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

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!

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Volume, Velocity, and Rhythm

This post is a re-issue from an my blog developingthechampionwithin.blogspot.com
It covers some key training ideas that I employ with my athletes:

Volume, Velocity, and Rhythm

If you follow the “Swim Media” like I do you’ve noticed that one topic never seems to go out of style – the topic of VOLUME TRAINING vs. VELOCITY TRAINING. For those who are unfamiliar with this debate, it goes like this: in one camp there are the proponents of VOLUME TRAINING, who believe that larger volumes of training are of irreplaceable value to the athlete. The VOLUME TRAINING athlete spends a large amount of time training, and when they train they swim a relatively high volume of yardage per each hour in the pool. In the other camp there are proponents of VELOCITY TRAINING, who believe that higher velocities of actual swimming have irreplaceable value to the swimmer. The VELOCITY TRAINING athlete spends a large percentage of their training time swimming at race speed, with racing stroke rate or faster-than-racing stroke rate, and as a result they swim a relatively low volume of yardage per each hour in the pool.

This debate amazes me because it’s withstood the test of time, and to this day no one has won! And the reason no one has won the argument is because the “answer” is not found in either extreme.

I don’t hear as much debate regarding the teams who train with neither volume nor velocity as their main emphasis. The reason I don’t hear as much about these teams is twofold:

First, I don’t hear as much about it because when speaking of volume and of velocity, we are speaking of two seemingly opposite philosophies – and so as the discussion turns toward a type of training that has no logically-apparent opposite, it’s hard to find (and argue) an opposing viewpoint.

Second, I don’t hear as much about it because the concept of both “volume” and “velocity” has to do with two of swimming training’s most-measured features: volume, and velocity. We tend to value (and discuss) that which we can measure.

The interesting thing to me regarding this argument is this: neither volume nor velocity has anything to do with winning a competition! No one wins by swimming the furthest, and no one wins by swimming the fastest. An athlete wins by slowing down the least over the given volume of the race!

Because of this fact, I believe that proper training must incorporate rhythm and stroke development. I’m not talking about 25s learning technique or video-taping swimmers and graphing their hand placement (both of which do have a certain value, I’ll admit). I’m talking about training the stroke to handle the stress of the race, so that the athlete can maintain their VELOCITY through the entire VOLUME of the race.

My belief is that the athletes who train at either extreme can be good, but not great.  There are so many 8:30-8:45 Female 800 Freestlyers out there...but not as many sub 8:20.  What do the 8:19 or faster women do that the 8:35 women don't?  I believe the talent level is in many cases the same!  Likewise, there are plenty of 15:38-15:59 1500 swimmers out there in the 18 and under age group....but not too many sub 15:30 guys.  What are the guys who go sub 15:30 in High School doing differently than the guys who are going 15:50?  I feel like the talent level is the same! 

And why do teams continually produce athletes who go basically the same time in certain events?  If you don't think training matters, think again.  While one program may be good at developing the entry level National qualifier, others are good at the next steps.  In my opinion, the athletes who can maintain a high velocity through the entire volume of the race are the athletes who are doing the fastest times -- at any age.

Perhaps at another time I’ll get into exactly what I like to do with athletes to help them achieve this goal. Much of what I apply with the athletes in training I’ve learned from some of the top coaches in the USA, who along with me and my former athletes have produced some of the fastest swimmers of all-time over the last three decades.    (And some of these coaches have been unjustly labeled as VOLUME coaches or VELOCITY coaches over time – by the media, other coaches, or the athletes themselves -- but they’d be the first to tell you that there is a lot more to their programs than one adjective over the other!)

I submit that interested coaches and athletes should consider: what does an athlete’s stroke look like when racing the final 50M of a 200M swim? What are the differences in the stroke technique of an athlete who is finishing the final 25M of a 100M swim VS the third 100M or a 400M swim? Certainly, the technique and rhythm used is specific to the swimmer as much as it is specific to the race. But as we place training emphasis on the VOLUME of an athlete’s training or the VELOCITY of an athlete’s training we tend to neglect putting the emphasis where it belongs: the specific stroke rhythm achieved in training that helps us form repeatable racing strokes, which can only be obtained through training rhythm, volume, and velocity simultaneously.

EDIT: for more on this topic, see "Part 2" here: http://createperformance.blogspot.com/2013/07/more-on-volume-velocity-and-rhythm.html

Thursday 11 July 2013

Masters Swimmers are allowed to compete at Masters Nationals -- even if they are FAST!

According to Swiminfo, Roland Schoeman and Clark Burckle are going to compete in the Masters National Championships in August....which is awesome. 

Of course somebody had to write into the comments section to let everyone know how unfair it is that International-Level swimmers are competiting at a Masters meet. 

What a joke.  I had to respond.  Here is the article, with the comment section below.  Feel free to chime in!


Tuesday 2 July 2013

Erndl and Bowker set 13 Master's National Age Group Records

Photo by Kevin Erndl, 2010.
Congrats to Erika Erndl and Justine Bowker on swimming fast last week -- between them they set a US Master's National Age Group Record in every event they raced!  They broke and re-broke 8 different records for a total of 13 record-setting swims last week at the US National Championships: