimmers gain confidence in your coaching.