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OR Do You Take the Same Stroke 100,000 Times?
Average performers tend to feel they’re getting the job done if they grind out long sets of freestyle repeats. But too often that just means the same freestyle stroke imprinted thousands of times.
~by Terry Laughlin
Swimming is unique among all sports in the opportunity it offers to compensate for physical “ordinariness” with superior mindfulness. Moving a human body through water requires so many subtle skills that the combination of time and clear focus can add more to your mastery than whatever age may subtract from your physical capacity.
In 1963, at age 12, I tried out for my elementary school swim team. Though this was as grassroots as swimming gets I didn't make the cut. In fact, my tryout lap prompted one coach to attempt a rescue. At 15 I tried out for my high school team and made it -- not because my swimming had progressed much; our first-year team was accepting all comers. I fell so deeply in love with swimming that I was undiscouraged when, as a senior, I qualified only for the "novice" championship, racing mostly against freshmen. As a college distance swimmer I managed to win a few races in dual meets against minor rivals, but nothing in first 10 years of swimming suggested any particular promise.
Why it's important and the basics of how to do it.
~by Scott Bay, Coach/Swimmer, Dynoswim Aquatics
When I was a young athlete, I always had a ‘Goal Conference’ with the coach of whatever sport I was involved in at the time so the coach could explain to me what my goals were.
How crazy is that?
Goals for an athlete are not the expectations of the coach at all. They are a conversation between a coach and an athlete. Goals are important to athletes and coaches as it helps to guide things like workouts and decision making not only in the pool but in other parts of life as well. The athlete for his or her part brings dreams and ambition to the table. The coach for his or her part brings a knowledge of the steps necessary to achieve what athletes desire…Kind of.
A good coach has many things in the toolbox that have been put there by experience, education and failures as well as successes. Often times we refer to this collective wisdom as the voice of reason. Someone else may refer to it as a dream killing cynicism. Lets look at the right way for an athlete and a coach to set goals.
The athlete should spend some time reflecting on a few basic questions. What is it that I want? What steps are involved in achieving my goal? What am I willing to sacrifice to achieve my goal. Is my goal even achievable/realistic? What will I do if I do/do not achieve my goal.
The coach should spend a lot of time listening to the athlete and be ready to ask all of the questions that an athlete should be thinking about. Goals should be reasonable and attainable. Goals should be specific to the athlete NOT the athlete’s competition. Goals should be measurable. Goals should not be the end of the road.
Step one: Think about where you are and where you want to be. Your wants should be tempered by a cold hard look at reality. I would love to have a goal of being in the 50 free at the next Olympics. I am pushing 40 and 10+ seconds away from world-class speed in the 50 free. I have two kids and a full time job. I have the genetic gifts and grace of Fred Flintstone. Are my wants consistent with reality? Clearly not. I want to break one minute in the 100 free this year. That is more like it.
Step two. Tell someone your goals and ask them what they think. Make sure it is a person you trust to be honest with you. Need a test. Use my aforementioned example. If someone in my life said you should go for it, they probably like me but are not willing to tell me the truth for fear it would hurt my feelings.
Step three. Discuss goal with a coach. Ask what he or she thinks and get some real feedback.
Step four. Write down all of the little things that need to happen to make your goal easier to achieve. Eat better, sleep more, train more, and train differently.
Step five. Make the goal a part of the rest of your life. If it is truly important to you, you will skip things like that extra piece of cake. You will make that practice even when you are tired. You will find yourself looking at nutrition labels. You will find a way to do what you need to do to make it happen not just in the pool but also at work home and school. This DOES NOT mean you let anything outside of swimming slide. It means you manage your time and life better to take care of your responsibilities as well as reach for your goals.
Step six. Have a next goal in mind. Goals are not black and white. There is no failure here really so do not be afraid to scare yourself a little with a challenging goal. If you improve and come close to your goal that is still a success. Making it 100 percent next time around can be the new goal. If you achieve your goal make sure you have a next step ready but do not forget to celebrate your achievement.
Final thoughts. There are lots of sudden changes in life that alter the way we look at things. Be prepared to adjust your expectations and goals accordingly. Also, blind devotion to a goal is not healthy either. When I talked about sacrificing things to achieve your goals, I was speaking about chocolate chip cookies, not a marriage or career.
"Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing." ~George Sheehan
Dynoswimmers have saved 67 different workouts as completed thus far in 2007. If you've completed a workout in the database don't forget to "save it as completed". By saving workouts that you complete you could keep track of your monthly and yearly totals. If you aren't tracking your workouts already create a Dynoswim account and start keeping track today!
For those of you using this feature leave the total yards or meters that you've completed thus far in the comments.
Swimming World Magazine has posted an article with a recap of a teleconference call with the media that took place after the Missouri Grand Prix. They discuss Michael's World Record swim in the 200m Butterfly, the new Speedo FS-Pro, the upcoming World Championships in Melbourne, AU, among other topics.
~By Sharon Robb
“We all experience doubts and fears as we approach new challenges. The fear diminishes with the confidence that comes from experience and faith. Sometimes you just have to go for it and see what happens. Jumping into the battle does not guarantee victory, but being afraid to try guarantees defeat.”
-- Brian Goodell, 1976 Olympic gold medalist
Brian Goodell was known for his mental toughness and tremendous work ethic.
"Anything that is too stupid to be spoken is sung." ~Voltaire
On Feb 1st 2007 Martin Strel started swimming all the way from Atalaya (Peru) to the Atlantic Ocean at Belém (Brazil). He is planning to complete the 3,375 mile (5,430 km) ultimate challenge in 70 days.
Check Martin Strel's progress at:
~Written by Emily Nohner
"My heart is moved by all I can not save:
So much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world."
It came to me this summer that I needed to do something extraordinary. Something that scares me a bit, and moreover, that I think to be impossible. What first triggered this thought allows a bit more explanation. You see, I have never met this boy that lives in Nevada who has suffered from the most extreme cerebral palsy. He has undergone numerous surgeries - one which last year lasted over a month as he had to have his entire back re-opened because he had become infected from the first surgery (which fused a metal pole on his spine). This meant he had to lie on his stomach for six weeks with an open back as the wounds healed. I was told about this courageous young man by my mentor, professor, and friend Dr. Duncan. This 16 year old hero is his nephew. While I spent my junior year writing essay after essay, pouring hours into the Truman Scholarship application, Dr. Duncan was putting in the same selfless hours by my side. He was the only one from the beginning who felt I actually might have a chance at winning the scholarship, besides of course Mom and Dad! I was certainly an underdog in many respects. He assures me that I won it because of me not him, but I can assure everyone that realistically if he had not nominated me, helped me through the process, edited my essays, and drilled me for the practice interviews, winning would never have been an option for me.
So one can see how surprised I was to hear in the spring of 2006 in class that his nephew was suffering in a hospital bed, states away. I was overcome with feelings of regret (that I had not known about this and helped in some way) and sadness (that this boy is suffering and someone so close to the Duncan family). I am a “do-er” and immediately my little wheels starting turning in my head. I had to do something but I didn’t know what.
During a walk in the summer it came to me. I will swim around Big Birch Lake. For those who may not know this lake is sacred to the Nohner family. My Dad was raised on the lake and we have spent our summers there. My Grandma just recently sold her home to my uncle, and it serves as a kind of foundation for our family. We also own a cabin in the neighboring bay not far from Grandma’s home.
My thought process went like this: “I want to raise money for this guy, I want to push myself to do something that I don’t think I could do (in a small way sacrifice as he has had to sacrifice obviously in a much larger way), and make it a celebration of life.” So I was told by a friend (thanks Ruthy!) to look online for swim workouts. Mind you, I have not swum a proper stroke since I was five years old and took lessons. So I typed in “distance swim workouts” on a yahoo search and boom, there was Dynoswim.com. This website is made for anyone who wants to enjoy the sport of swimming, novice, experienced, competitive, college, and masters alike. I emailed the head coach and founder, Dean Osterloh of Dynoswim, and asked if he thought this idea of mine (as I am a very novice swimmer, and admittedly out of shape gal) to make a serious swim around a lake in 2007 was a possibility. He said I sounded determined enough to do it, so he would help in whatever way possible. So, I purchased my first pair of goggles and swim cap. When I went to the local pool in June, I felt like such a poseur. I was swimming minimally, and was pumped if I lasted 30 minutes. I thought I was so good. Little did I know what would be in store for me.
As my workout assignments increased from Dean O. at Dynoswim I realized the meaning of sacrifice. Lay off the alcoholic beverages, wake up to swim at 6 AM if I can’t make the night swim, and stay in the water no matter how humiliated I may feel even if short of breath after what is meant to be an easy warm-up!
By August Dean was saying that I needed to join a masters swim team. This was meant to help me so that a coach could monitor my progress and help with my stroke technique. The camaraderie of a team would hopefully be a nice support system too. As it turns out UD has its first masters team at the gym this year. They are very, very good. I have been with them for a few months now and although I can’t make every practice I have been swimming at least twice a week with the team. My goal for the past two months was to swim an average of 12,000 yards per week. This means 4 practices of 3,000 yards. For those who may not know, a mile is 1650 yards.
Now I need to begin the hardest part of the training. This is the point of no return. I will have to commit myself to swimming 4,000 yards five times a week. I will also practice swimming in open water. Without the black line as a focal point it is easy to get dizzy in the water. Dean has told me that I need to work on being in the water as much as possible.
The goal of the swim has taken on many aspects. But I can say that it is rooted in love, it is meant to bring hope to others, belief and power to myself, love and support to a boy I may never meet, and a thank you to Dr. Duncan. Just as people say, when one begins to do volunteer work- the person always thinks that they will be doing all the helping and that they will transform lives. When, in actuality, that person learns more about themselves and gains more than they had ever imagined from the experience. Each day brings a new challenge, cold water, sick with a cold, have a test, it’s a school break, I feel incapable of the set, etc.; but each little victory has been worth its weight in gold. No matter how far I am able to make it in August, it is my sincere hope that I can stand there that day and say that I did my best in training and on the swim, and that it was the process - not just the final swim which was a success.
Thank you for being with me, if there are any questions please ask away. Save the date for August 4th, 2007; it will be great to have you there. My family is able to host the members of anyone wanting to make the swim alongside of me. What has blown me away is that there are two others from Dynoswim who don’t know me that want to fly in and do the swim. Here are individuals that are so kind they are willing to give up a weekend, join a family they don’t even know and swim around a lake!
If you feel you can contribute to being on the boat team - which will be steering the way for the swimmers and providing support/food/etc. do let me know. We have one physician who will be there at the swim, but any help for strategy and advice is much appreciated - as this is the first time I have done this! August 4th is indeed the fishing tournament on the lake, but after much consideration I think it may be a blessing in disguise because hopefully it will mean there are less recreational boats on the water causing more risks and waves. In the Spring I will have a more concrete measurement on the mileage circumference of the lake, but the estimate I believe now is that when taking the bays out of the equation it would be about a nine-mile swim. In total Big Birch lake is 13 miles. This Spring my family will circle the lake by boat noting exactly which shorelines they followed and providing a closer approximation of mileage. The swim will not include the other side of the pass (for those who haven’t been to the lake the pass divides the lake essentially into 2 sections. We will be swimming one section). Because people may be interested in swimming with me and/or being present that weekend I know we will have to work around travel plans. I am attaching the map location of the lake. There are hotels in Sauk Centre which is about a 20 minute commute. I would like to make the swim on Saturday the 4th, with practices taking place Friday.
In conclusion, I will be taking pledges for the gentleman in Nevada. His back has healed by now but it is very uncomfortable for him to sit upright. Often he slouches side to side to ease the pain. His parents have to lift him in order to move him to wherever he needs to be. Any and all donations received will go directly to him. He is free to do with it what he wishes. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who have helped me along the way. Please email me if you would like more information, updates, etc.
Click on the left hand side for Melrose & Sauk Centre. The red circle outlines the location of these cities. Big Birch Lake is 10 minutes from Melrose and 20 from Sauk Centre. http://www.sitesatlas.com/Flash/USCan/MNFH.htm
Michael's class assignment to write on the topic, "If I could camouflage myself..."
If I could camouflage myself, I would hide on the bottom of an Olympic pool.
To begin with, I would be invisible so I could get up close to someone. I could go from lane to lane to see each swimmer as they swim. I’d have the best view to watch the fastest swimmers in the world as they compete against each other.
In addition, I would be able to watch and learn the stroke techniques of the world’s best swimmers as they go for the gold medal.
In conclusion, I hope to pick up some more speed in my favorite stroke, which is freestyle. This would be an opportunity of a lifetime to learn from the best of the best.
"I could use a little love and affection, but I sure as heck won't get any from Pat."
~An unidentified Dynoswimmer
For those of you who have submitted workouts into the Dynoswim database we think you'll like the improved "View Your Submitted Workouts" tab interface. We display your submitted workouts into separate year tabs. We also display the number of users who have saved your workout as completed. We hope these enhancements makes the site more usable. Again feel free to leave a comment with any feedback, or features you think would benefit the Dynoswim community. For those of you who haven't created a workout this is what the interface looks like:
Note: You could access this page from within your profile page, the link is located at the bottom of the page labeled "View your submitted workouts".
~By Scott Rabalais
In 1972, Mark Spitz, swimming for Indiana University, won his fourth consecutive NCAA title in the 100-yard butterfly. On the first 25-yard length of the race, which included a dive start, Spitz took six strokes of butterfly. On each of the three subsequent 25s, Spitz managed seven strokes of butterfly. (Swimming aficionados may be well aware this was before the use of extended underwater dolphining.)
As an impressionable 13-year old, I recall tuning in to watch Spitz perform his butterfly magic and swim away from the field. Curious of his distance per stroke, I counted every stroke of his race. At my next swim practice, I learned that not only did I take several more strokes per length than Spitz, I was nowhere near as consistent in stroke count from length to length!
Consistency in Sport
Consistency in movement and in the application of power can be viewed as an important issue in almost all athletic activities. Golfers seek in earnest for the "perfect swing," and then attempt to recreate it. Baseball pitchers aim for uniformity in their approach and aim to consistently hit their target. Our aerobic counterparts, runners, cover great distances with machine-like repetitiveness in their strides.
Like Spitz, accomplished swimmers vary little in their execution not only from length to length, but from stroke to stroke. Through many years of practice and the formation of precisely repetitive stroke habits, great swimmers have learned to find their best stroke and to repeat it dozens, if not hundreds, of times in a race.
Consistency in Adult Swimmers
It is not uncommon to find inconsistent stroke counts when viewing Masters swimmers at work. Particularly at meets or in time trials, when swimmers are asked to give their best effort, the efficiency of a stroke can easily break down during the course of a race. Particularly in distance swimming races, where efficiency of movement is vitally important, stroke counts can vary widely from the beginning to the end of a race.
The Challenge of Consistency
Why is consistency of stroke so difficult to obtain? If one gives study to the nature of the human body and mind, the answers are evident. The human body, albeit a machine, is exhaustible. As energy is spent, supplies are gradually depleted, bodily systems do not function to their potential and results are less than ideal. Consistency in swimming is also tied to consistency of effort, beginning with the mental faculties of focus and concentration. As the mind wanders, the sense of control over bodily movement can decrease.
