Check out http://www.t2aquatics.com for information on T2 Aquatics!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Jingle Bell Meet Week

This weekend, T2Aquatics is sending 120 plus athletes of all ages to the Clearwater Aquatic Club's "Jingle Bell" meet.  It's my opinion that US Club swimmers do well with three "Championship" meets per year -- one in December, one in the Spring, and one at the end of the summer.  This meet will be the first "team" Championship meet of our season, and we're really excited to perform well.

It should be noted that in Florida, High School-aged athletes swim in their HS State Championships in November.  We do take this meet seriously, but it's a different type of experience for our athletes....they only swim two events, and it only takes one day.  Many of our athletes excel in events like the 200s of each stroke, the 400 IM, and the 1650 -- none of which are offered at High School States.  For this reason we choose to focus on our December Championship meet from the beginning of the fall, and swim the Florida HS Championships "enroute".

One of the great things about this meet will be the fact that our entire team will be involved....from our 10 and under athletes to our National/International-level performers.  For our youngest athletes to get the chance to see our oldest and most accomplished athletes race is invaluable to their development; and likewise for our older athletes to compete alongside our youngest athletes the competition offers them a different type of leadership opportunity, while simultaneously re-connecting them with their "competitive roots".

Tune in to this website for a psyche sheet, and results: http://www.fastswimresults.com/

Additionally, you may be able see the meet streamed live at floridaswimnetwork.com -- if they can 
get their Internet connection working. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

To Start a Tradition....


I've tended to be part of teams with "Tradition".  I can say, as a coach, tradition helps -- particularly when you've got some positive momentum.  Tradition is dependant upon momentum!

But now, with a new team (T2 Aquatics is just over two years old) -- I don't have tradition to work with.  So, what to do?! 

The answer is: Start a Tradition!  What an exciting concept....to be part of something which creates.....I get to create a culture, create an attitude -- and be involved on the ground floor!

There's an immense amount of PRIDE that goes along with this beginning stage on our team here at T2 Aquatics.  To those of us who are here now, and anyone coming through our program over the next few years.....it's up to US to create that which we think is possible.  We are FORMING the tradition that will be built upon for years to come!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Workout November 23, 2012

Here's a workout we did last Thursday.  Look toward the bottom of this post and you'll see copies of each workout for the week, leading into this particular workout.  Tune in to "Proswimworkouts.com" this week to see what we did to finish last week's practices.

This type of workout is done by High School -- Aged athletes.  Our post-graduates tend to do a different type (and volume) of work!


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Erika Erndl Video


Check out this video of Erika Erndl, who had an outstanding meet this weekend in Austin at the USA Swimming Short Course (Winter) Nationals.  Erika's times of 22.48 (50 Free), 48.21 (100 Free), and 1:43.42 (200 Free) were all lifetime bests!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Erika Erndl Video -- Resistance Swim into Phantom Wall Turn and Breakout

Check out this video of T2 Aquatics swimmer Erika Erndl.

Part of Erika's workout on this day was a resistance trianing exercise, broken into two parts:

Part 1: 25 Resistance Swim on the Power Tower.  Erika eased back into the wall, took about 20 extra seconds, then went into Part 2.

Part 2: Phantom Wall turn + breakout.  If you watch the video you'll notice that Erika's breathing pattern on the turn isn't a 50 SCY Free pattern -- she's doing her 100 LCM breathing pattern, which means that she's getting a lot more air than she would if she were swimming a 100 or a 50 SCY.


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

1650 Pace Set -- Tuesday November 27, 2012

On Tuesday November 27, I had a group of athletes do a freestyle set.  Here's how it went:

10x: 150 Fast Free + 150 easy choice .....the whole 300 was on (4:00)

I put this up on the white board at the beginning of practice:

The 150 Pace goals correlate pretty accurately with the 1650 paces (minus one second for the hand touch we did -- not going to the feet).  The 500 times were made up by me on the spot, and basically were there for the two athletes I had in the group who don't count the 1650 as one of their top 5 events.  This is a "mile pace" set, but the way I look at it is: if an athlete who swims the 100 and the 200 gets better at the mile -- in particular at the 18 and under age -- their 100 and 200 will get better as well.  Certainly I'm trying to motivate everyone in my portion of the training group on this day.

For a few reasons I won't go into here, I only had one female athlete doing this set (the others were doing another set -- or training at a different time on this particular day).  This athlete happens to be from Hong Kong and has only swum a few SCY meets, so I put some "grade goals" on the right side for her because she doesn't quite understand SCY times yet.  The rest of my guys swim a decent mile, so I put the goals up (in red) to motivate them for our SCY Florida Championship meet this spring....the times are based off the top time, top 8, and top 16 from the mile -- from the 2011 Florida Championship meet, which was the last time we went to that meet as a team.

After a few rounds, I had to ammend a few of the goals because some of the top guys were doing pretty well -- and were "off the charts". 

The final results are listed below.  I thought it went well.  Many of these guys have not been this fast or this consistent before on this type of set (or this exact set) -- and it's all about improvement so I'm a happy coach. Our three seniors (Aidan, Chase, BT) are 4:43-4:38-4:41 500 guys, and only BT has done the 1650 with any regularity (16:13 PR).  Eric is 15 (16:23 1650), Shawn is 15 (17:30+ 1650), Liam is 15 (17:36 1650) and Jacob is 14 (18:02 1650).
Aidan (18) 123, 121, 120, 120, 121, 121, 122, 122, 121, 121
Chase (18) 127, 124, 123, 123, 123, 124, 124, 125, 123, 123
BT (18) 126, 124, 122, 124, 123, 123, 123, 125, 125, 122
Eric (15) 124, 123, 123, 123, 123, 123, 124, 123, 122, 123
Shawn (15) 130, 128, 129, 127, 129, 127, 127, 127, 127, 123
Liam (15) 131, 129, 128, 127, 129, 127, 126, 126, 126, 124
Jacob (14) 130, 129, 128, 128, 127, 126, 126, 126, 127, 125
Karen (13) 137, 135, 134, 134, 135, 135, 136, 136, 136, 136
Based off these results, I think:
1) we are in line for some improvement in the 1650.  It does take time, and often doesn't happen right away, but we are going to get some drops at some point this season. 
2) we are in line for some even higher level training now, which will lead to bigger time drops and some "big boy" times.  You never know, as a coach -- but you've got to plan for the highest level success to have a shot of getting there.  .....And with distance swimming, it doesn't matter  how big you are, or how much "natural talent" you have -- hard work and consistentcy beats everything else!


Monday, 26 November 2012

New School VS. Old School -- And the "In Between"

Becoming a great athlete, or an accomplished coach is dependent upon the right mix of two things:

1) Figuring out new ways transcend normal methods.


2) Copying others who have been successful.

If a competitor only accomplishs number one, it's going to be tough to get to a high level because "enroute" the competitior is going to avoid some tried and true methods.  "New" can be good, but not at the expense of ignoring that which has been successful for years.

Likewise, a competitor will miss things by sticking only to number two.  We have to press the envelope!

The trick is to figure out the correct mixture. 


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Workouts -- Week of November 19 2012

Here are a few practices our T2 Aquatics athletes did this week, as posted on Proswimworkouts.com

Check back here (or there) for workouts from a good part of last week's training.


Monday, 12 November 2012

10,000 Hour Rule (Repost)


For those who have never this blog post from many months ago, it gives you some insight into my mentality as it relates to "Team Culture".  Thanks for tuning in.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Predicting Times


When top athletes race, they have a time in their head that they would like to achieve.  Ideally, everything they do within the race will lead to this time goal.  This time that an athlete would like to achieve can be viewed as a “prediction”.

As athletes, I believe we can train ourselves to predict our performances.

As coaches, I believe we must predict our athlete’s performances on a daily basis in order to get our athletes “race ready” at the end of the season.

Here are a few keys:

For athletes:  Simply stated, predict your daily repeats in practice.  Talk to yourself during training, and set mini training goals for sets.  Start with warm-up, and predict as much as you can.  Certainly during the main parts of the practice, in particular for “race pace” training – you should predict each swim.  Once you start to do this, you’ll get better at being right.  And once you start predicting correctly, you can raise your level of expectation.  Essentially, you will begin to ask more of yourself. 

Getting better at asking more of yourself is the first step to actually delivering – and getting more from yourself.

For coaches: Prior to meets, we like to consider “where” our athletes may be.  We think about what certain athletes can do for certain events, based off their practice performance and/or previous meet performance.  But we are missing the boat when we predict only at meets.  I believe we should practice predicting training performance every day.  This coaching skill will subtly enhance the quality of the practice we provide, and we will begin to see small ways in which our practice construction can improve -- and small details our athletes must improve upon to reach peak performance.

Additionally, as we predict we will essentially be planning for the race, well before the race day – and correcting when needed.  If we predict incorrectly often enough, we are probably highlighting inefficiencies and areas of needed improvement in our athlete’s preparation.  An astute coach will recognize these areas, and design ways to improve an athlete’s skill application during the set to achieve the desired results.  If we can be ultimately successful in the “trail/error/trial/success” game in practices, we are going to be ahead of the game as it pertains to training the race.

A time-prediction setI like to ask for is very simple.  Do a few 50s or 25s and ask the athletes to guess their time.  They can predict their time before they swim, or they can swim and then tell you the time they did.  Athletes who are not good at this will get good at it fairly quick.

A perk of the set is this: the best way to go about getting the prediction correct is for the athlete to go fairly fast -- not easy, but certainly not all-out. – but with great stroke.  As a coach, you end up seeing your athletes swim with a high level stroke technique, and pretty fast!  We end up getting what we want: relaxed speed with a stroke technical focus.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Your Vision Controls your Body Position (Part 2)

I've discussed in previous blog posts about "Vision" -- and your ability to control your body position through 'looking' in the proper direction while swimming.  Here's a cool trick that coach Tom used today with one of our athletes: he painted the bottom of an old pair of googles with a Sharpie...forcing the athlete to use his eyes better while swimming freestyle.  This particulart athlete is used to swimming freestyle with his waterline on the middle of his forehead, and we would like the waterline to be closer to his harline.  By painting the googles in this way we are forcing the athlete to use his eyes better, and look through the clear part of the goggle to see where he's going.  If his head is "cranked up" and out of his body line, he won't see very well! 

Here's a link to my previous post about Vision and Body Postion:

Monday, 29 October 2012

Text-Free Driving Pledge

As swimming coaches, it is our responsibility to educate our athletes in the sport of swimming .  Often, this education is regarding swimming-related actions, for which our athletes are repsponsible.  At times, this education is regarding "hidden training" -- the actions outside of the pool that impact our athlete's lives. 

I believe that at times, it's important that we use our role as educators to help create positive habits that simply help an athlete navigate their life in a positive, healthy way.  This is not "swimming-related" stuff here -- directly.  But it's life related stuff.  And swimming is a part of life!

Just as coaches (for decades) have been talking about the dangers of "drinking and driving" -- this generation of coaches may want to consider another major epidemic affecting teens today: "Texting and Driving". 

Certainly, "Texting and Driving" is a potentially deadly habit -- and one which we, as coaches, may not be able to fully prevent.  After all, we can't control every aspect of our athlete's lives.  But personally speaking, I recognize that "Texting while Driving" is a major problem for people of all ages -- and I do have some concern that there are people on the roads today that are not fully engaged in their civil duty as a safe driver because of the lure of a mini-computer disguised as a phone.

I want my athletes to think twice -- and potentially avoid texting as a matter of lifestyle behind the wheel.  Because I consider it a very important initiative, I have 'strongly encouraged' my athletes to take this "Text-Free Driving Pledge".    Thanks to Barren-Collier HS Junior Marshall King for  composing this Pledge sheet for our team at T2 Aquatics, and for putting some detailed educational information on the sheet for our athletes.

If any coaches or athletes would like a copy of this "Text Free Driving Pledge", I'd be happy to send it to you.  Leave a comment and your email address, or email me at paul@t2aquatics.com


Recycled Speed and Ramblings about training sets

I've been getting back to a style of training set I haven't used much since 2009.  The type of set, which I'll call: a "recycled speed" set, goes something like this:

200 Free (230)
150 Free (2) *Fast, descend
100 Free (120)
75 Free (110) **Fast, descend
3x25 easy (40)

I had a few athletes do this set a few weeks ago, and I thought they performed it well.  The 150s should be descended (say, from 126 to 123); and the 75s should be descended as well -- but with a higher velocity (say, from 39.5 to 38.6, to 38.0). 

I don't really care about the 75 repeat times on this set.  75s are so short, it's easy to get 200 pace out of the athletes.  I can do ask for that any day, any time. What I do care about is the combination of the two repeats: strong 150s, AND strong 75s (add them up for a 225 yard free, or a 200M free!).   And what I really like about this recycling of repeats is the ease in which athletes tend to atttain the pace on the higher volume repeats (in this case the 75s).  It makes for a strong overall set.

Today we did a similar type set...it was a short pulling set to set up the main series.  It went like this:

150 pull (155) breathe 3.5.7
100 pull (115) Negative Split
50 pull (45) Fast

The athletes were able to go fast on the 50s, and they did the 100s negative split well also -- but the notable thing about the set was the 150s: they were able to swim them strong as well, within the breathing pattern -- and they went pretty quick on them with little effort.

On of my top female athletes did something like this: 150s (at 133avg); 100s from 58 to 55 (all negative), and 50s from 26 to 25+.  The 50 speed she was able to get was fueled by a quick tempo, which she relaxed during the breath control 150s.....but was "revved" enough to continue swimming pretty well -- but easily.  The set could have been written like this:

50 pull (45) Fast
150 pull (155) breathe 3.5.7
100 pull (115) Negative Split

It might make more sense that way!

Tomorrow, I plan to build off the set I mentioned at the top of the post.  Here are the two sets:

Free Set mid September:

1x200 Free IM (240)
1x150 Free (2) *Fast descend
1x100 Free IM (130)
1x75 Free (110) *Fast descend
3x25 easy (40)

Free Set October 30:
First, the warmup:

1x100 Free IM (130)
2x50 Free (40)*Fast, descend 1-2 and descend rounds
1x50 Free (50)
1x50 Free (40)**Fast, descend rounds
4x25 easy (40)

...followed by the main series:

1x200 Free IM (240)
2x75 Free (1)*Fast, descend 1-2 and descend rounds
1x100 Free IM (130)
1x75 Free (110)*Fast, descend rounds
3x25 easy (40)

In this set (and warmup set), I'm attempting to warm the athletes with some 50s (which has a high level of expectation, but not as high as the next set).  The 50s warmup is a "set up".  Next, I'm asking for 2x75 in a row, followed by a single 75.  The expectation is for the athletes to swim their 75s at 200 pace.  If the 2x75 are just above the athlete's 200 pace, that is ok too.  The single 75 should be right on the pace.  I don't really care about the total time....the last 50 has to be done right!  There is a big difference between a 39.4 (12.6 + 13.5 + 13.3) and a 39.4 (13.2 + 13.6 + 12.6).  The final 50 of the first 39.4 is a 26.8, while the final 50 of the second 39.4 is a 26.2 -- quite a big difference when thinking about the final 50 of a SCY 200 free!

