Kahncept Of the Week 

On this page:

September 28 2015

There's no way around it, time, at least in the swimming world, is our frenemy. It is both reassuring and a rascal. It's constant and fleeting. It's your best friend when you're swimming well and your worst enemy when you're not. The notion of time is everywhere; our entire sport is focused on timed results, each daily practice here at DAM has a starting and ending time, the sets are time based and the clock is ever-present and controlling. But those are all good things. Swimmers with correct clock skills are in control, more relaxed and better pacers. They know what they did, what they're doing and what's coming next. One of the biggest knocks on Master swimmers is that they swim their easy efforts too fast and their fast efforts too slow. If that's true, it's partially because of poor clock management.

Learning how to read the clock, knowing when to push off, and how to prepare for your interval before you get back to the wall, increases personal responsibility and allows for a well organized practice . The less chaos during training, the more focus can be placed on swimming your own speeds... rather than just trying to keep up with others. And, equally important, is that over time you can see your own improvement by comparing your times to yourself instead of to others.

Here are a couple basic reminders... using both the standard sweep clock, and the digital clock.
1 - Leaving on the "top", or "zero". This means the first swimmer in the lane leaves when the clock reaches what would be the 60 second mark, or 12 o'clock, or when the digital clock gets to :00.
2 - Leave "5 seconds apart". The 2nd swimmer in the lane will leave 5 seconds after the person in front of them... so the 5 - 10 - 15 - and so on.
3 - It's standard practice to leave on the number that ends in either 5 or 0... but we still see swimmers who leave at some random time. This makes it more difficult to maintain a good distance behind the person in front, and more difficult to get your actual time of the swim. Stay organized.

During a set, you should not just be thinking about your stroke technique, but also, when you're going to have to leave for your next swim. Do the math while you're swimming and remember to think in units of 60 seconds (base 60), not normal base 10. One helpful but unusual reminder to stay on track is to speak out loud underwater while you're shoving off, the number on which you just left. This solidifies your sendoff in your brain and reduces forgetfulness. As you swim, add the interval to your send-off number so you're expecting a specific number when you look next at the clock.

Now that there are digital pace clocks at the pools, it's even easier to track you splits and thus your yardage. The two are interwoven. If you're swimming a 300 and you get your 100 & 200 splits by looking at the clock just before you turn, you can predict what you'll see at the end of the 12 lengths. If you're not within seconds of the pace, then you've probably miscounted and can self-correct.

Here's the final thought... stay engaged and thinking during practice. Know when YOU are supposed to leave, and don't depend on the person in front of you to know the intervals. The clock serves are your own personal tracker... to tell you when to start, how fast you went on the swim, and when to leave again. Treat the clock as if you're the only one using it, and know your times. Great swimming is more than going back and forth... it's an organized, thoughtful, engaged approach to your training. 

Back to top

September 21 2015
DAM Glossary of Terms

Trying to decipher swimming instructions, whether you're hearing them or reading them, can be challenging, especially to newer swimmers. Here is an alphabetical list of the most terms used in our DAM program. If you have any questions, or remember something not listed here, ask Stu or Mary for a more detailed explanation.

Alternate Breathing (Alt)

A breathing pattern used when swimming freestyle. Breathe to one side then take an odd number of strokes and breathe to the other side. This facilitates stroke symmetry by creating balanced motions from left to right. The most current common pattern for pool and open water is a 2-3 cycle, which increases oxygen uptake on the ‘2’ and maintains balance on the ‘3’.


A combination of kicking skills alternating between using a kickboard while on your stomach with kicking on your back without a kickboard in a streamline position.

Build-up (B-U)

Start swimming slowly and gradually increase speed within a single distance. Example set: 6 x 200 free build by 50. For each 200 you would swim the first 50 slowly, the second 50 faster than the first, give a good effort on the third 50 and swim the last 50 fast.

Catch-up (C/U)

A freestyle drill. Stop one arm straight in front of the shoulder, elbow locked, palm down. The first arm cannot start the next stroke until your other arm pulls alongside at shoulder width and parallel parks. Focus on a wide, Early Vertical Forearm (EVF), armpit closure with LVF (Late Vertical Forearm) and wrist hyper- extension ELVP (Even Later Vertical Palm). Recovery above water can be palm out or palm back, but never palm in.

Choice (Ch)

Any of the 4 competitive strokes; Fly, Ba, Br or Fr.

Descending (Desc or ? 1-3)

Start swimming slowly and gradually increase speed through multiple swims. Example set: 6 x 200 free desc. Swim the first 200 at an easy pace. The second 200 should be a few seconds faster. Continue swimming each 200 a little faster than the previous with the last 200 faster than all the previous.

Drill (Dr)

Any effort directed to increase skills by breaking larger components into smaller, manageable tasks. Common drills are: Freestyle CURLS (Catch-up, Right arm, Left arm, Swim), Backstroke DARLS (Double arm, Right arm, Left arm, Swim) and SKPS (Swim, Kick, Pull, Swim).


85-95% perceived effort. One step below 'sprint.' You should push off the wall swimming fast, but unlike sprint you can hold close to this speed for the specified distance. This term is typically used for short to mid-distances.

Hypoxic (Hyp)

A set with a reduced breathing pattern, created not to withhold oxygen but to begin tolerating carbon dioxide build-up.

