Monthly Archives: December 2013

What Happens To Swimmers Over the Holidays?

I’m often asked what swimmers should do over the Christmas holidays. It’s a very good question, and one that doesn’t easily lead to a good answer for all levels.

There are two factors at war with each other.

  1. Swimmers typically don’t reach their peak until their 20s, and so there really should be no rush to get swimmers training hard at a young age. Learning the basic techniques, and learning to have fun with swimming at a young age, can lead to an enjoyable sport and the potential to still be swimming in their 20s. However, pushing too much training on swimmers at a young age can easily lead to burn out. There is a long history of fantastic young 10 year olds quitting by the time they’re 16.

In fact, USA swimming did a study a few years ago in which they monitored the top 16 swimmers in each age group over a period of decades, and then calculated what percentage of top young age group swimmers ever became top senior swimmers. The results were disheartening. Only 11% of top 12&under swimmers ever became top senior swimmers. In fact, only 47% of top 15-16 years olds ever became top senior swimmers. In other words, success at a young age was not strongly related to success when older.

  1. Moderate success at a young age is often a requirement for a swimmer to want to train harder and harder as they grow older. In other words, a lack of success is less likely to lead to a young swimmer wanting to eventually train 5-6 days a week, with 6 am morning practices. To make it worse, many coaches at top teams have conditions on their employment that the team must perform at a certain level compared to …read more

    Source: Rick’s Blog

Reflections on a Division 3 Championship

Today I’m going to just reflect on the weekend at Divisions that we just had. No discussion of points, or PBs or individual races. No recitation of endless statistics (that I like so much!). Instead, I’ll let my mind wander over scenes and instances that stood out for me.

Now bear in mind that I cannot even pretend to be an impartial bystander looking on at the events in front of me. These will be reminiscences of somebody in the middle of a benign maelstrom, a rush of images, feelings and observances.

My main recollections are, of course, of the swimmers. From the moment they walked on deck for each session its clear they recognized this wasn’t a normal swim meet. Of course, the gorgeous 75 m pool no doubt had something to do with it. But it was the energy level that showed. The kids were dancing, jumping, acting silly, talking nonstop, and showing all the signs of having the time of their lives.

Then when it got close to race time, big differences showed up. We had very few calm swimmers. Many, even seasoned seniors were telling me, “Coach, my stomach hurts.” or “My chest doesn’t feel right” or “I don’t think I can swim this race.” Some were nervously bouncing on their feet 30 minutes before race time, and no doubt would have continued bouncing until they collapsed if we didn’t stop them. Others tried eating continuously. Still others wanted to go over the race plan for the 12th time. It was so adorable. I doubt they realized at the time that these were moments they will remember for decades.

I especially remember determination on the faces of the relays. There was a true camaraderie and trust as they encouraged each other before taking on the challenge.

The …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Hey Coach, Are We Tapering For Divisions?

Yes, I’ve heard that question a lot this last few weeks. And it’s not that easy to answer. But first, let’s talk about what a competitive swim taper is, and why we do it.

My readers will know by now that I love to tell stories. So let’s start off this blog with one.

The origins of tapering seem to be lost. As all sports have their own anecdotes, let’s go with my favourite swimming one. According to this story from Dr. Greg Wells’ book Superbodies, in the 1960s a US university swim team lost the use of its pool one week before a big competition. To not swim for one week before a big competition was unheard of, but they had no choice. The big surprise was that, according to the story, the whole team did personal best times once they got to the competition. That involuntary taper revolutionized training.

What is Tapering?

As you can guess from the story above, tapering is the process of reducing the training stress in the period prior to a big competition.

To understand tapering, you really have to understand training. For virtually any sport, training generally consists of loading the body with significant amounts of training stress. Among other things, this involves systematically exercising different energy systems within the body, giving barely enough time for that system to recover before whacking it again. In some cases this energy system recovery can take days. So in the meantime, the athlete can continue to work on technique, mental aspects, or other energy systems. This is hard work, and needs to be done on a constant basis during the training season. For example, our Seniors have 7 water training sessions and 3 dryland training sessions a week. That is a lot of training stress …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

More Than You Want to Know About Practice and Competition Swim Suits


WARNING: This is long. If you just want to know about modern practice and competition swim suits, skip down to near the end. I’m going to tackle this subject chronologically, since the road to the present has had its share of strange activities.

There has been swimming as far ago as the Greeks and Romans. Apparently they didn’t believe in swim suits, as surviving frescos show that swimming was done in the nude. That may seem embarrassing to us, but keep in mind that they also wrestled in the nude. Of the two, I’d rather swim.

Let’s jump forward to the 1800s. Generally swimming was still done in the nude, but various special bathing clothes were starting to be adopted. These originally bathing suits were made of canvas or wool, involving undershirt + drawers-type clothing for men, while women were generally expected to wear multiple bulky layers of clothing covering the torso, arms, legs and sometimes even the head. Total dry weight often exceeded 10 pounds. Evidently swimming for speed wasn’t on the agenda

ImageBy the time the first Olympics rolled around, competitive swimmer was starting to become more popular, and socially acceptable yet functional options were required. However, men’s and women’s suits were generally still made of wool, with suits covering the trunk, chest and shoulders These suits weighed just a few pounds when dry, but weighed much more when wet. These swimmers were strong!

Speedo entered the picture as far back ago as 1914, creating suits that freed up the arms for movement, and decreased the weight tremendously. Jantzen and BVD soon followed with stretchy, form-fitting suits. From the 1930s on, the race by manufacturers to product better and faster swim suits was on. And it has taken us much …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog