Sunday, February 18, 2018

Pushing Limits

Craig Carson, Brentwood Seawolves, sent us a WSJ article from the Sat/Sun Feb 3-4 edition in the Review Section titled Head Games (if you want the full storycheck it out). The article chronicled the history of our understanding of human limits, how we test for them and how we might overcome previously interpreted limitations.

A loose summary is that the brain physiologically is wired to keep us from killing ourselves, literally. When it perceives we are doing damage to ourselves through feedback it receives during exertion, it “makes” us ease off. But the science today tells us that “the feeling that you can go no further is just that – a feeling.”
In a 2014 experiment researchers “showed cyclists images of smiling faces in imperceptible 16-millisecond flashes. The exposure boosted cycling performance by 12% over the level recorded with frowning faces projected in the same way. The sight of the smile didn’t lower the subjects’ heartrates or lactate levels. Instead it subtly altered how their brains interpreted those signals, evoking feelings of ease that bled into their perception of how hard they were pedaling.”
That is very powerful science and armed with this knowledge we believe that our athletes can do more work at higher levels of discomfort thus achieving better physiological adaptation…and correspondingly find higher levels of confidence that ultimately fuel performance.
The simplest and perhaps most effective tool is the ability to train yourself using motivational self-talk. There are many who will poo-hoo this calling it hokey. However, there is an ever growing body of scientific research that shows it is very real. It is pretty simple; you replace negative self-talk “man I am cooked” with “keep pushing, you’re doing well.”
Thanks Craig for the eye opener!

Monday, February 12, 2018

A Closer Look at the Sprint 500

We came back from Iowa (Winter Juniors) frustrated with our 500 swims. We either got out and were unable to bring it home, or we went out too slow and looked good at the end but were out of the race. Ken took the time (huge help!) to provide the stats below. The 250 is the split for the first 10 laps, the 500 the time for the total and the delta is the difference. The fastest swim was Zane Grothe’s 4:07.2…out in a 2:03.1 back in a 2:04.1 – a 1.0 delta. In that swim 2nd place was out in 2:03.5 and finished with a 2:07.2 for a 3.7 delta.

The one common denominator in all 1st place swims was the get out speed. This coupled with an ability to get home made the difference. So that much is obvious after looking at the data. The stopwatch never lies.

The question is what goes into the make-up of a swim like that? Our thinking today is fairly simple. You must have enough speed to be at the front or very close to the front. Then you must be able to finish faster than your competition. Duh...

How do you train for that?  The 500 is a long sprint. You must have the physiology to do both the front and back halves. You must train for speed and plain old fashioned toughness. You must be able to withstand the agony (real and imagined) caused by early speed and the accompanying buildup of fatigue; physiologically, mentally, and emotionally.

Everyone has their own interpretation of how to do that. There are no shortcuts around the preparation for this extended effort. Anyone who is unable or unwilling (two different things) to put forth the effort is just kidding him/herself about a top level 500.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Here's a Couple of Sets

This first one comes from Gordy Westerberg out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He shares sets regularly. We liked this one because we are referring to our 200 gang as middle sprinters and our 500 gang as long sprinters. This set seemed to give both groups something they could sink their teeth into…as Ken likes to say, “They buy into it…more likely to own it”.

10x400s done as 4-3-2-1

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 strong
at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 stronger

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed), 1 at 4:30 fast

at 5:30 (keep it relaxed)

We saw some really fast 400s on #9! THANKS GORDY, keep them coming.

Then we plagiarized his set into one that gave us some pulling then swimming using Gordy’s rest reduction. We then added in some fast 50’s with increasing rest. We have stress days 3 times per week and like to have them go for speed each of those days after some more aerobic based capacity work.

70 mins of work = 5000 yards total: all pulling with ankle straps and pull buoys; all stronger, getting faster 400’s were swim as were the 50’s.

[3x400 pull - straps and PB – keep it smooth and even paced - intervals are 5:30 or 6
Then 1x400 swim/4:30 or 5 make it strong
Then 8x50 on .35 or .40 time average] rest interval +/- .60 get pull gear back on

[2x400 pull As Above then 1x400 stronger then 6x50 time ave on .40 or .45] RI +/- .60

[1x400 pull AA then 1x400 super strong – fast oh yeah! Then 4x50 time ave .45 or .50] RI @.60

{{1x400 swim; get up and rock the pool then 2x50 time ave on .50 or .60; be thinking I am finishing my 400IM or 500 free}}

Monday, January 1, 2018

Team Culture

Looking ahead to the New Year with great anticipation we have been spending a fair amount of time discussing our team’s culture. We are talking about what it is we want to emphasize and how to choose the words to describe the path. Culture defines that path; the clearer the culture, the brighter the light on the path.

Pete Carroll is the Head Coach for the Seattle Seahawks of the NFL. He has a record of success that is admirable. The NFL according to the players stands for Not For Long; it is very challenging to maintain a playing or coaching career. Coach Carroll has always been careful about how he defines his team’s culture.

“Always protect your team. Have peoples back; it is not about you, it's about figuring out who another person is and celebrating them. Always take care of each other no matter where you are. Show love.

No whining, complaining or excuses. Own it; is your responsibility to bring the very best.

Be early, not on time but early; show that you care about the other people and their time by organizing your life. When people are waiting on you, you are slowing down the entire system.  

How do you deal with failure? First you need to feel the pain. Change does not happen without pain. Get after it and put yourself in an emotional state of mind every day so that you get used to it. Forget the noise. Focus on great attitude, great action, great effort; those are things that you can control.”

Thanks to Coach Craig Carson, Brentwood Seawolves, for sharing this one.

Monday, December 11, 2017


Experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome…wanting something very much, typically with a feeling of unease
While in Iowa City at the Winter Junior Nationals we had an “ah-ha” moment. The air in the natatorium was decent but not perfect. Several swimmers had some difficulties breathing, especially as the days went by. Many had little or no irritation. It was difficult to say exactly who was affected and who wasn’t. For sure some were not, or figured out how to deal with the air. Several meet records were broken and even 2 or 3 pool records were set. It was a very fast meet, for many events.
And yet there was this “static” in the background about the air. One of our swimmers came up before an event on the last day with a rather panicked look saying, “I don’t think I can swim.” The statement was made because the swimmer had been around several other competitors who were coughing and complaining about how hard it is to breathe. Long story short, our swimmer swam 2 events that day and managed to deal with it. But it wasn’t easy by any means. Fears and doubts needed to be overcome and “group think” had to be put aside.
In talking about this with two other coaches later that session one of them said he worked and taught in the field of mental health. He said today’s youngsters have much higher levels of anxiety and even depression than was evident in a generation or two gone by. He said it was because today kids are not taught how to figure out rather common causes of “fears”. This can even lead to more general levels of depression. His take was that since parents today don’t let their kids learn how to deal with normal stresses they – the kids – learn how to become anxious thus creating a situation where the parent will intervene to make everything ok.
We thought about this a while and concluded that our parents never, ever, said all they wanted was for us to be happy. In fact we couldn’t ever remember hearing that phrase. Yet today we can easily recall parents saying, “All I want is for her to be happy”. Or “I just want him to be ok”.
When stressors make life difficult, kids need to figure out how to deal with the bumps in the road and make adjustments, without simply saying “I’m having a panic attack” so as to call in the reinforcements.
In the case in Iowa, there were several options everyday…an athlete’s lounge with excellent air; a leisure pool adjacent to the main pool with air noticeably better, an open gym above the main pool with sight lines to the pool and scoreboard so you could see exactly which heat was in the water. There were options. Many figured that out and chose those options and while yes, being bothered by the air, they weren’t thrown into a state of “paralysis” by it.
We – parents and coaches – need to let the kids know we are standing by as a safety net. And yet, we cannot, nor should we, solve all of life’s challenges for them.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Words of Wisdom

