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

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Masters Swimmers

I'm going to post a week worth of Masters Practices on the following site:


Check it out!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Training and Competiting with an Edge

For those of you who follow NFL Football, you have recently learned that the Cleveland Browns have traded their young Running Back Trent Richardson to the Indianapolis Colts, in exchange for the Colt's 1st round draft pick in 2014.

It's a bold move by both teams.  The Browns have essentially conceded their season two games in, and are starting to prepare for two high draft picks next year, while the Colts are obtaining a much-needed running back to go with their prodigious Quarterback, Andrew Luck.

It's curious to me what Trent Richardson has said in wake of this trade. Keep in mind that Trent has shown flashes of greatness, but overall has not been outstanding (albeit while playing for a sub-par team in the Browns).  Yesterday, after learning about the trade, Trent was quoted as saying:

“I’m going to get studying on my playbook and get ready to go against San Francisco,” he said. “When I do go in this weekend, I’ll be playing with a big chip on my shoulder. I play like that every week but this week I feel like I got a lot to prove to people.”

A big chip on his shoulder?  Now he's going to up his game?  To prove that he shouldn't have been traded?  I understand his statement, and I have no doubt that his effort will be higher than it has been.  And that is my point.  Where has this edge been for the last year, if it's true that NOW he is going to up his game?

Athletes with an "Edge" are the best athletes to have on your team, and they are the toughest to deal with in competition.  Sometimes it takes disappointment to find that edge.  The Michael Phleps', the Michael Jordan's, and the Tom Brady's of the world have that "Edge" every day of their lives.  They hate losing, and take it personal when they don't perform their best -- and they carry that disappointment through months and years of time.  They don't get disappointed for a day and carry it through the end of the week.  The get disappointed and carry it through redemption...however long it takes.


Recently, at the World Junior Championships I spoke with an athlete who had finished his last individual race.  He had hoped to win an individual medal, but fell short.  He had raced well and performed his lifetime best time, but of course he wanted to stand on the medal stand after the race.  Instead, he stood next to me.  I asked him what he had learned.

He said, "I know now that I have to work harder, and improve the little things in practice."  His expression told me that he knew his walls and his skills were not in line with his fitness -- and without the skill work he would continue to fall short.  He wasn't thinking about the race at all.  He did everything he had trained to do.  His expressions told me that he was thinking about his practices and all the hours of wasted effort training at 95%. 

Whether it's the skill part of the sport or the fitness part of the sport that needs to improve, you have to identify it and attack it.

I thought this swimmer's comment was right on.  And it's coming from one of the best 18 and under athletes in the history of the USA.  At 17 years old, he was learning young that you have to bring that edge to practice and competition every day, and practice being that edgy athlete all of the time -- or risk disappointment at the end of the season.  What he had done, to get to be the best 18 and under in the USA, simply wasn't good enough!


Thursday, 12 September 2013

Tempo Trainer Idea from Coach Adrian Dinis

My friend and colleague Adrian Dinis (Coach and Owner of Rattler Swim Club) has some ideas worth sharing; one of them -- posted a few months ago -- gets at the crux of the issue with many age group athletes: finding the correct dolphin kicking tempo.  If you like reading about new ideas for training and learning about some things you can do to improve an athlete's skill set, check out this post:  http://rattlerswimming.blogspot.com/2013/02/kick-workwith-tempo-trainers.html

I have not used the FINIS tempo trainer as often as I should, but after reading this post (while racking my brain for new ideas to get my athletes to kick better underwater dolphin kick) I may invest in a few for my athletes.  Here is a link to the trainers: http://www.finisinc.com/tempo-trainer-pro.html

Check out more of Coach Adrian's Blog Postings at "I Smell Like Chlorine" http://rattlerswimming.blogspot.com 


Pretty cool logo, eh?

Coming soon.....I have recently acquired a FINIS Monofin, and have been using it to help my athletes figure out a more effective way to dolphin kick.  So far, it's been great.  So, I plan to post a write-up on my athletes' Monofin use -- with a few videos to go along with it.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

T2 Aquatics USA National Team Members & a little bit about our Post Grad Mentality

Congratulations to T2 Aquatics athletes Erika Erndl and Justine Bowker, and Elizabeth Pelton (Cal Aquatics) on their official selection to the USA Swimming National "A" Team! Each year, USA Swimming selects the top 6 athletes in each event, based off results from National Championship meets and International Championship meets. T2 Aqautics is one of only 5 USS "Club" Swimming Teams to have qualified multiple current athletes to the 2013 USA National Team (the others include NBAC, SwimMac, NCAC, and Mission Viejo). 