Once the athlete is "AT" their 200 pace on the single 75, the goal is not to go faster, but to make the pair of 75s a stronger pair.  Ideally, the athletes can swim just about their 200 pace (maybe two 40 flats in this scenario), and follow it with a single 75 right on 200 pace.  I'd prefer it be done this way, rather than see a 38.2 which is preceeded by a 41.5 and a 41.1.

I know I have been rambling during this post....I hope to convey a little bit regarding my mindset toward certain types of training sets.  Certainly "figuring out" how to get athletes to do great things in practice isn't easy, and in my opinion to get high levels of "easy speed" from athletes, "set arrangement" can have a lot to do with it -- It's not just the effort of the athletes we need to depend upon! I think the recycling of distances with a consistently varying level of speed expectation can aid a focused athlete who is seeking great practice performances.


Saturday, 20 October 2012

200 Yard Free Goal Pace Chart

We did a 200 "Pace" set today.  During the set, I asked the athletes to hit their 200 Goal pace on some 75 yard freestyle repeats.  It's tough to say what those splits should be (everyone splits differently), but here's a general idea of what I look for.  I handed out this sheet to the athletes this morning.  Feel free to copy and paste, or send me a comment or email and I'll send you a clean copy sometime next week.
200 Goal Paces:                   1st 50 (dive)           1st 75      2nd 75

1:35.5                                    22.5                        36.5        36.5

1:37.7                                    23.0                        37.25      37.25

1:39.5                                    23.5                        38.0        38.0

1:41.5                                    24.0                        38.75      38.75

1:43.5                                    24.5                        39.5        39.5

1:45.5                                    25.0                        40.25      40.25

1:47.5                                    25.5                        41.0        41.0

1:49.5                                    26.0                        41.75      41.75

1:51.5                                    26.5                        42.5        42.5

1:53.5                                    27.0                        43.25      43.25

1:55.5                                    27.5                        44.0        44.0

1:57.5                                    28.0                        44.75      44.75

1:59.5                                    28.5                        45.5        45.5

2:01.5                                    29.0                        46.25      46.25

2:03.5                                    29.5                        47.0        47.0

2:05.5                                    30.0                        47.75      47.75

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Learning About Athletics Through the Study of Other Sports

Famous track coach Bud Winter coached 37 World Record Holders and 21 Olympians.  Check out his website here: http://www.budwinter.com/

On the right side of this website, you can sign up for its newsletter and receive a free snippet from a 1974 interview with John Wooden.  All you have to do is plug in your email address!

Additionally, this website offers a link to purchase a 1.5 hour + lecture by old school distance running coach Arthur Lydiard.  I bought it -- and have it on two disks.  It's a great listen for anyone interested in distance training and understanding what Coach Lydiard calls: the "tireless state".

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Shoulder Is Not What We Think It Is

Why are we spending so much time working and stretching the small and realatively fragile rotator cuff, when we could be spending our time strengthening the entire shoulder girdle?  A strong shoulder girdle provides the stability needed to keep our entire shoulder in the proper position.  It's correct positioning that keeps the shoulder healthy!

I know plenty of coaches who get this issue, but too many do not get it and make (seemingly) no effort to get ahead on the knowledge curve -- and help the athletes.

Oftentimes there is a disconnect between USS Club coaches and local High School coaches.  Many club coaches are fulltime professional coaches (we don't teach at the school or have another fulltime job), and because of this we have more time to study, read, learn, etc about swimming.  I don't fault High School coaches for having less experience, and to be clear: I believe a coach who coaches 'high school' only can get great results.  I've seen it happen!

My point is: we all need to be accountable for the health of our athletes.  If we share the athletes, we can share the joy of their success -- but we must also share the responsibility of proper preparation, and as well the blame if our athletes cannot keep themselves from getting injured at practices and prior to meets.  Overdoing the passive stretching before meets, overdoing the amount of "rotator cuff" excercises, and underdoing the amount of true "shoulder stability" excercises is the basis of many of our poor decisions.

Literature on shoulder health for swimmers is fairly new (as well as literature regarding passive stretching and its misconceptions) -- so I can understand that education is needed.  Much of the recent thinking on this subject is opposite what many coaches have been taught!

G. John Mullen has a few tips to heed when thinking about shoulder health.  This article should be called "(Mis)understanding the Rotator Cuff" because it argues the typical thinking RE the rotator cuff, and suggests new ways to understand our shoulder and its function.


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wednesday's Workout

Today's workout for Erika Erndl follows a strong Monday/Tuesday where we did the following:

Monday AM: resistance training (work on the buckets) followed by some assisted sprints
Monday PM: 10x100 Kick (130) Best Average, some pulling, and an aerobic threshold set.
Tuesday PM: 6 rounds of {100 Free (120) + 75 BBF (110) + 50 Free (1) + 3x25 easy (45)} ...with the 100s descended 1-3 and Negative Split.
Wednesday AM: more resistance training followed by some short FINS work with Fly.

