Sunday, July 28, 2013

What does this have to do with competitive swimming?

The difference between active and inactive ingredients 
Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Active ingredients are those which are intended to have a therapeutic and pharmacologic activity.  An active ingredient is the main portion of a drug product intended to produce a therapeutic effect.  An active ingredient is any component that provides pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or animals. 

Inactive ingredients are added for the purpose of formulation compatibility and proper drug delivery (i.e., binding ingredients, disintegrants, etc...)  Inactive ingredients can also include flavors, color dyes, and are intended not to offer any pharmacologic activity.

Our contention is that this has everything to do with competitive swimming.

We were speaking informally to our team at the annual end of season picnic, working on coming up with yet another way to deliver “the message”. You know it well if you are a coach or parent. Encouraging our young ones to connect the dots between input and output; helping them take charge of their swimming…this is an ongoing and constant theme.

So we took a slightly different tack and pulled out a couple of products from the bathroom cabinet, including sunscreen. We noted that each has active and inactive ingredients. We paraphrased the FDA above and simply said something to the effect that the active ingredients get the job done, without them nothing happens. The inactive ingredients were important in that they helped with the proper delivery of the active ones. In other words, both are needed, but the active ultimately makes the difference.

We then said we believed that passion and commitment were the most important active ingredients to successful competitive swimming. Without them nothing happens. We then said that most all of the other stuff were inactive. You needed them but by themselves nothing was going to happen. The list is quite lengthy: pool time, various sorts of training equipment, stroke technique, fitness and even coaching – yes we think that coaching is often an inactive ingredient.

We could see a few wheels turning. Perhaps we had made a connection in the minds of some. We encouraged them to figure out what made them passionate about their swimming and then commit to it. Of course, a swimmer needs pool time, technique, equipment and coaching. Yet without passion and commitment very little lasting progress is made. A lot of laps get swum but that’s about it.

Said another way, inactive ingredients only become relevant when you add the active ingredients. A pool and a coach become relevant when the swimmer adds passion and commitment.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Last week we spoke of the power of intention. We used a progression of 200 fly swims from Elizabeth as an example of how powerful it is when one commits to pursuing higher standards.

One of our readers asked the question, “I wonder what went through Elizabeth’s mind as she pondered the response to the question we asked?”

Her comments are below. We find them particularly revealing. We appreciate her honesty.

Below I wrote about what went through my mind when I decided to become more committed 

 I’ve swum for nearly ten years now, but this last year was different. I loved swimming in the past, but I was never great. I would train hard at practice, but swimming didn’t always come first. I hadn’t really noticed this about myself until you had a talk to me about intention. You took me aside at a training meet and asked me if I was willing to commit more of myself to swimming. You told me I had potential to swim much faster, faster than I had ever thought. Before then swimming was just something I did, and I hardly considered continuing in college. At first I didn’t know what to say. It frightened me to think of what more commitment meant. I had previously thought that I was pretty committed and swimming was one of my top priorities. When the question was first posed I was actually a little bit angry that you didn’t think I was committed enough. But I continued to consider what you said the following days and started to come to terms with the idea. Thinking back on this, it wasn’t the tougher workouts I was afraid of; it was the higher standard you said you would hold me accountable to. It took me a few weeks to recognize I really wanted this. I thought about where swimming could take me. And I knew a higher level of commitment was the only way to get there. I realized it for sure one evening after practice. I had just finished a set that I really leaned into. That was when you asked me again. This time I knew my answer without even having to think twice. Right in that moment I had made my decision and from that point forward I started to really swim with intention.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Power of Intention

When you declare that you want something and then ask for support and guidance what may seem impossible becomes believable and then a series of seemingly random events get linked together and your goal becomes real. When that happens, you achieve your goal. It is a simple yet powerful process. Folks who follow quantum physics know all about this. We don’t claim to understand it very well but we do believe that we alter and ultimately create our reality.

Elizabeth was a 2:18 200 yard butterflyer in September. She trained reasonably well and by December she swam 2:12. She was pleased with her drop. She then proceeded to drop some more and in March narrowly missed getting her Orlando NSCA cut. She swam 2:08. The cut was 2:06.

In late March we asked her a question. We first told her that we believed she could swim a 2:06. She nodded her head and said that so did she. We asked her would she declare that she was all in? We said that if she did that we would work with her to make that cut. We forewarned her that her declaration would have consequences. We would hold her to a higher standard. She would need to rearrange her priorities. She would need to make some sacrifices so that swim training came before other things, except for school. We asked her to think about it and let us know. Either way was fine by us but if she wanted the cut we would be all in as well.

Nearly two weeks later she came and announced she was in. We asked her to tell her parents so they would know as well. It is important to have the whole support team know about the goal and be all in as well. She said she would. Soon thereafter we had a brief conversation with her Dad confirming her intentions.

We all rolled up our sleeves and went to work. In May at the end of the high school season she took a shot in both the 100 and 200. She missed the 100 by a tenth and the 200 by slightly more. Undeterred – Elizabeth has a great resilience about her – she went back to work.

In May she swam the 200 meter fly in 2:27. Yesterday at the local Junior Olympic meet she swam 2:25 in prelims and a 2:22.7 in finals. She earned her cut to the long course NCSA Junior National meet in 3 weeks. The 200 meter cut is 2:23.19.

Keep in mind that as a 10 & under, an 11-12 and early in her 13-14 age groups she was not a super involved racer. She didn’t compete at Far Westerns or even the Junior Olympic meet. Today she is practically swimming 200 meter fly in the same time as she swam 200 yard fly a year ago. Her best 100 yard fly a year or so ago was 1:05. Sunday she swam a 1:05 for meters. (You college coaches out there, Elizabeth is a junior this September.)

How does this happen? She has not grown measurably physically. However, what she has done since she declared her intention is to make 90+% of the available workouts. Her dry land component has changed as well. And when a stress set is given, she leans into it. When a technique set is given, she is working on her body position, distance per stroke and tempo.

We have had stress sets and technique sets every week since we began coaching – several decades ago. Elizabeth has had the opportunity to move forward if she wanted to – many months ago. She decided in March to act on her stated goals. That is what made the difference. This business about improving and tapping your potential isn’t terribly complicated.

After her 2:22.7 we asked Elizabeth if she knew when she made her cut. She looked like we for sure knew the answer, about 10 minutes ago. We reminded her that she actually made her cut in late March. She smiled a smile of satisfaction. She understands the link. She will be successful in her life, no matter her direction or undertaking. Intention is powerful and she knows firsthand the power.

Know what you want. Declare it. Act on it. Just ask Elizabeth.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now."
(Attributed to Goethe)