Sunday, November 23, 2014

Taper…and what we think about it today…

When a novice swim coach – us a few decades ago – first hears and plays with the concept of tapering it seems like such a huge mystery. After all, so much rides on it; or so it appears from all the talk, chatter and surrounding fuss about it: “I cannot wait for taper time” – “when I start my taper all will be right in the swim world” – “I hope I don’t miss my taper” – “I always do well when I taper” – “I can never quite seem to hit my taper” – “Did I do the right amount of taper, or was it too much, or maybe too little?”
This taper thing must be really important since so many outcomes ride on it…or at least that is what the myth perpetuates. Let’s look at the facts for a moment…we hate it when facts get in the way of perception!
When you train (as an athlete) there are really only 3 things you are working on: strength, speed and endurance. You want to build as much of those three qualities into your “game” as possible. Why? Simple…those three pillars are the foundation for athletic success…each athlete needs them in various quantities – depending on her sport – to become better at it. Let’s not overcomplicate things…not really necessary.
(to be sure, there are lots of variables at work in perfecting your game but it is easier to wrap your brain around the issues if you keep things simple)…
In our opinion based upon a certain amount of fact mixed with decades of empirical observation, taper is merely this: the process by which you, the athlete, become confident in your abilities and self-assured enough to risk your all in pursuit of excellence.
That’s it.
You are the master chef. You prepare your recipe with differing amounts of speed work, rest, stroke work; start and turn work, tempo and distance per stroke work…more rest…then some more rest…remember to add in visualization and stretching – sleep and nutrition…basically all the usual stuff. The only thing really missing from your regular diet is huge amounts of work.
And that is what makes taper time so temperamental. Every athlete knows what it feels like to be training “hard.” When you stop “hard” training you feel different. Of course you do – duh.
Enjoy the rest. Anticipate the best is yet to come. Taper allows the work you have done to rise to the top enabling you to perform at new levels of excellence.
By the way remember this: when you go for it, the race will hurt. The only time it doesn’t is when you find flow. Flow puts you in a state where the pain doesn’t matter. Every single time you race your heart rate goes up, your respiration rate increases, you build either oxygen debt or lactic acid or both. Taper doesn’t eliminate those “side effects”. Taper makes accessing your best possible.
When you become skilled at flow you will not be aware of the pain…but it is still there…so make sure you loosen really well after your race.
Oh, did we mention to have fun?

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ken and Elizabeth

If you have been keeping track you know we are working on developing awareness about “flow”…what it is, how to find it, how to coach it etc.
Ken had a set last Tuesday that was really instructional around the idea of flow. It went like this. The 100’s and the 75’s were fast and we mixed in stroke when and where appropriate. The interval for everything was the 1:10.
1x100/1:10…recovery 50 on the 1:10
1x75/1:10…recovery 50 on the 1:10
2x100/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
2x75/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
3x100/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
3x75/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
2x100/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
2x75/1:10…1x 50 recovery/ 1:10
1x100/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
1x75/1:10…1x50 recovery/ 1:10
Total yardage = 2075 with 1575 at effort: set time 31:20
It was interesting from the flow side in that from very early in the set no one was talking between swims. We had lots of focus. An occasional shout out to a lane mate was about all the noise we witnessed. We have found that a recovery swim right after an effort swim does that…it drives focus inward which in our opinion helps induce flow. Same thing happens in the Tim Hill broken 200 set.
Now to Elizabeth…today at workout we talked about taper and what actually happens when you taper. We said that you get ready to swim fast because the workload decreases which makes it easier to do faster repeats. This leads to faster races since you are not so tired from training plus your confidence goes up – remember the most important muscle in the human body is confidence. Of course we also do some speed work, race tempo, distance per stroke while maintaining tempo…all the usual stuff…you already know about that.
Then we reminded everyone that races while tapered “hurt” just as much as regular races. What happens more at taper meets is that you find flow. When you find flow you don’t hurt. Your body is still exerting maximally which means your heart rate is high, your respiration rate is high, and you go into oxygen debt and or build lactic acid levels. Yet you don’t notice it as much because you are really present…in flow.
Then Elizabeth issued this gem…”You don’t need to be tapered to have flow.” She is one smart girl! By the way, she had lots of flow on Thursday and Sunday this week…

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Confusion…and maybe a bit of Clarity

Below is an email we received last week. It got us thinking about how many times coaches use the words “good” and “fast” interchangeably. Indeed, “better” is not the same as “faster”. Often the “faster” swimmers are the “better” swimmers…but not always.

Hi, it’s Beth; I saw an article in a swim magazine that was put in my box at school. I have been teaching and also coaching swimming at my High School in San Diego. My 4 kids are grown so I am coaching again. I just wanted to say thank-you for helping make me the person that I am today. I was never very good, but you never gave up on me, thank-you, Beth

Beth swam for the Marin Aquatic Club that Don coached “back in the day.” I (Don) replied to Beth saying that it was great to hear from her and I appreciated her kind words. Then – always the coach! – I reminded her that she actually WAS “very good”; she showed up every day, worked her butt off, always displayed enormous character, contributed to the fabric of our team and ended up reasonably fast. No, she wasn’t as fast as some of the others but Beth was an integral part of the team and a very valuable contributor in many significant ways besides the time on the old Minerva (how many of you remember that name???).

Today when swimmers come to us after their races and we ask, “So how was that?” and they say “Great” or “Terrible”…we ask them if they are talking about the time or the race. It never ceases to amaze us at the misunderstanding they have between the result and the execution of the task. If you swam “fast” usually the time is representative of where you are in your training cycle and how you approached today’s opportunity. If you swam “slowly” the time is similarly representative of how you either applied yourself in the race or how your training cycle is going.

Understanding the difference about how we “rate” ourselves goes a long way toward lifting up our possibilities. Thank you Beth for your contribution to the sharing of wisdom around the globe!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Coaching Styles

When determining the most effective method of working with your staff it is important to understand your individual coaching style. That way you can exert influence in such a way that it is compatible with how you coach.
Many coaches want a staff that “falls in line” with the leadership at the top. Others are at ease with a more diverse methodology. As a head coach know which style you want and communicate it clearly…a lot less confusion that way.