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.

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