How They Train Joel Ax – Sponsored by TritonWear

Photo Courtesy: SCAD Sports Information

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Joel Ax, a 2017 graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design (Ga.), virtually ran the table while competing for SCAD at the NAIA National Championships. In his four years, the 29-time All-American from Idstein, Germany won 11 individual and seven relay NAIA titles while setting six championship records. He was also named the 2016 and 2017 NAIA Male Swimmer of the Year.

He holds five individual school records in the 50-100-200-1000 yard freestyles (19.87, 43.56, 1:34.89, 9:14.57) and 200 fly (1:48.57), and is a part of four SCAD relay records.

The 6-1, 190-pound swimmer capped off his stellar career in March 2017, winning five events: the 100 and 200 free (43.56 and 1:34.89, NAIA record) plus the 200 medley, 400 and 800 freestyle relays. He also finished second in the 50 free (19.87) and the 200 free relay. During the three previous seasons, he won NAIA championships in the 200, 500 and 1650 freestyles.

“Joel is the most decorated swimmer in SCAD’s history,” says his coach, Bill Pilczuk. “He would swim anything we put him in, and would ask to do things differently if he could make them more challenging or harder. He could have swum D-I, but he had taken several years off from swimming. He saw that the NAIA could help him focus his career. At SCAD, he majored in furniture design.

“He loved competing in our conference and in our dual meets against the NCAA teams. During his junior year, he decided he would give up alcohol and fast food until after the German Olympic Trials. Several people at SCAD joined him, which had a huge impact on our team’s fitness level and dedication to the sport. He would read philosophy books and mentor the younger athletes on the team in times of personal crisis. He always led through example. It also gave the guys a huge confidence on their relays—knowing he would swim last took pressure off of the first three swimmers.”

“Joel could hit repeat times in sets to the second on 100s up to 300s and split them exactly as discussed. This is one of the reasons he swam up to the 1650 for us early on, even though he was a natural 200 swimmer. He would practice his race strategies and play with his energy systems in distances to be able to always finish with negative splits and strong kicks. I knew if he asked to put small paddles on, he was going to step it up,” says Pilczuk.


Set #1

• 2x broken 200 as 75-50-50-25, rest :10 (held 34 + 24s + 11)
• 2x broken 100 as 50-25-25, rest :15 (held 21 + 10.5 + 9.9)
• 2x broken 50 as 30-20, rest :20 (held 10.5 + 8.8)

Set #2

• 3x[200 +100] 2:30/1:10 goal 1:45s or better / :49 or better
• 3x[100 +50] 1:15/:35 goal :49 or better / :23 or better
• 2x[200 +100] 2:30/1:10
• 2x[100 +50] 1:15/:35
• 1x[200 +100] 2:30/1:10
• 1x[100 +50] 1:15/:35

Set #3

• 6 x 50 @ 6:00—all 6 no breath, dive, all under 21seconds (fastest 20.4, slowest

Set #4

6x the following:
• 100 goal + 8 secs (goal 43)
• 75 max kick (held 44s)
• 50 push max (held 21-23)
• 75 drill/sw/dr (recovery—all @ 2:00)

Progression of Times

50 Free21.7420.8820.5220.3019.87
50 Free Relay---19.1619.48---19.34
100 Free46.6244.89---44.8243.56
100 Free Relay---43.5044.7942.9742.79
200 Free1:41.031:36.711:36.821:34.901:34.89
500 Free4:39.364:25.674:21.934:21.49---
1650 Free16:11.5415:30.0915:32.2315:19.50---
200 Fly1:51.511:48.571:48.741:48.71---

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This article originally ran in the March 2018 issue of Swimming World Magazine.

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