The Emotional Rollercoaster That Is A Red Mist Endurance Session!

Paul Newsome

Which Camp Do You Sit In?

If you've been following our methods for a while now, you'll likely sit in one of two camps:

1. you've tried one of our Red Mist Endurance sessions and have developed a love-hate relationship with them - perhaps recognising their value, but always starting one with a degree of trepidation

2. you've heard us banging on about them a lot but either you haven't tried one or perhaps even wondered if this is the only type of session we offer here?

If you sit in Camp 1, great, well done for giving them a go!

If you're in Camp 2, fret not, whilst we certainly offer many, many different types of sessions, we felt it prudent today to give you a little nudge to try today's workout of the day and to explain some of the emotions you might go through doing it!
On Wednesday just gone, we had Australia Day (January 26).

Public sentiment around this date has changed a lot in recent years, and rightly so. January 26 is marked by Aboriginal celebrations across the country - Invasion Day, Survival Day, the Woggan-ma-gule mourning ceremony in the Botanical Gardens; it reminds us all of what happened – and celebrates the flowering of Aboriginal spirituality, culture and creativity. It is much less a 'celebration' and more of a day of remembrance and reconciliation. It is marked on the calendar as a public holiday observed my most in the community.

Public pools were closed for early sessions, so instead we organised an Australia Day Special 5km Red Mist Endurance session on Tuesday 25 instead. You'll note the date on the whiteboard as 7 February (2021) - the last time we attempted this session.

How To Do It

Red Mist Endurance sessions are very simple. They often feature no warm-up (to simulate an event start), use little or no equipment, and feature no technical drills. The emphasis is always more about pacing, challenging yourself and seeing if you can keep a level head!

The name "Red Mist" comes from a session many, many moons ago when one of our squad swimmers was struggling a little emotionally to get through the set. The red mist came down, and they jumped out of the set vowing never to return! This has happened way more than once (!), but is a sign that the session is right at that sweet spot between being ridiculously hard and just about doable. "Sweet uncertainty" let's call it!

To do this set, you're going to work out your CSS pace. This is the pace that you should be able to hold for 1500m. You can do this by performing a 400m time trial, followed by a 200m time trial. Take the 200m time away from the 400m time and divide by two (or use our CSS Calculator here), et voila, that is your CSS pace! If you haven't got time or the inclination to do this, think of it as the pace you might average for a series of 100m intervals on a short recovery cycle of about 10-15 seconds.

Let's say that your CSS pace is 1:40/100m. Now let's work out your RM Cycles. These are the cycle times (set per 50m) that you need to beat in order to get some rest. Divide your CSS time in seconds (100 divided by 2 = 50 seconds in this example) and then for RM 6 (our starting time) add 6 seconds per 50m. Swim the first set of 100m, 200m, 300m (pull and paddles), 200m, 100m taking as much rest between the intervals as you manage to get ahead of that target pace. Using a FINIS Tempo Trainer is an excellent way of gauging this accurately. 

Now, let's drop 2 seconds off the beeper and do the set again, but shift the 300m pull and paddles set to the 200m intervals on either side of the 'pyramid' peak. Do the whole pyramid again, but you'll be getting 2 seconds less rest per 50m assuming you're holding the same pace. Now, one more time, drop another 2 seconds, repeat the pyramid, use pull and paddles on the 100m intervals at the start and finish.

It should now start to be getting a LOT harder? Did you even make the turn-around times? Has the Red Mist started to descend? Well, you're only halfway through the session!

Let's change the mode from Mode 2 on the tempo trainer (for RM Cycles) to Mode 1 (for CSS paces). Using the example before (1:40/100m) now we'll add 6 seconds to this 100m target pace giving us 1:46/100m for the first of five progressively faster intervals in the last set. Set the beeper to the target pace per 25m (by dividing 106 seconds by 4 = 26.50 seconds) and now aim to just stay with the beeper. This is CSS +6s/100m and should be quite steady. Each subsequent interval though (e.g. lane 4 = 200m, 400m, 600m, 400m, 200m) gets 1s/100m quicker by dropping off 0:25 seconds off the target pace.

Can you still make it by the end? Pretty tough? There's no pull and paddles in this set to break the monotony either - can you keep a level-head?

Being The Guinea Pig

I've always been a firm believer in being the ultimate guinea pig for the sessions I write. I'll often do the session myself before delivering to the squad, but on Tuesday I had the chance to actually swim it alongside my squad buddies - it was great!

I wasn't the fastest guy in the squad that night (this mantle is reserved for Kiwi Scott at the moment!), so I just followed along behind and tried to keep up!

I remember getting through the first part reasonably well, but then dreading the peak of the second part (an 800m at CSS +4s/100m) wondering how I was ever going to get through it (both pace-wise and monotony-wise), so I just turned my head off and got down to work and succumbed to the sound and regularity of the beeper and this became my challenge. Luckily I survived and had a great swim as a result.

Why not give it a go yourself?

Let me know how you got on?

Swim on!


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