Training for Speed

Friday, October 3, 2008

It has been two weeks since I decided to seriously aim for speed - to swim, bike and run faster. Since I was starting from a very low (rather, slow) base, I figured my initial improvements should be dramatic. Well, I did improve but I am not sure it was dramatic.

Swim. My benchmark for the swim is my personal best of 12 minutes for a 350m distance. Another is my 32min time for a 1K swim. The third parameter is the 19 strokes per 25m lap. So far, I have managed to swim 350m in 9min, 54sec. I also managed to swim 25m in 29 seconds! According to a swimmer friend who used to compete in inter-school races, their swim team always aimed for less than a minute per 50m, so I guess my 29-second 25m lap should be good enough. I haven't tried measuring up to the other parameters.

I have several observations though about this swimming for speed. First, swimming to relax is way more fun, although beating target times gives one a nice jolt of personal accomplishment. Second, I improved my time considerably by turning up for air less often. Third, I realised that my left arm is a bit weaker when I go all-out in stroking the water. I should remedy that with weight training. Fourth, I tire more easily and huff heavily after each lap, simply because I have to always push myself to my limits everytime. This is the only way for me to wake-up whatever fast-twitch muscles I was born with and train my body for high-intensity, anaerobic sprints. Eventually, I hope my slow-twitch, aerobic body will soon elevate its tolerance for this anaerobic workout and I will tire and huff less. Only then can I enjoy swimming again. Or maybe I can learn to like the occasional anaerobic sprints.

Bike. This is my waterloo, I admit, although I believe this is one area where I can make the most improvement. I started with the goal of beating my time of 40min for a 12k bike through the hilly terrain of AAV. The first thing I have to overcome is my fear of accidents. Slowly I hiked my saddle up to the point where my toes are barely touching the ground when I'm seated on the bike. I did numerous practices doing downhills in our village, and would congratulate myself everytime for surviving each round. A week of this and I did the 12K bike again. On my first round I did 35min, 31sec. The second round, I was a measly 5 seconds faster! Well, the 5 minute overall improvement should be good enough for that period. A few days after (during the Feast of Ramadan hours after the stormy skies cleared), I tried it again. On damp roads I managed 33min, 22sec. Yehey! And then it rained again. Sigh. I am hopeful that the road bike I will soon get will vastly improve my time.

Run. This another area of difficulty. Although I have ran in at least a dozen road races and finished long distances of up to 25K, I am far from being an efficient runner. Being overweight, I have short strides and I am pitifully slow. On a treadmill, my average speed is probably 7.5km/hr. The fast few days I have managed to elevate that pace to as high a 9.5km/hr. My goal is to comfortably run at 10km/hr. Only then can I reasonably and seriously dream of enlisting for a full-blown marathon. I feel that my bike training help my running tremendously. I have stronger quads and glutes which allow me to have longer strides. On hindsight, I think I have been relying too much on my calves to do the running for me. Lately, I have been focusing on making the bigger muscles (glutes and quads) do some of the work while running. Hopefully I am doing things right.

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