Monthly Archives: March 2014

Is Meet-Free March a Good Idea?

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Ontario and a few other provinces have a policy of no swim meets in March, other than possibly provincial championships at the very start of the month. The reasons come from the nature of swimming in Canada. Most teams in Canada train in a short course (25 metre or even 25 yard) pool. This leads to a vibrant short course swimming culture. Our short course season lasts from the beginning of September through to provincials at the end of February / start of March. And the reality is that most Canadian swimmers are better in short course pools than long course (50 meter) pools, since that’s what we’re used to. So much so that we have a hard time imagining that many parts of the world regularly train in long course pools and look at anything shorter as an annoyance.

Once March starts, we start our long course season, meaning that we compete in long course pools. This is difficult in this part of Canada, as we have so few of them. The meets tend to be crowded and lengthy, but well worth it. But the main difference is that we have to change our training habits. It takes a slightly different set of skills to swim long course. (Check out my Managing the Transition to Long Course Season for an explanation of the differences.) All of this makes March a perfect time of the year for recovering from the big short course meets, and preparing for long course season.

But despite all this, there appears to be a lot of divided opinion about this tradition, based on your role in the competitive swimming process.

Parents

This viewpoint is pretty easy. A whole month of no swim meets is ecstatically, thoroughly and enthusiastically embraced by the vast majority of parents. This …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

The Athlete-Coach Debriefings after Competition

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I just came back from watching the Canadian Wrestling Championships, and the wrestling was fantastic. But I have to admit I also spent quite a bit of time watching the country’s top coaches interact with their athletes after matches. Now, I should point out that wrestling and swimming are about as different as you can get. Each wrestling match is unique, as the match involves acting and reacting to your opponent, while every swim race has conditions that are basically identical. And yet there is a remarkable similarity in how coaches and athletes communicate before and after a competition.

Many people, including many parents and even some coaches, seem to think the goal of these talks are simple and straightforward. Make a brief comment about the race time, or technique. Then get rid of them. Obviously that’s not all there is to it. In my mind, the talks should involve the following:

• Get the athlete to analyze their own race. Identify things they think they did well, and thinks they think they need to improve upon. This can involve techniques, strategy, tactics, attitude, preparation or anything other element of a race.
• Provide feedback on their analysis
• Ensure they know what they need to work on or change in order to improve the performance
• For younger athletes, we sometimes need to make sure they know that a poor race doesn’t mean they are a bad person.

There is one other implicit goal. The athlete should do most of the initial talking, while the coach just guides the self-analysis. I can tell you that the best coaches I know in all different sports excel at this. I witnessed this again at the wrestling championships. Something I need to personally work on.

I find it amazing how many different styles and approaches there are to these …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Guest Blog – Nutrient Fuelling For Swimmers

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I’ve asked our team’s Sports Nutritionist (also my son) of iMadgen Nutrition to guest post an article on nutrient fuelling. For more information on his credentials or his company, please feel free to check out iMadgenNutrition.ca . Also be sure to check out Kevin’s free ebook offer, which includes a recipe for a no-bake nutrition bar.

GUEST BLOG

Nutrient Fuelling is a term I use quite often to describe the science behind providing a swimmer’s body with the right nutrients, in the right quantities, at the right times, to enhance your training. Generally, nutrient fuelling refers to the macronutrients (vs. micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals). Our body is much more sensitive and responsive to acute changes in macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, proteins) than it is to acute changes in micronutrients (i.e. taking a multivitamin right before training will not likely affect your training performance). What will likely make a difference in your swimming and performance is consciously choosing when to consume fat, carbohydrate, and protein surrounding your training sessions, that’s the benefit of nutrient fuelling.

Let me explain.

Dietary fat intake plays a strong role in acute changes of anabolic hormones such as testosterone within a swimmer’s body. Essentially, consuming healthy fats can elevate circulating testosterone levels for a period of time. Timing this fat intake to 3-6 hours prior to training will place your training period within your window of elevated testosterone. This applies to both men and women. Women’s testosterone will not elevate as much as men’s will, but women are also much more sensitive to the effects of testosterone. This effect is healthy and well within normal hormonal ranges, and is in no means comparable to any infamous artificial “hormone therapy” concepts for performance enhancement. Simply put, having a …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Overtraining: One of the Perils of Training

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If you’ve been involved in swimming for long enough you’ll have seen it, or possibly even experienced it. Overtraining. At best, it usually means the end of any training for many months. At worst, it can bring on injuries and a negative attitude that can end a career. And yet despite how bad it can be, the swimming world still has too much of it.

What is Overtraining?

Wikipedia defines overtraining as “a physical, behavioural, and emotional condition that occurs when the volume and intensity of an individual’s exercise exceeds their recovery capacity.

But it is far more complex than simply too much volume and intensity. I’ll try to explain.

Simply put, we have 3 energy systems within our body that help to keep our muscles working.

  • Phosphagen (Fast – good for less than 10 seconds)
  • Glycolysis (Medium – good for up to 2 minutes
  • Aerobic (Slow – good for anything longer)

Now, since overtraining involves insufficient recovery, we should know how long each system takes to recover following heavy or intense usage.

  • Phophagen – up to 72 hours following depletion
  • Glycolysis – up to 48 hours following depletion
  • Aerobic – 24-48 hours following depletion

Just to complicate matters a little, swimming training pretty much includes contributions from all 3 energy systems, although coaches can design sets and practices to hit one energy system much harder than others.

The idea of training is to hit energy systems hard, and then let it recover. After all, serious training is not easy. But if this energy system is hit again too soon, the body won’t heal or recover sufficiently. If you do this consistently over a matter of months then overtraining results, cortisol levels become elevated, and the athlete can experience physical, mental, emotional, cognitive and behavioural problems. In many cases the season can be lost, with the athlete …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Managing the Transition to Long Course Season

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The short course season has just ended, and now it’s time for everybody to get ready for long course. For those of you who aren’t aware of the differences… well they’re huge.

The best way to get a sense of the difference is to watch a younger, less experienced swimmer swim their first Long Course length of the season. They start out the length full of energy, then around halfway down the pool the stroke slows down. They might look around a bit. As the length goes on the stroke continues to slow down and a few stroke flaws may creep in. And when they finally touch, they look around and think Wow. That’s a long way.

Obviously the pool is longer – twice as long in fact. But if you think the swimmer just has to swim twice as far, you’d be wrong. In fact good swimmers end up swimming almost 3x farther depending on how good they are at turns and underwater kicking.

I’ll explain. In a 25m pool a reasonably advanced swimmer will dive or push off and spend roughly 10m underwater, and then surface and swim for the remaining 15 metres. In a 50 m pool however, they still only spend 10m underwater, but then surface and swim for the remaining 40 metres. This is very important because swimming on the surface is the slowest and most tiring part of the race.

So if swimming is the slowest part of the race, and we’re doing more of it than before, then race times get slower. To make matters worse, turns allow the swimming muscles to rest, and so with fewer turns even the swimming portion of the race gets slower as the swimmer fatigues. Studies have actually shown that swimming a race in a 50m …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog