Monday, July 27, 2015

“Be Quick but Don’t Be in a Hurry”

This message is from John Wooden. Wooden is regarded as fine a coach that ever lived. Some of you know him personally if you hung out at UCLA in the last century. Many of you know about him through coaching investigations…as in who was the greatest coach ever type of thing. Basketball was his specialty but teaching wisdom was his chosen path to greatness. He is to coaching basketball as Doc Councilman and Peter Daland and Jack Nelson are to swimming.
He was counseling his players to be quick but never be in a hurry. When you hurry you rush. When you rush you give up something. When you give up something you put yourself in a tough spot that almost certainly you cannot recover from.
When you think about how to approach a race, first things first – HAVE A PLAN. 
You cannot win a race in the first 25 but you can lose a race in the first 25. If you are in a hurry you will “spin your wheels” using too much energy. This, combined with a loss of stroke efficiency, will put you in a tough spot that will manifest itself late in your race.
Said euphemistically, you will crash and burn; you will “die”.
So yes, be quick. Get in the race. No, do not be in a hurry. This sweet spot, this delicate balance is exactly what makes racing so darned interesting and ultimately so very compelling.
Have fun…you are in the next heat! Yikes! Be quick…you will be fine…really…

Sunday, July 19, 2015

How Does Taper Work Anyway

There are three basic ingredients each swimmer has getting ready for their big meet, the end of season last chance to post some times.
Oops, focusing on “posting some times” would be a mistake. Why? ; Because not much good happens when you focus on results. Lots of good things happen when you focus on process. So figure out what worked for you in the past when you got yourself ready for a big meet and write those items down and work on them. Sure, we all know what we are after…a personal best and perhaps a cut to the next level of meets but when you work on that side of the game you only create anxiety and doubt.
What you want is a ready calmness and confidence. The calmness comes from knowing you have done everything you can up to this point in time. You cannot get in better shape – too late for that. You can develop more speed – there is time for that. (It comes from resting) And as your workout speed improves your confidence goes up. But here is the dilemma. In workout if you focus on the speed – times posted – you drive yourself crazy. It is far more important to work on the swimming well, stroke technique etc. so that the faster workout times will come…and then the confidence and speed build together.
The three ingredients are 1- Rest – the most important by far; 2 – wearing a tech suit; they really help compress your body and shed some water; 3 – shaving; and this depends upon how much “fur” you carry. It doesn’t matter if you have a little or a lot, you will feel so much slipperier in the water…which boosts your confidence.
Confidence is king. Have some of that and you will wear the “crown”.
It takes much more courage to rest than it does to work. So take a deep breath from your belly and relax as you exhale. Now go and rest…you’ll be fine, really

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Make It Look Easy

Last weekend we were at a local Junior Olympic meet. These meets are fun for us since we get to work with some of the younger swimmers on our team. May Ling is 12 and having fun with her swimming, and she loves to compete so we are all over that for the obvious reasons.
She was getting ready for her 200 meter breaststroke final and asked (don’t they always?!), “So how do I swim this race?” We thought we’d keep the instructions to a minimum so we asked her a question. “When you see someone do their “thing” what is your reaction to it? When Curry shoots a 3 pointer, or your favorite swimmer races or your favorite musician plays or sings, what does it look like to you?”
Of course setting her up like this she responded, “They make it look so easy.” So we said why don’t you swim your race so that all of these people watching you will be saying, “Wow, she makes it look easy.” We told her that it wouldn’t be easy at all. In fact, it will be everything but easy but when you make it look easy you will be staying smooth and evenly paced and all that other “coaching speak”.
It turned out to be a really exciting close race with 4 girls all pretty evenly matched. May Ling touched 2nd .09 out of first. Her splits were 39.0 – 43.8 – 43.9 – 42.8…and she made it look easy. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Learning from Buffett

In his book, “Think, Act, and Invest like Warren Buffett”, Larry Swedroe quotes Buffett as saying, “Investing is simple, but not easy.” The following passage in the book resonated:
“While it is simple to invest more like Buffett – you just need a well-designed plan and have the discipline to stick to it – it is not easy. Emotions, such as fear and panic in bear markets and greed and envy in bull markets, cause even well-developed plans to end up in the trash heap. The stomach takes over from the head…and stomachs do not make good decisions.
If you want to invest more like Buffett, you are going to have to learn to control your emotions. The best way of preventing your stomach from taking over is to stop paying attention to forecasters and so-called experts.”
In our sport of competitive swimming it is simple to swim fast, but not easy.
You need to have a plan in place and then be willing to work the plan. The willingness to work the plan keeps the emotions in check. When you have a down turn, understand why. When you are running on a good streak, understand why. The understanding keeps the emotions in check.
Remember, the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence” isn’t true very often.
How long can a swimmer go without hitting some best times? The answer depends on so many factors that we won’t even attempt a general answer here. We will offer this however.
If a swimmer intuits that s/he is making progress using several of many measurable benchmarks then you can safely say you are “invested” properly. When you have no progress with any measurable quantifiers then you need to look at your plan.
The fact that there are so many different ways to say, make the Olympic Team, in terms of training styles and coaching methodologies, leads us to believe that you can boil down progress to several basic items. Most of these are well documented:
Technique, diligent training, lifting and stretching, rest, nutrition…most of these is well known. The challenging part is being 100% honest with yourself in assessing your commitment to them. Most swimmers train really well occasionally; some do so 80% or more of the time; very few can say “I gave it my all every time.” Same goes for lifting and stretching, rest, nutrition etc.
So, make a plan and then stay with it. No need to listen to every form of feedback. Watch the important signposts and you will know if you are on track or actually need a new plan.