Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Dr Noakes, Spreading the Word on LCHF

Viking has made it pretty clear he is a Dr Noakes groupie over the course of writing the Manifesto and beyond.  I stumbled across a couple of videos of his that I thought were worth sharing with anyone who checks in at the Brief because they are considering the low-carb/high-fat lifestyle.  I had to at least make a few people pay attention, right?

Take a look and let me know what you think...  It was nice that he mentioned Cameron VanDerBurgh.  Now I am waiting for a world class distance swimmer to admit they do this, you know, because us breaststrokers are freaks and whatnot.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Play the cards you are dealt

Lately, circumstances have been standing in the way of my training, and I am not sure it is going to get any better in the foreseeable future. The Viking Experiment just may come to an end if something doesn't change.

First, summer is just plain busy.  I was looking forward to the summer practice schedule getting into full swing because I knew that I could get more swims in but it didn’t work out that way.  I typically swim the warm up and one USRPT set with my team before getting out of the water to coach the rest of the practice.  The deal from day one though, was that if my swimming became perceived as a negative for my team I would stop.  After over a year of swimming with the kids I had my first parent complaint about it, so that part of my swimming comeback is officially over.  If I am going to keep training, I will have to fit it into the nooks and cranny’s between duties.  That is pretty darn hard for a teacher/HS coach/USA coach and administrator whose in-water groups tend to overlap for 12-15 hours straight every day.  I still hold fast to the rule that my swimming will not take away from my family time, so that leaves me very little options.  I plan to plug away the best I can, but I am not sure this is an obstacle I can overcome.  My swims have been reduced to usually less than twenty minutes each and have become fewer and further between. Also struggling to get more than five hours of sleep at night which certainly doesn't help.

Second, I have less racing opportunities this summer, and this is the first summer in a while that I have ever found a way to take a real vacation!  Trust me, I am not disappointed that I will be able to get out of town for a week this year.  My family and I desperately need the break… but it means that I will be out of training for 10 days straight until about 8 days before sectionals.  Again, that’s okay… I have nothing on the line.  I will have fun racing anyway and I still think I will swim faster than last year.  It’s not like I would be training much if I were staying home anyway, right?  Most of my target sets have been lagging lately, and my push times after USRPT sets haven’t been great either, but once in a while I bust out a gem like the 2:44 LCM 200 breast last Thursday evening.  I have never been that fast in practice before, especially in a brief with hair on my legs and no dive.  I think that swimming fast at sectionals will be more of a matter of being “race ready” than “in shape” this year.  Also, I feel like my Viking Method for some reason helps hold the de-training effect off for longer.

The thing that might redeem my summer?... I plan to swim at the Futures meet at Purdue in early August.  That gives me a few extra weeks to get on top of it before the summer comes to a close.  I am considering not even shaving for sectionals and putting all of my eggs in one basket for Futures.  We’ll see how this evolves.

This is the bonus and curse of being an adult athlete.  I have nothing at stake except my pride, and I honestly don’t have that much pride invested.  My goal is to enjoy my swimming.  Of course, I enjoy it more when I see improvement, but if there is a bigger picture here, it is that I want the kids to see that swimming doesn’t have to be a chore.  This is truly a lifetime sport and it is meant to be fun, and not enough of us live that example.  Of course, it is hard to keep that in perspective as a self-improvement junkie who still thinks he has a lifetime best in him, but I will manage the best I can.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Michael Andrew Adidas Deal

I had been wondering for quite a while why no swim gear brands had signed Michael Andrew yet. Of course, he is young and nobody knows what the future holds, but in marketing one would assume that world class speed is not the only thing that matters. Ideally, if you want to sell swim suits you want your brand to be talked about and that is something Michael Andrew has in spades. Plus, his age makes him more marketable for youth.  As a matter of fact, if I were in the marketing department for these companies I would find some athletes living the dream in Masters swimming and sign them too, because if there is anything we can learn from triathlon it is that adult fitness is booming and we need to get creative to capitalize on that. (I mean, come on... If they sponsored me I could help them sell some serious suits to the older crowd, right?  Everyone at masters meets would want to wear Adidas and horned helmets if I were their mascot. Masters swimmers don't care what the fast 25 year-old wears; they care what the kind of fast for his age guy having more fun than everybody else wears.)

Perhaps the big brands were afraid of the vitriol associated with the flaming comment wars on all the swim sites, but that doesn't seem right to me.  I would think they would welcome it.  It gets their product noticed.

My thoughts on it all?... I think that suit makers were afraid of the Andrew family and their controversial pioneering of USRPT. Think about it: we have a very vocal old-boys network who hates it and has had ties with suit companies and their decision makers for decades. Basically, by sponsoring Michael Andrew, a suit company would be bucking the system. They would be essentially endorsing the training that holds the potential to make those coaches they have had long relationships with seem like dinosaurs. I feel that suit companies had been afraid to rock the boat with some of their most powerful partners and that has caused them to miss out on a gem.  Even if MA never wins an Olympic medal in his life he has already accomplished things in this sport that will be remembered for a long time.  He has brought Ultra-Short Race Pace Training to the masses.

Michael Phelps said he wanted to change the sport, but really, what did he do to change anything?  He got us more airtime on ESPN I guess, (tabloids too if anyone is really impressed by that,) and built a personal fan base, but hell, there are mommy-bloggers out there with a pretty large Twitter following as well. Michael Andrew is changing the game by showing us a new way to excel in this crazy sport, and he has been noticed enough to be well on his way toward accomplishing that mission before he has had any Phelpsian level international success. 

So, what does this say about Adidas?  It says that they are entering the suit market with guns blazing.  Michael Andrew is not the only athlete they have signed since jumping into our sport, with Cesar Cielo, Allison Schmitt and more on board before MA, but adding Michael to their list is a brave step. Adidas is new to the game and owes no loyalty to anyone. They see our sport as a fresh and exciting market, and I think that their endorsement of Michael Andrew says that if he and his training have the potential to be a game changer for swimming, they want to be a part of it.  They are sailing their ship into uncharted territory with no fear about what they will find in this strange land.

So, here's to Adidas.  I hope I am right, and that this company has come into competitive swimming intending to make the other tech suit makers feel like they have missed an opportunity by maintaining the status quo. I feel this was a really good move. 

Congrats to the Andrew family as well. This is a very exciting time for the sport of swimming and I hope that this partnership with Adidas serves to make your passionate pursuit to change the sport a more rewarding experience. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


One of the reasons I really like USRPT is because it gets straight to the point with each swimmer and asks the most important question "Are you motivated to improve your swimming?". A frequent criticism of the training is that it's the "same sets over and over again". Must be boring, right?

Wrong! In my three weeks of training I have never had more fun training for swimming. Far from boring, every set has my mind working at 100% capacity, as I try to improve my technique, hit my paces and manage the start times (and keep count). USRPT, and the question it begs, has brought quickly into focus for me what I want to accomplish and why I am motivated for it. In talking through motivation with my swimmers, I have cited Deci and Ryan's self determination theory which I find particularly strong in outlining motivation.

For Deci and Ryan, the highest point in the hierarchy of motivation is intrinsic motivation, which is defined as "the doing of an activity for its inherent satisfactions rather than for some separable consequences". I enjoy the challenge of coming to the pool and trying to work on my swimming, and although I do have a goal of how fast I want to swim, I hardly think about it. My focus is on what I can do each day to improve myself, and then whatever comes from that is a bonus.

Ok, on to the workouts:

Wednesday, June 3rd

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x25m turns
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: By far the worst workout I have had to date. I was anxious after the nearly week long lay off necessitated by my trip to Bergen, Norway for a competition. I showed up at a time I don't typically swim, but one at which I figured would be relatively empty. Instead, the lap lanes were surrounded by loud schoolkids and there were probably 7-8 lap swimmers in each of the 50m lanes. Training in public swimming time can be a problem with this type of training- everyone around me is going much slower, and just swimming continuously. I finished my warmup fine and managed to negotiate my turns alright. When I started the set, I found it completely impossible to do it. On each of the 25s I attempted, I either swam right up on somebody and was unable to pass, or I got a fist in my back while resting for the next repetition. There was simply no room to do the practice, and no time to wait the situation out. I completed maybe 6x25, but without any idea what my pace or time was. I was frustrated and a bit anxious that my great work from last week would be squandered.

Thursday, June 4th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x20m start and breakout
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: By the next day, I decided I just need to shake it off and go after the same practice again. I arrived in good time and with adequate space to do my training. I was able to do 20x25 at my new pace (15 sec), with 12 in a row to start, then 6 and 2 more before I felt my lactic acid spike and shut it down for the day. I felt really good that I hadn't given up on challenging myself despite the layoff. My main focus technically is getting my legs to keep a small amplitude and good frequency, because I am working on the same with my swimmers and it allows me a stable plane to rotate from.

Monday, June 8th

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x15m breakout
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 15

How it went: As I wrote earlier, i have temporarily set breaststroke aside and I am focusing on freestyle. I have added 15 minutes of stretching to the end of every training, because I know I need to improve my flexibility before I can progress with my breaststroke technique. This workout went great! I made 28x25 on pace 15, with 22 in a row, then a break and 6 more before I felt my lactic acid spike again and decided to shut it down. I feel like if I give myself adequate rest and recovery I will be able to do 30x25 on the next go around, and then possible set my pace down to 14 already. However, I know that might not happen quite so fast so I am going to take improvement as it comes and just focus on each day on it's own.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Highs and Lows

Thank goodness I don't have to start this post with a longwinded introduction. Since writing my last post, I have been to the pool for three swims! I had to cram them in three days in a row, which I didn't feel was ideal, but I knew I was going away to coach in Bergen, Norway over the weekend and wouldn't be able to swim. It is one of the great paradoxes of coaching that you are constantly around a pool but it is hardly ever appropriate for you to be swimming in it.

Tuesday, May 26th:

The workout
3x100 Warmup
8x25m turns
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 16

How it went: Success! I managed to crank out 30x25 at my pace in this one, and damn it felt good. I made 18 in a row to start the set, then rested and did 8, then finished with four. It felt really good to build up to this. On the other hand, I know I am going to progress fast at the outset because I am so "untrained". One thing I noticed about a set where I swam so much continuous was how hot my body got- I was sweating for 15-20 minutes after getting out of the water.

Wednesday, May 27th

The workout:
3x100 warmup
8x20m breaststroke breakouts
30x25 breaststroke, pace 20

How it went: Man, breaststroke is hard. One observation I have is that when you are doing breaststroke your work to rest ratio can be a little off. You are naturally always going to be slower, so I set my time all the way up to :20 rest and pace :20. However, I still really struggled to get anything going. I was still only able to 14x25, with 8 in a row, then 4 and then 2. Everything felt hard- I got some lactic acid, I struggled to hold technique and my pace fell apart. I think that I may have to be really patient in breaststroke, and that also my flexibility is really holding me back at this point, so I need to correct that ASAP.

Thursday, May 28th

The workout:
3x100 warmup
8x15m freestyle finishes
30x25 Freestyle, Pace 16

How it went: 30 in a row! Damn did that feel good. After Tuesday, I told myself I would force the pace up when I made 30 in a row, and now I suppose I will have to. It was really good to get into a rhythm and keep firing. The biggest challenge I had was that I was training in a crowded lap lane, where everyone else just wanted to swim continuously at a much slower pace. Invariably I was swimming around someone, or getting rammed in the back while I was resting, and I had to screw with my rest intervals both up and down to make sure I had space to swim. I didn't let it stress me out- these are the conditions that I GET to train under and I cannot control other people in the lane.

Looking forward: I know that in about three weeks I will be headed to the European Games in Baku. Because of various logistical crazyness, I will be there thirteen days for a five day swim meet. Supposedly there will be a pool at the Athletes Village where we will stay, but already I am preparing myself that training conditions could be rough or non-existent. We shall see!