To improve one’s stroke consistency, which will produce a more uniform stroke count over repetitive lengths of a pool, take either a physical or mental approach. Swim training may be viewed as a physical act that breeds consistency. With each stroke, physical habits are being reinforced, and the more strokes taken, the more reinforced becomes the stroke pattern. This leads one to consider the importance of learning proper technique early in one’s stroke development, rather than later, when stroke habits are more ingrained.
Mind and Body
Deeply ingrained stroke habits come automatically to a swimmer, allowing the accomplished swimmer to swim great distances with little conscious thought given to stroke technique. However, the technical abilities of a swimmer can be compromised due to physical fatigue, and it is the mind of the swimmer that must convince and force the body to maintain a repetitive and rhythmical stroke routine. If a swimmer loses the ability to focus on stroke technique, efficiency is decreased and the swimmer typically loses speed.
To gain consistency in your stroke (and approach the level of Mark Spitz!), engage in regular training that will adapt your body to comfortably repeating an efficient stroke. Runners will take millions of strides, golfers will take hundreds of thousands of practice swings, and pitchers will throw thousands of baseballs throughout a career in an effort to develop a positive consistency in their approach. Continue to refine your stroke with the help of a specialist as well as self-inspection, modifying your ingrained physical and mental patterns over time.
Count for Consistency
One exercise that is most beneficial for maintaining stroke consistency can be included in any practice or swim routine. Over a specific distance, count the number of single-arm strokes per length and aim to hit the same number of strokes each length, while maintaining a consistent pace through the swim. If counting is not your forte’, ask a friend or coach to count your strokes for you. When counting strokes for freestyle and backstroke, make sure to count strokes on both arms, rather than just one arm, as a single-arm stroke increase or decrease can be quite telling.
There is no right or wrong stroke count for you; start with your current abilities and work to improve. Here is a sample freestyle set that you may wish to try on your next trip to the pool:
10 x 100-yard freestyle, resting 20 seconds after each 100-yard repeat
Count your number of single-arm strokes on each length. Typically, the first length may be a stroke less than the other lengths due to the rest period preceding it, so do not be surprised to see a slight inconsistency in this regard.
A common stroke count may be 16 freestyle single-arm strokes (8 stroke cycles) on the first 25 yards, then 17 strokes (8.5 cycles) on the remaining lengths of the 100-yard swim. Experienced swimmers may take significantly less strokes.
As the set progresses, aim to keep the same swim time on each 100-yard swim, while keeping the same or lower stroke count. Also, aim to keep the number of strokes on each the length the same from one length to the next, or at least as close as possible.
The End Result
Many professional basketball players can step to the free throw line in practice and sink 100 consecutive free throws. That’s consistency! They do so only because they have developed consistency in their routine and delivery through years of practice. Swimmers are similar creatures, and while not throwing a ball in a hoop, they want to make it to the finish with maximum speed and efficiency. Great swimmers may not hear the "Whoosh!" of the ball through the basket, but they will see better results on the scoreboard!
Scott Rabalais is a collegiate and Masters swim coach in Savannah, Georgia.
On January 26, Steve Cattles of Greeley, Colorado said:
"I guess my favorite swimming experience would be when I went to short course nationals for masters swimming in 2003. I cut six minutes off my 1,000 yard time and for the first time in my life I felt like I belonged at that meet."
Thanks Steve, that's what the competitive spirit is all about - performing at your own best level - great job!
Remember, you too can share your favorite swimming exeperience. To do so, click here.
~Kate Lohnes, Monitor Staff Writer
Competitive swimming is one of the best-kept secrets in the United States, said Dave Thomas, the southern zone sport development consultant for U.S.A. Swimming (the national governing body for the sport). That isn’t to say swimming is a small sport: it’s actually one of the biggest in the country.
"Swimming is a lot more popular than people realize," he said. "There’s millions of Americans participating in swimming as an activity every day."
"The mind's first step to self-awareness must be through the body."
If you're uncomfortable with the answer, then contact us.
This week’s Speedo Tip of the Week comes from USA Swimming’s Biomechanics Coordinator Russell Mark. Mark offers some advice on proper butterfly arm recovery.