Sunday, July 26, 2009

Long and Strong

Several coaches were hanging out poolside last weekend talking about the recently concluded National Championships/World Championship Trials held earlier this month in Indianapolis. We asked one coach who put a swimmer on the US Team headed to Rome for the World Championships this month what his opinion was about the meet; what did he take home from the experience.

His answer was succinct and to the point: "Long and strong," he said. "All the fast swimmers are long and strong."

In a 50 meter pool, which as you know is where all World Championship and Olympic contests are held, swimmers do indeed benefit when they are long and strong: Long with their strokes and strong to carry their speed over the longer distance of the 50 meter pool.

What can we all take from this simple advice? We always need to be mindful of our distance per stroke. We always can work on our general and sport specific strength component.

We recommend that each workout has a set of drills and a set of training that incorporates the concept of distance per stroke. A quick example of this would be to swim a 50 (yards or meters) counting your strokes per lap and keeping them the same. Once you arrive at this "X" number you have your base line count. Then swim a couple of 50's at X-1; then go a couple more at X-2. You can do any stroke you wish so long as you count the number and work to reduce it. Then do a set of 9 x 50 swimming all of them at the same time but do the first 3 at X, the next 3 at X-1 and the last 3 at X-2. there are other examples but this gives you an idea of how to mix the concept of "long" into your workout.

The "strong" part is pretty simple. If you go to the gym and already have a routine then simple add a couple of pounds to the lifts you do, or add a couple more repetitions to your sets. Work on the prime muscle groups that you use in swimming and if you are not sure then ask one of the trainers at your gym.

Or you can do pushups and pull-ups, squats and calf raisers at home. It doesn't take a gym to get stronger; all it takes is your desire!

Give this a try for 30 days and we are pretty sure you will feel and see the difference in your swimming. What works for the fastest swimmers in the world works for all of us.

Have a great week in and out of the pool. We are here to help so let us know how we can!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Growing Pains

As businesses and teams work through these competitive and challenging times we think it is wise to use the proverbial "growing pains" as an opportunity to learn, to improve our product or service and to re-examine how we deliver the same. If you have the best product but are weak at delivering it you will soon be out of business. If your business is a swim team your "product" is perhaps more accurately described as a "service" that you provide. Again, we think the delivery of this service is what sets the strong apart from the weak. And we will be so presumptive here to suggest that it is relatively easy to draw the distinction between the strong and the weak.

Healthy teams are ones that continuously grow; the numbers of athletes are up; the financial foundation is solid; the coaching staff is growing; the swimmers are having more fun and swimming faster when it counts, meaning at the more important meets. In any given geographical area there are always at least two swim teams, usually many more. This gives the swimming public a choice. We find that folks most often vote their approval with their checkbook and their presence.

Our team here in northern California is healthy and at the same time we are experiencing growing pains. Our staff has been spending time this summer asking our swimmers to evaluate and where necessary to re-think their concept of what a team is, how it functions more effectively. In so doing we looked for examples of other successful athletic programs. This led us to an enlightening article about Pete Carroll who is the Head Coach of the football team at the University of Southern California. His teams' record over the last decade is more than impressive. He has had winning seasons, won National Championships, and been in more Bowl games etc than any other program. What caught our eye was that he has not been through a normal "win and then re-build" cycle. He just keeps on winning. Talk about consistency.

We found it instructive for our purposes working with our team to learn that Pete has only 3 rules: 1 - Protect the team; 2 - No complaining, no whining, no excuses; 3 - Be early. Pretty simple and yet these three rules encompass what you need to have a strong foundation as well as a major structure on top of that foundation.

We especially like the 2nd rule. Winners in life are accountable to themselves and their team. They don't complain because if they were to do so they would be victims. Winners are never victims...and victims are never winners.

If a person says "I couldn't do "X" because..." they are off-loading the responsibility for their performance onto someone or something else. They are abdicating their responsibility and being a victim. A winner simply says, "I didn't do it today, tomorrow I will". End of story.

As we help shape our young people's tool kit we believe understanding this distinction is critical to their success - both in the pool and in life. We are interested in your opinion!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

If You Felt Like Swimming a Mile...

Every now and then when you think about going to the pool you may consider "How far am I going to swim today?" And for some peculiar reason we often think in terms of how far we swim or the number of laps we carve out for ourselves.

In our sport of competitive swimming the "mile" is the term given to the 1650 freestyle. We have no idea how that came to pass since an actual mile is 1,760 yards. If there are any swim historians out there please illuminate us! At any rate a 1650 is 66 laps in a 25 yard pool and is often a distance swum in practice by competitive swimmers who race at that distance. You may have done so yourself - more than once; or you may have considered doing so but thought it would be boring or that you would lose count - or lose your mind doing something so repetitive.

For those of you who like things in neat packages we offer the following set we ran at Master's workout this morning. It is exactly 1650 yards long. The terminology "X" and "X - 1" refer to the number of strokes you take for one length of the pool. Have fun and let us know how it goes for you!

After a normal and suitable warm up swim here is the set. Take 20 seconds rest after every swim all the way through. When you are done swim an easy 300 and pat yourself on the back!

8 Rounds:
1x50 swim the 1st lap at X and the 2nd lap at X-1
1x25 swim at 85% effort at X

6 Rounds:
1x75 swim laps 1&2 at X then lap 3 at X-1
1x25 swim at 90% effort at X

4 Rounds:
1x100 swim 1st 50 at X then 2nd 50 at X-1
1x25 at 95% effort at X

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Plagiarizing Is OK

We think if we "borrow" from ourselves it may not actually be plagiarizing at all! At any rate we are getting our team - see us at - ready for fast swimming later this month and early in August. We thought we'd share with you our workout from this Saturday in hopes that it would help you and at the same time encourage you to share back with us some of your ideas/special sets. We believe that sharing ideas is one of the best ways to generate discussion and find solutions. Our way isn't the best way; it is merely the way we go about getting fast swims - and we are always fine tuning the process.

Each swimmer got a copy of the Menu when they got to practice. They chose Plan A or B in the appropriate group. We began this workout with an hour of warm up activity that included a lot of drill work and some relatively benign breath holding swimming. We hold our breath often in warm ups since it pushes the pulse rate up. The Junior Olympic group races in 2 weeks, Sectionals are in 3 weeks and the US Open is in 5 weeks followed by the Junior Nationals. There were no intervals on these swims. It took us about 45 minutes to get everyone "fed". We then loosened up with a "50 Fly on the 4th of July" having each swimmer predict to the hundredth what their time would be. The winning men's time was .10 and the women's .03 from predicted. Fun stuff! Let us know what you think.

4th of July Menu Today's Specials
Healthy Appetites - National Qualifiers
Plan A: 500 carbs
1x200 broken .10 at 25, 75, 125, 175
2x100 - #1 broken .10 at 50 #2 broken .10 at 25, 75
2x50 - blocks or running dive OR 4x25 blocks or running dive

Plan B: 500 carbs
2x100 broken - #1 .10 at the 50 #2 .10 at 25, 75
2x75 broken - #1 .10 at 50 #2 .10 25, 50
3x50 blocks or running dive OR 6x25 blocks or running dive

Moderate Eaters - Sectional Qualifiers
Plan A: 400 carbs
1x200 broken .10 at 25, 75, 125, 175
1x100 broken .10 at 25, 75
2x50 blocks or running dive OR 4x25 blocks or running dive

Plan B: 400 Carbs
2x100 broken - #1 .10 at 50 #2 .10 at 25, 75
1x 75 broken .10 at 25
1x50 blocks or running dive
3x25 blocks or running dive

Heart Healthy Light Fare - JO Qualifiers
Plan A: 300 Carbs
1x200 broken .10 at 25, 75, 125, 175
1x100 broken .10 at 25, 75

Plan B: 300 Carbs
1x100 broken .10 at 25, 75
3x50 blocks or running dive
2x25 blocks or running dive