What I am going to talk about today is going to be a little bit of a misnomer because Amanda was in anything but a sprint program. She trains pretty much middle distance. If I can swim her in a 500 free and she can go fast she will train for a 500 free, then her hundred is going to be even better. Her program is not about her doing 12 1/2’s on 5 minutes and jumping up and going 53.5 for a hundred meters freestyle. The flyers Amanda and Chris handed out are an example of a week or Amanda Weir’s training. It will give you some of the workouts, the dry-land program and the weight program that she did. I think that that is going to help a lot. Then I decided I see if I was alone in the country in terms of training like this. So I called around the country and spoke with coaches that I knew and respected. I asked them to give me their favorite set. Give me a set that you feel really helps your guys go fast. I talked to Olympic coaches, I talked to Olympians, I talked to anybody who would give me a great set. The second handout you are getting is some really, really good sets that people use to try and help their athletes go faster. One of the things you are going to notice is that there are a lot of people doing a lot of work to have those kids go fast. The swimmers are not going fast off of swimming an hour a day and then doing some stretching and dry-land. Those guys are putting real work. You can color me old school if you want, but I feel like that is the only way to get it done. The common denominator for fast swimming is hard work. You have got to get it done or I don’t think you can go fast consistently. With that in mind, what I am going to do today is talk for a little bit. Then my son Chris is going to come up and talk about the strength program that Amanda does. Truly, strength for her is not a weakness as you can see just by looking at her. She is uncommonly strong and she has gotten stronger, which is a plus. I tell my athletes this and I think this is true for all of your athletes as well. Should I be able to give Amanda Weir’s strength to another athlete, and that athlete could give her their strength, the athlete with Amanda’s strength is the better athlete. That athlete is the one that is going to swim faster. I think getting stronger is very, very important and you should pay attention to that. Chris will come up and explain all the weights and the great program he designed for her. Everybody he has ever put on that program who works the program, ends up having a great season and swims very, very fast. Listening to him will be really, really, really good.
I assume everybody knows about Amanda and her accomplishments, but just in case: she is a 6 time National Age Group record holder. I think for the 13-14 year old age group, she is the only girl that has ever broken 50 seconds, unless someone has done it recently. She is a three time National Champion, a two time Silver Medalist, a former, by just a little, American record holder. So she obviously has some great credentials and as I said before, she did all that by working hard. She gets in and she races in the middle distance or the distance lane with her object every day to make my boys feel bad about themselves. Most days she does that. I tell most of our girls and I have told Amanda since she was knee high, she should race the boys. I believe that if you can race the boys, then the girls are easy. I think she does that every day. The boys do not like seeing her in their lane. She keeps them very, very honest.
I am going to first talk about some of her strengths. Obviously, as we said, being strong is one of these and one that is going to be off the beaten path. It allows her to do the different workouts at different levels that she can do. It also lets her do different things like descend in practice. I will leave this talk about her strength to Chris. When I look at Amanda and I try to think about some of her strengths, she obviously loves to compete, she loves to work hard, and she is great at goal setting. She loves to work in the weight room. She is not afraid to race people. She is extremely talented and has a great feel for the water. She can start and turn very well, so she has the full package. As a matter of fact, after she set the American record, all of my friends said that this was a case of the athlete making the coach, not the coach making the athlete. I probably would have to agree with that. I believe if one of you had Amanda Weir you would be up here doing the talk, and I would be happier because I would be back there where you guys are right now. She is that good and she makes people around her better.
One of the things that I don’t think you would necessarily think makes a difference for her, but it does, is goal setting. When we do goal setting, we may do it a little differently than you do it. Interestingly, I was just on the International trip to Japan. We had 58 athletes on that trip and I was surprised at the amount of athletes that I talked to who really never goal set. They might have intangibly goal set out there, but they do not put it in writing. If you have read anything on goal setting, you know that you enhance your chances of achieving a goal by a thousand times if you put the goal in writing. We do it as a positive affirmation, in the present tense. Because we believe that your brain cannot tell the difference between something that is vividly imagined and something that is real. So, if Amanda were to set a goal of breaking the American record, which she did, she would write, “I feel great swimming the 100 meter freestyle in 52.9” or whatever her goal is. Actually when we goal set, we set the goal of breaking the World Record, and she just missed that. If you believe, as I do, that your brain cannot tell the difference between something that is vividly imagined and something that is real, and if you see this enough times, you start believing you have already done it. When you believe that you have already done it once, it is a lot easier to do it the second time.
To try to get that point across think about when you guys were younger and you were at home. Parents left you alone, maybe for the first time, the doors were locked and you were watching TV when all of a sudden you hear a noise in the house. Your heart rate goes up, you start getting goose bumps and you begin looking around the house. That is all imagination. There is nobody in that house. You knew it, but your mind doesn’t know the difference because you are vividly imagining that someone is in that house. When we do the goal setting in the present tense, in a positive affirmation, I then have them rehearse those races. They try to imagine how they are going to feel when they hit the wall and turn around and look at the score board and see the time. It is huge. I think for our entire club, it is absolutely huge. I would hope that all of you do goal setting if you are looking for an edge, because face it, everybody works hard, everybody pretty much does a lot of the same sets. That kind of goal setting is very, very, very important.
Another thing that I tell our kids about and I think this applies to all of us, in every walk of life, is that we move towards and become more like the pictures of ourselves we hold in our minds. I asked Amanda one time, I don’t remember if it was pre or post making the Olympic team, but I asked, “Did you know you were going to make the Olympic team?” Her answer was, “Yes, I just didn’t know which one. There was never a doubt in my mind I would be an Olympian, I just didn’t know which Olympic team that would be.” We move towards and become more like the pictures of ourselves we hold in our mind. If you see yourself or you can get your kids to see themselves at a certain level and you can trick the subconscious mind to believing that, you will move toward that picture.
The other part of that is, if you believe that you are an Olympian, what do you believe that Olympians do? Well, they work hard, they eat right, they sleep right, they goal set, and they lift hard. They do all those things that are going to get them to that level. I think if you were to ask Amanda, and you will get a chance to do that later, I think that she would say that one of the things which gives her a bit of an advantage over some people is that she does goal set. She does do it in the present tense in a positive affirmation and she believes in her mind. She actually sees herself at that level and then she moves towards that picture. This is just a little bit of soap box for me, but I think that is one of the things that maybe separates her from her competition.
The other part of that is that I read somewhere, I cannot remember where, but I read that from the time you are born to age 16 years you hear “I can’t” somewhere around ¾ of a million times. Three quarters of a million times you have been told you can’t, that is a lot to overcome, a lot to overcome. The more times you can put positives at the subconscious level, the better chance you have of being successful. It is kind of like garbage in and garbage out. I believe that you take things in at the conscious level, you store them at the subconscious level and then your creative subconscious will bring that about. Whatever you have stored at the subconscious level, is the last thing that you think about. I have had this happen to athletes who have said, “I hope my goggles do not fall down when I dive in.” What is probably going to happen? The goggles are probably going to fall down, even though it has probably never happened before. It is because you move toward that picture. The other part I think is huge is what you have to try and get the athletes not to do is when they get on the blocks. They should get on the blocks with the attitude of “I can’t wait to see how fast I can go,” not, “What if I don’t go fast?” That is a huge difference. Every now and then an athlete will come to me and say, “If I don’t go fast my mom says I can’t swim anymore” or “My mom is not going to pay for this trip.” That athlete may as well not even get on the block. I tell them, “You are done if you think that way.” The mental picture that you see is someone going slow. Then I remind them that we move towards and become like the picture we have in our mind.
I have kind of a biting wit with my swimmers, but I have to be really careful that I am very positive with them. For the best results you must paint the picture of what you are trying to get them to do, rather than what you are trying to get them to avoid. I try real hard to do that in practice when I am trying to make a stroke change. Again this is another instance of creating that picture. I liken it to being a lifeguard sitting in the lifeguard chair. When I see a kid is running down the deck I yell “Don’t run.” But what goes through his mind? In his mind he immediately sees somebody run. To get him to do what I want him to do, I need to instead yell “Walk.” It seems so simplistic, but it took me long time in my early coaching years to get that into my mind so I could coach that way.
Probably 25 years ago I had this swimmer. This kid was absolutely the worst turner I have ever seen in my entire life. He was awful, and now matter what I did, it didn’t help. I broke turns down into sections, and I even brought him in alone. Everything you can imagine to get him to turn better. All to no avail, he still sucked. He was just awful. Surprisingly enough he was a Junior National level kid because he would race like crazy. However, he would just get drilled on the walls. One day I stopped him and said, “Larry, Wow! That is unbelievable! Your turns are so much better. Have you been in here practicing on your own?” Of course he looked at me like I was an idiot. I went into a further explanation, “This is unbelievable to me because you are beating Jeff Hike over here and he always beats you like crazy. It is unbelievable when you push off in streamline and you push off deep. That is absolutely amazing when you do that, you are incredible.” From that day forward, he was a great turner and any time I wanted him to get back to them when he would get sloppy again, I would just tell him what a great turner he was. We move towards and become like the pictures we have in our mind. When you make a stroke correction or stroke change, paint the picture of what you want them to do, not what you are trying to get them to avoid. I think you will have a lot of success that way.
Here I am getting ahead of myself. Amanda did have some challenges when I was coaching her. I won’t tell all of the Amanda Weir stories that I tell in private, but I might tell one before it is over. But not right now. She was good at starting. She was good also at finishing. As she progressed up the ladder though, we wanted to be great at starting and great at finishing. I do not know if you have access to this, but she came back one year from Georgia I think, and had about eight weeks to get ready to go to a really, really fast meet. So we started working speed and quickness. Does anybody here do that with your kids? It is a little bit like plyometrics, but it also has the agility components. I don’t have the stuff with me now, but it made a huge difference. I used to watch Amanda enter the race against World Class athletes and she would come up even or a bit behind the field. Obviously if you are trying to set a world record you want to come up way ahead. That speed and quickness work made a huge difference on her ability to get off the blocks and get in the water. It also helped her to hold her streamline tight. She then began coming up ahead of people in races. When she set the American record she definitely did that on the start and the turn against someone that usually drills people on both. That made a huge difference for her.
