Monday, April 24, 2017

Keep It Simple

Coaches sometimes are guilty of over-explaining things. It’s as if when more words are used it will drive home the point better, more effectively. More often than not this isn’t the case; in fact quite the opposite may occur. It this age of speed and desire for quick results perhaps it is in everyone’s best interests to keep it simple.

Below comes from TK who made a very introspective observation last week…

“Hey there, I was taking a practice AP test today and came by this quote.

"He who has a why to live can bear almost any how."

I thought that was an interesting way to look at swimming, if you know why you are swimming  (other than times of course) there shouldn't be anything stopping you from going to practice or making the extra commitments to the sport in order to succeed.”

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Breaking New Ground

In his new book  PEAK  Andres Ericsson (with Robert Pool) describes in detail how neuro science can now measure that which coaches (and teachers) have known for decades; namely that to move forward in pursuit of excellence you must break free of your comfort zone(s).
The value of deliberate practice, not merely 10,000 hours of practice, is measurable these days in a variety of ways. Sports, music, chess, and surgery – you name it and the evidence is irrefutable. You simply must push past what you already know and or can do in order to get better.
Another key component is developing mental representations of mastery. In our sport of swimming this would be in the area of developing flawless technique. Teach a competitive swimmer how to best move through the water using mental representations. Simply put, have a swimmer look at a video clip or even a still picture of a proper technique point, then film him/her and let them see the comparison. Then allow them to develop their own mental representation of them doing it correctly. Then allow them hours and hours of deliberate practice to adapt to that representation…all the while giving them information in the form of visual feedback.
We often use our phone to film a swimmer doing one thing or another that we are focusing on, and then send it to them so they can see it later. Sometimes, we will even show it to them at the pool if time allows.
It seems to us that there are the two equal parts to faster swimming…and we realize this is risky business, boiling things down to simplistic terms…technique and physical capabilities.
So we keep working the technique side…daily. And we have been emphasizing the comfort zone side daily as well, even if for only short periods of time.
Today we warmed up for about an hour then gave them a Finis tempo trainer. If you set it to function #2 you can set a time to a full second. Then we had them do a 200 or a 100 or even a 50 at goal pace. So, if a guy wants to swim 50 in 20.0 we had him set the TT at 10. He went from the block when the TT beeped and then stopped after the TT beeped for the 3rd time – the 2nd time he was in the water. If he was 4 yards short of the touch pad the conversation went like this. “When you put a suit on, rest and shave you will get some of the 4 yards but the remainder of the 4 yards comes from the work you do daily over the next several weeks”.
We are reinforcing the value of the daily work in training when we ask them to push outside of their current comfort zone. This constant daily pushing, breaking new ground, plus developing mental representations is going to be key to their speed going forward; plus their confidence improves over time. Next week we will do the same set and give them a chance to see if they are improving.
Swimming is beautiful –and brutal – in that the stopwatch never lies (thanks to Pete at UCD for that bit of wisdom).
Thanks to Craig at Brentwood Seawolves for untangling the TT. You must have a number divisible by 4 since the TT doesn’t have tenths of a second in setting #2. For example, a 1:56 200 you would set the TT at 29 while a 56 100 you would set it at 14.
Break new ground daily and you must get faster. As Steve Bultman at Texas A&M says, “You just don’t know when it will happen, but it will”.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

What Competitive Swimming Means

It is college conference time and many former NBA swimmers are in action across the land. What follows is from Miguel after we gave him shout outs for his epic 1:47 200 back race. And it reinforces the point we speak to all the time here in our local swim community: swimming belongs to the swimmers…period. Our local summer league teams often (not always) say “You (NBA) are stealing our swimmers” when they decide they want more than the summer league has to offer. When a swimmer outgrows the existing environment and seeks a more challenging one, our attitude is “Awesome, go for it!” Miguel doesn’t “belong” to NBA…rather he is held in good stead by us until he is ready to move to his next vista point. Nobody owns a swimmer…Curt Flood saw to that.
Thanks Miguel for being such a valuable contributor to the North Bay history book!
“Thanks guys! Really amazing journey and I owe tons of it to the each of you, mean Mike, nice Mike and the whole North Bay community. I've been dreaming of that exact swim I did last night since high school. I still remember when you (Ken) told me I could go a 1:47 and I thought you were crazy. Thanks for believing in me. As for everything else, the lessons I learned on NBA regarding leadership, culture, teamwork and just being a well-rounded person are priceless and knowledge I'll carry with me for my whole life. The team (Fordham) exceeded all expectations, finished 4th (if it were swimming only, we would've smoked the 3rd place team). We broke 12 school records (all 5 relays, 7 individual). I was a part of 2 relays and the 2back record obviously. I've never been a part of a greater team atmosphere as I was last night. Swimming is so cool. Thanks for everything!”

Sunday, February 12, 2017


“If you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
~John Wooden

Ken found this quote the other day and it dovetails nicely into a current thread of conversation with our team. Most swimmers have goals and many even have a time frame of when they want to accomplish the goal(s).

