Monthly Archives: January 2014

What Does it Mean to Be On a Swim Team?

team pic 2

Swimming is an individual sport. We compete in our own lanes, untouched by anyone else (hopefully!) We train with others, occasionally banging arms together, but even so we live inside our heads looking down at the bottom of a pool. So what is a swim team, and why do we even need them?

I guess the most basic description is that a swim team (or any team) is a group of people who share a common purpose – in this case swimming. But it can be so much more than that, and it pretty much depends on what you put into it.

If you haven’t been on many swim teams, it may be hard to imagine that every swim team is fundamentally different. You can see it in the way the swimmers interact with each other, and how the coaches interact with the swimmers. You can feel it in the air, whether it’s all business or fun or adventure, or a place to help just the fast ones get faster. It’s the coaches AND swimmers who determine what being on that team means. It’s something to think about the next time you go to practice.

So what are the main benefits of being on a team?

1. You can be inspired by team mates.

Sometimes others on your team can push the envelope. They can perform at a level you and they did not think was possible for them. And that will motivate you to work harder and achieve more.

2. A team provides a social environment.

You develop friends that you can keep for a long time. (Almost all my friends that I still talk to from high school and university were swimmers.) And a proper team environment is positive and fulfilling. …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Winter Swimming

It’s that time of year again. Cold weather, dark mornings and dark evenings. And for many people, its a time for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also called winter depression. Basically, it’s a mood disorder that takes place only during certain times of the year – most commonly during the depths of winter. Symptoms include higher levels of anxiety, over sleeping, trouble waking, a craving for carbohydrates, and a general lack of energy. When you pair this with flu season in Canada, you have a recipe for a truly lousy January and February

For some swimmers it can be even worse. Unlike most of the population, they spend the few precious daylight hours either in school, or in the pool. January can be the absolute worst, as high school summatives and exams also increase the stress loads.

As a coach, its often easy to see who suffers from SAD, and its surprising how many there are. These swimmers generally are sluggishness, lack endurance, are less ability to cope with frustration, and show increased anxiety. The severity of the symptoms can vary tremendously from person to person.

Surprisingly, the specific causes of SAD are unknown, although most clues point to changes in available sunlight affecting our sleep cycles, which can lead to changes in our neurochemistry (reduced serotonin levels) and hormones (changes in melatonin levels), which can lead to the known symptoms.

Most people downplay this disorder, and just plan on toughing it out until the season passes. However, health specialists recommend dealing with it, especially as relatively easy steps can be taken. The first step is to get evaluated by your doctor. If diagnosed with SAD there are various ways to reduce symptoms, with the easiest being light therapy. This is really nothing more than a special, full-spectrum lamp that mimics outdoor sunlight, …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Visualization and the Power of Thought

I recently posted on our Facebook page about a Youtube video, The Scientific Power of Thought, that beautifully describes how directed thought can change our brain, and even improve our motor skills. It’s based on the incredible 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, MD (educated and now teaching at University of Toronto!)

Rewiring the Brain

Basically, the book deals with the relatively new field of neuroplasticity, or the ability of the brain to rewire itself based on what we do and even what we think. If I over simplify it to a ridiculous extent, it boils down to the idea that performing certain activities or even THINKING about those activities can rewire the brain so that we become better at those activities. The book is filled with numerous examples of people with serious brain injuries and disorders who through ingeniously simple treatments are able to regain lost functions. It’s a fascinating concept, and one with long reaching impacts on our future health and wellness.

So why is this relevant to swimmers, or in fact any person who wishes to improve any given activity?

Well, swimmers participate in races which include many complex, individual movements. So many in fact, that it is actually impossible to consciously remember them all as we do them. We just can’t remember every movement element of the start, flight, entry, underwater, breakout, strokes, turns, etc. This is why we practice these individual elements so much and pay so much attention to detail. Neuroplasticity tells us that we can also fine tune and improve these individual movements merely by thinking about them.

Play The Movie

As with many things in swimming, it turns out that Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman (and many other top swimmers) were way ahead of us. For years …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

What to Expect Now That the Holidays Are Over

I hope that everybody’s holidays were excellent, fun and relaxing. And so now that we’ve had 2 weeks of Christmas shortbread, egg nog, candy canes, chocolate and general lethargy, what can we expect in the pool?

It turns out its simple – you can expect the coaches to focus this next week on the skills and / or training aspects the swimmers lost the most of during the break. And this will be different for each group.

At one end of the spectrum, we have our Entry level swimmers, where the technical aspect is always the most important. In fact, just working on technique provides an adequate and sometimes vigorous level of conditioning. And so the Entry focus for this next week will be to review the key technical aspects of each stroke. Hopefully the swimmer’s minds will be refreshed from the break, and we can dive right into improving those strokes.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have our serious Senior swimmers. Technique is always important to the more mature swimmers, but the emphasis is far more on fine tuning of strokes than stroke concept introduction. And so we’ll add a small amount of additional emphasis this week on lost technical skills. But only a small amount. A far larger amount of time will be spent on physical training.

Novice and Junior swimmers fall in between Entry and Senior, and so can expect a mixture of technique and conditioning work.

If you remember my last blog, the serious swimmers were challenged to follow through on ten home-based dryland sessions over the holidays, with the idea of increasing core strength and swim specific muscular strength through extensive cord work. For those swimmers who met this challenge, they will come back with some serious strength development, and will just require some …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog