Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The following article is a compilation of thought and ideas gleaned from experiences and associations with many fine coaches over the course of my career.  I would like to thank Coach Dick Hannula for his influence in my career and life.  Most of the ideas contained in this article I have borrowed and learn from him.
Peak Performance to Transition Period Newsletter

Hidden Training

As we are 8 days out from the first individual events at Conference here are a few things I want to remind each of you about.  Hopefully, these things are not new ideas for you and so this will be a little reminder.  I call these things “hidden training”.  “Hidden Training” is those things that you must take care of and do.  No coach can do them for you, you must do them. The first aspects of hidden training I want to remind you about are the three R’s of Peak Performance.  The three R’s are Rest, Relaxation and Rehearsal. 

Rest.  As you have been gradually reducing the amount of your total yardage it is important that you get the appropriate amount rest so that your body can recover quickly and replenish its energy reserves. You should try to go to bed at an hour that will allow you to get a comfortable and restful nights sleep-preferably eight hours.  If you have time during the day find a quiet place and take a brief nap-“power nap”. I must caution you about excessive napping.  Taking a long nap can be detrimental to your normal nights rest so be careful.  Too much of a good thing can be bad.

Relaxation.  During the peak performance period you should begin to feel more energy.  This is both a good and bad thing.  For some it means more energy and thus more time to play. However, you should conserve your new found energy and do those things that are less strenuous, like read a book, play a board game, watch a DVD or go to a movie, attend the temple, instead of playing night games, basketball, tennis and so on.  Make time during the day to just sit back and relax.  Let your mind focus on your goals and what you want to achieve at Conference.  Just kick back and take life a little easier.

Rehearsal, the final “R”.  This means that you should take the time, perhaps during your relaxation to try and visualize how you want to swim your races.  I love the story of how Michael Phelps’s coach, Bob Bowman wrote down the splits Michael needed to do in the 400 IM in order to break the world record in Beijing.  Michael had the splits and he took the time to go over in his head BEFORE the race as to how he was going to do those splits.  We all know how it turned out.  He won the gold medal, breaking the world record and being right on every split and a little under one of them.  You too can do this.  Take some time to write down your goal splits and then close your eyes and go through your race seeing yourself do everything you must do in order to achieve your goals.  Rehearse and visualize your start, your first (and every) stroke, every turn, your kick and your finish.  See in yourself in your mind’s eye looking up at the scoreboard to see your time, and then your celebration at having hit your goal time.

Nutrition and hydration.  In this phase of the season it is very important that you maintain proper nutrition and fluid intake.  You need to make sure that the nutrients you take in are balanced and of a high quality.  If you have questions you can consult with the people in the Nutrition Center.  I would also recommend that you begin to carry some healthy snacks with you that can replace nutrients that you have lost during our practice sessions.  The sooner you can replace lost nutrients the better.  I would recommend chocolate milk after practice to go with some type of energy bar.  Your energy bar should have protein in it, as well as the carbohydrates.  Then when you get home eat a good meal that is balanced and will help you replenish and build energy stores.  Water is extremely important as it is at all times.  Make sure you are carrying a water bottle with you.  At the meet make sure you do these same things.  You want your body to always be ready to compete at the highest levels, and having the energy necessary is imperative to this preparation. 

As we get ready to compete your focus should be on doing everything just right.  As Bell stated in his quote above, “concentrate on the work at hand”.  This means that you need to put your energy into doing everything right.  No coach can focus for you; you have to be the one to place your focus on performing the right things all the time.  Many times competitors worry about winning and they fail to focus on the process.  The “process” is all those little things that become big things over the course of a race.  Things like head and body position, hip and shoulder rotation, early vertical forearm (in freestyle), building into each wall, knowing when to kick in the legs a little more, the turns with streamline and dolphin kick off walls, finishes-no breathing flags to walls.  These are all things that we have worked daily on over the course of the season and if you will focus on working the process you will be successful if that focus is maintained.  The process, when properly fulfilled will lead to achievement.  Stay focused on processes of the task which you undertake to perform and you be successful.

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.”  Coach Vince Lombardi 

Warming up and Cooling down-for top performances

As we get ready to compete next week these two topics need to be addressed.  The “pre-competition” warm-up is necessary for the following six reasons:

            1. To increase blood flow and temperature in tissues and muscles.
            2.  To help nerve impulses traveling more rapidly through tissues and muscles
            3.  To improve the rate of muscle contraction and reaction time
            4.  To prepare the muscles and joints to function through their full range of motion
            5.  To decrease stiffness and assist with injury prevention
            6.  Finally a well performed and completed warm-up may serve to give the athlete
                 an increased sense of confidence prior to the first event.                    

It is very important to understand that the warm-up must be event specific and prepare you for competition.  If there is a long period of time from your primary warm-up to your first event you should get in and do a short warm-up prior to competing.  The best case scenario is that you have as little time as possible prior to your event.  You want to compete when your tissues and muscles are at their optimum in warmth and readiness.  If you are not able to go fairly soon to the blocks it is wise to stretch between the secondary warm-up and the event.  Stretching before, after and during your warm-up routines may also be helpful if you are not able to get an appropriate warm-up.

A huge question that is often asked is how much warm-up does a person need to be ready for competition?  Most research indicates that the amount of warm-up, and even loosen down which an individual needs may be based on several factors.  One of these factors is the events that they compete, yet another is the body size and age.  While at the 2008 Olympic Trials I observed Dara Torres and other “elite” level athletes and what they did for warm-up and loosen down.  Dara Torres and Michael Phelps were highly disciplined in their pre-event and post-event swims.  Both did a lot of easy swimming and drilling before and after their events.  Dara Torres also added a massage and some yoga stretching in the middle of her warm-up and loosen down routines.  Both of these great swimmers also would go back in the pool if they didn’t feel right, or they wanted to focus on some part of their recovery process.  I also observed that swimmers like Cullen Jones and other sprinters took a long time to get warm-up and loosen down. 

After each race you should also loosen down.  Loosening down after and between events should be active recovery.  The purpose of active recovery is to get the body to begin the “filtering process”.  The filtering process helps the body to “filter” out waste byproducts from the body.  You can also help your body recover quickly by stretching, like Dara Torres and Michael Phelps do.  The amount of time you spend in warming up and loosening down will be reflected by your performances.  A general rule is that if you are an older athlete you need more than a younger athlete.  If you are a distance swimmer you typically need a little less than an athlete who is a sprinter.  Distance athletes need to do some builds and pace work, whereas those who swim shorter events need to do some push-bursts and dive bursts.  All swimmers need to do stroke work during their warm-up and even the loosen down. 

Finally it is important to re-hydrate and re-fuel after the warm-up and your event and then during the loosen down.  You do not need to eat a three course meal, but some type of high quality energy bar, or carbohydrate with water is always the best way to help maintain your energy levels and to be ready for your next event.  If you want to compete at a high level in multiple events over the course of a two, three, four or five day meet you must hydrate, fuel, and warm-up and loosen down properly to give your body the best possible chance to swim at high levels when needed.  Good luck as we finish our preparation for Conference and get ready to swim fast.

“How you run the race - your planning, preparation, practice, and performance - counts for everything. Winning or losing is a by-product, and after effect, of that effort.”  John Wooden

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

 “Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”
Zig Ziglar
The “Process”

The word process is listed in the dictionary as a noun, verb and sometimes an adjective.  The word itself is defined as:

            Proc-ess  1.  A systematic series of actions directed to some end: to devise a process                                              for homogenizing milk.
                             2. A continuous action, operation, or series of changes taking place in a definite                                    manner: the process of decay.

For the sake of our needs I want you to think of “process” as a noun.  So in this case I hope you will think of “the process” as a state or quality of action; a series of changes that take place in a definitive manner to achieve a given end result.  Consider the Apollo 13 accident on April 14, 1970.  Briefly, here is what happened to Apollo 13 and the three Astronauts, James A. Lovell, Commander, John L. Swigert, Jr., Command Module Pilot, Fred W. Haise, Jr., Lunar Module Pilot.

