Less Is More: 22 Years Older and Six Seconds Faster

Courtesy of James Fike, Founder and CEO of Fike Swim.

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This past weekend at the College Station Sectionals I put myself on the verge of something unthinkable even just a year ago- :52 in the 100 breast and 1:55 in the 200, at the age 41.  The drop in the 100 was huge (53.81 to 53.13) and somewhat overdue- my 200 has steadily dropped since January 2021 (2:02.1 to 1:56.6) and the 100 had been dropping from December 2019 to December 2021, but I started having trouble getting out fast and bringing it back.  I finally matched my fastest first 50 (24.70) and crushed the second (28.43). That ability to hold speed came from a few changes to my Less Is More approach to training:


Prior to September of last year, I was working both upper and lower body in the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  It was wrecking my body trying to go heavy on all the muscle groups three days a week, but I was rooted in the old way of doing things and thought anything less than full body was not enough.  In September I started alternating lower and upper, such that Monday and Friday might be lower and Wednesday upper one week, then Monday and Friday would be upper the next, with Wednesday being lower.  Alternating has not only allowed me to work harder in the gym, but I also have more energy day-to-day (also due to dietary changes), which in turn allows me to train harder in the pool.  In the water, again prior to September of last year, I was going all-out on breaststroke on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but I’ve switched Thursdays to a more aerobic, less breaststroke-focused day, in large part because my gym work has become very functional and specific to breaststroke.


Aside from alternating upper and lower, the big change was switching to functional training with a diversity of movements and sets/reps that work on speed and endurance in addition to strength.  For instance, I rotate between four different tricep exercises, five variations each of deadlift and squat, and at least six lat/trap movements for building my pulldowns.  The incorporation of large chains, resistance bands, and med balls, and the benefits of variable resistance, higher load, and instability they provide, has had a huge effect on my performance in the water.


As I said in the last article, I enlisted the help of nutritionist Erica Beine last summer, and she made an immediate impact.  In addition to the increased hydration, addition of pre-workout, and huge reduction in dairy, the replacement of most of my wheat products with brown rice, quinoa, legumes, and vegetables and the addition of beta alanine had a tangible impact on my energy levels between and during practices and races.  A typical day looks something like this: banana, hardboiled egg, and oatmeal spread between 7:30am and 9:00am as I get the kids out the door; pre-workout 30 minutes before practice at 11:30; protein and creatine mixed with a few ounces of almond milk after practice at 2:00pm; salmon, brown rice, and spinach at 2:30pm; snack bar at 5:00pm; vegetarian chili with chick pea macaroni at 7:30pm; and Icelandic yogurt with honey, granola, and berries at 9:00pm.


Very little has changed in the pool from the previous short course season, as it remains the area I’m most dialed into.  Last summer, out of fear of long course and the loss of half of my push offs (my biggest strength), I returned to more traditional sets with longer breaststroke swims, and it completely backfired.  Currently, there is still no garbage yardage and no sets for the sake of tradition, pride, or ego.  I train to race.  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are simply skills and drills to warm up for weights and keep the feel, about 700-1,000 meters each day.  Tuesdays and Saturdays are high-intensity, short-distance breaststroke work and Thursdays are moderate aerobic to improve lung capacity and flush the system.  Most of those days are around 2,500-3,000 meters.  The beginning of a new cycle might see 3,500 or 4,000 meters once or twice.


In the lead-up to KMSC ProAm last December I made the mistake of doing six-week tapers for both the pool and the gym.  That didn’t account for the fact that my gym workouts had moved away from the more fatiguing strength focus and towards functional lifting.  It was too much rest and I could feel myself lose an edge during the last two weeks.  This time around, keeping my swim taper six weeks long but shortening the gym taper to four weeks paid off.  Within those last four weeks I dropped the volume and number of movements but kept the intensity.  The pool workouts averaged 7,500-9,000 meters per week.

As always, I hope this gives you some alternative ideas for training and inspires you to try new approaches if your swimming isn’t on the path you want it to be on.  Don’t be afraid to break away from tradition and SWIM DIFFERENT!  Good luck!

If you like this article and still want to know more, stay tuned to the Fike Swim:


About Fike Swim

“We design products exclusively for the toughest sport in the world.  We unapologetically place swimmers on a pedestal.  The rigors they embrace on a daily basis can only be understood by another swimmer and they deserve a company focused 100% on helping them succeed.  Whether you’re just starting out or training for Paris, we stand behind you.”
James Fike, Founder

Fike Swim Products was born when founder James Fike put a brick on top of a kickboard and transformed just another legs-only kick set into a total body workout felt into the next day. Since then it’s been our mission to create unique swim equipment with the single-minded goal of making you faster. We don’t sell toys. We create tools to help you reach your potential.

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