Often the missing component is the plan of action. With some help from your coach and honest introspection (painful as that may be) you can determine where you are today visa vie the trajectory toward successful completion of your goal. Once you adopt your plan of action – doing what you are currently not doing to get what you want – the critical final component is “the when”.

Keeping it simple here…let’s say your freestyle tempo is 1.7+ when you swim a 200. When you swim a great 100 free it is 1.25…how can you swim a great 200 with a 1.7 tempo? The answer for 99.9% of the swimmers on the planet is you cannot. You will need to drop that tempo to 1.3 or even perhaps 1.4.

How do you do that? There are several ways that come to mind…let go of the water…increase your kick speed making sure your kicks are smaller thus quicker…and toughen up a bunch. 1.7 tempo doesn’t hurt as much as 1.3 so if you want to avoid the pain stay at 1.7 and quit complaining about your 200 speed. We coaches don’t want to hear about your frustrations.

We’d rather hear you declare “the when” as in WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT? Then quit your belly aching and just do it…or as Bob Bowman says, “It’s ok with you if I change your goal card, right?”

Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Suit

When it comes to swimming fast in a meet – also known as racing – there seems to us to be 4 factors: rest (taper), tech suit, shave and mindset.
We would rank them in this order of importance: mindset, rest, and techsuit/shave.
We went to an early season conference meet last weekend that had trials and finals with most swimmers having a solid shot at a second swim (3heats, 10 lanes). One of our guys, a junior in high school named Max opened our eyes a bit and his even wider we think…to be determined.
His career best 400IM is 4:14. In prelims he went a 4:30 and put a suit on for finals and went 4:20. We asked him if the suit was really worth 10 seconds. In his 200 back with a career best of 1:56 he went 2:06 prelims and suited 1:59 in finals. Again we asked, was the suit really worth 7 seconds.
Both times he answered probably not, with a rueful smile. So the coaching question is this: how do we get the swimmers to have a “suited” mindset without the suit?
And when we figure that one out we will have a waiting list for our team!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Great Things Happen When You Put Your Mind To It

TK came to workout yesterday and shared the following with us. We continually talk about these kinds of things and his Mom showed this to him and his immediate thought was to share it with his coaches. Our immediate reaction was, “We’ll share this world wide”. So thanks to TK, his Mom and all of you…oh, one other thing; this goes for parents and coaches as well as athletes. (PS: Talent is overrated)

10 Things That Require Zero Talent

1.      Being on Time
2.      Work Ethic
3.      Effort
4.      Body Language
5.      Energy
6.      Attitude
7.      Passion
8.      Being Coachable
9.      Doing Extra
10.  Being Prepared

Sunday, January 15, 2017

One Team Two Coaches Two Workouts

On our North Bay Aquatics Senior training group we have the luxury of 2 coaches – Ken and Don. Below are 2 workouts, first from Ken and then from Don, that we did this week. We are training very well and doing a lot of meaningful, purpose driven swimming. Our team is responding well especially considering this is the 3rd week of intense work (the 1st two weeks we did doubles – triples if you count the weight room). Now school is back in session so our total volume is down but the effort and intensity remain very high. This will be a breakthrough block for many of our swimmers.

1-10-17 January 10 - Continuation of Training Camp flow

Warm up 4 x 50/.45 then the set below
400 5:20
4 x 50 kick :55
300 4:00
4 x 50 kick :50
200 2:40
4 x 50 kick :45

Pull 500 with paddle as much HBP (3 breaths per lap) as possible ...distance per stroke

Drag suits
Kick 8 x 200
3:00/3:15/3:30/3:45/4:00 - you choose the interval
Every other one get after it

Pull 500 with paddle as much HBP as possible ...distance per stroke

Main swim set
Base of
1:10/1:15/1:20 – you choose the interval

400 NS (negative split)
3 x 100 as fast as you dare
300 NS
3 x 100 as fast as you dare
200 NS
3 x 100 as fast as you dare
100 NS
3 x 100 as fast as you dare

Once done one more 500 +/- pull HBP and out

Water bottle + Grit = Podium  Joe Angry Tuna
Success isn’t owned. It’s leased and rent is due everyday – J.J. Watt
1-12-17 goals: 1 – use skills from last night while under stress      2 – get heart rate up high and keep it up there repetitively for 2+ min
Wmp 4x50 then 6x100p/1:25 then 6x100k/1:45 then 6x100s/1:15
600 swim ez,build,ez,burst by 25’s/9
Get green strap and pull buoys on – pads and snorks optional
8x200/3 pulling
Odd ones broken .5@25 foot touch fast as you can go – get your HR way up
Even ones straight through with even laps, 4, 3, 2, 1 breath per lap
400 swim e,b,e,bur by 50’s/6
8x200/3 swim As Above – flyers, breasters laps 1,4,5,8 stroke – back same or whole 200 if you can – IM’ers lap 1 fly, lap 4 back, 5 breast 8 free
On the odd ones broken .5@25 foot touch fast as you can HR way up
On the even ones all free with breath control as above
200 swim e,b,e,bur by 25’s
1x200/4 all stroke as above
1x200 free fast as you dare holding your breath on even laps
The secret to success is to do the common things uncommonly well.
J.D. Rockefeller

