[introduction, by Ira Klein]
My name is Ira Klein, I am a member of the ASCA board, and I have the great honor to introduce a coach who I have gotten to watch for quite a long time and learn. A very interesting title for this talk today: Garbage Yardage and Other Things That Work, Coach Gregg Troy. A lot of you who are too young might think that 18 years: he has only been at one place, somebody handed him a job. You do not realize that he started out actually coaching a club in Sarasota, Florida, and then he moved to Jacksonville, right here, and took on a new prep school that was not the height of what it has been since he had taken it over.
He has coached something like 91 Olympians. You can read the resume of how many times he has been named SEC Coach of the Year, NCAA Coach of the Year and even USA Swimming Coach of the Year. He holds no punches when he tells you that he believes in old school and hard work. I think you are going to find in comparison to some of the information that is being offered today here and on the internet, that he is willing to stand up and say here’s what works and it takes the work to make it work. Here’s a thank you to Gregg, and without further ado, Coach Gregg Troy.
Thanks Ira, I appreciate it. It is kind of interesting, over the course of the weekend, it is really hard to talk to a group that humbles you, because there is always people in the group that know way, way more than what you do. Like Dick Joachim said yesterday: most of what I do has been stolen from someone else or borrowed from someplace; it is nothing real dynamic.
I have some notes here. My wife always tells me… if you were with the panel yesterday, those significant others are the ones that keep things going. She always tells me not to use my notes; I am better when I do not. She said I lose my passion when I do, and I have to pause too much to read them because my eyes are so bad. But I have a few things down that I will have to check with every once in a while to make sure that I do not miss some of the things I wanted to touch on.
First of all, I do not have any real credentials. I am not a scientist; my degree is in history and government. I have got a masters degree; I am a classroom teacher. I think that most coaches are teachers, more than they are anything else. I am not selling any sort of program. I do not really… I cannot tell you scientifically why things work. But what I did do is look back over five decades of coaching, and I have been fortunate enough to be in a situation where in each of those five decades there were one or two athletes that were extremely successful.
Sitting down, looking at all those athletes, I kept coming up with the same dynamic. The one thing, the glue, that held everything together for all of them is that they all did a lot of swimming. And that is pretty simple stuff. Yesterday, Dick Shoulberg kept saying over and over again keep it simple. I am not sure that you can keep it simple, because it is a little more complex, but the more complex you make it, the harder it is. I think that we try to do that a little bit. So in looking at those five decades, long swimming seemed to be universal in all the kids I was working with who were successful.
I do not really know what garbage yardage is. What I do know is that I spent one year, and one year I became very frustrated with my athletes. It was actually in 1985. I had a real-good group athletes, Anthony Nesty was actually swimming for me; the high school State meet at that time in Florida was in November—it was very early in the season. We did a lot of work; we were running a 2-2.5 hour practice. I found that most of the athletes in the practice were waiting for the next thing in practice, and I was not getting the effort that I was looking for on a regular basis. In today’s terms: they were not swimming fast enough.
I could not get them to swim faster. It did not seem to matter what I did, whether I played with the interval or whether I played with the distance, because they knew it was two-and-a-half hours, so they were waiting for the next thing in practice. And then I think in today’s world, it might even be more true because the attention span of the athletes you work with now maybe is not quite as good as it used to be.
So at that point, I started out and I just threw up my hands after the high school State meet. We went from the middle of November through the month of March, and all we did was swim one hour. We came in one hour, and we went one hour really, really fast. It is probably real sellable today.
At that time I was going 10 practices a week. So instead of going 10 two-hour practices—with the morning practices being two hours and the afternoon practices being two-and-a-half—we went 10 one-hour practices. (I take it back: we went two hours on Monday morning, but all the rest of the week was one hour.) Came in one hour. That one hour included your warm-up, the whole works. I was religious about it: we started on-time and finished in an hour. It was your swim-down, the works. And we did a whole lot of really, really fast swimming. And that Spring, we were fantastic; one of the best seasons I have ever had, short course.
And then we turned-around and we started to get ready for the long course season. What I found is… first of all, if I fast-forward to the end, it was the worst long-course season I have ever had; we were horrible. Second, the athletes that I had that had been great trainers could not connect the dots of what made them successful; they did not want to go back to work. It took me nine months to get back to where we were, where they went to work to be good. And we are talking about really good athletes.
Fortunately, the ones that came out of that time period, and went back to work, were highly successful. One of them was Anthony Nesty. He won the 100 Butterfly at the Olympics in 1988, and went-on, had an extended career and swam again in ‘92 at the Olympics. So, I think that there is a tremendous benefit to swimming short and fast. There is a tremendous benefit for doing it, but it has to be at the right time and the right place.
So move forward a little bit, and look at capacity versus utilization. If you have never heard Bob Bowman’s talk [from the 2011 ASCA World Clinic], you need to pick it up and listen to it, because he kind of simplifies training a little bit in looking at capacity and utilization. And you need to do… you have to really look at the talk. I took it and tried to put it in more layman’s’ terms for me (and this is a little bit small).
I tried to evaluate some factors in getting better. I had pages of it. When I started I started with about 30 pages, because when I gained this topic it was one of those days where I was a little aggravated because someone had just told me we were swimming too much. So I took the topic, and ASCA was after me about needing a topic, so it just came off the top of my head, so I kind of got stuck with it. But ever since then I have just been putting notes down of things that I thought were successful over five decades. And garbage yards, I do not know what that is, but maybe we can define garbage yards a little bit here in the first part of this talk.
But before we do that, I think you have to look at things that are factors in getting better. These are very simplified, but I wanted to simplify them in term so we could all talk about them simply.
1. Swim more. The volume you do in workout. The numbers; the number of repetitions you do. That is a factor in getting better.
2. Second one is: swim better. You can improve your mechanics. Drills, technique, looking at things that you want to do.
3. You can swim faster. I mean just going faster in practice makes you better. You do it at a faster speed and it helps you improve. These are things that are a big factor in making you get better.
4. Getting stronger. Some of this happens for Age Groupers just because they are growing and they are older; some of it happens as a byproduct of doing the first three. But you can do things in the weight room (great dryland talk this morning by Chris Plumb), you can do lots of things dryland that help you get stronger.
Those four factors are really key, and I think we can pinpoint them. There are four others that I thought were really important. First is your mental approach to toughness and the communication skills. It is a little hard to measure, though. But it is really important, as a coach, that your athlete is mentally tough.
They got to have great communication skills. A few years ago I did a talk, and I had an assistant coach. In that year we held the World Record in the women’s 200 backstroke and the women’s 100 backstroke, and he worked very closely with the girl that did the 100 backstroke. I talked before him and he took the second hour. One observation he made—and we have worked together now for almost thirty years—was that all the athletes that had been successful in the program, whether it was with myself or another coach, they all had good communication skills. They understood what was going on and they were talking with the coach; there was a lot of exchange, things going back and forth. So I think that is important.
