Many of you read Doc’s write up of abandoning his stop watch. If not, you can find it here. Many of you also read Doc’s write up on the superstition of ‘going on the green’ here. Anyhoo, combine that with an update I got from one of my athletes, and I’ve got a blog post.
Swimmers say things like ‘go on the top’ or ‘on the bottom’ or maybe even ‘on the side’. I hadn’t heard the ‘on the side’ moniker too often, but one of the programs that we occasionally swim with uses it. So, just what does it all mean? Well, it kind of depends on what your swimming history might be. Seems like there are generally a few types of ‘swimmers’ in triathlon…
- those who come from a swimming background of sorts whether it be age group swimming, summer league swimming, or even full on college and post college swimming;
- those who have no swim background whatsoever and learned as an adult and mostly swim on their own;
- those who have no swim background, maybe learned as an adult, and swim with a masters team or other group.
So, what did Doc mean when he said ‘go on the green’. Well, here’s the pace clock in Switzerland…
OK, it’s not the actual clock, but pretty much the same model. Notice that the green ‘hand’ is on the 22.5 seconds. So, we would not go ‘on the green’ which typically meant when the green hand was on the 60 seconds. Some smart Aussies or Canadians but never the Brits or Swiss and seldom the Americans would go on the ‘blue’ 15″, but they’d never say the ‘green’ 60″. In some circles, the 60″ marker would be called ‘the top’. That makes the 30″ marker the ‘bottom’ and the 15″ and 45″ markers ‘the side’. Get it? It is all very intuitive, but when you have been chlorinated for over 1/2 your life…things can get a little bit fuzzy! Those who fit into group 1 above feel very much at home using the clock above. So do some in the other groups, but ‘swimmy swimmers’ as a friends of ours calls them, like the comfort of the old skool pace clock. It is also very easy to figure out when to leave on various ‘intervals’…another post all together! If you are doing a set of 50s on the 50″ and the first one starts ‘on the top’…#2 starts on the 50″…#3 on the 40″…etc. You can just count back 10″ off of each swim to figure out when to go next.
But, since this IS the digital age…we just got a TV that didn’t require an analog to digital converter box…many pools have graduated from the old skool pace clock to a fancier digital pace clock:
I have nothing against the digital clock, but I find that it does make it a little bit more challenging at times to calculate intervals even for my very numbers oriented and mathematical mind. The ‘top’, ‘bottom’, and ‘side’ are only there in theory. And, if someone does not have a swimming background or history with a group that uses those terms, it may be somewhat of a foreign language! Either way, the same principles apply for timing and intervals and such. If you are doing 100s with 10 seconds (10″) rest, ideally you want to pick an interval that gives you about 10″ rest after each 100. So, if you complete your first 100 in 1 minute 37 seconds (1:37), you might chose to do the 100s on the 1 minute and 50 seconds (1:50), which means you get 13″ rest on the first one…and ideally about the same on the rest of them. On a digital clock, if you start the first 100 on the 18:00, you start the 2nd one at 19:50, the 3rd at 21:40, and so on.
Lastly, the bane of many coaches, whether they be swim or triathlon coaches is the following type of ‘pace clock’…
I use it a little tongue-in-cheek, but watching a swimmer stop every 100 to hit the split button on their watch and go exactly 10″ later is a little painful if there is a perfectly good pace clock on deck OR if it is a group workout and your lane is going on a certain interval. So, if you have a pace clock in your pool, consider using the watch only as a guide to the time of day, and learn to use the pace clock. You’ll feel more like a ‘swimmy swimmer’ and probably be a little less stressed in your workouts!! If there is no pace clock at all, then I like to use my stopwatch as a digital style pace clock and never really touch a button except to start it at the very beginning of the workout and stop it at the end and usually it’s sitting on the deck so I can see it after each repeat and not on my wrist.
Or go even crazier and just dump the timing all together…especially if it is just an easy swim. Go as hard as you can on the hard, and take the easy easy!!