At T2 Aquatics, we are really proud of these two Post-Graduate athletes.  Each of these women were strong NCAA swimmers (Erika graduated from North Carolina and Justine from The University of Michigan), and each has continued to improve over the last two years.

When I arrived in Naples, Florida in the late summer 2010, Team President Kevin Erndl and I set out to create a "Cultural" situation where we could build not only a great Club Swimming Team that does well with 18 and Under athletes, but one where Post Graduates could thrive in the pool and out of the pool.  My feeling is that we have been writing the first chapters of this book during the 2011, 2012, and 2013 season.  Our results have been good (not great), but my feeling in that we are simply taking the first of many steps.

Unfortunatly we have only a small Post Graduate Team right now, and because of our low numbers I have started the Fall of 2013 running some combined practices with Post Grads and High-School aged athletes.  I am anticipating an increase in Post Grads over the next few months, but until then we will work with who we have!  As we increase in numbers, we will increase the times we spend sectioning off Post-Graduate athletes. 

Just in case there are Post Grad athletes out there who are reading this (or college/International coaches looking to send their top athletes to a place where they can thrive personally and athletically), here is what we can offer you:

1 -- A Team Culture that is focused on winning Individual and Relay Medals at International meets (this is my background as a Coach and I will not waiver from my goals).
2 -- A beautiful setting.  I you haven't seen what Naples looks like, here ya go:
3 -- A pool that we have full control over  (we decide lane space and times).

4 -- A supportive community that tends to enjoy and benefit from hiring our athletes. 
5 -- Support of International athletes.  I don't care where you are from, as long as you are planning to compete on an International level.

Here is what we expect of our Post Graduates:

1 -- High Goals
2 -- Team-Oriented Attitude.  We want athletes who support our whole team, from the Post Graduate age group down to the 8 and under kids.  This support is shown through daily interaction and palpable attitude.
3 -- Flexibility & the ability to train with anyone at times, regardless of age.

Our team website is located here: http://www.t2aquatics.com/Home.jsp?team=flt2
My Coaching Bio, with email contact info, is here: http://www.t2aquatics.com/Contact.jsp?team=flt2

Thanks to all who have read this far.  My hope is continue to develop the younger atheltes in Naples, Florida, but I am always looking for an opportunity to work with the best athletes in the World, regardless of age!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Mindset of Pure Performance

Recently, I've been running anywhere from 15 to 30 miles per week.  I like to get out there 4-5 times per week and do either a long run (8-13 miles), a medium run (4.5 to 5 or so, faster), an active rest set (half mile fast plus one minute walk easy x6), or some fartlek (3-5 miles, half mile moderate, half mile fast).  Sometimes I do a circuit (a few exercises in the weight room, followed by a .62 mile (1/5 of a 5K, repeat 3-4 times).

What I do doesn't really matter, but I wanted to give a visual for what is happening.  I probably don't do enough circuit training and fartlek training, and my actual routine is about 75% straight running between 4 and 8 miles.  I have a Nike+ watch that calculates my current pace, average pace, total distance, etc.  Here's the watch, it's a great tool http://www.finishline.com/store/catalog/product.jsp?productId=prod710985&NIKE&mkwid=st49OTA1D&CMP=PPC-PLA-Accessories-++SportWatch+GPS+Running+Watch&cagpspn=pla&gclid=CN-P0NigjbkCFenm7AodK0MAMw

I've noticed a few interesting things.  The things I've noticed have helped me get a handle on my running training while simultaneously teaching me about my life. 

Like most runners, I get into a zone after 10-20 minutes, and my mind begins to wander into places that I don't normally venture into....I'm relaxed, and the things that are in the back of my mind come to the forefront. 

I've noticed the type of thought I'm thinking affects my pace directly.  Here are a few examples:

*When I think about my daughter, my wife and family, or my friends -- and the fun things we've been doing, I tend to have relaxed easy speed; conversely, if I'm thinking about a conflict I have had recently with someone in my life, my pace slips and as I notice my pace slip (thanks to my watch), I notice that my posture is sagging or my tempo has slowed.

*When I think about swimming practices or competitions my athletes have been having, in which they have performed well, I notice a relaxed stride and easy high tempo; while the opposite is also true -- poorly executed practices or races will slow me down by affecting my body position and stride rate.

*When I am anticipating great performances in practices or competitions, I feel my easy speed.  This morning, I found myself thinking about our upcoming Team USA trip to Dubai and I was considering what a particular athlete, who I don't know well but have seen race many times, could possibly do....and it was so exciting that I dropped 30 seconds from one mile to another -- and that was 5 miles into the run!

*Even when I am dealing with residual fatigue and I don't have a lot of pop, thinking about the positive aspects of accomplishing an increased workload will tend to give me an extra boost (and if I stop my thought at the simple self-statement: 'I am tired' -- then I run lazy and tired).

I've noticed these things, with consistency and regularity, over the last six months.  I have no doubt that my mentality towards my training can affect my daily outcome, every time.  I can't help but think about how this same mentality can positively affect my daily life -- and not just my run.  Running has taught me what I have always known, but have tended to forget from time to time.

Many people believe that things happen in life, and how we react to those things will determine our success and our happiness.  I don't believe this to be the case at all.

I believe that we create our life: how we feel, how we act, how we deal with tough circumstances -- it's all our creation.  We affect our outcomes, every minute of every day.  Our thoughts affect the actual outcome -- in our daily life just as it is when we exercise and compete.

Additionally, our thoughts create chemical reactions in our brain that allow us to feel good throughout the day.  

This outlook and this ability to "affect life" and not "be affected by life" does not mean that people who aspire to this lifestyle live in a land of make-believe where everyone is happy all of the time, and no one gets anxious and stressed out.

You have to think about it like playing offense vs. playing defense. Both offensive players and defensive players are playing the same game, but they are on different sides of the ball; and it's only the offensive player that can score points and actually win the game.  Looking at your life from one side of the ball is quite a bit differnt from looking at it from the other side.

I believe that it is possible to take our 24 hours of the day and, through controlling our thoughts, begin to spend more time in a positive, confident state of mind and less time in a negative, anxious state of mind.  Once we start to tip the scale toward the positive, it builds....and that is when things get fun! 

So athletes, get yourself into a competitive situation -- whether it be pratice or competition, and find something that fires you up.  Get into that zone, and stay there.  If a negative or non-motivational issue comes up, toss it to the side.  Eliminate it. Bye bye. Stay on task.  Smile.  Expect great things.  Be confident by remembering your best performances.  Be optimistic that your best is yet to come.  And let these thoughts flow through you.  Greatness will appear!!


Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Measuring Success (Correctly) in Swimming

Measuring Success (Correctly) in Swimming


In the sport of Swimming, athletes, parents, and coaches seem to have an obsession with “dropping time”.  This obsession can be healthy when approached with perspective and maturity; but oftentimes our obsession with “dropping time” is not only unhealthy – but inaccurate when assessing forward-moving or stagnant performance.

As a disclaimer: I realize that one of the beautiful things about swimming is that the stopwatch can tell us exactly what is going on.  Things seem black and white with swimming like they seem to be with Track and Field, which are much different sports when compared to football, basketball, or soccer.  Many people are drawn to the sport of swimming because it seems relatively easy to see where you stand and where you rank.  But here’s the problem: the human organism is ever-changing, and to measure its changes from a black and white perspective simply doesn’t make sense.  Swimming isn’t really black and white; it just seems to be.  Oftentimes, we don’t account for growth, or lack of growth.  We may not account for how that growth affects stroke technique.  We may not account for the learning of a better racing strategy – or simply trying a new strategy that is less effective than a previous strategy.  Our sport is not as black and white as we may think it is when looked at from these perspectives!

Take a look at the numbers below.  I’ve looked at the USA Swimming database to determine the 1st, 10th, and 50th ranked times for single age groups (I used men age 14 through 16, and women age 13 through 15 -- from 2011 through 2013).  I looked at the difference between the Top Ranked time at age 14 (for men) and 13 (for women), and calculated the amount of time dropped over the next two years (for age 15 and 16 for men, and age 14 and 15 for women).  I did the same thing for the 10th fastest time each year, and the 50th fastest time for each year, as well as for each gender.  I averaged the time drops for the #1 ranking, the #10 ranking, and the #50 ranking to get the “Average Time Drop” for the particular age and event.

The facts show the following:

A.       Over the 200M distance, Men drop an average of 4.4 seconds per year from age 14 to age 15, and an average of 2.4 seconds per year from age 15 to age 16.

B.       Over the 200M distance, Women drop an average of 5.0 seconds per year from age 13 to age 14, and an average of 1.9 seconds per year from age 14 to age 15.


Here are the raw numbers:


200 Freestyle -- Men         

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time               #50 US Time          Average Time Drop/year

2011 (14)              1:56.2                                    1:59.3                             2:01.6                   

2012 (15)              1:52.2                                    1:54.9                             1:58.1                    4.3 seconds

2013 (16)              1:48.6                                    1:53.8                            1:55.9                    2.3 seconds


200 Backstroke – Men

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                 #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (14)              2:08.1                                    2:11.9                              2:16.2                   

2012 (15)              2:02.9                                    2:07.8                              2:10.9                    4.8 seconds

2013 (16)              2:03.5                                    2:06.1                              2:09.5                    0.8 seconds


200 Breaststroke – Men

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (14)              2:21.2                                    2:28.0                             2:35.2

2012 (15)              2:19.5                                    2:23.5                             2:28.5                    4.7 seconds

2013 (16)              2:15.8                                    2:20.3                             2:25.9                    3.6 seconds


200 Butterfly – Men

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                 #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (14)              2:04.1                                    2:09.9                              2:15.7                   

2012 (15)              2:00.9                                    2:06.8                              2:10.4                    3.8 seconds

2013 (16)              1:56.5                                    2:04.4                              2:08.4                    2.9 seconds

200 Freestlye --Women    

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                 #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (13)              2:05.0                                    2:08.2                             2:11.0                   

2012 (14)              2:00.0                                    2:04.0                             2:07.2                    4.3 seconds

2013 (15)              1:59.3                                    2:03.1                             2:06.1                    0.9 seconds


200 Backstroke – Women

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time               #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (13)              2:19.8                                    2:21.8                            2:27.2                   

2012 (14)              2:14.2                                    2:17.7                            2:23.0                    4.6 seconds

2013 (15)              2:10.3                                    2:16.6                            2:20.7                    2.8 seconds


200 Breaststroke – Women

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (13)              2:37.1                                    2:41.1                              2:49.5                   

2012 (14)              2:26.3                                    2:37.7                              2:44.3                    7.0 seconds

2013 (15)              2:31.0                                    2:36.2                              2:42.7                    2.6 seconds


200 Butterfly – Women

Year (Age)             #1 US Time                            #10 US Time                #50 US Time          Average Time Drop

2011 (13)              2:15.2                                    2:22.2                             2:27.5

2012 (14)              2:11.1                                    2:18.0                             2:23.2                    4.2 seconds

2013 (15)              2:10.3                                    2:17.5                             2:21.6                    1.3 seconds


It’s easy to draw a few conclusions with these facts:

A.       If you are not dropping 4-5 seconds off of your 200, during the critical years (14-15 for men and 13-14 for women), then you are simply not keeping up with your competitors throughout the US.  Many athletes, parents, and coaches will be very excited to see a 3 second time drop in an event, from year to year; but between these years, a 3 second time drop means that the athlete is simply not holding their US ranking.

B.       If you are not dropping about 2 seconds the following year (15-16 for men and 14-15 for women), then you are not keeping up.  The same idea applies, but here the challenge is to keep our stagnant swimmers into the sport and looking forward with optimism.  To have a smaller time drop during this time of their career is normal; and certainly we would like to see a bigger drop, but this is when “relative plateaus” may occur.  These athletes need to keep plugging.

C.       Men, when compared to women, drop less time ‘early’ and more time ‘late’; whereas women drop more time ‘early’ and less time ‘late’.  The implications for this are vast, particularly on the women’s side: women who are dropping the big time ‘early’ need to realize that it’s normal to see their time drops level off a bit (they still may be gaining on their competitors if they drop 3.8 seconds from 13 to 14, and only 2.5 from 14 to 15); but on the other side of the thought process, both the women and men should realize that at the age of 15 or 16 many of their peers are not improving at the same rate that they did when they were 14 or 15 – which leaves an open door for a committed, focused young athlete.  Certainly the top athletes in the US keep the ‘pedal down to the floor’ from age 15 through age 18 – and they do so with better efficiency than their peers.


There is a lot to this type of comparison, and certainly I’m aware that it is small sample size. I don’t see this type of comparison as a way to determine what types of athlete will make the 2016 Olympic Team – it’s more of a comment on 18 and under athletes in the US, and how we can accurately assess performance.

We need to be careful when assessing performance, because swimming is not the black and white sport many of us are guilty of believing it to be.

See my post on FloridaSwimNetwork.com:

Monday, 12 August 2013

ISCA Conference August 28-30, 2013

ISCA has released their adenda for their coach's clinic coming up in Clearwater, Florida (August 28-30).  Lots of great talks coming your way.  Check out the line-up: http://www.nasaswim.com/clinic.pdf

More about the pricing: http://swimisca.com/event/4th-annual-hall-of-fame-coaches-clinic/  I'm pretty sure that if you sign up for a year membership between now and the date of the clinic, the ISCA administration will take $75 off your Clinic fee.

I am going to be out of town that week, so unfortunatley I won't be able to attend.  Hopefully next year I can make it. 

The big difference, from what I hear, with this type of conference -- is the interaction and synergies created by the speakers and the coaches in attendance.  There is a large percentage of the talks that are more like "public forums" and less of what most coaches are used to: getting talked to for 50 minutes, with 10 minutes of questions.

I'd say it's worth checking out. 

Monday, 29 July 2013

ISCA -- International Swim Coaches Association

I had the pleasure of speaking with Clearwater Aquatic Team and Hall of Fame Coach Randy Reese last week at the Orlando Sectionals Meet.  We talked at length about our sport, and what the future may hold for athletes and coaches.  We both agree that on many fronts the future of our coaching profession can be (and should be) better than its past; and as part of this assessment we have to realize it is up to us -- as coaches -- to create our community the way we'd like it to be.

Here are a few ideas we spoke about:

1.       Coaches and Teams should be able to create a more viable financial situation for ourselves by having more control over the meets we run.  In some ways, we simply need to be creative within the current “rules” of USA Swimming and our LSCs; and in other ways we need to take initiative to challenge the status quo, and change things into what we’d like to see. 

2.       Coaches tend to have a hard time building pools, which is the number one source of revenue for our teams.  Where does one start?  What is entailed?  It’s a huge job.  But with new pools, we can hire coaches and attract swimmers – and expand our programs. 

3.       Health insurance for coaches and coach’s families is important to have, but many teams do not offer comprehensive health insurance packages to their coaching families.  There are many reasons for this, and they all make sense, but it doesn’t change the fact that we must go outside of our teams for health insurance.  How many coaches do you know do not currently have health insurance?   More coaches need to make health insurance a priority.
All of this leads me to the point of this blog post:  Every coach who has not checked out the International Swim Coaches Association should really make it a priority to do so.  Randy Reese heads the Executive Committee.  

The ISCA costs $75 per year to join.  Here is the website link: http://swimisca.com/

Here is part of what you get:

1.       $75 off the cost of ISCA’s 4th annual Coaches Convention in Late August, held in Clearwater Florida.  Here is a membership link: http://swimisca.com/product/coaches-subscription/

2.       Member-exclusive pool pricing.  Do you want to build a 25M x 25Y pool?  Here’s how you can do it for $372,000.  Don’t think that’s cheap?  Ask around.  Randy is building one himself right now, and my team is looking forward to using it when we attend his CAT meet in December.  Here’s the link to learn more about what ISCA can offer you in terms of help building a pool: http://swimisca.com/build-a-pool-exclusive-pricing/

3.       Member-exclusive insurance coverage.  Get an insurance quote right now by following this link: http://swimisca.com/members/insurance/