Natural skill set. Sometimes you cannot change this one—Mom and Dad gave them that one. I always tell the little, short kid on the team that if they really are not swimming very well, they need to talk to mum and dad sometime because we are behind before we ever jumped in the water, so we have got to do things better. You cannot control that one a whole lot. You are not going to change it, at least not going to change it legally. We are not sure who changes otherwise, but I do not think you are going to change that easily.
Another factor in getting better is: heart. Really hard to gauge; it is really hard to gauge what the kid has inside. Will they do the work? Are they willing to race? Are they coachable?
And the last one I just called, for lack of a better term, the x-factor. That x-factor is the one that there is no ability age. I have been fortunate-enough to deal with a few athletes in my career that were just outstanding. But I think when you are talking in the Michael-Phelps terms and Ryan-Lochte terms, probably Katie-Ledecky terms, those people can go someplace that other people are not willing to go.
Everyone can go there once-in-a-while. But so many athletes it happens by accident. I call them situational athletes: they are heat-dependent. We have all had them. They are the ones that get in the heat, and if the heat allows them to be comfortable and then at that crucial time—when the pain threshold is really high—the heat folds-up, those people are very successful in that situation. But they have to… they are situational: they cannot turn it off-and-on.
But then you have got the Michael Phelpses and the Ryan Lochtes, and the really great ones, they can turn it off and on. They look forward to the pain. They are willing to go places where other people are afraid to go, and they cherish going there. They will say all kinds of things, afterwards, about how bad it hurt and everything. But I have worked with a few of them, now, and when you work with them, they love it, they like going there. They do not do it all the time, but when they go, they are better than everyone else.
Those last four sections up there, I am not sure you can change those; they are hard to measure. So for the purposes of talking for the moment, I am just going to kind of take those out of the conversation.
And this next slide, very limited; I hope it shows up. The percentages are not right: they are my percentages. I just wanted to put something down there, looking at an athlete’s career. And I divided this up. You have got to understand, my wife owns a club of 150 athletes. They are all ages: it starts from a swimming-lesson program right on through. So, this is not just about college coaching, it is not about great athletes coaching; it is a little bit about how are we going to make people better over an extended period in their career.
Novice athletes. If I were setting-up a perfect program, I would try to set it up this way.
I have been fortunate enough to be involved in four programs: I swam in Sarasota at the YMCA. My first coaching experience was there: I was working with little guys and teaching them how to swim. I coached a country club team in Bradenton; it was my first head coaching experience. I was a head coach at a high school and a club team in Fort Myers. I was fortunate enough to be head coach at Bolles for 20 years, and I have been at Florida now for 16. All different environments, but I still find some of these same characteristics running through. In going back and looking at all of them, if I were was going to start-over again, and start a program from scratch, this is where we would put our values.
Novice: kick, technique fun
In the Novice program, I would put my biggest thing in Novice, and there are only three things that matter for novices: they kick really, really well; they are taught how to swim really well. You just spend time on technique. They do not need to swim fast at all. You do your kicking for your training. Do the technique to teach the skill. Because the skill that they learn at that point is the one that helps them the most through life, and the most through their swimming career, their swimming life.
Sometimes we have it backwards here in United States. We keep moving our best coaches, they always want to move-up and work with the older and the faster athletes. We need to have our best people at this level. Because if you learn the skill right the first time, you will get better at it. Repetition of better is the single most important thing.
And the other thing is: it has got to be fun. You have got to find some way to make it fun at that age.
Age Group: more (30%), better (70%), stronger (10%), faster (10%)
Age Group. 10 to14. More. You are going to start to do a little bit more; it is questionable. (Those ones that are in black [on slide] are questionable—the colors did not show up real good.) The green, better: it is a priority. 10-14. It varies a little bit for men and women; these are generalizations. But, better is the single-most important thing you do at that point. Because 10-14, if they learn the skill correctly, they will carry it easier through life. One of my biggest problems I have found in coaching collegiately is changing the skill-set that people come in with, because it is incorrect sometimes.
They are going to get stronger through that age. You do not need to put a whole lot of emphasis on getting stronger because the reality is they are going to get stronger because they are growing. And they are going to get faster because they are growing, if you do those other things. So, I think that results in it being a little bit more fun, you can retain your athletes a little bit longer.
Junior: more (50%), better (40%), stronger (10%), faster (10%)
When they are Juniors, 14-17, more becomes a bigger priority. Better, becomes/still is an equal priority. Stronger: they are still growing; they are going to get stronger. You want to do things that increases strength, but if you have to make a sacrifice some place, you want to make it in that area. And faster: I am not sure that it is the priority all the time. Certainly we all know when we go to the meet faster, the athlete knows it is there, but whether it should be the day-to-day training priority, I am not absolutely positive.
I will say: some place in that range, the Age Group to Junior range, in the programs that I have worked in, females somewhere between the ages of 12 and 14, you have better give them everything they can possibly handle. Because in that dynamic, especially on the more end, that is where they get the biggest benefit in their careers. You set-up aerobic pathways, you set-up structures, you set-up workout habits, and you set-up ethics—the ethical approach of what they are doing, their belief in what they are doing. The males are slightly older; somewhere between 14 and 17.
Each athlete is got a different where. That is your coaching prerogative of where you are going to put it. But when they get to that point, that is where more really helps a lot: right there in that time period.
Senior: more + better (60%), stronger (10%), faster (30%)
And then the Senior athletes; these are your high-school-aged athletes. More, how much more, depends on the individual, depends on where they are at. But I think more and better together is 60% of your training. You are going to start to increase strength a little bit, but, again, they are still at an age that it is not an absolute priority. And faster, you have got to start to swim faster at that point, because you are going to start to lose them in the sport if you do not. So you get a greater priority in swimming faster.
Professional: more (20%), better (30%), stronger (20%-40%), faster (20%-40%)
And then the Professional athlete, which is a new category. I am not sure we have professionals; I think we have athletes that have continued in this sport. We do not have as many professionals as what we think, because professionals are people that are articulate, passionate, dedicated and put-in extra time. We have a lot of athletes that are talented that continue to swim, but I am not sure they are really professionals in the term of it. They might be a professional because they get money for it, but I am not sure they are professionals from the way we would like them to look as athletes.
But the professionals, more is still a component to what they do. If they quit doing more, they have taken a key ingredient of what put them in that place out. Better is always key. Stronger, now it is an area where it becomes really, really key. If you have all the skills over the course of years and you get stronger, then you use them better. And then faster is definitely a priority. That might be all that matters at that point, but you still have to take these components and put it together to be successful.
And I know those add-up to more than 100%, but that is because when you are playing-around with things it is all over. How you do it individually as a coach, I do not know. But to me, those first two areas are really important: if we teach people how to use their legs, it is key. And once they learn how to use their legs, they will always use their legs; and it is one of the hardest areas for them to increase on.