The American Swimming Coaches Association is the single best and greatest resource for the aspiring coach. If you haven’t joined you are missing out on a continual source of vital information. Just Google ASCA… and go from there.
In the course of reorganizing the home office we saw in a 2013 Newsletter with an article by world renowned and respected Bill Sweetenham entitled “Uncomplicated Coaching”.
A couple of gems from that article:
“If you fly blind, disaster is assured, so knowledge is important; knowledge of the product…a guy getting out of bed and a sign that says – first your pants and then your shoes. The coach’s experience must always be in advance of the athlete’s talent.”
[Got a young phenom on your team?…better stay ahead of his/her talent…or he/she will move to another team]
“Too many people believe; well, I can train this way but when it comes to competition I will rise above it. The exact reverse applies. You will never compete above that level”
“Squads should have athletes training and preparing at a level of effort and commitment higher than the most talented in the group.”
3 gems that can reshape your career – athlete or coach. Thanks Bill and we just got a good idea for this week’s training. Thanks ASCA for making the wisdom available!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Do Everything Right

MEXICO CITY — Before this season began, the Raiders, coming off a 12-win season and loaded on offense, were a trendy pick to possibly unseat New England atop the AFC.
In the wake of his team’s 33-8 loss to the Patriots on Sunday, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr stood at a podium in the shadow of Azteca Stadium and acknowledged the standard still being set by the defending Super Bowl champions.

“They don’t do anything special, they just do everything right,” Carr said. “You sit there in the first half and they don’t have any turnovers, I don’t think they had a penalty. They do the little things right. And it starts in the offseason; it starts with the culture in their room and their building and all those kinds of things.

“It’s something that we’re building. It’s something that we’re striving toward, that efficiency and all those kinds of things. But obviously, we have a long way to go.”

As a swimmer and/or a swimming coach Carr’s comments hit the nail squarely on the head. “Do everything right” is a very demanding, tough task. But if you want to be the very best at whatever you do then this is what you must do.

So many people, regardless of their chosen path, are willing to do some things right. A smaller percentage are willing to do many things right. A very few are willing to “do everything right”; those that choose that difficult, demanding and at times daunting path are rewarded greatly.

As Ken says, there are three groups of people (swimmers on your team): 1 – those on the bus; 2 – those standing at the bus stop deciding if they want to take the ride; 3 – those who don’t even know there is a bus…

David Carr + Ken DeMont = 2 smart guys

Thanks to Matt Kawahara of SF Chronicle for the coverage of Derrick Carr

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Short Swimmer’s Quiz

1 - Which is more important?
A) genes        B) hard work            C) feel for the water
2 – A swimmer benefits most by the coach yelling out during a race          
A) kick            B) race           C) tempo       D) all of the above   E) none of the above
3 – Which is more important to a successful outcome?
A) tempo        B) distance per stroke                    C) all of the above
4 – In preparing for the big meet, in descending order which is most important?           
A) rest                        B) shave        C) tech suit   D) the breakfast burrito
5 – Thinking about underwater dolphin kicks, which is most important?
A) how far you go     B) how many kicks you take          C) the tempo of your kicks
6 – In a 100 free race which is the most critical for breath holding?
A) lap 1          B) lap 2          C) lap 3          D) lap 4          E) laps 1&4
7 – You are racing outdoors. Which parts of your body lose the most heat?
A) legs           B) arms         C) torso         D) hands, head, feet
8 – Name the swimmer who most inspires you and say why
9 – What is your BIG racing goal for the next 6 months?
10 – What sacrifice will you make to reach that goal?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Keep It Simple