Sunday, January 8, 2017


Zen is a branch of Buddhism that came about in China during the 6th century. So it has been around for a little while. Many of the teachings and quotes find their way into things, but they sometimes come across as nonsensical phrases meant to sound obscure. There is meaning behind the quotes, however, and many of the lessons are still useful today.
"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
Many of us get caught up in the end results of what we're working toward or the way things will be when we finally achieve something. But the truth is that getting to where you want to go or being successful doesn't mean that the work that leads you there goes away. Achieving your version of "enlightenment" is not an endpoint in and of itself. You'll need to do the same things after in order to keep moving forward. There's a Zen philosophy that says the way a person does one thing is the way they do everything, and whether you agree with it or not, the message is clear. If you can't take on the simple tasks as best as you can, how could you conquer the big things? As Tom Barrett explains on his blog Interlude Retreat, it's all about being in the moment:
When we are able to be in the moment, we no longer feel compelled to watch the clock. Whatever your work might be, bring all of yourself to it. When you are fully present, you may find that your labor is no longer a burden. Wood is chopped. Water is carried. Life happens.
No matter how menial the task may seem, practicing mindfulness and focusing on the present work at hand will help you develop a habit of always doing your best. And once you finally achieve "enlightenment" you still must chop wood and carry water. Do your work, do it well, and when you find success, do it again.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Rock ‘n’ Roll Survival Kit

“DNA, natural ability, study of craft, development of and devotion to an aesthetic philosophy, naked desire for…fame? oh, yeah…a buck. Then…if you want to take it all the way out to the end of the night, a furious fire in the hole that just…don’t…quit…burning.
These are some of the elements that will come in handy should you come face-to-face with eighty thousand (or eighty) screaming rock ‘n’ roll fans who are waiting for you to do your magic trick. Waiting for you to pull something out of your hat, out of thin air, out of this world, something that before the faithful were gathered here today was just a song-fueled rumor.
I am here to provide proof of life to that ever elusive, never completely believable “us”. That is my magic trick.”
From Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
It occurs to us that we have seen a swimmer of this magnitude, who reportedly is done standing on the blocks in front of thousands doing his magic trick. Hopefully he will find another equally significant way to make our sport other-worldly. He certainly has that capacity. It would be a shame to lose him to the real world…speaking selfishly here.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

To Taper or Not

This is THE question. Every swimmer wants to taper but resting takes a lot more courage than training. Training is, relatively speaking, easy .Resting changes everything. It leaves you often feeling unsettled, nervous and often messes up your sleep patterns. Plus you have all this extra time and energy.
Our senior club trains 15 hours a week. Not a lot compared to some others, especially back in the day. Yet if you trim that by 1/3 to 10 hours, what do you do with those extra 5 hours? Maybe go a little bit crazy?
Here is the truth. To get faster you need to do 2 things: 1- work hard and 2 – rest. That’s it. But most athletes don’t work as hard as they think they do and few if any rest enough to make a real difference.
How can a person tell what advice to follow? That’s simple as well. In our sport of swimming look to the most accomplished coaches and see what they have to say on this, or frankly, any subject close to the sport. Accomplished coaches are those who have a long track record of success with a variety of swimmer types.
When it comes to taper we believe (based upon the above criteria) that you either need to rest 3 days or 3 weeks. Nothing in between has long term time measured validity. Some may even need more than 3 weeks. 1 week or 2 weeks or 10 days just doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.
Something else to consider…there are 3 items to consider around taper time…the tech suit, the shave, the rest. In our opinion, rest is the most important. It takes enormous amounts of courage to rest. First and foremost, train as hard as you can, then train some more. Then take 3 days or 3 weeks rest and watch how fast you swim.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Robin Sharma

We discovered Robin Sharma from a fellow coach. We bought his book, “What To Do When It’s Your Turn”. We then got on his email list and occasionally get some gems. All that follows are from his recent email. We found the thoughts simple but masterful and very relative to what we as coaches are striving to accomplish with our team.

If you're the smartest person you know, it's time to know some new people.

If you're the most successful person on your street Don, today I encourage you to find a new street. [I'm only partly joking on his one].

If you're the most productive person in your community, it's definitely time to find a new community.

The principle I'm hinting at with my usual love and respect for you? We become our conversations. And our associations sculpt our destinies. 

5 leadership lessons my mentors have taught me:

Think like a pro
Lead like a warrior
Produce like a Picasso
And love like a saint
Be great

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Value of a Straight Line

Two weekends ago we raced at a local senior meet. Of the many observations we noted that some of our swimmers swim in “circles”. Some of these circles are more pronounced than others. We asked Audrey, since she has some brain power! – to figure out how much extra yardage is navigated when something other than a straight line is swum. Some of your swimmers might be interested in the chart below. 

One other thing, we looked everywhere and couldn’t find any “cuts” for a 510.864 swim. 

Extra Distance from Circle Swimming*
50 yards
100 yards
200 yards
500 yards
1000 yards
1650 yards
3” from line
6” from line
1’ from line
1.5’ from line
2’ from line

* Distances are in yards