I would emphasize in all that: it is not about volume. I think today’s discussion about what to do is so many people are worried about volume. It is not about volume, it is about time commitment. There are very, very few things you do in life—and we tell our athletes this all the time—there are very few things you do in life that if you put less time into it, you are going to be as successful at. And you start to think about it. It deals with relationships. It deals with your work. It deals with your hobbies. If you put in less time, your chances of being as good at it are diminished. So, you want to learn the skill, and you want to work at the skill, and you put more time in.
Now, where the time commitment comes in these percentages, I do not know. But I think all those play a key part in what you do. So it is not about time; it is about doing it better. So if you reduce the amount of time, I think you are going to reduce your results.
Okay. Very simple little puzzle here; Swimming is really a puzzle, coaching is a puzzle. You are taking an individual and you are taking the factors we just talked about. Those are overly-simplified; we could break all those down in all kinds of different pieces. But I simplified it to four, and then four that we have a hard time improving upon. But you can improve upon those too; they are just harder to do. But then it is a puzzle. And here’s a puzzle with just a few pieces and you have got to put those pieces together.
Putting those pieces together is what makes you successful as a coach. You are working with the person’s personality, you are working with their ability to communicate, you are working with the skills that you are trying to teach them—how they develop those skills—and that gives you a puzzle. And it is like Richard Shoulberg said: just keep it simple. Well, you have got to keep it simple because, you know, the fewer pieces you have, the better off you are.
As Swimming has become, in the technological age especially, but as Swimming has become more refined and we have got more information. Science becomes more involved; coaches try new things; things are repeated, coming back every few years. And like they said yesterday, there is not much that is new: a whole lot of this is a different form coming across in a different way. It is how you put all those little pieces together that is key.
But what has happened, the puzzle has changed; it becomes like this: it has more pieces. It is more pieces and it is harder to get those pieces in the right direction and what you are going to do with them. And it is changing all the time.
It gets even worse, because the puzzle changes. As a coach, if you are dealing one-on-one with an athlete, you have fewer pieces. When you start to multiply the number of athletes in your program—and if you are going to make a living, you probably are not dealing with just one athlete—then, in fact, the pieces go up. So it is not even a puzzle; it is harder to put those pieces together. And you start taking two or three of those pieces out, you do not get the same picture.
Eddie Reese told me one time when we were talking about lactate testing, when it was the thing to do, he said Lactate testing is just one of the pieces of that puzzle. Everyone wants to make the piece the entire puzzle. It is not; it is taking all the pieces and putting them together.
How you put those pieces together differs from every one of you: it differs by personality, it differs by the personality of the athletes you have, and it differs by the facility you work in. So it is even worse than a puzzle: it is a puzzle that is in motion constantly. Those same pieces are not always there, every day, but at the end of the season, you have got to get all the pieces together. Some days these pieces are not even there.
You know we talk so much about what you want to do and what your program is and what you believe in, but we did not talk at all about what the athlete does when they are not there. In my level, you have got a college kid that is 22 years-old, and he is fighting all kinds of battles or she is fighting all kinds of battles. They have got boyfriends, they have got girlfriends. They have got parents that think they know what they are supposed to be doing, but have no idea. And they think they know what the kids are doing, and they have no idea. The kid may be up till 4:00 a.m., and they come-in the next day and practice. It does not matter what your program is, there is a piece of the puzzle missing on that day, and you have got to figure out how to re-insert it at some other time.
Things that work. I tell all my athletes, first meeting… I had a camp meeting this Summer with our campers—if you had someone come to our camp this Summer. I tell them there should be three people really, really interested in your career and interested in your swimming. And they are all sitting in a room and you ask them: Who’s the most important person? Who should be most interested? And they all of them, half of them, say, invariably, their coach. That is not right. If you let them sit and think about it, they will come up with the right answer. It does not matter what age athlete you are talking about, they will get the right answer: me. It is most important to me; I should value it more than anyone else.
Okay. Whose is going to be second-most interested in you? Second-most person interested in you, they come to coach again. I say, “No, it’s your parents.” Now, we have got all kinds of broken-family situations in today’s world, but there is someone that is close to them, in most situations, that that is the person that is interested. Then who is the third person most interested? They then they will come up, the lights are going on a little bit, and they will come up and say, Well, coach, you are. That is really good.
So we have identified who the three people are that are important in your Swimming career, if you are going to be successful. So what are we going to do now? You have got to understand, of those three people, which of those three people knows the most about you and your body? You do. Which of the three knows the most about Swimming? And they almost always say the coach. Who knows the least about Swimming? Their parents.
So I tell them that: you have got to understand your parents know the least about Swimming, but they are real interested in you, so you have kind of got to let what your parents say go in one ear and out the other ear. It helps them, because there is no way they can get away from them. So you guys that are out there, age group coaches, and you are always complaining about parents, like they say, just say they are a necessary evil. They are your ally: you want to make them work for you, not against you. So you teach their child how not to listen to them in certain areas. [laughter]
Anyway, putting the pieces of the puzzle together, it is a whole new puzzle in today’s world and there is all kinds of things in the puzzle that make it really tough. But when you are setting-up your coaching and what you are doing, I think you have to… I evaluated some things we were looking at yesterday. There has got to be a passion, there needs to be a work ethic, there needs to be challenges (every guy who talked yesterday was about challenges), and there needs to be a time commitment. Those ingredients are very important in what you do. If you as a coach are not putting those in, it is going to be real hard to get your athletes to put it in.
I think in today’s world, you have heard it before and it is still true: we work in a delayed-gratification sport in an instant-gratification society. And the more we cater to the instant gratification, the more we are going to get less results in the big picture. Short term, well without a doubt. That is an analogy for you.
Boy, I would love to walk-in right now and take my college team, and go, Okay, guys we are only going to go an hour. We’re going to go an hour; I want you to go really all-out, really fast, race speeds for an hour. And they will go wild; we will probably have the best collegiate season I have ever had. And I am absolutely certain the people that I have that have an opportunity to swim well in 2016, I will be handcuffed them. I am positive of it; absolutely, totally positive of it.
And there is no cookbooks. There is absolutely no cookbook for putting the recipe together. Those pieces, there is never instructions—well, maybe there are instructions to the puzzle sometimes, but I hate jigsaw puzzles: I work in one, so I do not work on them. There are no instructions on how to do it. There is not one cookbook, because if there was, we would not be here at this clinic, everyone would buy it. We would open it up, we would go to page 1, and we would start the season. And we would all be successful: it would not be challenging, it would not be fun and everyone would be good.
Whenever your athlete is unsuccessful, and they walk over to you and they are unhappy at a swim meet, it is a good thing. I tell them, and it upsets them to no end: if it was easy, everyone could do it and everyone would be great.
I had three athletes that swam for me, the entire family, here in Jacksonville at Bolles; their father is head of the brain institute at the University of Florida. He talked to me about learning moments. Learning moments, in anything you do in life but relative to swimming… it was a byproduct of a very bad experience, I had some athletes that had done some things wrong. He said, “You’ve got a really unique opportunity; this is a learning moment. It’s a learning moment in their lives.” And as I talked to him more, I found that you could actually take that into what you are doing in Swimming too.
Please, this is only the world as I see it. Like I said, I am no expert, so I am not prescribing anything.
But when I watch coaches at swim meets, I find it really interesting. The athlete comes over and coaches tell them how well they did. And they might tell them something that they did wrong, we’ll do it better tonight in the finals. But so few coaches at the swim meet, when you have a learning moment and they have swam poorly, take the time to explain to them: the reason why you swam poorly is because you have been doing this wrong in practice. Instead, you tend to wait until Monday or Tuesday, when you come back from the meet, and they have quit listening by then—they are back in their other world. You need to tell them at that moment; that is a learning moment.
You took a breath off the wall, and we’ve been working on it for an eternity. You stopped dead in the water and you lost all your momentum. The learning moment is right then, when they are most disappointed. Does it have the potential to become a volatile situation because they are upset? Yes. But it does not matter because they care at that time. You want them when they care because that is your learning moment. And then you draw the connection between that learning moment and going back to practice. Then you have got a chance. It is hard to facilitate change if it is not in that learning scope of things.
So find out what you believe in. You have got to put your hands around it, and you follow what you believe in. So this is kind of what I believe, and what I have seen over five decades of things that work.
Alright, what do these two guys have in common or what is different about them? [pictures of Troy (left) and Tiger Woods (right) both swinging a golf club] The guy on the left… well, fortunately, he has orange and blue on—Gator colors—so he obviously has a little-bit going for him. But other than that, there are some big differences. The guy on the left, his skill-set is not as good—cannot change it too much. His early lessons were non-existent or very, very poor. He repeated those very, very poor habits on a regular basis when he played. He did the wrong thing too many times, and the right thing not often enough.
The guy on the right, his skill-set is good. He had quality instruction from the absolute youngest age. He had tremendous work habits that were encouraged by his parents and his coaches. And he has repeated it over and over and over and over and over again, in a non-aerobic sport. We work in an aerobic sport, so repetition has to be even more important for us.
But by all tales—I am not an expert—but by all tales, it is not uncommon for Tiger Woods (I tell my athletes this) when he was playing his best, it was not uncommon for Tiger Woods to take a hundred golf balls, take his nine-iron, put it out there 150 yards (that is the other thing: I have got to use my driver to hit it that far). But he takes a nine-iron, puts a three-foot circle 150 yards out there, and will hit balls into that. Almost every guy on the tour will hit a ball in that circle in the first 10-15. The difference in Tiger Woods is when those guys put two or three, they walked off the course; he stayed there and hit all 100 of them.
So I think repetition is very, very key. If I repeat something, it is because it was really important to me—or I had it written-down twice. But we tell our athletes, and I believe this to be true: the most important thing you do in Swimming—the absolute most important thing you do in Swimming—is to swim slow correctly. Now maybe I am in the old school and I do not understand the new world. I understand swimming fast; I told you what happened when we swam one hour. I think that fast swimming, I have tried to incorporate it into my program, been doing it for a long time. We go 25s all-out on a regular basis. When I do not do enough of it, we do not swim as well. It is a key component; it is one of the pieces of the puzzle; you have to use it. But it is not the only component of the puzzle, and if you use it all the time, you are not going to be successful.
But you do always swim slow; I do not care what program you are in. I do not care if you are in a program that does all-25s or all-50s—those are all fine ways to be successful. Whatever program you are in, you are also going to swim slow. Swimming slow, over the course of an athlete’s career, they probably do as-much or more slow swimming than they do fast swimming. It could be slow because it is designed to be slow; it could be warm-up and activation. It could be slow because it is swim-down and you are trying to recover. It could be slow because it is the first part of the set and you want them to be slow and work on technically correct. But you have to learn how to do things slow-correct because repetition, that is key.
It always amazes me, in recruiting athletes, one of the first things, Well, when do you do your technique work? I just look at them like: what do you mean? If we go back to that original chart, the one thing that was constant the whole way through: better is always there. You have to be working technique all the time. You do not work on it in 25s and then stop working on it because you are swimming 200s. You do not work on it in warm-up, and then forget about it in the middle of practice.
We do not worry…. I am going to show you some warm-ups, we do some long stuff in warm-up. But it is always purposeful; it is not garbage, it is purposeful. Swim slow correctly, number one thing in the sport.
70,000 [yards] a week: this has been my rule of thumb. I am not saying it is right or wrong. It changes a little bit by what event you swim, where your priorities are and what time you have available. But 70,000 a week for me is kind of one of those key figures. And that is not big—that is not big at all. It is big in today’s world, but it is not big. Compared to the ‘80s, it is not big at all. But I found that to be kind of a common denominator.
This is not 100% correct, but I did a little bit of research in just things that I know. Listen to these names: Tyler Clary, Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, Nathan Adrian, Peter Vanderkaay, Katie Hoff, Hannah Miley, Tracy Caulkins, Elizabeth Beisel, Allison Schmidt and Simone Manuel. Those people all have, in their career, a 12-24 month time period where they did aerobic-based work; every single one of them. Now, it may not have been 70,000 a week, it might have been 50,000 a week. If you do not have the pool-time to go 70 on a regular basis, you might go 50 on a longer period of time. But the repetition of correct is important; you have to do it.
When I got those names I said Well, maybe I’m just blowing smoke; I am anecdotal, I am not the scientist doing the research out there. Two athletes I worked with myself:
• Greg Burgess, Olympic medalist in the 200 IM, and
• Trina Jackson, she was right at the American Records in distance freestyles set-in the 80s.
Both those two athletes had points in their career where they made changes.
Burgess was the most obvious: he went away to one school. He came-back from school the first year and he swam relatively well. I was kind of pleased with his first year. He came to me and he said, “Coach,”. A little bit like Dick Jochums talking about athletes knowing what it is right. I said he had a pretty-good first year. He said: “Yeah, but it’s not right.” I said: What do you mean? He said, “It’s fun, but it’s not right. It’s not going to put me where I want to go; I’m just not doing the right things. He said, “I’m swimming fast an awful lot, but I don’t think I’m doing enough times right to be as good as I want to be.” He transferred schools, got into different situations.
Now maybe it is just him? But as I fast-forward his career—he went on, he gets the medal in the Olympics, he comes back. He changes programs again; he goes to a program, again—he was chasing a girlfriend but—he goes someplace else. He is not swimming very well; he swims horrible at Nationals. In the middle of the afternoon—I wanted a nap, I had been out the night before, I had gone to Prelims, I just wanted to get some rest in the afternoon—he knocks on my door. He shows up to my door and he says, “Coach, I want to make another Olympic team. Can I come back and swim?”