At the US Open in August we saw this brilliant T-Shirt on a man from Texas (UT)…
Whoever put that together should win a medal. The first person who sends me a shirt (I wear extra-large – Don 36 Montego Key, Novato, CA 94949) I’ll send you a $100 bill.
It got us to thinking about simplicity. We have a youngster on our team, an 8th grader named Sydney B, who has some pop in her game. We asked her the other day if she knew she had some skill in our sport. She smiled sheepishly and nodded her head “affirmatively”. We then asked her if she had any “will”.
We said SKILL+WILL = WHAT YOU WANT. In our attempt to keep it simple we reaffirmed that skill is acquired through repetition of correct swimming. The will part comes from each person/swimmer deciding that they want something they don’t have.
This is called a goal…again keeping it simple.
We had a girl this weekend who swam an awesome 500 free. She has tons of skill and is working on the will component. We asked her how come Katie Ledecky swims so fast; there are many skilled swimmers. We asked her to consider Ledecky’s “will” component.
Would really love that T-Shirt J

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Talking Today

Had a chance today to talk with the brothers DeMont – Ken and Rick; as always a fascinating, liberating time. We were free to talk about kids and time and coaching…three topics of main interest in my (Don’s) life.
What happened to free time? Where did it go and why? How come everyone – includes adults as well young ones – has every minute scheduled? Who decided that this was a good idea…and why?
I am of the opinion that when you do not have free time you have no time to touch your wandering mind; the mind that often comes up with really good ideas; the mind that invigorates you; the mind that provides solutions to challenges you face…the list is perhaps endless.
So today and tomorrow and every day after this one I am going to set aside some time – even if only 10 minutes (I am certain I can carve out more) – to allow myself the privilege to “free wheel”…
I am betting it will feel awesome…oh yeah, and be productive since that seems to matter as well J

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Plug for Process

This sounds like a broken record in many ways but still is worth stating; trust the process and the results will come to you. There are so many examples of this in life. One of the great benefits of sports, particularly our sport of swimming, is that often when you least expect it, success pops up right in front of your eyes.
Swimming is especially blessed since it rewards individual effort with success. Ours is a team sport, make no mistake. The right culture on a team allows all who wish to reap rewards a chance to do that. But as an individual it is YOU who decide if you want to move forward; it is YOU who decides to plug ahead despite adversity; it is YOU who chooses the “harder” path even when others seem to have it “easier” than you do.
Today at the pool we were doing this drill…you all know it well…or some version of it. We call it the 3 second drill. While wearing a snorkel (so you have perfect body position while breathing) you leave your hands extended, one behind you and one in the catch position for 3 seconds. This gives you the opportunity to make certain you have completely finished with the trailing hand while having the leading hand in the correct position – in front of your shoulder with fingertips lower than wrist which is lower than your elbow.
Mia, a younger swimmer and thus certainly not the fastest swimmer in the pool, was doing this very precisely. We had all our kids – 50+ of them – watch as Mia swam a 25 demonstrating proper fingertip position. They loved it and she was beaming. We made the comment that Mia just became a faster swimmer because she is now a better swimmer.
Process = Results - as Steve Bultman, Texas A&M Women’s Coach says - you cannot predict when but the work does pay off.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Buzzer Beater

The other day TK observed this about the proverbial buzzer beater; “If the person or team who needs the buzzer beater spent a little extra time/effort earlier in the game then perhaps the last minute shot to tie or win wouldn’t be necessary.” Who says those of us who are a little older cannot learn from those who are younger?
In basketball (pro season just opened and Kevin Durant missed a game winning buzzer beater at the end of game one – Warriors open their season at 0 and 1) the phrase was coined long ago since those games typically end with a real “buzzer” sounding.
In football we have the last minute field goal attempt as time expires; or a “Hail Mary” pass into the end zone. In baseball it is the “walk off” RBI or homer; in hockey it is pulling the goalie putting six offensive players on the ice leaving your goal exposed; in soccer it is perhaps the penalty kicks…the list goes on in every sport.
In swimming it is the “last chance” meet; the time trial between heats and finals; the swim off; or “Coach, can I lead off the relay?”
As TK observed, if the swimmer had put forth more effort earlier in the season then just maybe the last ditch attempt to get that cut would not be necessary. Perhaps a good phrase in workout might be, “OK, let’s all make this next repeat (which of course wouldn’t be the last one in the set!) today’s “buzzer beater”.
Whadda ya think?