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Weight Lifting During Taper

Coaches – please remember when the core of your training is aerobic you don’t need to lift with an aerobic agenda. Your swimmers are raising their heart rate a lot more than you think while lifting so just lift for speed and strength. Make sure that your swimmers maintain flexibility after lifting. Stretching after any lifting will increase blood flow which aids in recovery. Your swimmers must remain flexible in swimming and maintain your full range of motion.

Always lift your larger muscle groups first when organizing your work-out routine. Basic Guideline: Day 1 Back with biceps and one leg exercise and 15 minutes of ab work. Day 2 Chest with triceps, finish with legs. Take one or two days off or do Legs and Abs on the third day and not with day 1 or 2. Remember that you don’t have to be sore to increase your power and that definitely hinders speed.

Example of how to work thru set (chest exercise):

Let’s say you begin doing flat bench warm-up with 135 lbs. Begin with 2-3 sets warm-up with this weight doing +/- 8 reps, now let’s begin. As you increase your weight you must maintain the speed of each lift, for example, if you increase your weight to 155 lbs and did 5 reps total and 4 of them maintained speed and you struggled with the 5th rep you should have stopped at 4 reps. Now increase the weight and try for 2-3 reps maintaining your speed. Remember that we are training you for power and speed, working your fast twitch muscles. If you are more of a distance swimmer this will only help your training.

Lifting is cross training and is essential for full body strength, power, and speed. It is old school to lift aerobically if you train 2-6 hours a day aerobically in the pool. You eventually reach an aerobic threshold and then the rest of your training is useless. An example of aerobic lifting would be 3-5 sets with 10-15 reps or circuit training where you spend 30 seconds or more at stations, sound familiar? That type of training has a purpose but not when you are getting your aerobic training from swimming, maybe pre-season for starts.

Make sure your athletes aren’t starting preseason training for another sport when you are trying to taper them for Championships. The only time to really worry about cross training will be when you are resting for a meet or in the taper phase or your season for the season end championships. Example, don’t start running during a taper especially if you are in conditioning phase of another sport or throwing if you are in softball or baseball. Things to consider as they will impact your swimming performance greatly. Start other sports after championships.

Understanding how to rest legs through weight training and kicking is key to performance!

Distance swimmers gain from lifting for speed and power. When training for the mile your coach is preparing you in the pool. Lifting as prescribed is a great form of cross-training that will not only help power and speed but help in recovery from all the slow twitch muscle work.

There is a local team that over-trains swimmers and forces bad weightlifting mechanics upon its swimmers. I was asking them about their weight lifting program and he told me that they push multiple reps to ultimate failure. Does any coach even old school, train that way? HOPE NOT! Do coaches ever give hard swim sets where swimmers don’t finish to the wall and complete the set? Do your swimmers ever pass out or sink to the bottom? Then why would you train that way in the weight room?

Each person has a certain muscle make-up that helps pre-determine success for particular events and if a coach doesn’t try to recognize individual differences then true success or full potential will never be known. In short, there are fast twitch and slow twitch muscles in everyone and each person has a different percentage of each. The hard part on coaching is trying to recognize the tendencies. Long distance training or over yardage will reinforce the slow twitch muscles and slow down the fast twitch fibers of that swimmer and the swimmer that is predisposed slow twitch will reach his or her full potential. Weight training correctly will help maintain the fast twitch fibers thru-out this type of program. Remember there is no need to lift aerobically as you are getting all you need and more in practice. There is an aerobic threshold for each swimmer and program that each coach needs to recognize for each training group. What is that yardage number is yet to be determined and hasn’t been studied enough yet? Once this yardage figure is reached the remainder of practice aerobically is useless. I would place the figure to be around 7,500 +/- yards per work-out. Once a swimmer is in aerobic shape and this can be determined by max heart rate sets based on time after the set is complete for a full recovery. The faster the recovery to resting heart rate the better shape the swimmer is in aerobically. The heart rate set must be completed using a set that is a slow build in speed that utilizes slow twitch fibers as they recover faster due to their size and energy demands on the body. Now if a swimmer is predisposed to fast twitch you may begin his or her training. I have developed a 9-week weightlifting program that would start during the finish phase of getting swimmers in shape aerobically and continue thru the sprint phase of training or as some prefer to say the beginning of taper and finish with a 4-week speed work taper that all finishes with the championship meet. You must have some sort of speed work in every practice even if it for 10 minutes at the end of each practice or trailing warm-up. You can’t let the fast twitch of any swimmer to be detrained at any phase of your season.