4.       Much more….check the top link.

There are many perks of memberships, which you can read more about by clicking through the website.  I am not currently a member (although I probably will be soon), and I have nothing to gain by posting this except to let everyone know about ISCA, which seems to be doing some great things for coaches. 
At the price of $75 per year, this should be a no-brainer for coaches around the world!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Coach Bud McAllister & Thoughts on a Certain Set Style

If you don't know much about Coach Bud McAllister, here's a bio from his ASCA Hall of Fame induction (2007): http://www.swimmingcoach.org/hof/coaches/mcallisterbudinfo.html .  Since 2007, he has spent time coaching in Canada and Great Britain -- and is currently coaching British Distance Phenom Jazz Carlin, who has been 8:18/15:47/4:04 in the 800/1500/400 Freestyles so far this year.
Coach McAllister is best know as Janet Evans' coach through the Olympics in 1988 when she won Gold in the 800 and 400 Freestyle.
I referenced Coach McAllister in my blog earlier this week, found here: http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/07/more-on-volume-velocity-and-rhythm.html
I'll briefly restate that as a young athlete I was privy to the types of sets Coach McAllister was doing with Janet Evans because my coach Murray Stephens told his NBAC swimmers from the early 90s all about Janet's training, and as far as he knew about what Coach McAllister was asking for. That knowledge spread through NBAC, and certainly through me as I eventually became an NBAC coach in 2001.  My athletes have always done Coach McAllister's style of sets, as I did back in the 90s. 
Here is a description of a certain type of work Coach McAllister put out there in the late 80s, which I still use often in 2013.  Following is my take on what is going on within the set.  I have never spoken to Coach McAllister about these sets, so my take is simply my viewpoint -- and I only surmise that I'm correct about what sort of idea he was after.
Take this SCY set, for example:

1x150 Free (150) + 3x150 Free (135)
2x150 Free (145) + 2x150 Free (130)
3x150 Free (140) + 1x150 Free (125)
I used to do this one a lot as an athlete, and we did the same thing for 200s, 300s, 400s, and 100s – pretty much every week it seemed like, in the early 90s. We would flip it around and go 3-1, 2-2, 1-3 sometimes as well.
It's important to get the concept of the set, which is this: the left side is more moderate than the right side (which is the faster part), but as you go through the set, the interval on the moderate side descends, AND you've got to do more moderate at one time, on a faster moderate interval. So you can't just do something fast, and then fall apart like many of our athletes like to do. The additional moderate swimming, even though it's on a tougher interval, provides added active recovery throughout the set.  But it's the kind of recovery that forces the athlete to swim with their best stroke.  The stroke technique must remain consistently strong on the moderate part, and because the pace never strays too far from racing pace the stroke technique will never stray too far from the athlete's racing stroke.

This morning I had one of my distance guys do a prep set for Zones next week, and we used this style of set. 

It was 12x100 LCM, and it went like this:
1x100 (1:35) – @106                   + 3x100 (1:20) – @104/103/103
2x100 (1:30) – @107/106           + 2x100 (1:15) – @102/102
3x100 (1:25) – @108/107/106    + 1x100 (1:10) – @101

The athlete has to pick it up doing a portion of the set, then ease it back down for the next portion – but in part due to the intervals (which get quicker), the athlete can’t go into “slop mode”.   After the moderate “honest” portion in the middle of the set (the first set of 2x100), the athlete must then swim a strong set of 2 on the fastest interval of the set – which leads into the set of 3x100 on 1:25, which are moderate, but ideally they are the same pace as the other moderate 100s at the beginning of the set.  My athlete did this pretty well.  I'd have preferred he didn't go up to 108 on the first of 3x100 (1:25), but other than that I thought it was pretty good for a 4:07/8:29/16:27 guy.

If an athlete does the set correctly, they are using three different gears.  One gear is the “moderate” part (the left side); the next gear is the beginning of the right side (the set of 3, and maybe the first repeat of the pair); and the final gear is the last one, and maybe the second one of the pair.

If this set were done six weeks ago, the intervals would be (:05) faster than they are here.  But my athlete is swimming a “Zone” meet in a few days so I wanted to make sure he was successful and didn’t get into struggle mode.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

More on Volume, Velocity, and Rhythm

I recently reposted a blog I had originally posted on my “older” blog site: developingthechampionwithin.blogspot.com .  The blogpost can be found below this one, or here:  http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/07/volume-velocity-and-rhythm.html

I have received a few questions about how we actually achieve this at T2 Aquatics.  What does this sort of training entail? 
I feel like I could write on this subject for pages on end, and still only crack the surface of conversation.  

So, to pick up where I left off: what goes into this type of training for my athletes at T2 Aquatics? 
Well, first: we have a weekly plan.  I read something on swimswam.com a few weeks ago about a young distance swimmer named Jazz Carlin that Bud McAllister is training in Great Britain right now….and she is doing times that are comparable to what Janet Evans was doing in 1987-1988 when Janet Evans was training with Bud McAllister (which by the way are still great times in 2013).  Wouldn’t you know that Coach McAllister is doing the same sort of thing with this young athlete that he did with Janet, and combining those ideas with the ideas (weekly planning) that Coach Bowman has been using with Michael Phelps, Allison Schmidt, Connor Dwyer, and Chase Kalisz? (Coach McAllister's assessment, not mine).  I loved reading the article, because it was pretty in depth.  After reading it I laughed and thought, “That’s basically what we do at T2 as well”.  Funny thing, Murray Stephens -- my coach when I was in High School -- used to give us Bud McAllister sets all the time.  He would tell us all about Coach McAllister's ideas and Janet, and what Janet was doing.   Murray had us do the same sets Janet did from 1990-1994  (in between 3300 TT Backstrokes -- Thanks John Collins).  

I can't say for sure, because I haven't talked with him specifically about it, but I imagine there were some things Coach Bowman used as well -- because although Coach Bowman changed NBAC's training style significantly from 1998-2003, in my view there were certainly some things he and I  and the other NBAC coaches all considered to be "NBAC" -- style sets and ideas, which came from the beginning of NBAC's history and well before any of us were coaching at NBAC.  Coach McAllister's sets found their way into the fold -- and it's it's obvious to me know after reading this article that things do come full circle -- at lease in the sense that my T2 Aquatics athletes do the same type of thing! Certainly Kaite Hoff did the same things, and when she did it meant that the two fastest 400M Freestylers in USA History (at the time, in 2008) had been doing the same sort of workouts, 20 years apart from each other.   This is why thinking "Outside the Box" makes me roll my eyes....and thinking "Inside the Box" feels oh so right.  Great training is very simple, straight forward stuff that allows the athletes to perform within the set, and doesn't let the athlete take a break during the work (even though the effort  and speed requirements may fluctuate during the set).  Check out the article on Coach McAllister here: http://swimswam.com/mcallisters-insights-on-jazz-carlins-trainings/

I plan to post on one of my favorite Bud McAllister sets later this week on this blog!  Look for it if you'd like.

Now, there’s a lot more that goes into it than "what type of set you are doing"….training is not just “sets” and, going into more depth, “putting the sets together to form a week, month, season, year, or quad”.  There’s the mental side, which is immeasurably huge.  There’s strength.  There’s technique.  There’s Hidden Training.  There’s picking the right events, and the correct meets in which to do those events.  But if you don’t train right – and by training right I mean that you have to find that middle ground of threshold-speed-pace-stroke rate-technique-kicking-pulling-and consistency – then you are not going to get to the medal stand at an International meet.  Finding the middle ground helps you build a ryhthmic racing stroke instead of a thrashing stroke that is hard to hold together.  Too much volume training, and you can hold your stroke together, but it's not compartively fast; likewise, too much velocity training, and you can go fast, but you can't hold your stroke for longer than 60% of the race. 