Probably the biggest challenge Amanda had was kicking. When I got her, she was a 4 beat cross-over or a 2 beat cross-over kicker. She just was not very good at kicking and I remember stopping her one day at 14 or 15 and told her if she wanted to be great she had better learn the 6 beat kick. Initially we tried to do it by swimming long sets and then blending the kick in with the arms, but that did not work. The way that we remedied it is that we had her push off the wall and work the 6 beat kick, then blend the hands in with the kick. That worked very well, but it did not make her a better kicker. That just made her a 6 beat kicker when she swam. So then she went on a campaign to really become a better kicker. She was the worst we had in the pool. You put her on the board and the other kids were slapping her around and telling her to get out of their way. She was that bad and she admits it. I don’t think she could have broken 2 minutes for a 100 yard flutter kick, she was that slow. I don’t know if many of you use them, but we use shoes a lot. I have used them a lot on and off over 30 years. I think that if you are trying to teach somebody to flutter kick you should put shoes on them. Not combat boots, but just regular tennis shoes like Nike running shoes. We use the shoes in a lot of different ways. We started off with her going 30 minute kicks on the wall with shoes. She had to try and keep her heart rate at about 160. When she got better at that, we started going somewhere. We would do 20 minute kicks where she would go 45 seconds trying to keep her heart rate at 160 and then 15 seconds just as fast as she could go with the shoes. Then we would put shoes on and we would kick 100’s, 50’s, 75’s. Eventually we started blending the shoes in with the arms while she was actually swimming, working on a 6 beat kick with the shoes. I don’t think she ever would have set the American record if she hadn’t become a better kicker. I also do not think she would have become a better kicker if we didn’t use the shoes. It made a huge difference for her. Now she has kicked 100 yards flutter kick in under 1:10. AMANDA speaks 1:08 See she knew it. 1:08. From 2 minutes to 1:08, that is a pretty good improvement. Now obviously it is Amanda Weir and she worked at it. She took pride in it, which wasn’t always the case. But she knew that it would make the difference. I don’t know, you can ask her later, but she may even have a goal set and written down, “I feel great being the best kicker at Swim Atlanta.”
Once again the process of moving toward becoming that picture of herself that she has in her mind. That was probably the biggest challenge, although we never had a challenge with her. Well, maybe getting her to practice on time. That is a bit of a challenge sometimes. But developing her kick was probably the biggest, in terms of changing something that she was doing. She was willing to do it because she ended up setting the American record and has been 3 time National Champion and 2 time silver medalist in the Olympics. The last thing that I think is really good relates to a point when we didn’t always win the close races. So we set a goal that if we were in the hunt, nobody could beat us the last 10 meters. We called it “go into 5th gear” and so the last 10 meters, she doesn’t ever breathe. She holds her breath, and she gets to the wall. Now you can’t just do that in the meet. She does that every single day in practice on everything that she does. She races to the wall the last 10 meters and holds her breath so it becomes automatic when she gets to the meet. I think that was huge also. Again, another mind set thing. I cannot over-emphasize enough what a hard worker she is. Looking at her you would think she could come in and go ten 50’s on 3 minutes every other day and float the other days and she would still swim fast. I don’t believe that. I truly don’t believe that. I still believe you get speed, most of your speed through endurance. This means you have got to get in the water and do some sets.
There was a time, certainly not right now, but there was a time when Amanda could go 15 or 20 300s in yard on 3:15 and make them all. That is pretty good for a sprinter. There was a set we did one time, which may be in what I have given out, where we went five 200’s in yards on 2:20 and then a 400, a 300, a 200, and a 100, all at a 1:05 100 pace. Which expands out to be 4:20, 3:15, 2:10, 1:05 and then swim an easy 50 on a minute. The we did five more 200’s on 2:15 the 400, the 300, the 200, the 100 all at 1:05 pace. She swam the easy 50 and then back into five more 200’s on 2:10 and finished with the 400, the 300, the 200, and the 100. In the end, obviously, she swam 2500 at 1:05 and made it all. However, she did comment that she was about to throw up at the end, but she did it all. That is the kind of swimming that Amanda Weir does to go fast. Maybe she goes fast if you train her a different way, with an emphasis on the higher quality program. I don’t think so. She is the best when she is training at that level.
I had always tried to get her to swim a fast 500, but her best 500 at that time was probably 4:52 or 4:53. She could never finish. She would be there at the 300, but couldn’t finish. So the summer she broke the American Record we went to a short course yard meet and I had her swim 12-16 100’s on 1:10. Which is swimming at a pretty good clip, then a minute and a half later she got up on the blocks to see what she could do in the 500. She immediately went 4:46. So we carried this through that summer that she set the American record. We were going 12-16 100’s before she jumped up and went 1:58 for the 200 meter freestyle. That same summer before the hundred meter free we usually would go 50’s on something like 45, 40, 50, 35, 55, 30 going through 12-16 of those. Once again, a minute and a half to two minutes later she would get up on the blocks and race. So you can imagine she was thoroughly warmed up. I don’t think you should be afraid when you have your kids in really good shape to make sure they are properly warmed up. Make sure that they are warmed up right before they swim. I did that with six other athletes this summer and they all went 100% lifetime best swims. At first they were very reluctant to do this when I wanted them to do it. They all wanted to save themselves because they were afraid of getting tired. In the end when they did this they didn’t go to lactic acid as quickly and they were able to finish their races strong.
So, I am going to turn it over to Chris and his dry-land program now. Then we all will be up here for questions and answers and Amanda is here for questions as well. I thought that would be a neat wrinkle for you to actually ask the athlete. She knows better than to contradict anything that I say, at least I hope she knows. It doesn’t matter because I get the last laugh at the next workout. After the Q and A Steve Bultman from Texas A&M has volunteered to give you a little different slant as to how he works with his athletes and sprinters.
A little bit on my background; I swam at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. My first two years we had a basic circuit dry-land program. We would run through for 25-30 minutes of basic weights. We rotated in whatever weights we had and did a station on and a station off. My junior year we had a guy come in who was a summer league only swimmer. This guy was a walk-on who had played soccer at Asheville. He was probably 6” 2”, 185, but he could bench like 350 lbs. That year he went 20.3 in the fifty free. After continuing to train, the next year he went 19.4. When you have a sprinter at that level, the coach lets him manipulate the dry-land program. What he did all through his college career was a basic bodybuilder’s program. He emphasized each muscle group over the course of a week. For example on Monday we would lift chest and triceps. On a Wednesday we would do back and biceps and on Friday we will hit our shoulders and legs.
First starting the program we lifted real lightly on everything. You move from the large muscles to the smaller in the lift progression. This would be like going through all your chest lifts and then the triceps. This is working complementary groups. So when we first started with Amanda, I think she did dumbbell presses with 25 pounds. She would lift a set of 10 and a total of four sets. In between each set she would do a set of 10 push-ups to keep the muscle endurance. During the short course season the year before she broke the American Record, we started building up to a point where she would lift a set of 10, a set of 8, a set of 6, and a set of 4. She would max out on her power on the set of 4. I believe she got up to like the 55 pounds on dumbbells, which for a woman is pretty unheard of.
With the leg program we did squats. We did everything on the premise of working so the athlete does not get hurt. It is just not worth the strength gain to risk an injury. For example when we started the chest press, we started flat on the floor so when her arms came down they could not go past here. At that point she stopped and then accelerated back up. We did that just to work the form without hurting anything, and as I said we started with very light weights. The squat program we did on the Smith machine, which is basically kind of a cage. It has bars guiding the lift so you do not have to stabilize the weight. There is no going out or down. With this lift, she came down onto a bench so she could only go to 90 degrees. She hit the bench and then came back up. For her, we really worked her into her power zone. She got up to around 300 pounds squatting. If you have ever done any kind of lifting, you know that when you are doing that kind of heavy stuff, you get the body mass that goes with the strength gain. Her legs were gaining size, so for the short course season we decided that she really didn’t need that kind of size so we went back to the high repetitions.
Last Tuesday was our chest and triceps day, and we started out with 45 pound dumbbells and she repped out as many as possible. Then dropped them to the side and grabbed the 40 pounders and repped out as many as possible again. She then dropped these to the side and picked up 35 pound dumbbells and repeated what she had done before. Next we moved on to a set like that for the triceps. After that she lifted single lifts, where she took a single dumbbell and did overheads, isolating each arm. In this manner she is just focusing on one arm’s triceps and then the other arm’s triceps.
During the short course season we will tend to lift a little bit heavier. Towards the long course season we are really concentrating on adding the endurance. So if anything, we will try and do a circuit. There are three other people that are currently lifting with her. On the back machines we have some called hammer strings where each arm is independent so you can put weight on one arm. You can also put weight on the other arm to work each side independently because one side is naturally stronger. The machine is set up so that it won’t allow you to use the other side to pull on the side you are lifting. So, we will lift together in a circuit where we do a set of 12 and then immediately switch. The basic concept behind the weight program is just improving total body strength. You want each muscle to be strong. You don’t ever want to concentrate solely on just the triceps or the lats because then your other muscles must try to compensate for the deficiencies. We want every muscle to be as strong as possible so you have total body strength. For Amanda, we tried to stay away from doing anything really heavy with the shoulders since she was doing so many shoulder repetitions in the pool. We specifically stayed a lot lighter with the shoulder-type stuff. We do have her go pretty heavy with the chest and the back. She personally doesn’t want size on her arms so we have her lift lighter on the biceps. We also feel that it tends to restrict the stroke a little bit if your biceps are naturally just bigger. I think that is all I have. Does anybody have any questions on just basic strength questions?
I think you get more of the explosion just based on using the dumbbells. Just the fact that the weight must be stabilized to come down and then when you emphasize the exploding when coming up makes a huge difference. Even the triceps must be stabilized coming down so you just don’t drop the weight. You really want to stabilize on the way down and then explode up. There are guys doing the program. When we first started she was actually a step ahead of where the guys were. It is nice to have guys because they are more comparable to her strength. We had another woman, but she was below what Amanda could do so it hurt the rotation. For the circuit to be effective you need to have the strength levels of all on an equal base. She has her own independent medicine ball workout that she does. She is going to start the speed and quickness which is basically all derived off of the core. All the movements, especially the explosion type stuff, are based off the core type stuff. She does her independent medicine ball workout with the rotations, and sit-ups and that kind of stuff. We always do it probably an hour before she gets into the pool. I mean she uses the warm-up to help get the lactate part of the weight workout out before she starts our swim workout.
Okay – fire away with questions.
It is just a lot of hard work and really working on the core muscles in everything that we do and you really have to go to your core. Also, we do 15 minutes just going like from here to the wall and it is like footwork drills that basketball players do, like skipping and side skipping and that kind of thing. 15 minutes where they lay a ladder down and you have to do it within the ladder which you know really works your core because you just have that much more control of where your feet are going. 15 minutes of plyometrics – box jumps, squat jumps – that kind of thing and the last is core work on a physioball – that is actually one of the hardest things I have ever done. We are very, very careful with that. As a matter of fact, I told Amanda for a very long time if you have got a weakness, it is not strength and she really didn’t – I purposefully let her screw off in the circuits and the things that we did – probably until her senior year in high school. Again, I felt like if she had a weakness it was not strength so why mess with it, but then when we decided we needed to go to the next level we felt like that was an untapped area.
We will do in our club program where they can just do their own body type stuff when they are younger – push-ups, sit-ups, light medicine balls, but no heavy weights. We don’t – as a matter of fact – I don’t do heavy weights at all. Amanda would do the heaviest weights with Chris than anybody would do. We will do a circuit like probably most people do. You know, a minute on, 20 seconds off for 20 or 30 stations circuit –- that would be our weight program. And for the guys also.
Amanda: The year before I set the American record – I changed several things. You know, I really worked at my kicking which Chris said before – I was terrible at. I would get lapped before in a hundred and the strengthening was huge and all of that came together and I really started doing the core work on my own with a medicine ball and just all that stuff together – it was about being consistent and the fact that I knew every day after practice I didn’t just go home and you know watch TV and eat a snack as much as I wanted to. I did the rest of my core work and doing something every single day – you get kind of a high off of it and then before you know it I was behind the blocks at Nationals last summer and I really felt like there wasn’t another sprinter there that had done the 400 repeats in practice. I had not skipped a single day of dry-land or anything so it is kind of a mental edge more than anything, I think.
Q. Amanda, were you immediately successful when you first started swimming? Or what was it that changed you. A. I started swimming on a team when I was 8. I was living in Minnesota at the time and I just kind of eased into it. My parents told me that they used to get really mad at me in practice because I was not that competitive – didn’t ever really want to pass the other girls or anything and then I moved to Atlanta when I was 10 and I started having a lot of fun at summer league and that kind of got me more into it obviously, because you wanted to come to practice and see your friends every day and I set my first national age group record when I was 12 and I think when I did it I didn’t even know what I had done. Everyone was freaking out and stuff – it was just like that little taste of success that got me hooked into it.
Chris: This summer we kind of cycled. She ended up with – early on I just killed her – as a matter of fact – early on when it was kind of old school where I would just take her to the brink and just destroy her as much as I could and it is very hard to destroy her because she is really tough and then just hope and pray that I could get her rested in time which was kind of the old school way of coaching. The summer before she set the American record I purposefully tried to give her a really good solid work load, but never let her get exhausted. If I saw that coming on then we would put the shoes on and do a kicking set or I would more her over maybe to the sprint lane every once in a while so she wouldn’t get so tired. As a matter of fact, she lifted the day before we went to Nationals where she set the American record. My feeling was – at that point – she was swimming so well – she had gone 54+ three or four times that summer which is the fastest she had ever been unshaved – if it isn’t broken don’t fix it and actually Eddie Reese, who I know very well, was telling me what an idiot I was to do that, but I just felt like at that point – you know – if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. She is swimming great. She is going to get there. She is going to put the suit on because she was going the 54+’s in just a regular suit so in answer to your question – it was really more of an intuitive thing on my part – not to let her get buried. She is the kind that will – she is kind of a pleaser so you know to please the workout and she is so competitive – she will kill herself for you so it was really up to me to be a little smarter and just make sure she was in tremendous shape. A kind of a bench mark for me for her was where she could go 10 or 14 400’s long course meters on 5 minutes which is 1:15 and look solid on them. It looked like it couldn’t hurt her and she could go all day – then I knew that she was in pretty good shape and again, from the meets she was going 54+ so I knew we were doing stuff right, what she was doing in the weight room – everything was working so she even took her medicine ball to Nationals with her and continued to do that during the meet – back at the hotel.
The starts: at the end of every warm-up we do a start at the beginning of every practice so other than that we do not do a tremendous amount on that. The turns – I am constantly saying push off, streamline and deep – do I ever say that? Only every day – every turn so she will – if she gets lazy on something or if she gets tired she will have a tendency to push-off on top of the water with her hands apart a little bit – like wonder woman, but all you have to do is remind her about it and she immediately goes back and does it really, really well.
Amanda, being a sprinter and I have had arguments with Eddie Reese and with Jonty Skinner and with a lot of people because she is a very great – even-split or back-half swimmer and we learned this early in her career. If she is out pedal to the metal at the 50, you can kiss it bye-bye at the hundred. She just does not finish. When she went 53.5 she was out in 25.9 and got home in 27.6. Those are pretty even splits and again I have got Eddie Reese standing right next to me yelling to me about what an idiot I am for having her go out so slow. It goes back to the goal setting again. Those were the exact splits that we had put down for her to go that night. So she is great at even splitting races. When she went 1:58, she went 59/59 so I am a huge proponent of that kind of racing. I do think, however, that you get some kids that I will call momentum swimmers – they create a momentum and you have just got to let them go because they cannot switch gears like that. Amanda can go to her legs and switch gears.
AMANDA: I have been doing that since I was like 13 – 14. I would set goals for each age group record and the splits as well – which I think is huge. You just don’t dive in for a hundred and not think about where you are going to be at the 50 – things just do not fall into place. It is like a recipe, you have to put your 50 together and know exactly what you are going to do to get to that split where it is. I don’t really start kicking with my legs until after the first 25 of a hundred. As I get better and better at kicking I think I can kick for longer – hopefully someday a whole 200. I have been doing that forever and it is something that I think younger kids can grasp a hold of as well.
Q. Could it be you and Dara Torres in the 50 at Beijing?
Amanda: I hope so – I don’t know. We will see about that 50.
Chris: That is not Amanda’s favorite event. The 50 is too short for her.
Q. Starbucks – she owns stock in it and she listens to those people. No – we have a nutritionist that is there. There is also a physical therapist and some of the girls have gone to her, but Amanda has a pretty good feel for what she needs to eat and when it is time to really get ready and eat the right things to be able to go fast so it is probably an area that we do a lot better job with in terms of paying attention to it, but we have not done it as well as we probably should.
Chris: This set where you started at 100 on 1:15 and then 100 on 1:25, a 200 on 2:30, a 100 on 1:25, a 300 on 3:45, a 100 on 1:25 – you can see I am pretty innovative. 400 on 5 minutes, 100 on 1:25 – all the way up to 1,000 and she made all that pretty easily.
CHRIS: Her lactate levels aren’t the same as a guy so what we did was started four weeks out and we started dropping 5 pounds off of everything that she was doing. The best way that I could tell that she was truly like at her peak of strength – we would do a set of pull-ups where you go one way out wide – one in close and then there is a grip that you can grab like this and we have a bar that is out here. We do a set of 10 on each and usually when she is like dead on – she will do them in under 2 minutes. She can basically do 40 pull-ups with
Q. can you do the pull-ups like in a certain time. A. We always warm-up the back and bicep workout with the pull-ups so that she always starts her initial workout with the pull-ups. In terms of taper we just basically – the amount of weight that we are doing on each exercise and then we will drop a few of the exercises down as it gets closer and closer.
Amanda: Well, as Chris said, before the 100 I would be doing a set of ten 100’s on an interval that was pretty fast in the warm-up pool and then every repeat I swam – even though I wasn’t actually going as fast as I was about to in the race – I thought about how I wanted to feel. I think about practically each stroke of the race and I think when you ask a lot of swimmers if they even remember their fastest races they will say no – it was just kind of auto-pilot, it went by in a blur. I remember every single stroke I took because I was thinking about everything I needed to do: making sure that I wasn’t letting go of any water; making sure that I was really involving my core when I was swimming and forcing the rotation instead of just letting it happen; following your shoulders. I think that the races that I don’t do as well in, I am not thinking about that kind of thing so I do mentally think about the race beforehand -– behind the blocks and I do that almost every day. But it is just when you are not all there, when you are not really thinking about every point of the race you just get in and kind of do what you have to do, but those were not the best ones.
CHRIS: Interestingly, the first thing she talked to me about after the morning race where she went 54.01 or .02 was Natalie who had already swum – that is who we wanted to beat. Natalie is what you said all summer long because she had gone a race 54.6 or .8 and I said, man, Amanda, that is fast. That is probably the number 1 time in the country so far this summer. Then at the Janet Evans meet – I think Natalie went 54:00 and so our battle cry the rest of that summer was that Natalie took your bike and we are going to go to Nationals and get your bike back and when she got out of the water and came up to me right after the race – the first thing she said to me – she said, what did Natalie go out in? I think Natalie went 54:00 and she was 54:02 and I said – well she was 25.9 and you were 26.1 and she said that it will be a battle of wills tonight and she just walked away and swam down. So when she said that I pretty much knew that she was on her game and she was pretty focused and that she was pretty comfortable about maybe setting that record.
Answer: It depends on what the injury is, obviously. For Amanda she has had some shoulder problems – a little bit right now that we have got to attend to. Typically, when that happens and I know it is happening – starting to hurt – then we will just do a kicking set, but I think I still make sure that the workload, that the intensity is there and she is in there working hard.
Q. What is Amanda’s most memorable swim?
A. Well, it would probably have to be the American record. Either that or when she went under 50 seconds in the 13-14 age group and broke, I think, Dara Torres’ record. actually and the reason that that was memorable is because her mom was angry with me for some reason because she thought she wasn’t in the right heat or the right age group – right heat and that didn’t give her the best chance – I can’t remember exactly what it was, but she was an unhappy woman and if you have ever met Mrs. Weir, you do not want Mrs. Weir unhappy with you. I still remember going to Amanda and saying, “Amanda, this will be the first time ever you need to be out in 23+ on your feet because you have got to save me and you owe me – you have to save me from your mother and she went out and went 23+ and went 49 and set the national age group record. So that swim and probably the American record – that is the first one I have ever had so yeah, those are pretty fun.
Q. Do you do any power work in the water? A. We got them for the first time this last year. She did a little bit on them – I don’t know that it was – for her – that it was beneficial. I was thinking about this season that we will do it, but we probably will just do it with kicking so we do a little bit of that – I am not a real gimmicky guy – other than the shoes – we didn’t even use snorkels – it was just straight up. Fins – very little – it was just straight up. Getting after it swimming so we didn’t use a lot of that at all.
Q. How much time off in the swim season do you take? A. It would depend – we usually take a three week break at the end of our summer season and then we take a one week break in the spring – during their spring breaks because none of our kids would come to practice anyways. Obviously, this year – although I did mandate that she take a break this summer because she needed it. She has had a lot go on in her life in terms of going pro and leaving school and just a lot of things to adjust to so she needed the mental break. Typically – that is what we end up doing – take three so you would end up with four weeks off and usually with the kids – depending on who they are – I want them just to chill and relax and then come back and train so I do not have them do a whole lot. This last year for the first time I had a lot of the girls running and doing push-ups and different things like that while they were off and they all looked great when they came back.
Amanda: Actually very rarely do I do a single other stroke in practice. That kind of started when my shoulders – we were having problems and that kind of thing, but I mean the way that Chris sets up the workouts on Monday, Wednesday, Friday the group is split into sprints, middle distance, distance and IM and then Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdays are non-free strokes and on those days I usually concentrate more on kicking, but you know – for the rest of the kids I think that is great. They always get, you know – a variety and those days are usually more strength work and technique and stuff.
Q. Do you do something where she doesn’t sprint fast – how often? A. If you are going a 500 for time, you sprint it. Go fast. Descending series things – we do what we call quarters – we will go four 200 quarters where you will go a 50 fast, 150 easy, 100 fast, 100 easy, 150 fast, 50 easy, 200 for time. Do the same thing for 100’s – probably her favorite thing to do and all the kids’ favorite things to do are 50’s or 25’s easy, medium, easy, fast, and then I will time those fast ones. We have a sprint set, but she doesn’t really like – she doesn’t like sprint sets. She is much happier if she is doing 300’s or 400’s or 500’s or really gets in the groove and if at the end of that if she gets too much rest before we are going to do one for time – she is not much fun to live with. I mean, once she hits the wall, she is ready to go and you know – then you gotta go. There are other kids that are gonna die by doing sprint sets, but for her – she just seems to swim a whole lot better if she is training straight middle distance.
