Coaches Corner


By, Elaine Krugman


Is foreign travel in your plans? If so, don’t forget to pack your swim gear and caps! “Caps?” you ask? Wouldn’t I only need to bring one? Well, yes, but I’m not referring to the cap you will be wearing. I’m talking about all those swim caps you have accumulated from swim meets, fitness events, and charity swims. How many of those caps will you actually use?
I had tried to give mine away to coaches to give their age group swimmers, but nobody wanted them. They had plenty of their own to give away. Pleas on the USMS Community (Discussion Forums) and on the Georgia Masters Facebook page were dead-ends. This time, I had 21caps, so I took them with me to Iceland.
Iceland? There are public swimming pools in Iceland? Yes! There are 121(!) public swimming pools in a country roughly the size of Kentucky with less than 10% of Kentucky’s population. Even the smallest towns have a public pool with spas, which serves as the daily meeting place for the community—especially in the geothermal-heated spas where spirited conversations take place. Pools are a vital part of the typical Icelandic small-town community, and children are required to learn how to swim in early childhood.
That brings me to my first tip about swimming in foreign countries. (We’ll get back to those caps later.) First, check out to locate pools anywhere in the world.
Next (and this is an important one), research the swimming culture in your designated country, so as not to offend the locals.  In Iceland, shoes are not permitted to be worn in the locker rooms for sanitary reasons. There are shoe racks located in the lobby outside of the locker rooms where you leave your shoes before entering. (Two of the pools I swam at had shoe trays, so you could place your shoes in your locker.) Secure lockers were also provided for free, so there was no need to bring a lock with me.

The shoe rack at the pool in Selfoss, Iceland.

They even supplied long shoe horns to make putting your shoes back on a little easier!

The children’s pool and spas had water temperatures posted.  The pool in Selfoss had several spas, each kept at a different temperature.  They even had a cold-water dunk tank.  I passed on that one!  After taking this photo, I learned that cameras and cell phones are strictly prohibited in the locker rooms and pool area.
Most importantly, it is required to shower WITHOUT your suit before you swim in Iceland, and the showers are not private. Naked women and children showered in the shower room without a care, donned their suits, and off they went, leaving their towels behind in the designated towel cubes rather than taking them out to the pool.
I was able to get in four late-afternoon swim workouts in three Icelandic towns during our two-week small group tour, in July.  Although I left my towel in the locker room each time, I did bring my caps out with me to give away.  It was a great conversation starter and a fun way to meet the locals—one of the most enjoyable aspects of international travel for me.  I approached every swimmer I saw wearing a cap and asked if they would like to have a free cap from the U.S.A.  A few were skeptical, but once they understood there wasn’t a catch, they were excited. Many of the swimmers took their own caps off and put on their new one. 
As it turned out, one of the swimmers I met in Akureyri, Gudrun, was elected to the board of the Icelandic Swimming Association—the very organization I contacted about Masters Swimming in Iceland! We exchanged e-mails and are keeping in touch. (By the way, they are looking for coaches, so if you would like to coach in Iceland, let me know!)

Since cameras and cell phones are prohibited inside the pool area, I shot this photo in Akureyri from behind the glass at the street. And, yes, I tried out both water slides. Terrifying!

The pool in Stykkisholmur, photographed from outside the fence after the pool had closed.  This slide wasn’t quite as terrifying.
Swimming in Iceland—and giving away my 21 caps—made my trip to Iceland so much more enjoyable than if I had left my swim gear at home. Give it a try next time you travel internationally and create some memories of your own!

JUNE 2023


It happened just this morning. I went to the pool for my sixth swim workout of the week thinking I would put in another strong swim before my day off. (I know better. If I don’t take a day in the middle of my week to back off my intensity, I am going to feel it by Saturday.) So, I began my warm-up with good intentions; however, I felt sluggish, my muscles were tired, and my freestyle stroke technique was inconsistent.  I love to swim, though, and I always feel better afterward, so I didn’t want to leave the pool. Time to switch it up!

Sound familiar?  Are you tired at the end of your workout week from training hard or putting in a lot of yardage, and your stroke is falling apart?  Or, just the opposite; you just returned from a summer vacation in the mountains, where there wasn’t a lake or pool to be found anywhere?  You have been out of the water, you feel like you’re swimming through mud, and your stroke technique is off?  In both cases, you may not need to leave the pool just yet, but you do need to stop spinning your wheels.

This is the time to put your watch away (or turn your back to the clock) and change up your workout. Forget swimming on intervals. Instead, this is the perfect time to work on your stroke technique slowly with drills, followed by full swim strokes to see if the drill stuck. If your stroke falls apart again, go back to the drill.

Choose a drill that will target your stroke flaw for whichever stroke you choose to work on. For example, by the end of the week, my back is tired from swimming a lot of butterfly. My worst stroke flaw in butterfly is the wonky pull pattern of my left arm going too wide; so, the drill I like to do is the “chin surf” drill in this video (2:45 mark).  Although this drill is meant to work on breathing technique, it allows me to work on the pull without the fatigue of executing an over-water recovery.

 Do your chosen drills as 25’s (or 50’s in a long course pool) slowly with no pre-determined rest interval. Stop to rest after each one, and use your rest time to think about how the drill felt. What went well? What needs to be improved? Rest as long as you need to so you can swim the next 25 correctly. If you are so fatigued that you are unable to execute the drill, it really is time to call it quits, go home, and kick your feet up! If, however, you are doing the drill correctly and feel like you are making progress, test yourself by doing some full-stroke 25’s—slowly.  Again, rest after each one and evaluate.  Did your stroke fall apart again? Go back to doing the drill. Did the drill stick, and you swam with good technique? Great! Continue 25’s with plenty of rest to reinforce the progress you made. When you feel you’re are ready to try something new, do another technique for the same stroke or move on to another stroke. Listen to your body, and don’t overdo it! You may need to quit at less than your usual daily yardage; or, you may get a second wind and want to do keep going.

As it turned out today, it took me twice as long to do my usual 2,500-yard workout, because of the slow swimming speed and long rest periods. I had intended on doing less yardage today, but the drills and slow swims felt so good, I actually felt better and stronger at the end of my workout than I had at the beginning! 

Since the amount of yardage you swim should depend entirely on how you feel, I will not include a flex set this time. Instead, check out these drill ideas for each stroke, and stay flexible on how many repeats you do of drills and full swim strokes.  More can be found on the U.S. Masters Swimming YouTube page.


3 Drills for Better Butterfly Hip Position

4 Butterfly Drills to Fix the Mistakes You Are Probably Making


Drill to Eliminate Mistakes in Your Backstroke

Want to Reduce Drag? Try the Shoulder Cheek Swimming Drills!
*This video covers all four strokes


2 Drill for Better Breaststroke

Struggling with Breaststroke? Improve Your Technique with These 3 Drills


Freestyle Swimming—Improve Your Stroke with 3 Key Drills

4 Freestyle Drills to Improve Your Technique


May 2023

Are you an intermediate or advanced competitive swimmer interested in improving your race times? Try Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT).  Although this high-intensity method of training has been used by Olympians, such as Michael Andrews, several All-American Masters swimmers have had a lot of success with USRPT. Since it is so demanding, some of the older Masters swimmers designate just one day a week to USRPT and utilize other training methods on other days in the pool.

USRPT was developed by Dr. Brent Rushall, Professor Emeritus of my alma mater, San Diego State University. Although he started writing about it back in the 1970’s, it started getting a lot of publicity beginning in 2011.

When training USRPT, you will be swimming no slower than your goal race pace. It is the opposite of what I have written about in some of my previous tips and flex sets, because you won’t be doing any drill or kick sets, or technique-focused work. You will only practice your race pace.

Warning: This style of training is not for everybody! If you are recovering from injuries, have chronic physical issues, or are unable to swim at your maximum effort for any reason, USRPT may not be for you.

The premise for USRPT is that race-specific high intensity swimming will yield the optimal performance results and fastest times in competition. Do you want to swim fast in your race? You need to swim fast in practice!

For a brief look at the science behind USRPT, check out this bulletin. Dr. Rushall proved that this method of training results in greater speed endurance.

The goal of USRPT is to achieve race pace performance and a 1:1 work to rest ratio. For example, if your goal is to race a 100-yard freestyle in 1:00, you will need to average 15 seconds per 25. That is your goal time. For a USRPT set, your interval would be :30 for 25’s: Swim 15 seconds, and then rest 15 seconds, to achieve a 1:1 work to rest ratio. You will repeat these intervals for a predetermined amount (16-30, for example) as long as you can make your target time of 15 seconds. If you fail, sit out the next 25 and begin again on the next interval. If you fail a second time, the set is over. If you don’t fail to complete the predetermined set of 25’s, the set was too easy. Next time, decrease your target and rest times. If you do fail to complete the set, but were able to do several repeats, keep setting the same target time each time you swim this set until you can complete it. Beginners can start with a set of 16 x 25’s; topping out at 20 is recommended for Masters swimmers.

USRPT can also be done as 50’s, which is the recommended way to train USRPT for middle and long-distance races. Rather than a 1:1 work to rest ratio, however, you would set your interval as your 200 pace 50 (your 200 race goal time divided by four) time plus 20 seconds of rest. If you don’t make your goal time, sit out one 50 and try again. The set is over when you fail a second time.

Try training USRPT for butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke as well; but, to avoid injury, don’t forget to listen to your body for signs of repetitive stress.
To get started with USRPT, check out my Flex Set of the Month.


May 2023

If this is your first time doing Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT), please make sure to read my Elaine’s Tip of the Month in this newsletter.

Before you swim this set, do your usual competition warm-up, since you will be swimming race pace. Swimming a cool-down at the end of this set is also important to flush out the lactic acid from your muscles.

16 x 25 freestyle RI: Equal to your goal swim time for each 25.
Total yardage: Varies; see below

Explanation of set: What is your goal race time for the 50 freestyle? In order for this set to be effective, you must set a realistic and achievable goal! Let’s say, for example, your race goal is :30. Your goal time for each 25 would be :15. For a 1:1 work to rest ratio, your rest interval (RI) would also be :15, for an interval time of :30.  As long as you are swimming the 25’s at :15, you will continue repeating 25’s until you have reached a total of 16. If you don’t make your goal time, sit out one 25 and try again. The set is over when you fail a second time. If you succeeded at completing the set by swimming every 25 at :15, followed by :15 of rest, set a faster goal time the next time you do this set. If you failed very early in the set, and it was too difficult to do repeats, adjust your goal to a slower time with an equally slower rest interval.

Flexible options:
  • Increase the number of repeats to a set of 20 x 25’s.
  • To train for 100’s, divide your race goal time by four for your 25’s goal time.
  • Swim the set as all butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke, adjusting your goal times appropriately for each stroke.
  • Swim the set as 50’s to train for middle and long-distance races of any stroke, adjusting your rest interval to 20 seconds of rest (rather than a 1:1 work to rest ratio). To train for a 200 race, divide your 200 race goal time by four, for your 50 time plus an rest interval of 20 seconds. If you don’t make your goal time, sit out one 50 and try again. The set is over when you fail a second time.

For an excellent database of workouts, go to the USMS Swim Workout Library

Mindful Swimming
March 2023

What do you think about when you swim?  For many swimmers, it is a time to zone out, stare at the black line on the bottom of the pool, and forget about everything while racking up yardage.  For others, as the endorphins kick in, their creativity flows with ideas or problem-solving.

An excellent case can be made for the merits of both approaches; however, if your goal is to improve your stroke technique, consider trying mindful swimming.  Save the stress-reducing, zone-out period for your cool down; and, go for a long walk to get your creativity flowing or solve problems that are keeping you up at night.

What do I mean by “mindful” swimming?  It is constantly thinking about your stroke technique, especially during warm-ups, drills and slower-paced sets.  Try picking just one thing to concentrate on for 25 or 50 yards, and do it to the best of your ability.  Then, choose another technique for the next 25 or 50 yards.  If you try to think about doing everything perfectly at the same time, you will tense up.  Eventually, each piece will come together to make for an improved stroke.  (Tip:  Have somebody video your stroke periodically to make sure you are on the right track!)

At the end of your workout, check in with yourself and see how you feel.  You may just discover your mindful swimming was a wonderful stress-reducer, allowing you to approach your thoughts from a fresh perspective once you have left the pool!

To get started on mindful swimming, check out my Flex Set of the Month.


Mindful Swimming
March 2023

The purpose of this set is to improve your stroke technique by thinking about key components throughout. Make sure to do your usual warm-up before you swim this set as well as a cool-down at the end of your swim session. While you are doing your warm-up, be mindful concentrating on a different technique for each 50 or 100 yards.

8 x 150 D-K-S, IM order, twice through RI:15
Total yardage: 1,200

Explanation of set: D-K-S is drill, kick swim. If you can swim all four strokes, the first 150 will be 50 yards of butterfly drill, followed by 50 yards of butterfly kick, and 50 yards of full butterfly stroke.  Rest for 15 seconds before repeating this for backstroke, and then breaststroke and freestyle.  Repeat the IM order by doing different drills and kicking on your back.

Flexible options for butterfly:

  • Unable to swim full butterfly? Try one-arm butterfly and use your healthy arm if you are injured.
  • Butterfly with a breaststroke kick
  • Substitute one of the other strokes for each butterfly D-K-S
  • Watch this video to improve your dolphin kick, and kick on your back, side, or front.
  • Check out this playlist on YouTube for other USMS videos for ideas and inspiration for improving your butterfly.

Flexible options for backstroke:
Flexible options for breaststroke:
Flexible options for freestyle:

These stroke technique tips are from USMS coaches and can be found in the Articles & Videos section of the website. (Click the link under each stroke for the full article or video.)

Terry Heggy on Freestyle:Stroke length—If you lift your arm into the recovery too early (mid ribcage), you’ve cheated yourself out a significant part of your pull.” 
My suggestion: To confirm that you have pulled far enough, lightly touch your thigh with your thumb at the end of each stroke.

Linda Irish Bostick on Backstroke: “…the very best backstrokers keep their heads still. To fix this, I have swimmers balance a cup of water on their heads while swimming.”
My suggestion: Watch this video to see how to do it properly.

Andrew Sheaff on Breaststroke: Better breaststroke is all about superior streamlining. Master these two critical skills to streamline effectively. Minimize excessive lifting of the head and shoulders to breathe and diving upon returning the head to the water. Come up high enough to get a breath, then bring the head back into line while avoiding diving down under the water. This will ensure the spine is moving as straight as possible through the surface water.”

Linda Irish Bostick on Butterfly: “Arm recovery and hand recovery are common sources of trouble for butterfly… Single arm butterfly with side breathing is one of my favorite drills to fix this problem.”
My suggestion:  Watch this video to see how to do it properly.

For an excellent database of workouts, go to the USMS Swim Workout Library