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

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.