Monthly Archives: June 2014

Preparing for the Big Meets

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This is Championship Meet season, and many swimmers are gearing up for the year’s big races. We know from experience that some will do amazing, some will be disappointed, and many will be in between. Here are a few things you should keep in mind to get those amazing swims.

1. Sleep, eat properly, and remove stresses from your life. You want to arrive at the meet feeling good, and without any worries outside of the pool. If you have homework or studying to do, get on it early and make sure you’re comfortable with your effort.

2. Don’t radically change your diet right before the meet. Unless you are a nutrition expert (or you had an atrocious diet all year), you should keep to the same general diet you had all season. Diet modifications are sometimes used by higher level athletes, but only with expert guidance and some previous experience. The bottom line? It’s too late now to lose fat, or gain muscle mass, and too risky to make your first foray into manipulating carbohydrate intake.

3. Don’t add new physical activities to your routine now. At this point in the season your muscles have hopefully become fine tuned to your swimming races. Anything new can cause muscle soreness or muscle fatigue, and can even cause your stroke mechanics to change by compensating for the new aches and pains.

4. The days before the big meets are also not the time to make big changes to your stroke mechanics. Like it or not, fundamental changes to muscle memory are probably going to backfire. Even small change to stroke mechanics will most likely be lost during the excitement of the race.

5. The same thing goes for suddenly deciding you’re going to be an underwater phenomenon. It’s too late to …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Swimming By the Numbers: How Elite Men Swim the 200 Breaststroke

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This is the next installment in a series that looks at how the elite swim the 200 by looking at their race splits. This time we’re analyzing the 200 breaststroke for men.

The first set of analyses involved the long axis strokes for men and women (here, here and here). We found clear indications of specific race profiles (Sprinter, Distance and Hybrid – see below) that made sense given the efficient nature of the strokes. The women’s freestyle and backstroke were won with Sprinter profiles, while the men’s races were won with Distance profiles.

I then looked at the 200 butterfly (here and here), and found a world of differences. Gone are anything approaching sprinter / distance profiles, and instead the races are handled by the elite in virtually the same say for the first 150, followed by a wild final 50. This significantly different race profile was verified with the analysis of the women’s 200 breaststroke (here).

It will be interesting to see if the 200 breaststroke for men follows this short axis race pattern.

The Data

The data set consists of 24 elite swimmers at the time of the 2012 Olympics. I used the fastest 24 times from the Olympics and the US Olympic Trials. For each swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just their last swim. I also knew that I would have to look at more than just raw splits, in order to compare sprinters to more distance-oriented swimmers, and to provide value to non-elite swimmers. As a result, I used their 50 m Personal Bests [PBs] as well. For a few swimmers for which the 50 PB was unavailable or absurdly old, I was able to infer a reasonable 50 PB from their split on a 100.

I …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Swimming By the Numbers: How Elite Women Swim the 200 Breaststroke

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This is the next instalment in a series that looks at how the elite swim the 200 by looking at their race splits. This time we’re analyzing the 200 breaststroke for women.

The first set of analyses involved the long axis strokes for men and women (here, here and here). We found clear indications of specific race profiles (Sprinter, Distance and Hybrid – see below) that made sense given the efficient nature of the strokes. The women’s freestyle and backstroke were won with Sprinter profiles, while the men’s races were won with Distance profiles.

I then looked at the 200 butterfly (here and here), and found a world of differences. Gone are anything approaching sprinter / distance profiles, and instead the races are handled by the elite in virtually the same say for the first 150, followed by a wild final 50.

It will be interesting to see if the 200 breaststroke follows the butterfly pattern.

The Data

The data set consists of 24 elite swimmers at the time of the 2012 Olympics. I used the fastest 24 times from the Olympics and the US Olympic Trials. For each swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just their last swim. I also knew that I would have to look at more than just raw splits, in order to compare sprinters to more distance-oriented swimmers, and to provide value to non-elite swimmers. As a result, I used their 50 m Personal Bests [PBs] as well. For a few swimmers for which the 50 PB was unavailable or absurdly old, I was able to infer a reasonable 50 PB from their split on a 100.

I introduce the term “offset” to mean a split minus that swimmer’s PB.

Offset 50 = 50 Split minus 50 PB

The Analysis

The analysis …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Visualization, Adrenaline and Sleep Problems

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Visualization is amazing; there’s no question about it. And there is a phenomenal amount of information available about visualization on the internet (Google “visualization” and you get 19.3 million hits). However, there seems to be absolutely no information about a crucial way in which visualization can go bad. It can steal your sleep.