Now....for Wednesday afternoon

3x300: Free IM (410) + Kick-Drill (5) + Pull (4)
3x200: Free IM (250) + Kick-Drill (320) + Pull (240)
3x100: Free IM (125) + Kick-Drill (140) + Pull (120)

16x25 (30) Free, Fly Drill, Free, Fly Swim Fast with perfectly timed finish

3x300 (4) Free with short fins ....HR at 25-26

Main Series:

8 rounds of.....

100 (120) {50 Free Kick + 50 Free Swim}
50 (1)       {25 Fly Kick on Front with small scull + 25 Fly Drill 2R 2L 3Full}
50 (1)       {50 Fly Swim descend 1-4 x2}

(The interval should be fairly short on the 100s, then easier on the 50s.  ALL repeats should be strong -- not just the 50 Fly, but the 50 Fly should be a bit stronger in terms of intensity than the rest of the set).

200 easy

8x50 (1)   {Short FINS Breast Pull -- one kick per pull -- Fast}

200 easy

It would be awesome if other coaches/athletes did the workout and posted times and comments!

Of note, to clarify some things: Erika trains by herself multiple times per week...and this one of those days.  My Senior athletes (18 and under) do similar type of training -- particularly the girls -- although for many of them their total volume is a bit more.   The practices are longer, and the main sets are longer. My distance boys (which is most of my youngers guys) don't do this type of thing too often...they are going much more 30-40 minute threshold sets and longer active rest sets.   

Monday, 17 September 2012

Remember......to get FAST:
You HAVE to work on your STROKE TECHNIQUE everyday!
You HAVE to TRAIN HARD everyday!
You Have to GET STRONGER in & out of the pool, multiple times per week!
You Have to FUEL YOURSELF and GET ENOUGH REST, as a way of life!
By accomplishing ONE of these things, we may create mediocre athletes within ourselves & our teams.
By accomplishing TWO of these things, we may create REGIONAL level success for ourselves & our teams.
By accomplishing THREE of these things, we may create STATE level success for oursleves & our teams.
By accomplishing ALL FOUR of these things, we may approach NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL success for ourselves & our teams.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sometimes, Athletes Just Gotta Keep Plugging....

I've got a few younger guys at T2 Aquatics who have some good potential, performance-wise, in swimming.  Some of them are highly ranked (Top 20 per age group in the U.S.) -- and many of them are not....but my mindset remains the same: we can become great through hard work and dedication.

It helps to realize that not all U.S. National Team members were amazing age groupers.  With this realization, we can better see how a guy who is ranked 100th in his age group might eventually get to the top level of our sport.  It takes time to go along with dedication and the ability to stick to it.

To see what I'm talking about, check out U.S. Olympian Scott Weltz's progress, which I dug up looking at the U.S. Swimming "Times" page.  We all know Scott came "out of nowhere" to make the team this year.  But did he really come out of nowhere?  Scott was a pretty good swimmer....in the Freestyle and IMs as an age grouper and college swimmer.  A decent breaststroker, but not amazing.  Look at his ups and downs (am I missing something here?....maybe some of his meets weren't recorded....maybe he was injured -- full disclosure: I am only as knowledgable as the US Swimming website allows me to be in this case). 

But for sure, this progression is a lesson to all athletes, coaches, and parents: improvement is not linear in many cases, and Scott's ability to deal with the ups and downs of swimming improvement -- from an outsider looking in -- is a huge reason why he was able to find the big swim when it counted, and put himself on the US Olympic Team.  Congrats to Scott and his Coaches on his impressive performance!

Here's the progression from the US Swimming website:

                                       100 SCY Breast     200 SCY Breast     100 LCM Breast    200 LCM Breast    …other

2002       14/15                     1:03.9                    2:15.5                    1:08.4                    2:29.4

2003       15/16                     59.7                        2:18.1                    1:07.4                    2:24.5

2004       16/17                     1:01.4                    2:15.5                    1:08.3                    2:24.3

2005       17/18                     1:01.6                    2:14.6                    1:11.6                    2:24.0                    45.9 1Fr

2006       18/19                         x                                   x                     1:10.0                    2:28.5                    424 5Fr

2007       19/20                         x                                    x                         x                         2:23.7                    356 IM

2008       20/21                         x                            2:07.3                    1:09.9                  2:18.9                    207 LCIM

2009       21/22                     56.3                        1:54.9                    1:03.4                    2:17.6                    201 LCIM

2010       22/23                     53.7                        1:56.1                          x                              x                       145 SCIM

2011       23/24                     55.1                        2:00.5                    1:02.2                    2:14.4

2012       24/25                     54.4                        1:59.1                    1:00.2                    2:08.9

{Congrats to Scott, and I'd be happy to clarify if this is not all correct -- please leave comments if you know more on this subject!}

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Pushup Help

Am I the only coach that has a problem with this pushup position?  It's not really a pushup unless an athlete can establish a plank position with their arms fully extended, and maintain a plank position all the way through the motion. At some point, a weaker athlete will break their plank on the way up or on the way down during the movement.  So how do we go about building the strength to actually DO a real pushup?  First, we have to work on planks (holding proper plank position while breathing calmly, for extended periods of time).  Once our athletes can hold a plank they can actually DO the pushup   within a few weeks if they use this simple progression -- which breaks the pushup into two simple parts. 

