Sunday, February 27, 2011

Born To Run

We are part way into author Christopher McDougall’s book about the Tarahumara runners. “Born To Run” – subtitled “A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” is a wonderful story with lots of interesting characters and insights into the world of ultra-running. At the same time it is a look at human performance that is spell binding. We are pretty safe when we say that there is something in this book for everyone, athletes and non-athletes alike.

On page 111, “Don’t fight the trail,” Caballo called back over his shoulder. “Take what it gives you. If you have a choice between one step or two between rocks, take three.”

Then this mesmerizing paragraph:
“Lesson two,” Caballo called. “Think Easy, Light, Smooth and Fast. You start with easy, because if that’s all you get, that’s not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don’t give a shit how high the hill is or how far you’ve got to go. When you’ve practiced that so long that you forget you’re practicing, you work on making it smooooooth. You won’t have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you’ll be fast.”

Enough said for today .

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Have You Ever Wondered?

We pretty much do all the time...wonder that is.

We are thinking all the time about how to get our swimmers to swim faster; how to get them to realize the relationship between effort put in and results obtained; how what they do away from the pool has bearing on what they do in the pool; how the dry land component can add or actually subtract from what they are doing; how their emotions can help or hinder their progress; how to understand that what a high school coach wants may not be in the best interests of what they want personally from the sport and how to resolve that conflict; how they can actually get really good grades and stay very fit in the pool; how they can manage their time so that homework gets done and morning practice can be a regular thing for them...the list is endless. All the things we think about apply to our Masters swimmers as well with the obvious change in emphasis as their lives go through various stages of time commitments and focus.

But what we really do is wonder...if all the information that is available to all the swimmers, coaches and parents is, well available, how come much of it is ignored? That's what stumps us a lot of the time. In this day and age of information availability how can so many people either not be aware or not know how to apply it or simply not "get it"? It mystifies us.

Take something as simple as head position in freestyle. When you watch the fastest swimmers in the world and see their heads down and their hips up how can you as a swimmer or coach allow yourself or those you coach to swim with their heads up, water at the hair line and hips riding low in the water? Or since you know the importance of the kick in all strokes why don't you spend real practice time getting faster and stronger at that segment of your swimming? Perhaps if you kick 10x100 on the 2 mins and you could swim them on the 1:30 you are giving up 5 minutes of practice time and therefore total yardage but at the expense of the kick power...we wonder about that kind of stuff.

And if everyone knows that the cells produce ATP from oxygen and lactic acid why don't they train both systems? And if they do, why don't they allow enough recovery so that the swimmers can actually swim at or at the very least, near race pace in practice to know what it feels like?

It seems to us, that if you like doing something and it gives you a real sense of satisfaction then why not do it as well as you are able? Hmmm...maybe that is the answer...we think not but who are we to be all knowing...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

OOPS! Sorry 'bout that...

Two weeks ago we said we would give our answers in a week...and then we had a better here are our answers to the quiz two weeks ago. Keep in mind that no two coaches will agree exactly on anything and neither will swimmers. Having said that, here are our answers and the reasons. Please make your comments known along with the reasons why...feel free to disagree

Swimming 101
A Mid Term Quiz

1. In freestyle which is more important:

  • a. Head position - this is our choice since body position is #1 and that is set up by the head position...remember to lead with the crown of your head looking down at the bottom of the pool as opposed to ahead, watching where you will be going...if your head is down your hips will be up creating a flat line in the pool...and that is a very good thing!

  • b. Depth of kicks

  • c. Elbow position on catch

  • d. Volume of air on breath

2. In backstroke which is more important:

  • a. Depth of entry on catch

  • b. Hip rotation

  • c. Arm speed during recovery - this is our choice over #1 since doing this will make it easier to do #1...tempo is king in backstroke and recovery speed sets that up...of course make certain your baby finger leads the entry as opposed to your knuckles.

  • d. Kicking with the soles of your feet

3. In the IM which is more important:

  • a. Push the fly and breast hard

  • b. Push the back and free hard

  • c. Float the fly; it is a 3 stroke race - this was the easiest one...since you know in advance that on all multiple choice tests the answer to 3 is always C...ask any person who has taken the SAT's ...really ...the fastest IM'ers in the world get through the fly with the least amount of effort and while they may be near the front after the fly they really are not concerned with leading...the race is back, breast and free.

  • d. Save your legs for the freestyle

4. In the breaststroke which is more important:

  • a. Foot speed

  • b. Recovery speed

  • c. High hips

  • d. Streamlines off walls

  • e. All of the above

  • f. None of the above - this was our choice here since a. & b. was not an option...all of the above are important but the question is "which is more important" and in our minds the correct answer is not included here...and that is that it is most important in breaststroke to spend as much time as possible in each stroke cycle in the streamlined position...which absolutely means fast foot speed and fast recovery speed but more importantly holding the streamlined body position as long as possible while not allowing yourself to slow down...very challenging stroke to swim.

5. In butterfly which is more important:

  • a. How big your kicks are - of the available answers we think this is the best one since the size of your kicks will determine how fast your tempo is...bigger kicks, slower tempo, slower time...smaller kicks, faster tempo, faster is competitive swimming after all.

  • b. How many breaths you take

  • c. How fast your turns are

  • d. How far you can go underwater

The answers - according to us!

This is an open book, open note quiz. It is permissible to ask others before you answer. All answers are final, unless after further thought you wish to change your mind. If you are a student of multiple choice quizzes you will automatically know the answer to # 3.

See you at the pool!

Disagree? Let us know which ones and why and we will have a friendly exchange of ideas and quite possibly we will all get smarter at what we are doing...a very good thing ...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Thanks So Much For Sharing

Karen swims in our Masters group darn near every day she is in town. Links to her and her wisdom are at the bottom of this blog. She contributes greatly to the humanity of mankind.

Just Show Up

by Karen Drucker

The Four Rules of Life:
1. Show Up
2. Pay Attention
3. Tell the Truth 4. Don't be upset at the results.
Joan Borysenko

These last few months have been a doozie. Stress on top of stress. So much so that I threw my back out, caught a cold, walked into a wall and wound up with a big gash on my nose, and then I had to speak, sing and do a concert all with laryngitis! Wouldn't you think that maybe I could listen to my own songs that talk about breathing, letting go, and surrendering? Yet maybe that's why I write those songs - to remind myself when I forget. I must say, though, that what sustained me through this stressful time is my new favorite expression: "Just show up."

It's really a motto that I live my life by: Just show up. What that means to me is that when I would much rather hide under the covers, be in denial, run away from a problem, eat a pound of chocolate and chase it with some Ben and Jerry's - the bigger idea is to just show up and face it, whatever "it" is. It might mean pushing through my fears of going for it, or just staying in the room when I am having a disagreement with someone, or making the commitment to sticking my butt in that exercise class I signed up for in January when I committed to lose those 10 pounds. Or it might mean showing up for myself - making that scary phone call for a job, putting myself out in a social situation that might be uncomfortable, or telling the truth to myself about a situation. It's just bringing myself to the party and seeing what happens.

Easier said than done of course. There have been times when I was just too scared to do something or felt that the time was not right. I wrote a song called "Gentle With Myself" where I sing about being gentle and kind to myself and only going as fast as the slowest part of me feels safe to go. I believe there are times to sit back and wait until the time is right, and then there are times when I know I have waited long enough and it is time to just go for it.

The way that this shows up with regularity is around my swimming practice. I have been a competitive swimmer since I was six years old. I quit after high school vowing to never get near water again--I was done and finished. No more chlorine smelling skin, green streaky hair and no social life. But at some point, after a break up with a boyfriend and having daily pity parties, I started back slowly on an adult "masters" swim team just for fun. Since I had swum for so many years it all came back to me in an instant, and it was the one place in my life that I could experience ease and effortlessness.

Fast-forward about 20 years. I have been swimming regularly, even got into long distance open water swimming, and I am now in a very steady routine. But that was the word: routine. I had been swimming at the same club for years and feeling like "just showing up" was enough - I wasn't working very hard, I wasn't motivated, and I wasn't pushing myself, I was just swimming along about 2-3 times a week. Normally that would be fine but then I would justify that I could eat a huge cheeseburger and fries cause I "had just worked out" - well not really!

The switch came when someone told me about another club that was having master's workouts in my area with two fabulous coaches - one of whom I knew from years ago. I showed up one day and was hooked. New people, new routines, new sights to look at and a whole new commitment to swimming that I had not felt in years. Don, one of my coaches, even gave me some stroke technique that I had heard before but I guess was finally willing to try. Seems that I had been swimming for 40 odd years with two hammers in my hands - slapping the water like I was purging all my emotions from my pores into the water. He would encourage me to try swimming with "soft hands." Soft hands? He said for me to just imagine I was gently putting my hands in the water and pulling the water through with ease and gentleness. Could this be a life metaphor for me? Going through my life with ease and effortlessness as opposed to thinking I had to try hard, work with intensity, and pound my way through life? Could I actually allow it to be soft and gentle?

I keep showing up and practicing swimming with soft hands...and lo and behold I seem to be swimming faster and easier than I have in years. Given this stressful time that I mentioned in my personal life, I found that the only constant in my life was showing up for swim practice. Even though my life was spiraling all around me with a lot of drama, I would show up, every day, practice my soft hands and notice that life was working out somehow.

So now before I go out on stage, or begin a business trip, or start my day, my daily payer is to treat life with "soft hands" and just keep showing up.

Thank you Karen! To find out more please follow the links below. And while we are at it, what about you? How has swimming helped you find out how life works more smoothly? See you at the pool soon!!