Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lots of Truth in Here

"What is the use of climbing Mount Everest? My answer must at once be, "It is no use." There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possible medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It's no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."

- George Leigh Mallory, one of the English mountaineers who took part in a British expedition to Mount Everest in 1924

Coach Allan Kopel shared this with us. It came to him from a runner he is helping be more proficient in the water.

David Winters, who coaches with us at North Bay Aquatics, observed a few months back that swimming is not extra-curricular but rather co-curricular. When viewed this way, the pursuit of personal success seems rather worthwhile regardless of the outcome.

Larry Fulton, a local basketball coach and trainer we know, said he thought swimmers, runners and rowers (and we add tri-athletes) are the toughest and smartest athletes around since they work so hard without compromise in a very exposed way; they get no rest break; they either keep going and succeed...or they don't.

Lots to think about here...seems to us. What say you?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Connecting the Dots

We have our senior team training really well right now preparing for the November “mid-term” meet which comes up in three weeks. As coaches we always strive to get the swimmers to see how things they do in practice relate to results in meets. We refer to this as “connecting the dots”.

We came up with a simple explanation that seems to be taking hold, having a positive effect if you will. We tell swimmers that “you race like you train, so train like you want to race.” We apologize to the English teachers out there for the grammar. Having said that, this rather simple statement is having an effect. We had a tri meet last Saturday and our finishes are much better. We have been emphasizing that recently…no breathing at the end of free and fly races.

We have also been talking about turns…turning at the same speed you are swimming, as opposed to relaxing through the walls. In this last meet we saw that we need to be better at this in the later stages of the race. We had a number of swimmers who turned well at the 25 and even the 50 wall in their 100’s but really coasted into the 75 wall. It is as if they were taking a short pause in their effort while readying themselves for the last lap and the finish from the 7 or 8 yard mark to the touch pad. So we need to fix that…and we will.

It is really simple sometimes and as coaches we tend to make things a little too complex now and then. Football coaches talk about the fundamentals of blocking and tackling; basketball coaches talk about getting in position for the rebound; swim coaches talk at length about the importance of the start and the turns.

Effective coaches are able to communicate the essentials to their athletes in such a way that those same athletes learn the value of the skill(s) and then make it habit. We are willing to bet a large amount of money that Ryan Lochte spends a lot of time underwater off turns in practice whether he is swimming easily or going for it. He is more than someone who turns really well. Indeed, he is an underwater phenom who to no one’s surprise crushes opponents on the turns. He wasn’t born that way. Neither was Natalie Coughlin. They both learned the value of it and then learned how to do it. It is a skill that is now part of who they are in the water.

What do you want to change in your game? How are you going to do it? Find the dots then connect them. Pretty darn simple…

Sunday, October 17, 2010

To Reward Yourself or Jumpstart Your Next Cycle

Every now and then it is good to take a small step back and see what you are up to…and we mean this in the most positive way. Sometimes we forget just how much energy it takes to do what we do, making the sacrifices to train the way we do. Or perhaps you feel like you are in a rut simply grinding out the same routine day after day, week after week. If either of these feelings describes what you are sensing lately then here is an idea. Try it on for size; it may be just what you needed.

Look around at what other events might be available to you that could work as a reward or a challenge…or both. This event could be in your sport or even outside your sport but part of a cross training regimen.

We had over 60 swimmers from our North Bay Aquatics team, both youngsters and Masters, compete this weekend in the RCP Tiburon Mile. For some it was a first time open water event in the chilly waters of San Francisco Bay. The event begins at the ferry terminal in the town of Tiburon, CA. Swimmers ride over to Angel Island, line up on the beach for the start and then race or swim (we had both types of swimmers) back to town. Water temps were mild for the Bay – 63 degrees. There was a flood current so swimming in a straight line was not really a consideration. For many of our group being part of a 600 plus mass start was invigorating, intimidating or both. And that is part of our point here. Do something a little outside of your comfort zone and you get to explore yourself while having the time of your life – OK, maybe we are exaggerating a little

If you are a veteran of open water swims perhaps you could sign up for a pool meet just to see what the other side of your sport looks like. Or you could find a tri or biathlon to mix some variety into your game.

You already know how we feel about surfing. We will add a note of caution here, be safe and surf with a buddy.
We even have one of our young women who is in a boxing match this weekend…for real! We have had several of our swimmers who love boxing as a cross training vehicle who have gotten ready for actually stepping into the ring to see what real contact is like.

