Sunday, April 27, 2008


Last August at the US National Swimming Championships, Erik Vendt (who won the 1500 meter freestyle at the meet) made a pact with Club Wolverine teammate Michael Phelps to not miss a day of training until they both made the Olympic team this year. The Olympic Trials, the meet in which they are pointing for is now about 60 days away. I have no doubt that both Michael and Erik have been true to their training goals, and will no doubt continue their dedication if and when they make the Olympic team and compete in Beijing. It is easy to see what motivates them to train with such unrelenting determination. Their motivations are easy to decipher.

Most of us do not have such defined goals in our lives. Most of us are not out to be the best in the world. But there are things we can certainly take from those that are on top as we strive for personal growth, whatever that may mean to you.

We can take the idea of having a goal to shoot for. A goal needs to be something that is fairly specific in order to be effective. To say that you will get in shape or that you will start training in the pool sometimes is not specific enough to capture the imagination for most individuals. To say that you will train 3 times a week or that you will be ready to compete at a Masters meet in 3 months and record a specific time in an event will lead to much more success in achieving something meaningful and satisfying.

We can also take the idea of having someone there to keep you honest in your pursuits. Having a partner or partners in your quests makes it that much easier to be accountable for staying with your pursuits. It also can make it that much more fun.

So pick a specific goal to shoot for, and if possible, share it with someone who can help you get there. Your motivations will stay more consistent and you will get to where you want to be.

Then when you get there, get ready to reset your goals!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Competition and Recognition

Happy Sunday to all!

It is a busy week here in Swim Coach Direct land. On Monday Rick DeMont is being inducted into the very prestigious Bay Area Sports Hall Of Fame with Don Swartz introducing him. His story is like none other. Check out his interview on Swimming World Magazine's Morning Show.

And at the same time this wonderful recognition is happening, in the land Down Under, we have the World Masters Swimming Championships taking place. Two Swim Coach Direct members, Joe Dunn and Nancy Ridout are swimming exceptionally well at this world event. Check out the results at the 2008 FINA World Masters. For more details on the action see the Santa Rosa Masters Blog.

Each of you swims for a personal reason. For some it is a chance to relive memories of "Glory Days" (Bruce Springsteen). For others it is the camaraderie of fellow swimmers. Many swim for fitness or as a way to release stress. The decision to compete is very much an individual one and often very personal. We at Swim Coach Direct encourage you to follow the path that seems most comfortable to you. Having said that, we also encourage each person who is the least bit curious about competitive swimming to find a local Masters meet, sign up and then go racing.

Why race?

When you go to a meet you will find that your fellow swimmers come in all shapes and sizes. You will fit right in! When you race, it will "get your attention", meaning your senses will be heightened. This is a good thing because your awareness about swimming will be enhanced. Without awareness there is no change. So, by going to a local meet, you can learn things about yourself that will provide a stimulus for it in the area of general fitness, an increased desire to improve your technique or simply an appreciation for how fit you are and where there is room for improvement.

So, if you feel like it, we encourage you to check it out. Start with US Masters Swimming or Masters Swimming Canada to start exploring the opportunities that exist near you. If you already compete, we hope that we can help you improve as you pursue your goals. Let us know how you like our offerings. Your feedback provides us with opportunities to grow as well!

Have a great week, in and out of the pool!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Controversy Over the New LZR

Just in case you were looking for an edge...and had an extra $500+ to spend...we thought you'd like to know the latest in the big time swim biz, the new Speedo LZR racing suit. Years ago the introduction of swim goggles caused a similar stir but since they made such good sense for eye safety and were so inexpensive no one really complained. Now the new suit, which several of our swimmers demo'ed two weeks ago and proclaimed they felt very fast using, is taking claims of unfair advantage to a new level.

The legal question for FINA seems to center on whether or not the suit is "equipment" or a "garment". The former is a problem, the latter is not. Also, the question is/was does polyurethane fit the description of "fabric" since it is synthetic. FINA ruled this weekend that there was no problem with suits made of polyurethane and that the new material is legal. What this means is that the other suit manufacturers can now bring to market their versions.

From our view the new suit is fine. Innovation will often be controversial which doesn't make it bad or wrong. In England, at the Short Course (meters) World Championships just concluded, 18 records have been set. All but one of them using the new Speedo LZR suit. Some claim that the suit is too expensive. We know that as competition enters the marketplace prices will drop. Most technological items drop in price after their initial rollout.

As far as Mark Schubert's prediction that all World Records will fall in Beijing our response is - we hope so! Swimmers and coaches are in the business of pushing and redefining limits. We know for certain that no one will ever swim the 50 meter free in 0.00 seconds. Some time must elapse. However, we also know that the 50 meter free will be swum faster than it has currently been done. That is the nature of our game.

When the freestyle flip turn went from a mandatory hand touch to the currently allowed foot touch did that invalidate all the swimmers who previously held the record? Of course not.

Some of you are old enough to remember the early 1970's when the "Belgrade" suit was introduced for women. Previously all suits were made of nylon and for the women they had a "skirt" or panel of material at the bottom of the suit, presumably for modesty. The Belgrade suit had no such design and was made of a much thinner material. People were shocked at the exposure. But what made the suit so much faster was the very tight fit across the top of the chest and under the arms and across the back. Next to no water was "scooped" by the new suit. And records tumbled. The innovative suit was allowed after some controversy. Of course, at the same time the Europeans introduced the suit many of the Eastern Bloc swimmers were "juiced" so the suit's design was in reality hard to measure.

The ultimate question is this: Does the suit make the swimmer? The answer from this corner is a resounding NO! We feel that the race ultimately goes to the swimmer who has paid the price in terms of preparation vs. at the check out counter. Soon all of you can decide for yourselves. Watch for this new suit at your friendly swim shop!

Monday, April 7, 2008

A Champion Swim: Klete Keller's 400 free at the Stanford Grand Prix

This weekend we were at the Stanford Grand Prix meet in Palo Alto, California. This meet is one in a series of meets sponsored in part by US Swimming and Toyota to bring the fastest swimmers in the nation together as they ready themselves for our Olympic Trials.. The Trials are being held in Omaha, NE beginning the 30th of June.

At Stanford this weekend we saw Klete Keller, swimming with the Trojan Swim Club out of southern California, post a fabulous 400 meter free swim. His time of 3:45.2 was inspiring - and instructional - to watch.

1 - His splits for the 200's were, out in a 1:51.9 and then back in a 1:53.3

2 - His time was 1.1 seconds slower than his American and U.S. Open record of 3:44.11 and 3:44.19 respectively. Both of those record times were set in the summer of 2004.

3 - His breathing off the turns was precise, low and straightforward. His breathing during each lap was very efficient.

4 - His swim, no doubt, caused a few of his competitors to go to the pool today (Sunday) when perhaps they had thought about taking a day off.

What can we learn from this swim, regardless of our own personal speed and interest in swimming?

1 - If you will train diligently you will have the ability to swim even splits (if you take out Klete's dive the first 200 it is nearly identical to the second 200) which is an efficient way to expend your energy - regardless of the distance.

2 - Klete has been training and racing for nearly 4 years. His swim Saturday was excellent by any standard. It was not however,his personal best. It is very important that each swimmer, indeed any athlete, keep performances in perspective. We did not speak to Klete personally but we feel comfortable saying that he felt a measure of personal satisfaction with his swim and the time. Sometimes we get too wound up in doing our "personal best time" when what really counts is how we are progressing at this point in time. The difference between those two perspectives is enormous. We are guessing here, but we are confident this point is not lost on Klete Keller this weekend. (The internet being what it is, Klete, we would love to get your take on this point of discussion!)

3 - If you keep you head down when you breathe you will keep your hips up which means you are pulling a flatter, more streamlined torso through the water. When Klete took a breath it was not possible to see his nose. He was breathing to his left. His right goggle was not visible, nor his nose. His head was in a neutral position and we are guessing his head rotation was less than 45 degrees. And of special note, when he came off the turns his head was down, his breathing "in the pocket" (meaning in the space created by his head's bow wave) such that his first arm pull propelled him forward, not up at all.

4 - "Gamesmanship" is a big part of competition no matter the sport. Men in the US thinking about a spot on the Olympic Team this summer in the 400 free were served notice Saturday that Klete Keller is a force that needs to be: 1 - recognized and 2 - be dealt with. And, if you, as a lap swimmer or Masters swimmer, or former competitive swimmer looking for the extra push to get up Monday morning and go to the pool, then perhaps Klete did you a favor!