Here's the progression:  First, situate the athlete on the ground (fully touching the ground with their entire torso).  The athlete's palms should be placed under and slightly behind their shoulder.
This is an easy position to accomplish!

Next, ask the athlete to go directly from the first position into a plank.  The back should be flat, and the neck should be long and flat.  The athlete's eyes should look at the ground 6-12 inches in front of their hands.  Take care to allow the hips to rise simultaneously with the chest (the toughest part for many). Many athletes who are terrible at pushups can actually DO this "modified pushup".  So, my suggestion to them is to go through a "modified" pushup set, pausing on the ground as needed between reps (a full second is good enough for most although some may need a few seconds).  I'd prefer one second rest between repeats if it means the athlete will keep her back flat and connected through the entire motion.  Soon, a weak athlete will be able to do a few "real" pushups, and then it's just a matter of time and continuous focused work to get consistently good at sets of 10 or 15 at a time.

Why do we spend time allowing athletes to do terrible pushups?  Do we think that an athlete should struggle for a while, somehow gain strength through poorly-formed efforts, and eventually get strong enough to do a "real" pushup?  I am certain an athlete will be unsuccessful at forming a good pushup if all they do is perform unsuccessful pushups.  Let's consider ways to break the exercise into parts, so that eventually we can put good parts together, creating a strong full movement.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Swimming is a "body position" sport.  Without correct positioning in the water, we are going to be behind those who are valuing the body's best positioning within the water.  There have been many articles written and many clinics conducted about this subject -- and certainly if you get on youtube, you can see plenty of videos outlining "correct" and "incorrect" swimming body position.

I believe "Proper use of Vision" to be an important component to finding the proper bodyline in each stroke.  As coaches, if we can get an athlete to adjust the direction of their vision (actually where their eyes are looking), we can get them to change their body position in a positive way. 

Using vision properly is just one way of getting an athlete to perfect their body postion.  I have seen the use of video serve as a great teacher, as well as the use of peer examples, drawing the proper position on a white board for an athlete, working with an athlete on land to find the proper position...and I believe that each of these ways are valid and important keys to learning.  But as a coach, we must be able to use an array of tools -- to get through to different types of athletes who may learn and hear things in different ways.

The quick tool that I've found effective is simply asking an athlete to adjust where they are looking.  Here are a few examples:

1.  An athlete who is burying their head after taking a breath is oftentimes looking "at the bottom of the pool" like we teach them to do.  But where exactly are they looking?  The bottom of the pool is a big place!  Athletes who adjust where their eyes are pointing by a foot or two can create a different, and perhaps improved, bodyline.

2. An athlete who is lifting their head too much on Fly or Breast can adjust their bodyline by adjusting their vision.  I usually ask an athlete where they are looking, then make the adjustment.  I may ask them to look at the surface of the water, at a certain distance in front of them -- or I may ask them to look at the T on the wall, depending on the problem they are having.

3. An athlete who approaches a flipturn should look under the "T" on the wall, and deeper as they get closer to the wall.  I find that too many athletes focus on the "T", and as they get closer to the wall they lift their head.  Skillful use of vision (and optical muscles) prevents an "inline" athlete from getting out of line inside the flags.

These are just a few examples. I try to get the athletes to "use their eyes, not their head" when looking at a different place -- for a subtle change, as oppossed to a really big change.

Please use the comment section on this blog to identify areas that help your athletes with their body postion -- I'm sure all readers would like to know alternative ways to get our athletes faster!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012



I had the chance to coach many of T2 Aquatics' 8-12 year olds last week as I filled in for Coach Jon Caswell (congrats to Jon on his wedding!).  Every day I was reminded of the pieces which must be
placed properly into each athlete's repertoire!  It takes a LONG time to create high-level "pieces" --
parts, placed together properly, that make up a high-level athlete.

(See Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hour Rule Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XS5EsTc_-2Q).

It's important that each athlete in our training group gets some insight into how to build these pieces....but how can we ensure that they are all hearing the message?

The answer comes down to repetition.  We ask the athletes for repetition, but in order to commuicate well with each member of the training group coaches must repeat as well.  Think about it:
how often are we talking to part of our training group instead of all of our training group

Speaking to one athlete at a time is necessary -- in particular for the high-level athletes (they are ready for more skills, and in addition they will generally have more time on the wall).  But a quick reminder to push off the wall deeper, or to connect the pullout to the first stroke on breaststroke can be repeated pretty easily to each of our athletes 5 seconds before they leave the wall. In particular with our younger athletes (6 to 11 year olds) this reptition from a coach can be very effective in offering proper cues to an athlete as they approach a skill repetition.  

To offer this specific instruction to everyone, we may have to repeat ourselves 5 or 6 times per practice item, so each athlete hears the proper message -- and just as importantly, they hear it at the correct time.  We may end up saying the same thing, seemingly over and over, to get the point across to every athlete in our training group -- but the differences will be noticable at the next meet!


Thursday, 30 August 2012


What are our daily practice goals?  I belive we tend to think in one of three ways depending on the day and/or the time of season:

1. Building Aerobic Capabilities
2. Honing Race Pace (Time and Stroke)
3. Establishing New Habits of Technique

While each of these goals is a necessary component to high level performance, there is one ingredient that must be present for these goals to be reached: Concentration.

Often, simply valuing concentration as a coach can go a long way.  Here are a few ways we can "coach" concentration every day:

1. Replace our critique of effort with critique of concentration
Often, the concentration is what produces effort -- certainly, it's not the other way around.

2. Praise concentration towards a task over the actual result of the task. 
A concentration-oriented athlete will reproduce great effort more often than a result-oriented athlete.

3. Help an athlete understand that being a "good concentrater" is the reason for success.
Show (explain) concretely and immediately that concentration to a certain task was the difference between success and failure.

These points are especially tough to follow, because as coaches we tend to get excited about the concrete areas of our practices (times and 'clock improvement', yardage, big fast sets, achievement of a better stroke technique).  But the area that affects our performance the most is the athlete's ability to block out distraction and get the most from themselves!  If we talk about concentration, and value its power, we will get more concentration from our athletes.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Resistance Training and Phantom Walls

Check out part of Erika Erndl's resistance training routine on the following youtube clip: Resistance Swim into phantom wall turn to 15M

Check out this link to purchase a Parachute from FINIS: http://www.finisinc.com/swim-parachute-8-inch.html  Parachutes (pictured above) are a relatively cheap way to get in some effective resistance training.

Part One: Power Tower 25 with 30lbs in the tub.  Tempo at race tempo (or race tempo plus .1)
Part Two: easy back to the wall and rest :45
Part Three: "Phantom Wall" into fast turn plus breakout and 15 M fast, all done with 100M Freestyle breathing pattern.

Part one pushes the athlete to fire the musculature they will use in a race, at a stroke rate that is similar to race stroke rate.  Part two is the recovery within the excercise.  Part three pushes the athlete to fire the "racing" musculature during the "phantom wall", and then fire the "racing" musculature again, right away, during the kick off the turn.

This season, the overall rest will probably be cut in half and the weight will be taken to another level!

You may wonder about the 30lbs in the tub.  Erika could definetely pull more!  But we adhere to the 10% philosophy when we're doing resistance (and assistance) training.  The point is: To swim with "race stroke", the athlete must be no more than 10% slower, or faster, in terms of a) stroke rate, and 2) velocity (time).  Erika is actually to the point now where she has moved up from 30lbs, and we hope to go higher -- without sacrificing the stroke we'd like to train.

Check out Vern Gambetta's article "Speeding Up" where he writes about the "Rule of 10 percent".
http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/tc/tc1209/speedup.htm Mr. Gambetta writes:

"How heavy is too heavy? The 10-percent rule holds true. Generally, the resistance should not exceed 10 percent of the athlete’s bodyweight. A corollary to the 10-percent rule is that it should slow the athlete down no more than 10 percent of his or her best time for the distance he or she is towing. If the resistance is so heavy that it does not resemble the dynamics of sprinting, then there is a real chance that there will not be any benefit to performance on the track, field, or court."


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Check out proswimworkouts.com for T2 Aquatics workouts, and workouts from other participating coaches.  Submit your own workout here as well, and be part of the proswimworkouts.com family.  Here's a description of a backstroke workout I had my training group do earlier this week:


Saturday, 25 August 2012

Five Books off the Top of my Head

There are lots of great books out there for coaches.  Here are 5 of my favorites, in alphabetical order:

1. Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras.  Do you want to learn about how some great corporations built their culture?  Built to Last teaches "culture building" skills.

2. Champions - The Making of Olympic Swimmers by Daniel Chambliss.  The story of Mark Schubert and Mission Viejo Nadadores from 1982-1984.  An inspirational story about training for and competing in the Olympic Games.  Probably the best swimming book I've read.  (Good luck finding a copy....Amazon is probably the best bet).
3. The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey.  No tricks here, this is a book about tennis.  But the teaching tools you can glean from Timothy Gallwey is well worth the read.  Thanks to Larry Liebowitz for recommending this book, as well as book #5 to me.

4. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle.  This is must-read for all coaches and instructors, of any sport or pursuit.  It explains what "fertile ground" for greatness looks like.  You will change the way you teach, coach, or instruct after reading this research-based book.
 5. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.  Written from the point of view of a German professor, who visits Japan wishing to "learn about Zen".  He is guided to take up Archery, as a means of understanding Zen.  His trials -- both confounding and illuminating -- educate the reader as to the proper mindset for ultimate success.

Honorable Mention: Gates of Fire by Stephen Pressfield.  This is a great "battle" book written about the battle of Thermopylae (same basic plot as the movie "300").  It goes into great depth to describe the "Warrior Ethos" -- and what a man needs to be like to be a strong warrior.  I've read this book 3 times and given it away 3 times.  It's better than the movie "300"!

On my list "To read" is The Little Book of Talent  by Daniel Coyle and The 50 Meter Jungle by Sherm Chavoor!

Friday, 24 August 2012

Focus on Focus

As an athlete at NBAC, I learned the phrase "train the stroke". "Train the stroke" means that we have to do enough of one stroke at one time, within the same set, to actually improve the stroke.

