February Update – The Rome Challenge

A lot has happened since our last update where we covered Jia’s first ever competition. We are now entering month number 6 of the challenge and I’m not the only person that can see the big changes. Staff members and fellow swimmers have all commented on the difference between September and now. It’s amazing what a few months of structured training can do. As with most masters swimmers real life takes its toll on training, an element that is affecting Jia more than I had initially expected is her work. As someone that works at a desk all day I hadn’t fully realised how much working on your feet as a nurse for 12 hours would negatively affect training. I thought I had compensated for this within the weekly plans, but it wasn’t quite right. We have tweaked training to compensate and it now seems to be working.

As with a previous entry I will break this one down into different sections. This article will cover everything up to the second week in February.



In addition to swimming in her first competition, December saw Jia make two other milestones. After working on butterfly drills and swimming it with fins, she completed her first 25m of full fly without fins. A few days later when she had a few more goes swimming fly she took the plunge, tried and completed a full 100m IM, then followed it up by doing another. This now opens a whole host of new options for training. One of the challenges with taking up competitive training for the first time is creating sessions with variety. Variety in terms of distances and in terms of strokes. Not only can all four strokes now be fully incorporated into training, but the medley discipline can also be included. Most of the sessions will still focus on frontcrawl, but now we have more options. Jia is also considering racing the 100m IM in the local gala in March, which will mean another one of our initial goals reached. The way things are going we are going to need more goals.



Drills to improve technique form a large part of the training sessions. Improving and maintaining technique is a never-ending task in swimming. That said, Jia’s technique continues to improve in leaps and bounds. She has improved so much that one of the drills she does (6 kicks on one side then switch) is better than most club swimmers that I have seen perform it. We are working on technique for all four strokes, however we are limited in what we can do for breaststroke, or rather how much breaststroke we can do. Still the drills and general work on breaststroke has seen an improvement, her next race in that stroke is going to be interesting



Jia seems to be the opposite to me. I hate anaerobic sessions, but I love aerobic 80-85% effort training. Jia however, loves the anaerobic sessions and hates the aerobic ones. That’s not to say that her aerobic work hasn’t improved. She is now doing 100s off 2:15 which is a big improvement on September when the 100s were off 2:25 and 2,000m+ sessions are no big task anymore. The bigger improvement has come in her anaerobic and sprint work. On her first anaerobic session back in November Jia did 5*50m off 5:00. It was a struggle, as anaerobic sessions are meant to be, it was new and unusual. It was unlike anything she had done before and pushed her to her very limit. The times ranged from 47 seconds to 59. After that first session she did it once more off that time, with me doing 100s sprint at the same time so we were in the same lane and leaving together. Then when she next tried that session she was off 4:00. The improvement has been so good and the times so consistent that I decided to try her with a session I call the Beginners Anaerobic. This session is 5 sets of 2*50m sprint, normally I do them off 1:30, but that would be a little too much. So, I put them off 2:00, to make things interesting I did the session with her, but I did butterfly while she did frontcrawl. It was tough, but her times were impressive and it is fantastic to be able to train together on the same session. For the first three sets she stayed under 50 seconds on all 50s and equalled her PB on one or two. For the last two sets she went slightly over 50, but no higher than 52/3. It’s only a matter of time before she can do them off 1:30.



Diving from the blocks is still a big ask, especially as the blocks in the local pool are at the limit for what is legal under FINA rules in terms of height. However, Jia’s dives from the side are brilliant. Combined with her streamline she easily clears 5-6 meters before surfacing which will make a big difference for her next competition.


Speaking of competition our entries are in for the Irish Masters Open in Limerick so we will get to see the difference all of this training has made. It is long course so even equalling her times from Mallow would count as PBs.

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