I said, “Greg, hey, you’re 24 years-old, buddy. I don’t know any other way to do it.” And this was before we had older guys swimming; actually he was probably 22 or 23. And I said, “You’re pretty old. I don’t know any other way to do it. You come back and we’re going to have to go to work and do some things that you aren’t going to like.” And he looked at me and said, “Coach, I don’t have to like it, but I know I need to do it.” It is our job to convince them that they need to do it.
He came back and he walked-in the door on August 25. We did things that he did not do the first time around, at a greater volume level than the first time around, but he did them better. He swam the best I have ever seen a guy swim. And got really upset… we worked until January, and in January I gave him a little more input on what we did and he had a tremendous season. I think he would have been good at the Olympics, but he ran into some unfortunate circumstances after making the team, that he did not, and he got distracted. But a tremendous opportunity.
I took it a step further. Those people… there is probably a whole lot folks, if you have not listened to the history. Nathan Adrian: 80,000 a week in high school. 80,000 a week, regular basis. He was one of the fastest high school 500 freestylers in the country. That is why he is the age he is now and can continue to swim well. Now I guess you could make a case that had he been sprinting all that time, he would be even better still; but I do not believe that is true. And there are too many instances that tell me that it is not true.
But I made a phone call (I think he might even be in here). I know a guy who does not get much credit for working with athletes, Bruce Patmos; a really good coach. I had the good fortune, one of my first recruits when I came to Florida was a girl who swam for Bruce on the West Coast named Maureen Farrell. Kind of one of those unknown people, got a little bit better. She was a good swimmer in high school, but not one of those where everyone’s going wow. She was a little, skinny girl. But she has some good background; she had been with Bruce a while, done a lot of training. She ended-up going 1:44 in the 200 freestyle, when 1:44 was really good. She was 4th at the Olympic Trials in the 200 backstroke. Probably would have made the team, she just did not really believe she was that good. So I did not do a good-enough job of convincing her.
But he worked with two athletes that now are two of our best sprinters. So I called him because he was Anthony Ervin’s Age Group coach. I asked him about the 70,000 a week. He said he did not go quite 70, he is a little different guy. And he is… I have had the good fortune to work with Anthony a couple times. But he is articulate; he is tremendously articulate. If you get a chance to talk to Bruce…. I asked Bruce if he swam slow correctly. He told me, “Anthony wasn’t very fast at practice; but even when he didn’t swim fast, he was focused on what he was doing.” Back to swimming slow correctly. He said, “We never really saw 70. But I had him in the program for basically the entire time.” So 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and their volume figure was around 45 to maybe—biggest practice, maybe—60 once in a while, for a week.
And a week is more important than daily: everyone has a big day now and then. People like to tell you what their big day is, but they do not tell you how often they have the big day. They like to tell what the big week is, but they do not tell you how long. I am not talking about one week of this; I am talking about week-in and week-out. Now you might cycle it and change it; you have got to recover, those are all important things. Things that work: recovery works—it is important.
But week after week of doing it, and he said he was in the program the whole time through. He realized he was good, and spent some extra time with him. I think that is why Anthony Ervin is still good. I really believe that is why he is still good. Yet we have sprinters today, at Anthony Ervin’s age, that they want to be swimming 30,000 a week, like he is now, and swimming it all fast. Do you think they are going to have a career like Anthony Ervin? I doubt it. They are building a house without a foundation; I do not think it is going to happen.
Then when I got here, Bruce pulled me aside because I told him I might talk about that a little and I wanted to make sure it was the right information. He pulled me aside, and I took it the wrong way. He said, “You know, Margo Geer swam in my program. “ He changed clubs and he worked with Margo in high school. I think he only worked with her for about three years; he caught her right at the end of high school. He said, “Now, Margo didn’t do any what Anthony did.” He said she did not swim anywhere near that much. A) Because he got her later, he did not have her as long. And B) she maybe was not capable of doing it. We did not actually go into that conversation.
But I took it as Wow, man, this throws me out the window. But then he came back to me and he said, he put his finger right on it, “If you’ve seen Margo Geer swim, she is by far the fastest American freestyler for a very, very short distance. And she can’t swim the 100m freestyle; she can’t close the deal.” Now, I may be connecting dots that should not be connected, but I think the difference in Margo Geer and Anthony Ervin is the years that Anthony Ervin was going-in and doing some of that low-key repetition of correct, because that relates to the end of the race. So all those people, they are all products.
Swimming slow correctly, 70,000 a week. Right now we run cycles. It is harder to sell, okay. So we might run 70, 60, 50; we might run 75, 65, 55; it depends on what you swim. Does everyone do it? Does Brad deBorde, the sprinter, do it? No. He went 18.8, but he did a version of it.
Now, how many weeks do you do it? It depends on what you have available. Unfortunately, I think most seasons in the United States over the course of the last 10 years have gone from 12 weeks to less. You know it used to be, kind of, that you could divide the year up and there were—even a worst-case-scenario—a 12-week Fall season, a 12-week Spring season, a 12-week Summer. I am not advocating that; I am much more: swim for a real long time and see what you can do at the end and press the envelope. But I think that was kind of an evolution.
Well, now we have put so many more meets in the schedule, there are important people going to Grand Prixs here-and-there and feeling like well, I’ve got to take two days; I can’t embarrass myself here. If you do not press it, you are not going to find out what to do. So anyway: how many weeks you do it.
Monday a.m. (things that work)…. And things that work, when you do them over and over again, they get stale and they do not work as well. So I am not doing it currently, but we did it for about four years. When I was a young coach, I heard someone say I’ve never done the same workout twice. So I went awhile that I did that, I felt like I had to be ingenious. Then I started thinking about it: if you do not do the same workout twice, how are you evaluating whether you are getting better in the workout?
So we went two to three years straight where we had a Monday-morning practice, and you would do the same Monday-morning practice anywhere from four weeks to eight weeks. And it was intentionally set to be extremely demanding, to a point of failure, so that everyone did not make it the first time through. And then over the course of the 4-8 week cycle, they would see themselves get better.
The other thing that I like about Monday morning—I think it works really-well with sprinters, I think it works really-well in today’s quick society where they do not like things that are long—I kind of like my Monday-morning practice, for the people that swim the 200 or down events, to be their longest practice of the week. So that they know Monday morning is really long, so the rest of the week is a little more palatable. Not easier; palatable.
And maybe Saturday morning. So between the two of them, I am putting the real-big ones, that they really are going to dislike a little bit or have a harder time with mentally, on each end of the week. I think that works.
Practice design: warm-up and swim-down
Practice design. First is warm-up and swim-down. Now, I do not know what of this is garbage, so you can kind of tell me because this is stuff I do. So if it is garbage, let me know. But a 2,000 freestyle, adjustment, upfront; we do not do it all the time. We do not do it all the time, but we do it a lot. It might be 1,200-2,000—2,000 catches everyone’s eye. But 1200-2000: something that is long and going. If you look at Jon Urbanchek’s logbooks, if you ever get the chance, his first thing in practice is always something that is a little-bit longer.
Now that 2,000: it can be straight, it can be a set. There is always a purpose, and there is always a direction given. My assistant coaches, I get after them if they give them a warm-up and there is not something in the warm-up that usually is drill-activated. We are looking for activation; we are looking for correct technique early in the warm-up. We are looking for repetition of correct to start-out the beginning of practice, because we are neuromuscular: we are going to set-up what we want to see when we go faster in practice.
Over-distance of the stroke in warm-up. I think it works. (I could not get it all these things in right order.) I think it really helps your medley swimmers; I think it really helps if you are coaching Age Groups, you do it. It is absolutely nothing to walk-in and go a set 800-1,000 of freestyle. But walk-in and give them 800-1,000 of breaststroke. I believe it is one reason why we have so many medley swimmers, because we usually warm-up over the course of the week, once or twice a week freestyle, once or twice a week of each of the strokes, and do something longer in the warm-up. And those warm-ups are lots of drills; candy-coat it, hide it, all kinds of yardage—put some drills in, drill swims.
As much as it is important to swim slow correctly, the second-most important thing is to swim fast correctly. Those two are related. Drilling slow correctly is a skill that you have to learn, because what you want to do is you want to drill fast correctly. Because then you can put the fast drills into your practice; it becomes an interchangeable part of what you are doing.
Swim-down/warm-down is a back-part of practice. (Things that work.) I guess you could call it garbage yards, but it is not uncommon… I got it from G, Genadijus (Sokolovas), when he was working at USA Swimming. We swim-down and warm-up, as we go through the seasons it becomes more. But we swim-down at least two/three times a week with a snorkel and a [snorkel] cap. It is usually—it is almost always—freestyle.
But you put on a snorkel and a cap on. We restrict the breathing on the cap more than what the cap actually does, till it is about the size of a pencil hole—it is real small. We take metal washers and tape them over the part and put a very small hole in it. So that in fact you are swimming-down, and it will force your heart rate up a little bit because you cannot get air, but it does not tear you up muscularly. (So I guess it is garbage yardage because it is not race relative.)
But what it does it takes all the small tissue in your lungs, and when you are breathing hard, you have got to suck real-hard to get that air. It takes that whole lung area. I do not know if it is right—someone medically will probably tell me it is wrong—but all that tissue is interconnected. When you finish a run and you are breathing really, really hard, there is something going on in there; and it makes you do that. So you are working on that tissue, you are elevating the heart rate, but you are not tearing-up the body at all. So we do that 2-3 times a week as part of our swim-down; depends on how much time is left.
I was supposed to start the talk today… and I always get really nervous getting started. When Martyn Wilby, one of the assistant coaches that has been with me for 25 years, when he saw the topic of the talk, he came into me in July and he says, “Do you want me to just stop recruiting now?” [laughter] He said, “You keep making my job rougher.” (We get hammered pretty-good anyway.) He told me that is where I should start the conversation.
But a really interesting story relative to that: we swim-down (this next one down) 900-1,500 swim-down, weak-stroke (it does not say weak-stroke, it says stroke up there). But our medley swimmers swim-down 900… the standard set was 1,200. I used to do it three times a week, religiously; we would go a 1,200.
If you went backstroke, it was always with fins and hand paddles. You had to swim it slow; you did not have to be fast at all. I say, “You don’t need to be fast but you’ve got to be correct. Want you to lift your thumb up. Want to see your thumb, want to make sure you see the end of the paddle. You take your shoulder, your hip and your toe, and you roll everything together. And you go 25 right, 25 left, 50 swim.” It is non-stop 1,200. Sometimes it would be 20 minutes, sometimes it would be 15 minutes—whatever I had left at the end of practice.
Breaststrokers was always: “Want to swim long and strong, getting your legs up and reaching as far as you can; think about your technique.” If we are going long course, do a great turn on the far wall with a double underwater pull. It forces you to just stay under, we are working on that turn, we are focused on it. We are coming back. We are going to bracket the wall at 100, and we are going to take 10 fast kicks. And then do a regular turn, work on getting-up. Usually, I would always tell them 12, and then say “Well, you guys go 1,000.” But it is a long, breaststroke swim. You do not have to be fast guys, but you’ve got to be correct.
Butterfliers, slightly different; I am not sure it should be. When I was younger and I was crazy, it was not; we just treated fly like it was any other stroke. We would swim just as much fly as we did everything else. Everyone told me it caused shoulder problems, but I am not sure it did. I never had shoulder problems until I stopped doing it.
But when they go fly, it is with fins again. The breaststroke, incidentally, no equipment, usually. Sometimes they wear those little flipper-type fins—we call them breaststroke fins—they can use those if they want. So sometimes the true breaststrokers would use that.
The butterfliers, they would go 25 right arm fly with fins, 25 left arm fly with fins. If it is long course, 50 fly swim and then a 100 freestyle. Short course, we go 25 right, 25 left, 25 free, 25 free. In that drill, we talk to them that your freestyle stroke is your butterfly stroke, you just have a little-bit better leverage in freestyle. I do not know if that is exactly right, but they seem to understand it.
And we would finish practice doing that.
Well, back to Martyn Wilby, he would get upset with me. He said, “We’re just wasting time. You’re just filling in time ‘till the end of practice.” But I am back to time being key; I like to use my time. They have no problem… have you ever noticed with your athletes, if you are done with practice early, one of them say Hey coach, can we stay and make-up this time? or Can we make it up tomorrow? But the day you run one minute late, they are all upset. [laughter]
So I try to use my time, and I usually plan this set. So in practice, we might work off 10 minutes, 15 minutes or a volume figure, depending on what it was. And Martyn was always getting a little aggravated, and we work together. Finally one day he said, “You know, this is a waste of time. You shouldn’t be doing that.” And I thought about it, and I do not think he was right, but anyway I stopped doing it. I am so aggravated that I did, because I cannot get them started, because they were good at it.
We finished practice… think of what was happening at the end of practice. Weak-stroke IMers almost always did weak-stroke IM. I have some horrible breaststrokers that swim good medley, and I think it is because they have done a lot of breaststroke swimming at the end of practice. And they do it when they are fatigued: so you are at the end of practice, you are fatigued and you are working technique. That relates to the end of the race every bit as much as swimming a set of 25s, all-out, race speed.
Maintaining body position; Chris Plumb talked today about maintaining the core position. Those were all instructions they get when they do that. It is giving them a chance to recover. You are actually getting ready for tomorrow’s practice. You are cleaning-out the system, and you are doing enough swimming that it really helps.
So we do that in warm-down. 10-15-20 minutes there (low-end aerobic work). Technique work when fatigued. So, those are some practice design thoughts relative to warm-up and swim-down.