Answer: Amanda is a pleaser so you could challenge her in a set by saying she couldn’t beat somebody or she couldn’t do this or she couldn’t do that and she would kill herself to try and do it. I used to tell college coaches before they recruited her and Mark Schubert is out there and he recruited her – she was the lowest – I said “was” the lowest maintenance swimmer that I think I ever coached. She would just show up with a smile on her face and get in and do her thing and do it great and worked very, very hard, so from my perspective – she was awesome. She is everybody’s dream to coach.
Amanda: I don’t think I have ever not believed in the program he has me in or the mindset for that season or anything. It was more like if we butted heads it was just maybe I came to practice and didn’t have my A-game – didn’t have my best attitude and didn’t really feel like doing that set and he was like no – you are going to do it. But you know, I have always – I have swum for him for so long I am not going to argue with it – it’s worked so far.
Q. Aerobics? Do you run or do you swim other times or do any aerobic activity outside the pool? A. Amanda: I run every now and then. You know I would kind of like to start doing more running and stuff, but I feel like we get a lot of aerobic work. If he gives us a set it is usually like 5,000 yard set – ready go – so I think that works.
Q. Can you describe your kicking and how you improved your kicking and the focus? Can you describe your mental approach when they say look – you are not getting it done — and how you were able to kind of make that change? A. Amanda: Well, I always dreaded kicking before and like I said, I would just get lapped and felt like I was going nowhere and when we started doing the 30 minute kicks on the wall with shoes – which doesn’t sound like that much fun and probably wasn’t that much fun – and probably wasn’t that much fun to watch either but it is kind of like a mental challenge. You have just got to keep chugging along for 30 minutes and I knew that at any time he would stop and ask for my heart rate so I had better be kicking hard and one thing about the tennis shoes that I think is really important is that it seemed to work my hip flexors a lot more than my quads or any other muscles that you use in kicking, along with increasing ankle flexibility by nature of the fact that shoes add more weight to it so I think that I would highly recommend kicking with shoes.
Chris: When I first started out with the shoe idea I didn’t use the shoes – I used ankle weights with the girls and we would go 50 minute kicks on the wall. And we were great that year. But then the ankle weights kept falling apart so then I just went to the shoes. It was a whole lot less expensive, but Amanda this year, because she has had some shoulder problems, on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays is probably going to go straight kicking. We are going to be good enough where we can go an 8,000 – 8500 yard set or meters – kicking in 2 hours or 2 hours and 15 minutes and so if you feel like she can do that you have got to feel like her legs can hold up for a hundred or 200 meters. She didn’t know that yet, but now she does.
Q. With younger kids you are doing it so I guess you are not getting any shoulder issues, but is there a certain way you hold onto the wall so that you do not really strain your shoulders that much on that 30 minute kick. A. Amanda: I mean – we don’t have gutters at our pool – it is just a flat wall with a skimmer. You can kind of put your arms back in them. You know I just hang on with my elbows against the wall like that and just don’t put any stress on them really.
Q. What kind of drills do you do with Amanda? Is there one that you do if your stroke is a little bit off that you always go back to?
A. Amanda: We do a drill that he calls the Heisman – we also do Jaws – that is probably what I have been doing longer – where you take three strokes and then you stop on the rotation with your hand up here like a shark fin – and the reason I like that is because I have always had trouble incorporating my kick into swimming unless I am all out sprinting so that one you kind of start out kicking you know on the pause of your elbow — with the three strokes is you know, you don’t stop – you just go right into it and it blends together.
Chris: She does a lot of water polo also and then right left – where your other hand stays at your side and you breathe through the opposite side – I think that is a great drill for freestyle. The right left or the water polo? The Heisman? Well yeah, water polo is just that you swim with your head up – nice high elbows – good hands out in front pulling fast, kick on top of the water. I think that is a really good one for the kids and you can do that one where you are doing it for a little ways and then after they do it you let them just slowly put their head back down and then they keep their elbows up pretty high. The right left – you put your hand in here and you turn your head to the left and take a breath. You know – if you end up going right left and they are breathing on the same side you know then they have that crossover where they got the head way up and around so this way when they are breathing right – they can’t really turn that head too far to get that breath so they don’t end up really looking in their arm pit or up at the sky.
Somebody has to have a question for Steve Bultman because he came here to bail me out and he does an unbelievably great job at Texas A&M. If I am not mistaken – they beat Texas for the first time ever didn’t you – at the conference meet? In the school history. Ask him a question.
Q. Steve, when you are recruiting or a swimmer comes to you or contacts you – what are you looking for – training background or best times?
A. Very good question. I mean – obviously you look at the times, but you then also look at potential. One of the things that I do is I contact club coaches – I want to find out about those swimmers and find out what is their attitude – are they a hard worker – do they want to get better. The other thing too is, I want to find out if they are a good person and you know – when we have them in – obviously we talk to them on the phone beforehand – when we have them in on their recruiting visit we find out about them and see. I mean we certainly don’t have a team of clones, but we want to make sure that they are on the same page with the girls and everything and we want to get feedback from our girls about them. I want to see them swim and hopefully I will have seen them swim at some point before we do that. The other thing that we can do is we will ask the girls to send us a video at some point so we can at least take a look at them swim before that. We definitely look at potential that is for sure.
Q. With regarding that 30 minute kick — the question is how often a week do you do that and how far out from your final swim do you take it out in your taper.
A. The kick we usually do twice a week, but I will vary it some. I mean – maybe it will be a 20 minute or a 30 minute – trying to be a little different on that. And we actually kicked with shoes all the way up. Actually she brought them to the Nationals with her – we probably actually kicked – we got in like a 15 minute kick, but we still again – if it isn’t broken – don’t fix it. She was swimming great – I was just afraid – could be if I had rested her she would have gone 52.9, I don’t know, but she might have also gone 54.5 so I wasn’t willing to take that chance.
Q. Do you do the whole stroke with the shoes on? Yes, we do. Let me tell you a quick story that – one of my success stories with shoes – we use them a lot with butterfly. Just the other day – we have our short course – well our short course – we have a 50 meter pool – we were 24 lanes and we had run three miles on a bunch of dry-land and came in and warmed up with 2000. I had everybody put their shoes on and we did a snake for 24 lanes – all butterfly, but when you got to the wall, you didn’t get to stay in the pool – you had to jump out of the pool – jump back in and jump out of the pool and then go to the next snake – all that with shoes on and it was pretty tough. They kind of liked it, but I think it got them in shape, but anyways, I had a kid named Robert Kurvis. I still remember him. He came to me and said, you know my dad lost his job. I can’t train this summer. You know – what can I do so I actually brought him in early for a long course workout every morning and all we did was warm-up and go ten 100 flys with shoes on. He wasn’t that good of a swimmer – at that time he was like 1:02 100 meters fly – this is back in the early 80’s and 2:20 something. All we did all summer long was warm-up with 1500-2000 and go ten 100’s with shoes and he busted them though. He worked his fanny off with those shoes. There were some days he came in and he said, “I just can’t do shoes,” my shoulders won’t take it and then we would just do drills for that 30 or 40 minutes, but he ended up going 56.0 and 2:07 that summer – just off those shoes. So our butterflyers will work their way up to going ten 100 fly with shoes on – twice a week – all for time and when I say work their way up, they will go 25, 50, 75, 100 and then we will start going up to further than that. I am a believer in the shoes.
Q. Steve – what are your values of kicking generally? A. Steve: We do a pretty good bit of kicking as well. We haven’t done the 30 minutes on the wall and I don’t know that we will start with 30 minutes, but we will definitely do some of that. But I mean – we will go at least 1200 per practice, but we will go as much as 3000 in a practice – kicking-wise and that is one of the things, I am a big believer in that. In ’88 I had Beth Barr and she made the Olympic team and then that spring she was thrown off a horse and had a terrible horseback riding accident and broke her arm and she was injured and I think a lot of us have had injured swimmers or have known of injured swimmers – Natalie Coughlin – you hear the story about her and so that next year after that we had to do some days all kicking. You know, some days we could do some one arm. We did all kinds of kicking: vertical kicking with fins – without fins and all sorts of stuff and you know, she came back and won Nationals – won NCAA’s – made World Championships so I am a huge believer in kicking. I mean – you know – running – the aerobic stuff that the swimmers can do. I think that helps, but kicking transfers directly to swimming and especially if you are working it. You know, I think you can get a great benefit out of it and I am a huge believer in that we challenge the girls and sometimes they amaze me how much better they can get with their kicking if they work at it. The intervals that we start some of the girls – where they started when they first came in and where they are now –- it is like a whole different league now so we do a good bit of kicking as well.
Q. For both you and Chris – how much are you utilizing under water sports to improve your athletes speed? A. Steve: Well, we work on it a lot. I mean, Monday mornings one of the things that we will do with our sprinters and flyers and backstrokers is we will warm up and then we will do a kick set. I mean, we will warm-up – we will do some freestyle stuff, but then we will do a pretty good kick set. We will put mono-fins on them after that and do a little bit of mono-fin work and then we will go to the diving well and we will go widths in the diving well. You know, where they are doing some under water kicking one way and you know kicking breakout and swim coming back and we will do a bunch of that. One of the things that we are fortunate with is that we have a great facility. We can move the bulkhead. We can set up touch pads on the bulkhead at 15 meters – set the score board up and we will do some starts with the beeper system and go 15 meter sprints and one of the first things that we will do – we won’t just do swimming – we will do some 15 meter kicking and we will do that and then we will let them do some swimming as well and what a number of them find out is that their kicking is almost as fast and in some cases, is faster, than their swim 15 meters you know and so all this stuff that I am trying to get across and we will work under water kicking quite a bit and I think all of a sudden that realization – that WOW – for 15 meters I am almost as fast or as fast – you know – under water kicking – you know – maybe I will start doing this a little bit more when I race and so you know we do that on a regular basis and it is just something you have to just keep working at them with.
Chris: I agree completely. Under water – unfortunately Amanda is not good at it. We timed her dolphin kicking to a certain point off the walls flutter kicking and she is much faster flutter kicking to that point. When she comes off the wall she does not dolphin kick. It slows her down – we haven’t been able to figure a way – we will pay anybody that can teach her how to dolphin off a wall. But we do a lot of it with the kids and in the last few years – especially short course – if you are not dolphin kicking off the wall you are not going to be able to swim with the big kids. For most people so I think you ought to start with your age group program. They need to learn to dolphin off a wall and you need to carry it all the way through. It is something that they can get a whole lot better at. One of the sets that we really like is going 75 flutter kicks and our goal is to be able to make a 75 flutter kick as fast as you swim your hundred and I have kids that can do that. Now with the breaststrokers a lot of times they can actually go faster than they can swim a hundred so it probably ought to be your best 100 minus X, but I remember when I had Doug Jorgsten – when I first got him he was not a very good flutter kicker and so I talked him into really working on it and he was going 55’s – 56’s for 75 flutter kicks. He got down to where he could go 46 – 47 for a 75 flutter kick and that is what he ended up going that year for a 100 yards freestyle so it is a pretty good indicator for somebody that is a pretty good flutter kicker. We will do sets maybe where you go 12 75’s – one easy – one fast and you time the fast one and then your goal is to try and get to that – their best 100 time.
Q. Is that with a board? A. It is with a board.
Well, thank you for coming.