Coaches please remember the key ingredient to this whole program is based on training swimmers for the exact event. Most coaches still believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare you for the 500. I believe that training swimmers for the mile will prepare them for the mile and hurt the speed needed for the 500. I said speed for the 500 and speed and power are part of each event. Training for the 50, 100 and 200’s take more speed and power but it one of the important components of training after a swimmer is in shape aerobically. Please remember that while you are in the aerobic phase of training that speed work must always be worked in the work-out and the basis for your lifting program.

The Faster Swimming Strength program and support videos will help you taper lifting with your swimming for Championships!


Good Luck at Champs!


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The 10 Principles of Athletic Success

There are many, maybe even countless, methods to achieve athletic success. However, the principles of athletic success are few. Said another way, by someone much smarter than I – “Methods are many, principles are few; methods always change, principles never do.” Follow the principles listed below throughout your athletic career and find success. I suppose you could argue that the base messages apply to your entire life… go figure.

1. Have a Purpose.

This can encompass a lot – a purpose for your set, your workout, your training week, your sport, even a purpose for your life! In sport it really boils down to being both physically and mentally present at training (completing your training with purpose), and to having goals (your purpose for being there!). Have a purpose, both in your training and for your training.

2. Follow a Plan.

You should have a plan for your season, your month, your week, your next competition. Having a purpose with no plan is just beating your head against a wall. If you are on a team, planning is mostly the coach’s job, if you are on your own – this is your job. The concept of Progressive Overload should be included in your plan, as regular progress should be a result of your training. You should have a plan in place to address Strength and Conditioning for pre-, post-, in- and off-season, as well.

3. Work Hard.

If you need me to define effort for you, you are in trouble! Full efforts are the key to successful training.  Along with hard work, you must include smart work: or working on what matters. This all circles back to having a purpose and having a plan. Hard work does not mean all-out effort all of the time either, but working as hard as a rep, set, workout, or season requires. Racing is ALWAYS 100% effort. Always.

4. Be Consistent.

You should be at training. You should have a plan that you follow 90% + of the time, and you should work hard with your purpose in mind. You should eat well 90% + of the time, and you should get 8 hours or more of sleep per night 90% + of the time. Persevere. Motivation follows action, so be consistent in your actions. If you follow the 1st 3 principals consistently you will be ahead of 99% of your competition.

5. Display Adaptability.

Stated simply – find an answer, not an excuse. Make it work – no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the obstacle, you can usually find a way around it. If something comes up that you can’t figure out for yourself, ask for help. A good coach is indispensable in this type of situation.

6. Be Prepared.

Just like the Boy Scout’s motto – solid preparation will lead to an increased chance of you achieving your goals. Superior preparation wins most often. Plan and prepare for things in advance so that you will have what you need when you need it. This goes for training, food, and sleep (the big 3). Make a list and check items off if you are uneasy or unsure about what you need. This goes double for competitions – use a list to pack and prepare well ahead of time.

7. Competitive Cooperation

Do something EACH DAY that you have never done before. Challenge your teammates to do the same – challenge each other regularly.  This is the type of teamwork that makes good teams great!  Work harder, prepare better, beat last week’s time/sets/reps/weights, etc. Do this for your self each day (attitude) and it will carry over to your training partners, team, and environment (atmosphere).

8. Control Your Attitude and Atmosphere.

Strive to have a positive and realistic outlook. Do not tolerate complacency or apathy in yourself or in your teammates. Pay attention and be respectful. Do not use the words “can’t” or “too”… they foster mental weakness. Your attitude is under your control – so control it to your advantage. Training atmosphere plays a HUGE role in your success – your team should be there to support you, and you to support them. If you are training solo or have a poor training atmosphere – change! Join a team, join a better team, or create a better team if need be.