As you no doubt know, visualization is supposed to be good for almost everything, including developing and improving skills, becoming better under pressure, better concentration, improving test preparation, etc. The idea is that when deeply concentrating, your brain can’t tell the difference between visualizing an activity, and performing that activity. So all of the body’s system (other than actually moving your muscles) can get involved in an activity that only takes place in your brain. You can imagine how useful this can be in so many area.

But visualization goes way beyond just skill mastery. Among the other many uses, it’s also good for getting to sleep. There are hundreds of sites that talk about this. The key concept is this: stress increases your body’s adrenaline response, which inhibits sleep, while relaxation decreases this adrenaline response. This is why for the purposes of getting to sleep, you should visualization relaxing places, like a walk in a forest, or a stroll along a beach. Soothing things. Listening to Zen music helps for the same reason.

But if you want to do visualization for sports, then you want to do pretty much the opposite. You want to visualize your chosen activity from beginning to end, including the competitive aspects. For swimming this means visualizing your start, underwater, breakout, turns, etc. INCLUDING racing your competitors and can include winning the race. As you can imagine, this is the opposite of relaxing. Racing involves intense focus, fatigue, pain. And adrenaline. Lots of adrenaline.

Assuming you …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Swimming By the Numbers: How Elite Men Swim the 200 Butterfly

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This time up: 200 Butterfly for Men.

The first set of analyses involved the long axis strokes for men and women (here, here and here). We found clear indications of specific race profiles (Sprinter, Distance and Hybrid – see below) that made sense given the efficient nature of the strokes. The women’s freestyle and backstroke were won with Sprinter profiles, while the men’s races were won with Distance profiles.

Our last analysis, the 200 butterfly for women (here) turned that on its ear. In that analysis we found that almost everybody had very similar first 150 strategies, with the race really decided on a wild last 50. We’ll now find out if the same holds true for the men’s 200 fly.

The Data

The data set consists of 24 elite swimmers at the time of the 2012 Olympics. I used the fastest 24 times from the Olympics and the US Olympic Trials. For each swimmer, I used the fastest time they swam during the competition, and not just their last swim. I also knew that I would have to look at more than just raw splits, in order to compare sprinters to more distance-oriented swimmers, and to provide value to non-elite swimmers. As a result, I used their 50 m Personal Bests [PBs] as well. For a few swimmers for which the 50 PB was unavailable or absurdly old, I was able to infer a reasonable 50 PB from their split on a 100.

I introduce the term “offset” to mean a split minus that swimmer’s PB.

Offset 50 = 50 Split minus 50 PB

The Analysis

The analysis is divided into 3 sections.

1) What are the different ways in which the elite 24 swimmers swim the 200? For long axis strokes, it’s more or less divided into those swimmers who are sprint-oriented, endurance-oriented, …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog

Wandering Minds, Unhappiness, and Lack of Improvement

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I was driving home today, listening to a TED Talk Radio Hour podcast called Simply Happy. One of the speakers, Matt Killingsworth, has spent years studying happiness as part of his Ph.D. research at Harvard, and this includes a project involving 35,000 interactions with participants (see here). He has arrived at 2 fundamental conclusions.

1) A wandering mind is not a sign of weakness, but a frequent condition in our lives. Up to 30% of our time is spent thinking of something other than what we’re supposed to be thinking about,.

2) People are their MOST unhappy when their minds are wandering. And potentially happiest when we’re focussed on something we like.

Well this got me to thinking. I know my mind can wander at the drop of a hat. But as a coach I also see the wandering minds of swimmers all the time. The most recent was just a few days ago when I saw one of my senior swimmers do a truly horrible freestyle turn: a weak pushoff, no underwater kick, breathed on his first stroke. I stopped him, reminded him of the basics, and asked him to try the turn again before continuing. Well, he did exactly the same turn again. Exactly the same. I stopped him again, and he confessed that he just forgot. Somehow his mind managed to wander in the space of less than 10 seconds. And not only was he embarrassed, but he was unhappy with himself. (He nailed that turn on the next attempt, and for the rest of the practice).

I’m sure that as coaches we’ve all seen some variation of this wandering mind, or loss of focus. But as coaches we also know that this gets in the way of progress, besides causing unhappiness. Now contrast this with the times when a …read more

Source: Rick’s Blog