Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Couple of Sets to Keep Things Interesting

Last Saturday at our Masters training session we offered two different formats. The first is more aerobically focused while the second is more anaerobically based.

We warmed up with a basic 200 pull, kick, and swim. Then we swam 300 yards every 3rd lap half way under water. This was followed by 6 X 75's where we kicked the first lap and swam the 2nd and 3rd laps. We also asked each swimmer to stop after the 2nd lap and do a pull out on the edge of the is basically an assisted (water helps make you lighter at the beginning of the press out) pull up.

Then we split into two separate groups. Everyone - we are pretty sure - enjoyed themselves and the challenges offered. Give one or both (we recommend separate days) a try and let us know what you think...better yet, share a favorite set of yours. We'll put it out there for the entire community to try!

The two sets of 4 rounds above the line are for the aerobic folks. The one set below the line are for you sprinters and or folks just getting started. Have fun!

4 Rounds...choose your own interval, be as ambitious as you want

1x200 neg split (2nd 100 faster than the 1st 100)
1x100 neg split...and faster than last of the 100
1x50 ez recovery
Total set = 1600
4 Rounds...choose your own interval

1x100 build to 75% (then 80%, 85%, 90%)
4x25 taking 3 breaths at each wall at 75% (2nd round 80%, 85%, 90%)
1x50 ez recovery
Total set = 1000


3 Rounds...every swim is on the one minute interval except the last 100
Round #1 effort = 80%, #2 effort = 85%, #3 effort = 90%

1x50 with 15 yards effort
1x25 ez

1x50 with 25 yards effort
1x25 ez

1x50 with 35 yards effort
1x25 ez

1x50 entire swim at effort
1x25 ez

1x100 recovery SAS - Smooth As Silk

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Time vs. Effort or Time + Effort

The big meets for the summer are just about done. The last of the summer championships are in the books. We know there are still several big "end of season" triathlons still on the books but in general things are beginning to wind down.

What we do, especially at this time of year, is to think about things we learned from observing our team perform at the big meets. We add to that what we learned watching other swimmers in the same setting. We have been asking coaches for tips. One very nice thing about American swimming is that coaches seem willing to share ideas about what works and what doesn' least in their situations. So here are some of the observations we have made. We'd love to hear from you about yours. Sharing is a wonderful of getting better.

Jim Bauman, the US Swimming Sports Psychologist, encourages athletes to "make sure your autopilot is engaged" when it comes to being able to perform at big meets.

In butterfly we saw Tyler McGill breathe every stroke for about 90 meters and then none at all for the last 10 meters. We also saw Michael Phelps take 17 strokes per lap - talk about distance per stroke.

Larry Liebowitz who coaches women at Oregon State turned us on to tabata training. Look it up on the web and or You Tube. He also said he has been collecting old "retired" fire hoses which are free instead of having to purchase heavy ropes.

Nort Thornton said he had recently seen an older interview with Popov who said the three things he kept thinking about were "rhythm, range and relaxation".

Several coaches spoke about Matt Fitzgerald's new book "Run".

John Dussliere who coaches the Santa Barbara Swim Club said since he has put his kids on jump ropes his shoulders problems have vanished. He also mentioned a good book, "Evolve Your Brain". He has developed a monster drag chute that seems very interesting. Watch for news about that.

David Marsh talked about how important his Masters group was to his Youth swim a variety of ways from fund raising to development of additional coaches. He is speaking on this topic at the ASCA World Clinic.

And then this gem, from Theo St. Francis, a sophomore who swims for North Bay Aquatics. We were talking about the upcoming season and how many workouts each week he would be able to make given his school schedule and his commute. He had big improvements in his backstroke this year and can now "see" making his Junior National cuts. We said to some degree it matters how many sessions you make but it is even more important to put your best effort forward when you do train. He responded nearly instantaneously, "If I'm going to put in the time I might as well put in the effort". Truer words have never been spoken. It made us think about how many athletes - and coaches - put in the time but not the effort. And how many put in the effort but not enough time to really make a difference. It is definitely the combination that makes the difference. Put in the time plus the effort and you will get the results...especially if your auto pilot is engaged.

See you at the pool!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Every Race

If you are a competitive swimmer or tri-athlete you probably have been racing this summer. We have been to many meets and watched maybe close to 1,000 swims in which our swimmers have raced.

One of the things we have observed is that each and every single swim is an opportunity to learn something. It always is; never fails.

This is true regardless of the time posted or the place achieved.

If you are interested in becoming more proficient at what you do you need to realize this as a given. The trick of course is to then determine what you are going to do with the information.

To be able to get at the information – and we mean really access the information – you must get past the emotion of the race. Emotions are part of the mix; always will be. You are perhaps elated or disappointed or embarrassed. It makes no difference and that is OK.

You can use the emotion to fuel your desire to learn. If you raced well and are super pumped, use that excitement to your advantage. If you underperformed then likewise use that to get energized about fixing some “stuff”.

What we are driving at today is that unless you use the information that is always available you have wasted another opportunity to learn about your craft.

Those who improve do so because they use what they learn and get smarter at figuring out how to perform their best when it counts the most.

The process of learning and then using the knowledge is absolutely what fires our engines as coaches. It really is pretty darn simple, not always easy, but worth every single early morning wake up call!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Controlling the Outcome of a Race

We were in Irvine, CA last week at the US Nationals where all the top racers in the country were vying for spots on upcoming National Teams. Initially they were racing to make the Pan Pacific National Team which is competing in Irvine later in August. Additionally, spots on the US World Championship Team next summer are up for consideration as are places on the World University Games. So you get the picture; there was a lot a stake. To no one's surprise there were some excellent races as all finishes in the top eight counted. Who knows, there may have even been a couple of places in the B final that will get selection officials attention. We watched riveted to the action.

Swimmers at all levels have had the experience of having a particularly excellent race where they knew, or fairly certainly knew, they controlled the outcome of a race. One of our swimmers said when talking about Michael Phelps' 200 Free final that 'I can't imagine having control of a race like that". She was referring to the way that Phelps answered Ryan Lochte's challenge off the third wall. Phelps was in the lead with Lochte in close pursuit throughout the early going. Lochte made a move coming into the turn at the 150 actually touching .01 ahead of Phelps. He - Lochte - kept the heat on actually opening a half stroke lead by the 180 meter mark. It was at that point that Phelps hit another gear and at the 192 mark you could tell that he had set up the final 4 strokes so he would hit the wall exactly at the end of his recovery - and just in front of the furious pursuit of Lochte. The margin between the two was about 3 inches and yet you could see that with about four strokes remaining Phelps had set the finish up perfectly.

That is what our swimmer was referring to in her comments about being in control of the outcome of a race. When we see the most accomplished in any field perform at their highest level we simply take for granted that we could never be so equally capable. And yet the exact opposite is true. Most swimmers, indeed all swimmers at a National Championship meet, have experienced this happening. Our swimmer had just done the very same thing 10 days earlier at Sectionals. They have been on the giving and receiving end. If more swimmers gave themselves more credit then they would also be in "the thick of it" when it comes to competing at ever increasing higher levels.

This is the best part of the swimming experience. When we learn the skill of "controlling the outcome of the race" we actually can transfer that skill set to any phase of our life in which we wish to use it! Think about that one for a minute or two...while you are swimming next time

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Handling Disappointment from the Parent’s Side

One of the absolute toughest roles in the sporting experience is that of being an athlete’s parent. For the most part a parent wants only success for his/her daughter/son. The role the parent plays changes as the athlete gets older and more experienced. Imagine Michael Phelps’s Mom’s role over the years. As a swim parent you go through several levels as the swimmer grows up both chronologically and experience wise.

An 8 year old needs to be transported to practice even encouraged to go on many days. They need suits and goggles picked out and purchased. Events at meets need to be chosen and then entered (and paid for). Driving to the meet, feeding, handling the towels and all the logistics fall in your lap. In many ways all the 8 year old does is swim the race and you as parent pretty much do all the rest. The coach plays a role here but in reality probably much less of a role than she/he thinks. The overall focus here is FUN. Make swimming and racing fun and the little ones will keep coming back for more.

If a swim doesn’t turn out exactly how the swimmer wanted it to (and keep in mind that many of them have no real idea how they want it to turn out) as a parent you MUST hide your disappointment. Remind the swimmer they have lots more races and things will change for the better. For the young ones this is true beyond a doubt.

As the swimmer gets older they can start to connect the dots between effort put in to practice and results achieved in meets. They can begin to pick events they choose – not the ones you have chosen for them…remember they do the swimming. If you really think they should swim a 500 but they prefer the 100 perhaps you need to join a Masters team and enter a 500, you know, to sort of get it out of your system☺.

And remember, as they get older and start to distance themselves from you, you must still hide your disappointment when they do not perform up to their and or your levels of expectation.

Trust us on this one point if on no other. No matter what your relationship is with your swimmer, as a parent they so much want your approval, especially when things are going tough for them; and every swimmer on the planet has down cycles. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. As a pro, he was trusted to take the game winning shot and failed 26 times in his career. He got over it. Your swimmer will get over his/her slow swim; they may never get over the look of disappointment on your face after a tough race. Show and give love and support and you will win another day, sooner than later. You MUST hide your disappointment.

Not long ago we were coaching at the local Junior Olympic long course meet. We observed a young man in the 15-16 age group racing the 1500 meter swim. His Dad was counting for him. After about 300 meters it was obvious – at least to the Dad by his body language – the swim was not going particularly well. At about 600 meters the volume in the Dad’s voice came up 20 or so decibels and had a decidedly critical tone to it. As the swimmer came into the turn Dad was furiously shaking the counter up and down and yelling “Kick harder, come on kick harder”. We wondered if the swimmer could read the counter since it was moving up and down pretty fast. We wondered if the swimmer could actually hear the words the Dad was yelling. We think there is a difference between a loud voice exhorting a swimmer on to glory and a loud voice yelling “commands”.

When the race concluded the Dad walked away from the end of the pool, heading down to the finish end, his head hung down dejectedly muttering to himself. One could only imagine the scene that was to become the swimmer’s next life’s chapter. The ride home gave us pause to think.

Swimming is important to our kids especially as they get older. As one gets closer to 0:00.00 the time reductions become more challenging to achieve. Olympians often go years without improving a time, rather they look for improvement in how well they swim, not merely how fast.

Our sport offers a refreshing respite from subjectivity. No one cares how good you look (though every coach worth her/his salt cares about how good you look in the water!!) they just hand out the medals based upon how fast you swam relative to the rest of the competition. And at the end of the day as a parent it is your responsibility to reward your swimmer’s effort based upon their level of accomplishment in the big view, not merely upon time. There are many swimmers who have posted a very fast time and yet the swim was not done correctly. Conversely, we have seen many excellent swims where the time was not a personal best but there was a lot to be excited about of which to be proud.

As Helen Swartz said many times in the last few months of her glorious life, “I think it is important for each of us to do the very best we can. And only we know if we are doing our best.” As most of you know, Mom’s often have the final word!