IM or Individual Medley

An event in swimming that combines all four competitive strokes without extra rest between each stroke - Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke and Freestyle in that order. Example IM's: 100 IM = 25 fly, 25 back, 25 breast, 25 free. 200 IM = 50 fly, 50 back, 50 breast, 50 free. 400 IM = 100 fly, 100 back, 100 breast, 100 free.


A way to build distance while alternating between two different styles of swimming. The most common ways to swim loco is drill/swim; kick/swim and not/free. The basic loco pattern is 25 pace/25 fast, 50 pace/50 fast, 75 pace/75 fast, 100 pace/100 fast - these distances should be swum straight without stopping. When swimming loco to 100 you will swim 500 total yards.

Master's Minute Rest

You decide how much rest you want to take. Take about sixty seconds to catch your breath, clear the fog from your goggles, run to the bathroom, refill your water bottle or swim a 50 recovery.

Negative Split (N/S)

Swim the second half of the distance faster than the first half.


Any stroke that isn’t Free, ie; Fly, Ba or Br.

Postal Pace (PP)

The training interval equal to the pace a swimmer holds in the January One Hour Swim. A DAM swimmer’s minimum aerobic threshold.

Recovery (Rec)

Easy movement after a tough swim. You can walk, kick, swim elementary backstroke or bounce off the bottom as long as you're moving your body and gradually bringing your heart rate back down.


Within a set, the lane leader goes off interval and waits until everyone finishes before starting the next swim.


Your hands and forearms repeat figure 8 movements which slowly propel your entire body through the water. This skill will give you a better 'feel' for the water. The easiest scull is done while lying on your back, hands near your hips, head pointed toward the opposite end of the pool. Once you master this scull, try lying on your stomach with your arms in front of your head - which can be in or out of the water. You can scull with a pull buoy to help your backend stay afloat or add a light flutter kick.


100% perceived effort! Push off the wall swimming as fast as possible and hold this speed as long as possible. You should never finish a sprint feeling like you could have swum faster. We never sprint anything longer than a 100.

3rd Person In

Another method of resting between swims. Instead of leaving on a clock sendoff, wait for the 3rd person in your lane to arrive. That typically insures about 10-15 sec rest.

Tombstone Kick

A drill that makes kicking with a kickboard more challenging. Instead of holding your kickboard parallel on the waterline as you normally would, hold it perpendicular to the water. Half of the kickboard should be under the water and half should stick straight out of the water creating a 'tombstone' appearance. To increase resistance hold the kickboard deeper in the water for less resistance allow more of the kickboard to stick out of the water.

Underwater Recovery

A good freestyle drill in which your arms slide underneath the surface of the water during the recovery phase of the stroke instead of moving through the air to get back in front of your body. When using this drill as a freestyle drill it resembles the dog paddle but your head should remain in the water and turn to the side over your arm when a breath is needed. No part of your arm should break the surface of the water during any phase of your stroke. An extension of this drill is the People Paddle Progression, a DAM good drill. Watch this video to see Mary demonstrate the drill.

Back to top

September 14 2015
Happy New Year!

The 2015-2016 DAM swim year begins this month and we're diving right in. Unlike normal calendars, the 12 months in our sport begin in September and end in August. Further, USMS breaks those months into three smaller swim seasons; 25 meters (Sept. - Nov.), 25 yards (Dec. - April) and 50 meters/Open Water (May - Aug.). This schedule and the Grand Prix (which runs from Jan. to Dec.) are the starting points from which Mary and I plan the DAM New Year. This Kahncept is an attempt simply to get everyone on the same page for the upcoming swim year.
The following table highlights the months and dates of many of our future DAM events.

Month Emphasis Competitions Socials/Events
Sep Kicking 3000/6000 ePostal begins, 9/15
'30/30' month
Swimming 101, new member orientation, 9/30
Oct Stroke Review 3000/6000 ePostal
Pentathlon, 10/4
PMS sc meters Champs, 10/9-11, Walnut Creek
Team Store opens for winter gear sale, 10/1-10/14
Nov IM Brute Squad, 11/1-11/15
Grand Prix ends, 11/15
3000/6000 ePostal ends, 11/15
Civic Pool closure, 11/16-29, practices move to Manor.
DAM Board elections, 11/20-12/5
Dec Annual Mtg, Holiday Party, Awards Nite and Matt Biondi (12/5)
Jan Time Trials, 1/18 (MLK), Arroyo pool Arroyo Pool closure, 1/25-2/8, practices move to Manor.
Feb Stroke Review Valentines Meet, TBA, San Francisco Team store opens for spring gear sale, 2/1-2/15
Mar Race Pace Prep Cal Masters Meet, TBA, Berkeley
'30/30' month
Apr PMS sc yards Champs, TBA, Moraga Spring BBQ, 4/30
May Berryessa Prep Open Water season begins Team store opens for summer gear sale, 5/1-5/15
June Stroke Review Berryessa Open Water, 6/4 USA Olympic Swim Trials, 6/26-7/3
July Long Course PMS lc meters Champs, 7/22-24, San Mateo Summer BBQ, 7/16
Aug DAM lc meters meet, 8/6, Davis
USMS lc meters Champs, 8/17-21, Oregon
Olympic swim events, 8/6-13, Rio de Janeiro.

Back to top