And when you figure out that everyone is different and some people need the training shaded a little more toward threshold and some people need it shaded a little more toward pace work, and some people need more strength, etc – then the possibilities with what you can do open up.  This is the art of coaching.
Second, at T2 Aquatics we do some stroke count stuff every week, and we mix it with pace training without stroke counts.  At times during the season, we swim slightly above pace with stroke counts slightly under racing counts every other day.  I’ve heard athletes from other teams comment to my athletes that they have never heard of such a thing, and I think it’s a real shame.   Many programs simply do not care about the athlete’s stroke count, and if they do not care about stroke counts what they are really saying is that they do not care about stroke rate.  And if they don’t care about stroke rate, they are missing a huge part of high end training for their athletes.  It’s that simple.  You have to take stroke rates and know what you are looking for.  What do the best athletes do?  Check out this awesome power point by USA Swimming:  http://www.usaswimming.org/_Rainbow/Documents/e2fa7ee0-eee6-4c63-984a-05d267cf7389/Race%20Stats%20-%20ONLINE%20CLINIC%20July%2014%202010.pdf
If you don't traing stroke rates, you are going to be just fine up through the entry level at Junior Nationals, but good luck competiting at the higher-level International meets.  You simply need that precise level of skill.

Third, at T2 Aquatics we don’t put a lot of value on top speed in practice. 
Admittedly, I used to value the top speed stuff a lot.  Probably around 2006 I changed my view, and one of my athletes (Katie Hoff) set her first World Record in 2007.  Maybe I did it right – I asked her to swim very fast in practice almost every day of the year for three years, and then backed off that goal and asked her to do more threshold-oriented practices from 2006-2008.  She had some pretty serious “pace” capability in 2006, which she took to her threshold training over the next few years.  Had I started her in 2003 with a heavy dose of threshold, maybe she never would have developed the type of speed needed to go 1:55 in the 200 Free or 4:02 in the 400 Free.  Because she could do 15x200 on (2:30) in 2006 and go every third fast at 1:51-1:48-1:48-1:47-1:46….all negative split, when she went to threshold sets like 10x200 with the last 5 on (2:10) she could hold 1:52 without killing herself to do it.  This is how she was able to go 9:10 in the 1000 SCY.  Would the reverse had worked (threshold first, then speed/pace work)?  Maybe it would have, maybe not.  Perhaps for some athletes it would have, and for some it would not have worked.

So now (really, since 2006), I have tempered the speed/pace training and try to mix it well with the threshold training.  I have learned a lot and really it took me trial and error through my 20s and early 30s to come up with some sort of idea about what to do.   I still ask my athletes to do some top speed training (matching a certain pace needed for racing with a certain stroke rate (or stroke count) needed for racing) -- and I ask this of them for many different distances -- we just vary the type of speed we are asking for, and we find value in training a little bit over the pace with a stroke rate that is a little bit lower than the racing stroke rate. 

What I do now will be revamped at some point – because I will learn in 8 years how I really need to change x, y, and z to be successul as we approach 2024.  I am constantly watching my athletes and thinking about all of things we can and will do better.
To close....
At T2 Aquatics everyone does some fast stuff when they are young, and they do it with low stroke counts relative to their races.  And everyone learns how to swim well technically.  We work on the younger athlete's technique, starts, and turns.  We train at threshold too, don't get me wrong, but we swim fast and we swim with the type of stroke we'd like to use when we race. Then we put more and more threshold on top, while maintaining pace work and improving technique and skill.   Not all of what we do is pace (it just kills the kids to race so much high lactate stuff in practice) – and not all is threshold (who can do this 5x per week unless we’re talking about a 1500 guy?).  I consider the perfect mix at all times.

I see so many athletes who are limited by the time they are 16-17 because although they can swim forever they just don’t have enough easy speed to win at the highest level.  Not “crank it up and hold it speed "– I’m talking about relaxed, easy speed that comes from stroke count training and pace training mixed with threshold training).  Look at Conner Jaeger, and think about the amount of 1500’s he has done in his life.  Refer to this blog post to read more about how I feel about this: http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/06/thoughts-on-distance-racing-for-younger.html

I’d be happy to address more specific questions if anyone would like to shoot’em at me in the comment section.  As a special gift for anyone who has read this far, here is the most important piece of non-swimming, training-specific literature I've come across in the last 10 years.  It's a gem: http://www.swiss-hurdling.ch/upload/dokumente/c_hart.pdf ....and it may explain this stuff a little bit more.  Running is a lot different than swimming (higher heart rate, more pounding, different seasons)....but when you consider the 100M Swimming and look at the similarity in events duration when compared to a 400M running race, there are some things that are tough to ignore.  And it's hard to ignore a coach who coached the 400M Gold Medalist in the same event for three straight Olympics. 

 Thanks for reading!