Here's an example of something like what I was doing as a swimmer at NBAC in 1992:
300 Swim
300 Drill
300 Pull

12x50 (50) IM switching

8x150 (2) -- 50 Kick, 50 Drill, 50 Swim -- 2 of each

10x300 (4)
75 Free + 50 Breast Face Kick + 50 2Kick 1Pull + 50 Dolphin Pull + 75 Breast Swim
{sometimes we would take 10 seconds rest before the 75 swim and change the 300 to 4:10}

10x200 Free Pull (220) last one fast

300 easy

There are two main reasons the set of 10x300 is so good:

1) It's 40 minutes long, which offers enough time for athletes to get something out of it aerobically.

2) It enables the athlete to get into a rhythm with the stroke due to the overall length of the set and the amount of continuous breaststroke swum within each repeat.

The distance and length of repeats of this set can be modified for less-experienced athletes, but the idea of continuous swimming within one discipline should remain. The set should be balanced by different types of training sets for each particular stroke (I try to balance aerobic sets with faster-paced active rest sets, drill sets, and kick sets).

I'm going to try the above set with my athletes and see how well they can average while holding great stroke. Look for a post in a few weeks to see how it goes!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Cruise Paces

Keeping track of 16+ athletes in one training group is a big challenge for any coach.  It's important that we teach athletes to be self-sufficient and think for themselves during training, so that every instruction from the coach -- no matter how small -- is put to use by each athlete during the practice.  As athletes get older and more experienced, they should be able to go to meets and training camps without their coach, and still get the job done. 

During the fall of 2012, I plan to use this "Cruise Pace" chart with my athletes 1-3 times per week.  I hope that my athletes will take a guideline like this chart, understand it, and then use it to their advantage. Most likely I will use this chart for one major set, plus two secondary sets.  The "Cruise" paces were calculated, initially, based off what Coach Bob Treffene of Australia called "Critical Speed" pace; to get this pace for any athlete take their 200 PR, divide it, and add 4 seconds.  For T2 Aquatics' "Cruise Paces" we use this method as well (you can see that this method is what led us to our 100 "Cruise Pace").  We've taken it a step further and come up with paces for different distances (100, 125, 150, 200, and 300).  I've used my head and experience with certain athletes to determine the paces for anything above a 100.  It's not a perfect mathmatical formula (I rounded and estimated a bit to create this chart) - but I think the chart will serve its purpose.

I believe it's appropriate to find an athlete's pace between "race pace" and "maintainence pace" -- and train it with great stroke technique.  Generally with this sort of thing, the athlete's tempo (stroke rate) will be somewhat above what they will use when racing.  They will be going pretty fast, but not so fast that they would consider it a "Max" effort....and they should be able to repeat this fast but relaxed pace more than once in a row during practice.

I will use the chart in two ways.  First, as a set with speeds approaching race pace:

Example 1:
4 rounds: {3x100 Free (115) at "cruise pace" + 1x100 easy (130)}
Once the athlete hits the cruise pace they can simply hold it while working on little things like walls (no breathing in or out) or breathing patterns (every 5th) -- or really, any kind of "detail" work the coach finds appropriate.  This way, the athletes are performing at a strong but not overly-hard level, and the coach is watching them perform the swims with the best possible stroke technique.

Second, as a set with speeds in the "Threshold" pace area:

Example 2:
10x300 (330).  Hold Cruise 300 pace for 7 300s, then descend the final 3 of the set to cruise pace minus 4.  This method gives the athlete something to hold throughout the set that should be right in the "Threshold" area based off their 200 PR.  Adjustments can be made for athletes whose Threshold pace seems to be a bit faster or slower than the indicated time.

With large groups, I hope this "Cruise" sheet will give coaches some pace times which we can use to keep all of our athletes honest with their efforts.  It takes away the guessing game for submaximal training ("how fast should I go?"), and it will give the athletes a standard to which they can aspire during a given set.

*For anyone who would like a copy of this sheet, send me a comment with your email address -- and I'll send you a sheet over the weekend.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Check out T2 Aquatics' Head Age Group Coach Tom Yetter's blog.  It's full of tips and examples of some things we are doing with age groupers at T2 Aquatics.  http://gettingevenfaster.blogspot.com/#!/

How long does it take to gain skill?  The amount of time it takes is dependant upon the age of the athlete, and the type of skill being practiced. 

Here's a real basic guide to some age ranges, and how long athletes can focus on one particular skill without going crazy or making you (the coach) crazy:

8 and unders: 7-12 minutes
9-10: 10-15 minutes
11-14: 15-30 minutes
15 and up: 30 minutes+

These are rough estimates of course, but the point is that each group of athletes (in particular the young ones) have:

1) a time limit before they lose their focus, and
2) an amount of "skill practice" time that they require to actually acquire the practiced skill. 

If we instruct for too long on one particular skill, the athletes are going to get bored -- and oftentimes begin to practice the skill poorly.  But if we are too brief with our instruction the athletes won't get enough time to focus on skill acquisition.  Finding the right amount of "skill acquisition" time for each training group is a huge part of effective coaching!

Photo Credit: Connor Spielmaker 2011