Approximately” 56 hours into the mission, at about 03:06 UT on 14 April 1970 (10:06 PM, April 13 EST), the power fans were turned on within the tank for the third "cryo-stir" of the mission, a procedure to stir the oxygen slush inside the tank which would tend to stratify. The exposed fan wires shorted and the teflon insulation caught fire in the pure oygen environment. This fire rapidly heated and increased the pressure of the oxygen inside the tank, and may have spread along the wires to the electrical conduit in the side of the tank, which weakened and ruptured under the pressure, causing the no. 2 oxygen tank to explode. This damaged the no. 1 tank and parts of the interior of the service module and blew off the bay no. 4 cover.”

If you remember the events as portrayed in the movie,  after this explosion on Apollo 13, the Odyssey was sent in to a wild ride that the three astronauts struggled to control in an effort to accomplish their mission of landing on the Moon and exploring the Fra Mauro highlands, surveying and sampling the Imbrium Basin.  Unfortunately for the three Astronauts their mission had to be altered as the explosion created a new set of circumstances.  The most important circumstance was to get the three men home safely without any loss of life.  The explosion created an entirely new focus for NASA and the three Astronauts.  The focus now became one of survival.

In an effort to get the Astronauts back to earth safely NASA engineers and the Astronauts had to work together to implement and follow the “process” in completing their new task.  On the ground NASA engineers were feverishly working on “processes” to bring the Odyssey under control so the Astronauts didn’t bounce off into space.  The NASA engineers were also working to provide the process by which life sustaining oxygen would continue to flow in the craft and CO2 would be reduced.  Still another process was to help the Astronauts have the needed electrical power to re-start the on board guidance computers, heating systems and activate the parachutes on re-entry to allow a safe landing in the Pacific. 

During an intense period of time the ground crews developed the processes that would get the Astronauts back home, while on the Odyssey the Astronauts were meticulously following, and implementing the processes so that they could return to earth. The Astronauts, using their training and skills followed every process as outlined by the NASA engineers so that they could return.  The end results were that the three men on board Apollo 13 did as directed and they returned safely home touching down in the Pacific several days after their initial take off. 

For you as swimmers the “processes” that you need to follow are all those things that will help you achieve your goals.  In freestyle the “process” would be:  1.  Head and body position, 2. Hip/Shoulder Rotation, 3.  Early vertical forearm (EVF), 4.  Breathing with the rotation, and 3.  Distance per stroke.  As for your races a sample “process” would be: 1.  1-4 above, 5.  Great start with tight streamline off of dive., 6.  Fast, tight tucked turns and streamlined push-offs with three fly kicks of all walls., 7.  Use of legs at the right time-“the build”., 8.  Breathing through your races-you need to be able to adjust this as the longer the race the more you need to breathe., 9.  No breathing on finishes-flags to wall., 10.  Building the tempo through your races and being stronger at the end-1-5-4-3-2 (avoid the spikes).  

It is hard to focus on these things all the time, BUT if you will use these things in practice sessions they will become easier in competition settings.  It takes effort and discipline on your part to do everything just right all the time.  Your body will always want to take the path of least resistance.  DO NOT LET IT! Instead of focusing on the pain of training or competing, focus on the process.  Remember the three Apollo 13 Astronauts in the movie?  In the movie Commander Jim Lovell asks his crew mates, “Gentlemen, what are your intentions?”  Then he pauses and responds, “I’d like to go home.”  The crew of Apollo 13 then went to work and focused not on their circumstances, but on the process of returning home.  They could have all rolled over and languished in self doubt and sorrow for their circumstances, but they didn’t.  They rolled up their sleeves and went to work doing what was necessary to achieve their goal.  You are in similar circumstances in training to swim fast.  It is hard and takes a great deal of focus on your part, but you CAN DO IT!  Let your actions reflect your desire to achieve your goals.  I believe that you CAN DO anything you want to do as long as the mind is willing to over ride pain to body by focusing on the “process”.