How a Champion Swimmer Optimizes Time for Better Results

•Author: Jerry Frentsos

Time. What does it mean to you?   Depending on the person, it’s a word with various definitions and connotations. So let’s take a look at what the dictionary has to say about time.

How a Champion Swimmer Optimizes Time for Better Results

Time, noun, the indefinite progression of existence and events from the past to the present into the future, is regarded as an unchanging whole. If a system is unchanging, it is timeless. Sure, time might appear timeless at a macro-level, but time is far from timeless on a day-to-day micro-level. Most of us look at time as measured in hours and minutes. However, years of experience with time have taught me a valuable lesson.

I now look at Time calculated through a simple formula that considers all the minutes in a day (1440 minutes) multiplied by 5% and 95%:

1440 minutes in a day x 5% = 72 minutes 

1440 minutes in a day x 95% = 1368 minutes

Time = 5% + 95%

The math of time reveals that 5% of a day equals 72 minutes, and 10% of a day is equivalent to just under two and a half hours.  If you take away nothing else, I hope you realize you will always have the time to exercise. For example, 1% of your day equals 14 minutes, 2% of your day equals 28 minutes, and so on.

When I set the new Masters swimming world record, many assume I spent most of my time training. Often I am asked a common question: “How do you find the time necessary for the training required to break a world record?” As much as that question carries rhetorical undertones, I explain how I manage my time and training. My standard answer is, “On average, I dedicate 5% of my day toward athletic training.”

Setting aside 5% or even 10% of a day for training still leaves 90-95% of the day open to balance out the rest of your life. But athletic training is far more than just showing up and going through the motions. It is also about the quality of the training, and not the quantity.

Most know that balancing the 90-95% is only sometimes balanced. Life can change very quickly physically, mentally, and emotionally. To help protect me against the inevitable imbalance of life and get the greatest return from my 5%, I have one primary goal for every workout; never cause more harm than good. I will not sacrifice the next several workouts by forcing myself through a bad today. To accomplish this, I go into every practice with more than one option.

Line of male swimmers performing Freestyle in single lane

Option A. Top priority workout.

 I feel strong when I feel strong. How I feel includes physical, mental, and emotional health. If three out of three are on point, I will have a top workout. But if one of these three is way off, I will modify my training to protect all my strengths.

Option B. Modified workout.

If my original workout was intended to be a high-intensity day and lacked the necessary physical speed, I will modify it into a relaxed distance day. If my original workout were a distance day and lacked the emotional capacity for a distance workout, I would flip it into a short, high-intensity physical speed day. A good two out of three isn’t bad.

Option C.

However, if two out of three of my strengths feel off, I will move on to option C. The workout for the day becomes an active recovery workout with low intensity, low heart rate, and low pressure. After an evaluation with proper corrections, option A will become tomorrow’s top priority.

Option D. My last resort.

If I struggle with all three, I will shut it down and go home. I rarely pull the trigger on option D. This option has nothing to do with quitting and everything to do with protecting the macro definition of time. Only the healthy progression of events from the past to the present determines if I will break a world record in the future. One good workout does not determine my future, but depending on the severity of an injury (physical, mental, or emotional), one bad workout can set me back for days, weeks, or even months.

So which one is more important?

The 5% or the 95%? This 5%-95% debate starts with using my Human AI (Attention with Intention). Using my Human AI allows me to build biological advantages and accomplish specific training and life goals. Here are seven things I strive to optimize each day:

1. Protect my sleep

2. Eat well

3. Maintain a proper fluid balance

4. Control my emotional response (i.e., reduce stress)

5. Nourish my thoughts with positivity

6. Tend to my relationships

7. Always protect my heartbeats

To help ensure I stay on track with the success of Option A, I take myself through a 1-2 minute meditative ritual just before any training. First, I calm myself by taking a few deep breaths to help balance my body’s oxygen levels. Second, I remind myself I am here for a reason. Finally, I block out the other 95% of the day to mentally and emotionally concentrate on my 5% of training. This small ritual instantly drops me in the zone and triggers the flow needed for every workout.

A well-lived 95% with the proper attention and intentionality allows for better results in the 5% spent training. And a highly productive 5% training session sets me up for an even better 95%, which then sets me up for a more effective 5%… and so on. My best performance comes from the 100% efficiency of my time within the macro and micro definitions of time.

The successful balance between 5%-95% creates biological advantages for what I like to call “chasing forward.” While I give myself several options for every training session, the odds are option A wins almost every time. If I make poor decisions during my 95%, I am now “chasing backward,” creating biological disadvantages. If I allow this downward “user error” cycle to continue, the fun disappears, and my health declines. Fatigue, frustration, and burnout await me shortly. Some people have also asked me, “why do you do what you do?” “Physical, mental, and emotional training is fun for me, and world records are just a bonus.”

How a Champion Swimmer Optimizes Time for Better Results

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Bonus – Three of Jerry’s “go-to” dryland swim training workouts:

Jerry has several 5% dryland training routines using the Vasa Trainer Pro. Here are three workouts he cycles through regularly.

Workout #1 – Strength Building

Warm-up first

  • 10 Pull-ups (NOTE: Jerry uses a regular pull-up bar to do full body weight. Use the Vasa Trainer set at an angle right for your level of strength for a moderate progression)
  • 20 Push-ups flat on the ground
  • 20 Push-ups done at an Incline on stairs
  • Vasa Trainer 2-arm pulls – at the steepest incline (setting 15) for heavy resistance, do 20 power strokes – butterfly (both arms at a time, butterfly-pulling motion) 

(NOTE: Jerry uses explosive power when pulling his body weight up the inclined monorail, holds at the top for a second, and then lowers his body weight slowly to feel the resistance going back down. Power/Pause/Resist.  You can choose to add stretch power cords for a greater load.

  • Vasa Trainer – cross cables, ten power strokes – breaststroke  

(NOTE: Jerry sets the monorail at #12 incline and uses the 25# power cord. Use the resistance settings right for your level of strength. With breaststroke, cross over the pulley cable and maintain a steady, consistent circular motion to mimic an actual breaststroke. Ensure you feel the same type of resistance throughout the circular motion.)

Repeat – up to 5 sets 

(NOTE: on super strength day, Jerry does up to 10 sets during the heavy training season, and he does it  2-3 times per week. But he drops this routine completely about three weeks before any primary events.)  

How much rest between each exercise and each set? “No real set time, but more when I feel physically and mentally ready. I rest for 15-30 seconds on great days as I roll through the sets. Some days I may take 2-3 minutes rest between sets. I let my body ‘at the moment’ make that call.”

Warm-down

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Swimmer learns early vertical forearm technique poolside

Workout #2 – Base Building

Set the Vasa Trainer at a moderate incline and attach a stretch or power cord. 

Use a tempo pace – “On this one, I allow myself to “free fall” but catch myself before the bench comes to rest at the bottom. Power up / fall back/ catch myself/ power up.”

Warm-up first

Do the following:

6 x 1:00 using both arms at a time, butterfly-pulling motion

Take 30 seconds rest between each repetition.

Take a 3-minute rest before starting the next set of 6 x 2:00

6 x 2:00 sing both arms at a time, butterfly-pulling motion

Take 45 seconds rest between each repetition.

Warm-down

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Workout # 3 – Super Base Training

Low incline – set at #5.  Use a 15# power cord.

Warm-up first

Using the Pulley Cable System, “swim” Freestyle, alternating arms

Tempo is slow and steady 

  • 3 x 1:00 and take 30 seconds of rest in between intervals 
  • active rest 2 minutes before starting the next set of 3.
  • 3 x 1:30 and take 30 seconds of rest in between intervals 
  • active rest 2 minutes before starting the next set of 3.
  • 3 x 2:00 and take 45 seconds of rest in between intervals 
  • active rest 2 minutes before starting the next set of 3.
  • 3 x 2:30 and take 45 seconds of rest in between intervals 

Warm-down

About Jerry Frentsos

Jerry Frentsos has a Master’s Degree in nutritional sciences & biochemistry.  He is a clinical dietitian, sports nutritionist, and adjunct professor.  He’s an accomplished coach, having been an NCAA Division 1 head coach, age-group swim club coach, Masters swim coach, and head coach of 2-time collegiate triathlon national champions. Jerry is an accomplished swimmer and set 21 Master swimming world records over the last four decades, with the latest world record set on December 7, 2021. Jerry was also a member of the U.S.A. Swimming National Team from 1985-1988. 1986 U.S. Open National Champion. Gold Medalist at the 1987 Pan American games. He competed in the 1984 & 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials, finishing 3rd in the 400 IM to become an alternate for the 1988 U.S. Olympic Team.

Jerry Frentsos
Author, Educator, Clinician, Coach, Athlete
www.liveintentionallywell.com

 

 


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