9. Be a Leader and a Follower.

There will be times when you need to assert yourself and there will be times when you need to take a step back and let someone else take the reigns. Learn to foster both mindsets so that you can take control when needed, and so that you can follow and support others when needed. This applies directly to controlling your attitude and atmosphere from above.

10. No Limits.

World Records are broken regularly – only because someone thinks they can do so and then acts on this belief. Bruce Lee spoke of limits much better than I can, so here’s his quote:

If you always put limits on yourself and the things you can do, physical or anything, you might as well be dead. It will spread into your work, your morality, your entire being. There are no limits, only plateaus. But then you must not stay there. You must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.

So there you have it – The 10 Principals of Athletic Success. Post this list in an obvious place – your gym bag, your training facility, or even the wall of your room – to remind yourself of the principals of athletic success.

Follow these principals and you will find success!

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Tapering for Your Event

The athlete must be in aerobic shape and strong before you start fine-tuning or “taper”. Tapering needs more attention and understanding in our sport.

What is the most important part of the season to you? Aerobic phase, anaerobic training, weights, deck based dryland and kicking? The truth is, they all are essential and coaches/swimmers need a plan.

What does tapering mean to you?

Tapering is not just resting your body for the big event. It is fine-tuning it for optimal performance. Athletes must be able to practice at a high caliber to perform to expectations. Athletes must be their strongest, sharpest and most focused before taper meet(s). Athletes need to take responsibility for training,

“I missed my taper” or “coach didn’t taper me correctly” are just excuses…

To taper correctly your athletes must have goals and the goals must drive training. You must understand recovery and muscle development of athletes and have the flexibility to individualize for a specific athlete and his/her events.

Understanding how athletes respond to different types of training based on slow, medium and fast twitch muscle fibers helps individualize training. Training slowly doesn’t help the athlete who has fast twitch predisposition and resting doesn’t produce optimal performance.

Taper is an in-depth process that is a whole lot more than dropping yardage the last few weeks and adding sprints. Most coaches use weight training to cross train and prevent injury then stop weights 2-4 weeks out from championships. The athletes must continue to lift throughout taper in order to achieve strength gains, which coincide with speed and power necessary to perform at meets. If you cross train during the season you must taper the cross training to optimize performance.

Kicking is more important than ever. Since the legs are slow to recover and are the hardest to get in shape, make sure you always write sets and workouts that alternate upper body and lower body. This is a great way to include active recovery in every workout.

Preparing your athlete to compete at race pace (goal speed) must always be emphasized, “always”. You must create goal speed so your athletes are 100% prepared to achieve.

You can still decrease yardage and maintain/increase aerobic capacity during taper. When done correctly an athlete will be prepared for multiple championship meets. One way to increase aerobic capacity is to monitor heart rates. Heart rate is essential to monitor to adjust the athletes training and recovery needs.

Don’t forget about reaction time training which involves mental focus and increased muscular reaction. Incorporate appropriate drills for focus and quickness.

The athlete must believe in what they are doing so engage and educate them every step of the way. They must be able to give you feedback about how their bodies are feeling and how well they are recovering to adjust workouts. They must also be mature enough to handle proper feedback.

Optimal training = Optimal performance.

The taper outline details yardage demands for distance, mid-distance, and sprinters. It explains when to train tarzan with drills, overspeed, race pace, recovery, starts, and turns. It details when to use variable speed swimming and kicking while detailing intensity and exact distances to be trained. One of the most important aspects of training is alternating upper and lower body, which is built in active recovery, is built into the taper.

The whole 7 week taper outline can be found here.

