Monday, September 27, 2010

Two Very Cool Guys

We speak often in these pages about the value of sharing – sharing our wisdom, our experience, and our perspective – so that others may gain an insight into how to practice their craft. We had the opportunity this last week to have Mike McCarthy speak to our senior team on process. Mike was a member of the US Olympic Cycling Team in 1988 and 1996. Our kids ate up his presentation since it came from “one of them”…not another coach☺. He explained that his belief centered on needing the 3 “P’s” – Psychology, Physiology and Passion. He felt you could get by, do OK with any two but to reach your personal best results you are better served with all three. He was also very clear about the value of Passion. With it, the sky is pretty much the limit; without it – well not so much.

Paul Lundgren swims with us rarely but is a kindred spirit. He always gives warmly and freely from his vast pool (pun partially intended) of knowledge on a wide variety of subjects near and dear to our hearts. Learn more about Paul at His article below gives you an insight into his Passion.

Thanks to both Mike and Paul for enriching our lives this week – and forever!

Swimming in the Wild

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Might Seem Like Rocket Science But Is It Really?

How to actually get faster at swimming can get terribly complicated when you look at all the factors involved. The list includes – but is not limited to – body position, strength of a multitude of muscles, coordination of those muscles, flexibility to use those muscles, training regimen, health, nutrition, sleep, staying injury free, dealing with injuries (all athletes have them), race planning, execution on race day, finding a coach who can help, finding a coach who will listen, being mentally tough, being emotionally sound…you get the idea. It all can seem overwhelming at times.

But is it really that complicated?

We give you the tale of two swimmers who have very different events. Each of these women is after the same thing – excellence. Each of these women has different challenges. In our minds however, by looking at the challenge – the goal – it seems rather basic. At the very least the main factor(s) for each is straightforward.

Sasza is a collegiate sprinter. Tyler is a professional Triathlete. Sasza has a spinal disc challenge. Tyler is a world class cyclist and runner. They are very different as is each person. They are very similar in that their quest is a high level one. Sasza has been 50.5 in the 100 yard free and wants to go 49.5. Tyler has won several international events and wants to win this year’s Ironman in Hawaii on October 9th.

At the risk of oversimplifying Sasza needs to be at her best for less than 50 seconds while Tyler needs to swim 2.4 miles in the ocean without using very much energy so she can ride 112 miles on her bike and then run a marathon (26.2 miles).

So how do we assess what each swimmer needs? We look at the task, find the critical elements relative to where each swimmer is today and then develop a training regimen that addresses those needs. Pretty simple from where we sit☺.

Sasza takes about 16 strokes per lap so figuring the dive lap at 12 or so she needs to be able to go full bore for 60 strokes on a total body energy basis but only 30 for each arm. She also needs an incredibly strong core to support her back. Her start will be critical as well as her turn speed and push off strength from the three walls.

Tyler needs completely different things. Her main skill to work on is body position. The less resistance she offers the water the faster and easier she will swim 2.4 miles. She needs to raise her head pretty regularly to keep her sight lines but do it in such a way as to minimize the impact on body position. Her core is very strong yet she needs to connect it to her feet to keep her lower body in line with her hips and torso.

Both women need sound biomechanics so their strokes are efficient. Sasza needs a higher tempo for a much shorter duration than does Tyler. So if you were the coach for each of these women how would you design their training?

At the risk of oversimplifying we offer this snapshot. Sasza needs lots of easy laps with perfect body position and stroke technique – she needs myelin wraps. She also needs a ton of dry land including Pilates. She needs as much high intensity speed work in the pool as she can tolerate. She needs a ton of leg strength work plus as much explosive work with her legs as her back can handle. She doesn’t need any real aerobic work.

Tyler also needs a ton of core work to be able to maintain body position for 2.4 miles. She needs stroke work as well – she needs myelin wraps. Dropped elbows will be a major deficiency for her. She needs very little speed work compared to Sasza. She needs more of the speed play or fartlek type of training plus lots of smooth “steady as she goes” swimming to groove her stroke.

Tyler needs to be efficient and still be able to race for hours after her swim. Sasza has to figure out how to empty her tank precisely at the 49 second mark. Anything left over has been wasted.

This is why swimming is so intriguing to us. The racing options are as varied as the swimmers themselves. We encourage you to boil down your goals to the basics, saving the more complex issues for the rocket scientists.

It could even be as basic as setting your alarm so you actually get to the pool! See you there soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

An Example of the Power of Sharing

Jim Sugar is on our Masters team. He is a videographer and photographer who has been captured by the power of the pool. He shared the article below with us this week. It is written by Tony Schwartz on 8-24-10 and found in the Harvard Business Review. We liked it so much that it is the focus of our team meeting this Tuesday. See you at the pool!

Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything

by Tony Schwartz

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Our body adapts to stress - gets stronger - during periods of recovery. Athletes tend to push themselves, always testing limits. We find this to be the case regardless of age. Show us a motivated swimmer and we'll show you one who 9 times out of 10 is over trained and under rested.

You can get away with this for quite some time, especially if you are generally healthy and well nourished. But know this for certain, at some point you reach a stage of diminishing returns.

We see it in our Masters group as well. Often adults use physical exertion to balance and relieve the stress of mental effort. A really good workout relaxes you from the workday stress while improving your fitness level. That is an excellent reason to workout!

Yet, if you find yourself exhibiting any of the following symptoms you may need a day or even two off:
1 - Hard to get out of bed in the morning
2 - Once you get out of bed you still feel sluggish, like you are dragging around
3 - Your early morning pulse rate is elevated 8-10%
4 - You feel achy, flu like
5 - Your swim (or bike or run) times are off noticeably
6 - Your motivation seems to be slipping a little
7 - You are cranky in general
8 - Your body weight is dropping even though you are eating the same
9 - You are trying harder and going slower

You get the idea we are certain. These types of effects suggest that you are nearing or actually in the "Zone of Failing Adaptation". This means that your body is not getting stronger between workouts but actually is still breaking down. And this is not a good thing.

We have seen swimmers who push themselves while in this "Zone". The result is usually a lost season or if you are lucky only part of a season. In our Senior training group - the kids heading for Sectional/State and National meets - we have 11 workouts each week. They look like this: 3 in the weight room and 8 in the pool. It is a rare week when anyone makes all 11. Of the 8 swimming sessions only 3 are listed as "Stress" workouts with an additional 1 listed as "Aerobic". The other 4 are for drill work, pacing skills etc. When we get closer to a December Peak Meet we will drop all those numbers significantly. If anyone shows signs of weakness we will limit their attendance immediately until we see signs of life again.

Our Masters swimmers have workout opportunities 7 days a week. Even if they could figure out how to come 7 days we are pretty sure they would soon find a need for skipping one or just showing up and swimming easy for 20-30 minutes and getting out.

You do not get stronger and faster unless you push yourself. You do not get stronger and faster unless you rest between stress sessions. You can still swim but change your focus to technique and don't even count the laps or yards.

Remember this: when you find yourself in a hole, put the shovel down and stop digging or the hole will get deeper!