As winter time approaches and seasons begin to wind down it is a good time to look ahead and plan something for early in the New Year to keep yourself focused on why you train so diligently. For some it is all about the competition. For most it is all about the lifestyle. Whatever your reason we recommend rewarding and or jumpstarting yourself by stepping slightly outside of the proverbial box.

Let us know what adventure you choose!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Revisiting Cycles

This may be a little remedial for some of you but it has been a while since we wrote about cycles in training. At the very least we hope it will give all of you pause about what works - or doesn't - for you. It matters not if you are a part time fitness swimmer or a full time Masters, YMCA or US Swimmer.

What does indeed matter is that you remember you are not best served by going full bore every time you train. Your body recovers and actually gets stronger during the rest phase. Weeks can have cycles, months or seasons can have cycles and even Olympians look at four year cycles. If you are feeling a little beat up you may want to consider changing your cycle.

Here at North Bay Aquatics our Senior team trainers have a weekly cycle that looks like this.

Dry land training is M/W/F for 75 minutes in the morning before school.

Swim training in the morning for 75 minutes is on T/Th before school. It is dedicated
to specific stroke work issues including underwater work.

Additionally, distance swimmers train Wednesday for 75 minutes before school doing longer swims, grooving their strokes while working negative splitting with heart rates in the 140-160 range.

In the afternoons we swim from 5-7 and they look like this.

M/W are full tilt stress days specific to the events that are primary for each swimmer. We have a sprint group with emphasis on 50's and 100's. We have a breaststroke group. We have a 200 group and we have 500, 1000, 1650 group.

Tuesday we have a team meeting for 30-60 minutes often with a special guest presenter. Then we swim 25's and 50's stroke work. This is a total recovery workout. No one's heart rate is elevated.

Thursday is what we call a "light aerobic" day where we swim about 30 minutes with heart rates in the 140-160 range.

Friday is a 90 minute recovery, again stroke work.

Saturday is a 2+ hour long course workout with split groups along the lines of M/W. This is a full tilt stress session as well.

We film every swimmer on T/F so they can see what they are doing from a different vantage point.

So when you look at the big picture we have 8 swims available and 3 dry lands. It is the rare week when anyone can make all 11 sessions due to school demands etc. Having said that, each swimmer knows when the dial gets turned up and when it is turned down. The great thing about this is that each session has a stated specific purpose. Some sessions it is challenging physical work, other ones it is specific muscle group work (dry land) while still other workouts are very specific stroke issues; muscle memory, building myelin wraps.

When do we kick? We kick on M/W/Th/S. The underwater specialists kick with fins, monofins and regular "bare" feet on those days as well as T/Th mornings. We occasionally kick with tennis shoes on as well.

We are very happy with our cycle right now. Our team is swimming faster in workout each week and they have to swim faster on Thursday to get their heart rates to indication of cardiovascular fitness. They all feel empowered. They have a huge amount of confidence. We had a pre-season meet a couple of weeks ago and they could see the results of their training. We have another one this coming weekend and we will have more of the same.

This cycle will change a little as we get closer to the "peak" meet season in December. The basics will remain the same. 8 pool sessions will have no more than 3 stress workouts. The closer we get to the big meet in December the less we will be doing on the stress days.

We encourage you, no matter your level of interest to consider what kind of cycle you can adopt so that your training levels get more advanced. It is truly a self confidence booster when you know without a doubt that you are becoming more capable or faster or fitter...or all three!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Burn Up Those Legs & Arms

Here's a set we had fun with last week. Take this out for a spin and let us know what you think!

After you get yourself warmed up with 1000 - 1500 there are two sets.

Set 1:
1x200 swim negative split (2nd 100 faster than the first)
4x25 kick fast / .40 (pick whatever interval gives you 15 seconds or so rest)
1x200 swim neg split
3x25 kick fast/same interval as above
1x200 swim neg split
2x25 kick fast/ same as above
1x200 swim neg split
1x25 kick fast
Swim an easy 100

Set 2: you will want some drag device like a parachute, small inner tube, a tethered plastic jug you can fill with a little water, ankle weights (go lightly at first) - you get the idea. You also will want a pull buoy. We recommend a snorkel on the 50's.

1x50/ scull lap one, swim lap two: with pull buoy and drag device
4x100 swim (no toys - snorkel OK) burn up the last lap - interval = 15 seconds rest
1x50/ as above
3x100 swim as above - be sure to blast lap 4
1x50/ as above
2x100 swim as above
1x50/ as above
1x100 swim as above

Cool down with 300 or so

Make sure you blast the 25's kicking and the last lap of the 100 swims and we think you will feel pretty darn good about your workout. Let us know and or share a good one with us!