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7 Week Speed Refinement Program – Week 2, Workout 3 & 4

Workout #3

Warm up: start into 200 choice swim @ 70%

8 x 50 descend by 2  :10 – :15 rest  choice swim

50 easy

Set #1 QUALITY   :20 rest

8 x 50 odds 25 tarzan / 25 3 up tarzan sprint 2 down easy evens swim 10 fast strokes / 10 slow strokes repeat

50 easy

Set #2 paddle free swim set – monitor heart rate for speed

check heart rate twice within the first two parts of the set

keeping heart rate between +/- 24 – 26 for :10 seconds

The pace should be strong aerobically elevating the heart rate while maintain the pace.

:10 rest for set except when checking heart rate then :10 rest

2 x 175 (check heart rate once)4 x 75 (check heart rate once)2 x 1252 x 100

100 easy


3 x 25 pull for speed only continuous for each swimmer200 easy

Total yardage = 2,350

Workout #4

Warm up: Start into 800 swim alternate choice / IM by 200 @ 70% :15 rest

2 x 300 swim #1 choice, #2 IM, VS by 50 70% – 75% inc stk cnt

2 x 200 swim #1 choice, #2 IM, VS by 25 75% – 80% inc stk cnt

4 x 50 swim one each stroke IM order 5 fast strokes / 5 slow strokes

50 easy

Set #1 top stroke kick :20 rest

5 x 100 #1-2 VS by 50 70% – 100%

#3 sprint

#4-5 VS by 50 100% – 70%100 easy

second stroke kick :20 rest

10 x 50 odds VS by 25 70% – 100%

evens 10 fast kicks / 10 slow kicks

100 easy

3,250 yards

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7 Week Speed Refinement Program – Week 1, Workout 1 & 2

Workout #1

Warm up: start into 300 reverse IM 25 kick / 25 swim @ 70%

Set #1    :20 rest

2 x 100 IM #1 kick, #2 swim @ 75%

200 IM 25 kick / 25 swim @ 75%

4 x 75 @ 80%, IM no fly, odds kick evens swim

4 x 25 partner racing sprint choice kick on :50

100 choice kick 20 fast kicks / 20 slow kicks repeat

2 minutes rest

Set #2 speed swim set and recovery

4 x 75 on 1:30

25 3 up 4 down tarzan repeat pattern with open turn / 25 @ 100 Race Pace top stroke open turn(to get time) / 25 tarzan sprint

100 easy

Set #3 Race Pace swim

2 x 25 fly @ 100 Race Pace on :25

2 x 50 fly @70% on :45Into from send off

4 x 25 free on :20 1-2 make send off 3-4 fast

50 easy

Set #4 Top stroke swim set  (incremental stroke count – is adding at least one stroke each lap)

3 x 100 on 1:45

#1 50 swim @ 90% incremental stroke count / 50 tarzan with incremental stroke count

#2 top stroke with incremental stroke count each 25 @ :05-:10 over best time

#3 choice stroke swim 5 fast strokes / 5 slow strokes repeat

Set #5 OVERSPEED2 x 50 drag and pull with cords continuous100 easy

2,400 yards


Workout #2

Warm up:

start into 300 swim free VS by 150 70% – 75%  :10 rest

6 x 75 swim build to 80% each 75  :10 rest

6 x 25 swim free with middle 9 strokes sprint tarzan with the rest easy on :30100 easy

Set #1 kick top stroke  kick

3 (3 x 100) with 50 easy after each set :20 rest

1st set Variable Speed by 50 broken @ 50 for :10 90% – 100%

2nd set Variable Speed by 50 broken @ 50 for :05 70% – 100%

3rd set #1 @ 95%, #2 @ 80%, #3 VS by 25 70% – 100%

6 x 25 10 fast kicks / 10 slow kicks

100 easy

Set #2 top or second stroke kick,  sprint kick with fins

9 x 50 all sprint  :20 – :30 rest

50 easy

6 x 25 underwater fly kick (whole 25) sprint varied body positions if desired.

Sprint and rest as needed.

200 easy minimum


3,150 yards

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Deck-Based Dryland and General Physical Preparedness

The main goal of deck-based dryland (or simply “dryland”) within this program is to increase the overall density of work performed and to increase general working capacities. Another term for this is GPP, or General Physical Preparedness. A high level of GPP will not only increase general fitness, but help facilitate recovery from swim and weight training and, in all, bring your ability to train in the water to a higher level. Increasing your GPP will lead to faster swimming!

Multiple qualities can be addressed with a well designed dryland program. Overall GPP can be enhanced through improvements in energy system efficiency, strength (general and core), power output, mobility, flexibility and balance. The goal of this program is not to lay out a cookie-cutter, year-long program, but to give an idea of how to set up dryland work, how to improve some of the basic qualities of GPP, and some general guidelines to evaluate dryland abilities and progression. Dryland workout examples are included, as is a full 7-week dryland taper program.

An individual dryland training session will include an active warm-up, the work sets of the day, and a cool-down including active and passive stretching. Most weeks will consist of two lifting workouts. Micro and meso cycles are less important in dryland (than in weight lifting) as GPP can be incorporated at the levels presented here throughout a season. Instead of back-off weeks, dryland training includes test weeks. General qualities can be tested with the exercises listed, and ideal test values are listed, as are specific test workouts. If there is an exercise that is difficult to reach specific test values for (especially the first, easiest test), it is suggested that this exercise (or a variant) be placed first in subsequent workouts. Front-loading is another term to describe this; placing the weakest link of dryland ability first in a workout so that it can be trained in a fresh state.

Other than the planned training session itself, you need very little to perform effective dryland work. A willingness to perform the work as indicated is obviously the most important thing to bring to any training session. For dryland training, additionally you will want comfortable clothing that is easy to move in, workout shoes, an exercise mat and/or towel, and a full water bottle. Effective dryland work can be accomplished with none of the above, but having most or all of these items will make the workout more comfortable. An index card with the full workout written on it is also easy to take to the pool and make notations as necessary. An additional item that you may want for dryland work is a medicine ball. Any med ball, bouncy or “dead”, from six pounds to ten pounds (depending on your strength levels) will work. A med ball can be used in conjunction with many exercises to make work more challenging and can be a great addition to improve core strength and power development. You can lift it, throw it, carry it, bend with it, twist with it, hold it close, hold it away, balance on it (cautiously), and use it to augment almost any movement pattern. If you have only one piece of exercise equipment for dryland or at home, it should be a medicine ball.

GPP, as defined above, is heightened with all that we do in dryland training. If we improve any of the following qualities, we improve our GPP. Increased dryland ability = improved GPP = faster swimming. Broad definitions of some general work qualities follow.

Energy System- The focus here is on using a large amount of our musculature to produce work. Basic work sets move to longer sets, and then to more dense work. Heavy breathing and a lot of sweat are the norm. Rest intervals vary from half to double the amount of time worked (2:1 to 1:2 work-to-rest ratio).

Strength- The focus here is on improving relative strength, or the ability to move one’s own body. Basic sets move to multiple, short sets, and gradually progress to longer sets with increased density and or intensity. Rest intervals can vary greatly here, but are generally short (1:1 or less).

Core- Improving static, dynamic, and rotational strength in the core of the body (the trunk, or top of the neck to bottom of the hips). Sets can vary, and core work should always be included liberally within a given workout. Rest intervals are very short (4:1 or less).

Power- Increasing the rate and magnitude of force production is the focus here. Short, multiple sets will gradually progress to longer, more dense multiple sets. Rest intervals are usually longer here to facilitate nervous system recovery (1:2 or greater).

Mobility- Increasing the body’s ability to move efficiently through a full range of motion is the focus here. This quality is improved with increased exercise ablility (as we move through a full range of motion in many planes), and with active and passive flexibility work included at the end of each workout.

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Building your Dryland Program – Week 1 Example

Dryland Training 1 – coinciding with Week 1 Faster Swimming Weekly Workouts

Weekly points:

  • Dryland workouts should follow swim practice or be separated by 4+ hours
  • Separate these workouts by at least one day
  • End all sets at indicated times – if you don’t reach a number goal don’t worry, just keep working towards these goals
  • Basic strength and energy-system work
  • If sore from dryland, include extra stretching at the end of any workout

 Workout #1 (Week 1)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Squat/Thrust

Stability 2 x 1:00

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Mountain Climbers

5 Push-ups every :30            continuous         1:00 Rest between sets

3 x 1:30 Squat/Thrust                        30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

5 x 30 Squats                             continuous         :45 Rest between sets

Vary stance (narrow, medium, wide)

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Workout #2 (Week 1)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Mountain Climbers

Stability 2 x 1:00

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Squat/Thrust                        30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

4 x 1:00 Walkout Push-ups            goal=effort :45 Rest

2 Push-ups per walkout

2:00 Push-ups                              goal=effort no Rest

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

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Building your Dryland Program – Mid Season Example

Weekly points:

  • Dryland workouts should follow swim practice or be separated by 4+ hours
  • Separate these workouts by at least one day
  • End all sets at indicated times – if you don’t reach a number goal don’t worry, just keep working towards these goals
  • Basic strength and energy-system work
  • If sore from dryland, include extra stretching at the end of any workout

 Workout #1 (Week 27)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope


2 x 1:00 Stability

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 Mountain Climbers

5 Push-ups every :30            continuous         1:00 Rest between sets

3 x 1:30 SQUAT/THRUST                     30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

5 x 30 Squats                             continuous         :45 Rest between sets

Vary stance (narrow, medium, wide)

C-down               4 x 1:30 Core Rotation

Pick 3 exercises, switch @ :30 intervals

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching


Workout #2 (Week 27)

Warm-up             2:00 Jumping Jacks or Jump Rope

1:00 Mountain Climbers

2 x 1:30 Stability w/switches

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

Work Sets           3 x 1:30 SQUAT/THRUST                     30 goal           1:00 Rest between sets

4 x 1:00 Walkout Push-ups            goal=effort :45 Rest

2 Push-ups per walkout

2:00 Push-ups                              goal=effort no Rest

C-down               4 x 1:30 Stability w/switches

5:00 Active and Passive Stretching

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Peaking Pointers for Coaches

As we approach peaking season for our swimmers we want to keep the focus on process, not outcome, just as we should for the majority of the season.  Below are some basic points of reference for coaches to keep in mind no matter what the level of our swimmers.  Swimmers, just like any other athletes, can get a little skittish as we near the big meets of the season, and we can help them be confident in our programming by being able to explain our programming.

We should be training race speed, maintaining conditioning

We judge swimming competition by who touches the wall first, not who has the prettiest technique.  That is not to say that we want to toss technique by the wayside, but to say that we want to practice our technique as best we can at race speeds.  This goes for stroke technique, starts, underwaters, breakouts – everything.  Full speed training also requires a rest period that is long enough to hold speed for whatever repeats you are doing for a given set.  As we get closer and closer to big meets these rest periods should increase between hard efforts so that all of our swimmers can have their true fitness levels fully unmasked from their fatigue levels.

Our upper-level groups generally go by a Hi/Lo system per training week as we roll through our peaking phase.  Hi intensity days have us training goal race pace (100 or 200) for short intervals (ex 6×50 @ 200 goal rp on 1:00).  We focus on time, pace and tempo more than anything on these days.  Lo intensity days have us maintaining our aerobic base and working on skills at speed for short distances and plenty of rest.  We tend to then alternate Hi/Lo workouts, and if it looks like anyone needs more recovery, we give it to them!  For instance, this week we had Sunday as a Hi intensity effort day, Monday as a Lo aerobic and skills day, Tuesday as a Hi intensity sprint/distance day, Wed as a Lo aerobic and skills day, Thursday will be a Hi intensity sprint day (with lots of rest), Friday will be Lo aerobic and skills day for pre-meet and then we have HS tournament swim competitions on Saturday.

Sharpening skills, not just doing drills 

Drills have their place in training, largely early on in the season and then as a reminder of technique as we move through the season.  At the end of the season we should all be helping our swimmers sharpen their skill sets so that they can perform on race day.  This often requires more work at short distances, at full speed or close to it.  Always remember that drills are a conduit to skills and only serve the purpose of fulfilling a need, and that the end of the season is the time to sharpen our current skill sets most importantly.

Physically strong, mentally tough

Maximal strength is the base of all other types of physical strength, and as we near our peaking phase we want to maintain maximal strength and train speed-strength.  We want to maintain our strength so that we can continue to pull as much water as possible, to remain as durable (and injury-free) as possible, and to be at our strongest ever on race day.  As we enter our peaking phase we also want to reinforce and train speed-strength, which we do by using fast lifts, quick dryland movements, and some reactive med ball work.  Maintaining our general strength abilities while training our nervous system to become more reactive for our biggest meets is something that most teams do not do, but imo all teams should do.

Along with physical strength we must also reinforce mental strength & toughness for our swimmers.  Coaches are a conduit for our swimmers mental strategies by giving solid & direct race plans, by being encouraging in regard to competition and racing, and by helping swimmers hone their skill sets, tempo and pacing so that their biggest races can come together more easily at the biggest meets.  We want our swimmers to go after their races with determination(!) and to respect but never fear their competitors.  Swimmers should again focus on the process (competing) rather than the outcome (times), and if a swimmer is ready and geared up for a tough race, their best times will come.  Top competitors also do all that is required in regard to warm up and cool down consistently to achieve a consistently high performance level, and this is a typical habit of the mentally tough.

Pay attention to what the swimmers are telling you!

I don’t only mean what the swimmers are actually saying, but what their bodies are telling you perhaps more than their words.  As mentioned above, some swimmers will need a little more rest than others and that should be accounted for at practices leading into big meets.  If a swimmer’s stroke looks sluggish, maybe give them a tempo trainer, and if that does not help maybe let them do every-other rep of whatever the set may be.  If their kick is looking slow and their legs are tired let them pull some or all of a set.  Be willing to make individual adjustments at the end of the season to help each of our swimmers consolidate the gains from all of their hard work this season.  Sometimes just a little added rest at the end of a long season of hard training can make a difference.  An old saying that I have always liked is “The hay is in the barn,” which for swimming means the majority of hard efforts are through, and now it is time to hone our speed and skills so that we can compete at our highest possible level at our biggest meet(s) of the season.

We want all of our swimmers to reap the rewards from what they have earned by way of their hard, consistent efforts this season.  The real magic ending to any season comes by way of these season-long, hard, consistent efforts – and it is up to us as coaches to enable this magic to happen as much as we are able to at the end of each season.  Please keep the above ideas in mind as you structure your practices and speak to your swimmers, be positive at meets no matter what the outcome, and, especially at end of the season meets – just as we want our swimmers to do – please Have Fun, Learn, and Compete (well, at least be in a competitive mindset : )

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Winter Break Practices

Increased volume = Increased energy use = Increased calorie intake!

Body weight should NOT drop more than 3 pounds during an intense period of training in-season. Most large training load increases in-season come in 2 or 3 week periods, and the benefits can be numerous, BUT… Losing weight quickly in-season does NOT equate to being in better shape (necessarily…) – faster swimming equates to being in better shape at this time! Losing muscle to provide energy for practice is not the path to increased recovery and faster swimming, and the idea that you need to “break down” to build back up has serious limits.

If your practices are coming close to or going beyond double your normal volume, an additional 1000 calories per day may be in order. Your body weight and recovery status will determine this need. 1000 calorie examples: 2 large protein shakes OR 4 snickers bars OR 1 Chipotle burrito.

If you lose 3+ pounds (in a 2 to 3 week period), add an additional 500 calories per practice.

If you lose 6+ pounds, add an additional 100 calories per practice.

And, as you should be doing throughout the season… drink Gatorade (or something like it) at any practice over 1 hour, and be sure to drink something (chocolate milk or a protein shake) or at the very least eat something with both carbs and protein within one hour post-practice. The first hour after practice you should try to get in somewhere between 400 and 800 calories – again coming mainly from carbs and protein.

Good luck in your training, and remember the take home message here: During intense in-season training losing weight does not equate to better shape, faster swimming equates to better shape! Improved recovery doesn’t have to be a complicated effort, just a consistent effort!