Practice design: middle of practice
The meat of the practice; the middle of practice. The kind of stuff that we do. (I get flack for it all the time,) We go 20×400 long course, for the entire team [once a year]. It is not that tough. Do the sprinters do it? Yes. Does it help them? Yes. Does it help in the same way it helps a distance freestyler? No. But they are both working on an area.
It always amazes me: sprinters are never supposed to do 10x400s. There are very few programs where the sprinters go 10x400s. But there are all kinds of programs where the distance freestylers go 25s. There is something in everything you do for everyone; it is just a matter of how big the proportions are.
We do that once a year—every May. They look forward to it. Ryan Lochte did it, and he did a real good job of them. It is a good set.
100s/200s: we do lots of 100s. We do them on a tight interval, we do them on a big interval; it kind of depends. I do not want them to fall apart, though we are not afraid to work to the point that they do fall apart. When they work to the point that they fall apart, then we are going back to better. And we are going to talk to them; I might say something to them about the technique.
The learning things: we are back to the learning moments. Remember last week at the meet when you fell apart the last 25 and you couldn’t hold your breath off the wall, you didn’t power off the wall, you have to do it in this set. So you are connecting all your learning moments, so in fact the athlete is getting the skill down better.
But if they fall apart, the first thing you do is ask for a correction. If you do not get the correction and the athlete is honest, then you have got to evaluate: is that where they are, are they that tired? Dick Jochums hit on it yesterday: if they are that tired, then it is time to change-up what you are doing for that athlete, or be understanding to that point, make a change in the next day.
I think you are better-off as a coach that day, if it is not really early in practice, to let them finish, fatigue and fail. Now when they do that, that does not mean you want to come back-in the next day and start fatigued and fail all day long. It means you adjust. But if you do not press them to that envelope, they do not find out what they are capable of.
You heard it a lot yesterday, and I believe it to be true, so I will take advantage of talking about things that work: I think that we were the last sport that taught character as the #1 building block. Most of the sports have gone from part of being an educational tool to being someplace that is all about winning and losing. Really what we should be teaching is character, and you teach character by getting to that point where it is really, really tough. We need to do that; society needs it, our athletes need it.
Sets that mix race-pace and technique. I like to swim at race-pace. But I do not think you just… you can recover by swimming slow and relaxed; you can recover by boring drills in between.
I like fartlek swimming; got it from Richard Shoulberg. When Teresa Crippen swam for me, I was getting ready to send her away for a meet that she qualified for, and I talked to her a little bit about what to do. And she said, “Well, Mr. Shoulberg always had me do fartlek training when I rest.” And I started thinking about it: it was one of those things that I used, years ago, and then I stopped doing. Fartlek training is: easy-fast swimming, continuously. So thank you Richard, we have rested better since then because we have always include some fartlek training in our rest the last three weeks.
Even going further, I am finding that it is one of the best ways to get in-shape at the beginning of the year. Because you are elevating your heart rate; you are letting it come down but you it is never completely down. So we are doing a lot of fartlek training in early-season right now too.
Aerobic training. I was told a long time ago—I do not know who told me, I do not understand why, I am not the scientist, but—if you want to do true aerobic work, you have to work in bouts of a minimum of 20 minutes, you cannot rest over 20 seconds and you have got to keep your heart rate at 140. Just kind of a basic rule of thumb. It does not mean your heart rate cannot go up to 180, but it means you have got a minimum of 140. So it depends on what aerobic area, what end you want to work in, and knowing your athletes and communicate. And, again, there is no cookbook that tells you what is right: it is knowing your athletes and where you are going to press them.
Too much candy-coating at practice. I am after my assistances constantly. In today’s world, you see an awful lot. I do it; I do it, myself. And you have to, because you are trying to draw the athletes in, and it is harder to sell things in today’s society to them. But you can candy-coat it too much. Oh, we’re going to go two of this, and then three of this, and two of another one.
Dave Salo gets labeled wrong. Have you ever been to Dave Salos practice? They do some work. They do some work, but he pieces-in lots of pieces. They are going for two hours, and that is how he is keeping people engaged. It is really, really good. I wish I could be better at it. But by the same token, I think you can candy-coat it too much; 20×400 is really good.
We went all last summer, we had one of the best summers we have ever had long course. (Back to things that work.) I am absolutely certain of work; I would compare our long-course season improvement-wise against anyone, especially working with older athletes. We went 30x100s every single Wednesday afternoon, all summer long. Went 30x100s every Wednesday. Now we did them different ways: we would kick them, we would pull them, we swam them all fast one day, we would swim descend-1-3, we would swim them different strokes. But it was always 30x100s, and my purpose was: I wanted our athletes to see the number 30 and not be scared. Because so many of mine….
You think your job is tough at a club sometimes? It has taken me an eternity, and I can never get my Florida people where I had my Bolles people. I am not very smart, so it took me a long time to figure out why: it is because I replace one quarter of my team every year and they are coming from all kinds of different places. So one-quarter of my team every year. At Bolles, we had a boarding program, but the core of the team was the 300+ members that came-up in the program and knew what they were doing. Then when people came-in and joined them, they joined the group. Unfortunately in college, one quarter of your group is coming-in, so it is harder to get them to all go the same direction. (I do not know where I was going with that.)
The last thing I have down there [on the slide], if you study the results from Pan Pacs, the Japanese were tremendously successful. In inclement weather, they swam really, really well. The Japanese have been to my place and trained. If you know anything about their culture, they are extremely disciplined. They yes sir or no sir, they follow instructions really-well; and they work really, really hard. They are not afraid to swim long; and they have everyone doing it: they swim long and slow. They maybe do more slow swimming than anyone in the world. And they are technically flawless: they spend a lot of time videoing; they do a little more science. I do not think it is any accident they swam fast.
The other that they have done: they have been sharp-enough to identify their young people and challenge them. They do not allow their older people to get a free-ride. They make the younger people challenge the older ones. And they are not afraid to replace them. Now they reward their older ones and they try to keep them around, but they have turned-over a whole group of young ones.
Someone said to me the other day: well, yeah, but the Japanese don’t get it done at the big meets. If we are going to depend on them not getting it done at the big meet, we may wake-up too late. I think the reason why they do not get it done at the big meet is because their culture is so ingrained in doing the right thing, that the pressure they get has actually snapped them. But I think their culture has modified a little bit more, and they are starting to figure it out. They have the potential to be the best team at the Olympics in four years; they have got some really-good athletes.
General training concepts that work
Planning and staffing: together. Your staff has to be communicating. I think that relates a little bit to what Matt Kredich was talking about yesterday: co-coaching, getting people to work together. People hearing things different ways is really important.
Three days or three weeks: real old concept. If you are going to rest, and you are looking at what you are doing, you can be real successful in three days rest and you can be…. Rest is bad terminology: three days preparation or three weeks preparation. When you get between those two, you have got too many people that differ. So, knowing your athlete, three days of preparation or three weeks getting ready for a meet.
Training blocks: You have a block of time where you have focused improvement on doing something really well. Elizabeth Beisel, this Summer; a real key Summer for her financially and what she was doing making the National Team. We sat down at the beginning of the Summer, said, “Elizabeth, we don’t need to swim a whole lot of things this Summer, but we’ve got to swim the one event that puts you on the team. The 400 IM is really-good for you, it’s your deal.” She has been on the National Team in 400 IM two Olympics now and maintained a really-high level. Gotten better every year until this year; we did not get better this year, we were just slightly slower.
So I said, “We know your backstroke is pretty-good, and even though you’re a really good backstroker, the backstroke field is so talented I think your chances of making the team in the backstroke are less than what there are in the medley. Let’s make sure we make the team, we’re going to put everything on the medley.” She said: what do I need to do? I said, “Well, first thing, I don’t think we’re doing enough work. You’ve got to go back and train with the distance freestylers; we’ve got to take your volume up.”
She is from a big volume program with Chuck Bachelor; he has taught the woman how to work. She does not always like it, but she knows she needs to do it. I am a big believer: if you get too far away from the things that made you successful, then you are not going to be as successful.
So I said, “It’s time to go back: you’re going to have to spend some time with the distance freestylers. I want at least a three-week block,” and I squeezed-in to more like five, “where you’re just going to get in.” We have got another good distance freestyler that was top-8 at the Olympics in the 800. I said, “I want you in with her and I want you to be her partner. I want you to just get on it like you’re a distance freestyler. And you’ve got to spend three weeks with the breaststrokers. And when you spend time working on your weak stroke in the IM, you do not just swim that stroke, you have to train that stroke with the breaststrokers on the breaststroke interval.”
So we really challenged her; we did a lot of breaststroke pulling. And if you look at her splits, her breaststroke and her freestyle splits were really, really good; the backstroke was not especially good, but that is okay—we knew it. And the rest of the world did not get much better in the backstroke this Summer, so we got the benefit.
But we took a block of time to work on something. When you are taking a block of time to work on something, you are giving it up someplace else. You have got to understand that as a coach and you have got to let your athlete know that. That is the only way you are going to get better at something you are not good at. If you do your same practice percentages… if you have got something you are not good at and you continue to do it in the same practice percentage you have always done, there is probably a good chance you are not going to get better at it.
Cycles: that is a whole other talk.
This is one good one, right here: this warm-down, I got from Ray Mitchell years ago. And it goes back to lactate testing (it is not the only thing). We always do a tremendous warm down; we go a long swim. It is real-great during the college season; we do it with high school students too. It is a little tougher to do club-wise, but we do it in the Summer too.
You swim 10 minutes, nonstop. Normal warm-up, so you do the normal swim-down stuff. I always stress good technique, but it is a little harder to get sometimes at the swim meet. But you are going 10 minutes. Then after the 10 minutes, you go a set of 50s. We work, early-season, off 20—when Ray gave it to me it was 20x50s.
You go 20x50s. Usually the first 15 are on 45 seconds, short course; heart rate 140. We have them check the pulse the whole way, because you want to maintain a level heart rate because that is flushing the system gradually. When they are just swimming easy, sometimes they do not get their heart rate up enough; so it is 140, it flushes the system.
And then number 15, you break it up into thirds: you go 3 six-second sprints. And Ray’s analogy when he explained it to me—and he probably did more work in lactate than anyone else in the country when he was doing it—he said, “You go 6 seconds, and you rest 40 seconds.” It is an all-out, six-second blast. You do a three of those, so it is basically a 50; it’s a broken 50. But you have to rest 40 seconds. Because at 6 seconds, your body is not producing much lactate, if it is producing any at all. When you stop for 40, your heart rate recovers. If you do not stop for the 40, then the next 6 seconds, you will produce lactate again and you are doing the opposite of what you want. So you have got to sell-them on waiting 40 seconds.
So you wait 40 seconds, and you do three of those. That has really elevated the heart rate real high, so now you are clearing-out the bigger muscle tissue. And then you do your last 5 on 1:00, easy.
We got so good at it that we would have people doing it between swims at meets. Now, they would not do 20; they might… you can change the number of 50s, and how much you do, by how much time you have. But when he was at his absolute best, Ryan Lochte did it on a regular basis; he got away from doing it. Elizabeth is pretty good at it.
And we usually assign… if you have got staff at a meet, one of my best coaches—the most valuable person on my staff—is the only guy who will go (one of my most valuable, they are all great, I should not put it that way), what he does is invaluable, he volunteers for it and he does it himself: he spends the entire meet in the warm-up pool. Never leaves. Talks to the athletes when they come over, makes sure they swim-down, he supervises what they do. Most of your assistant coaches do not want to do it, and that is one of the most important tasks there is. (It cost us a gold medal because I did not have him on the Olympic staff with me.)
We do hypoxic versus snorkel (talk about stuff that works). Everyone jumped into snorkels; I am right there with you. I have not had the advantage of being an assistant coach, except when I am on the National Team—I learned so much when I get a chance to do that. I have always been a head coach, so I make my mistakes, and I just try not to make the same ones twice. We jumped into snorkels just like everyone, and we had snorkels, everybody wearing snorkels. And what we did was we used the snorkels and quit the hypoxic work. They are two different things; they are completely different. I think you have got to mix the two.
Pulling: we just pull a whole lot of freestyle. Chuck Batchelor again… I used to do it all the time. When I coached at Fort Myers, I had no money, no budget, so we cut up tire tubes and tied feet. Then I got away from it because I got to places where we had money, so we had all kind of the intricate stuff; we quit doing it. During an Olympic year, I am with Chuck Bachelor and we are training together. Chuck says, “They’re doing backstroke strap.” What’s a strap? It is a band. So I went back and did it, made a major improvement in our freestyle—it also improved our backstroke. (Right there: backstroke strap/ban.) It relates to swimming well; breaking things into pieces is really good.
We use monofin for our backstrokers; I think monofin works. But I overused it too. That underwater, you have got to swim underwater long-enough to get really comfortable with it. Bill Boomer talked yesterday about being underwater and being comfortable because it is an alien environment, it is not natural for them. So you have got to swim underwater long enough that you actually become comfortable and you are not worried about it.
We took it to the extent that we were doing so much underwater- and so much monofin-work, though, that they also… when they get comfortable, they learn how to go slow, comfortable; and then they do not go fast enough. So now I have gone the opposite direction: we got better this Summer underwaters because we did less of them.
We did not spend less time at the pool; we did less of them. We did not go as far underwater; we went shorter, faster. But we did not do it for less time, we did not change our practice time; we just increased the amount of rest we got on it, but we did more of it faster. But I do not believe we will be as-fast next summer if we do not go back to doing the other one. So it is how you are putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
We do a lot of pulling breaststroke. I helped myself this summer, again: an assistant coach came to me and said, “You know, when I swam, I always used a tube.” We took all our breaststrokers—and our breaststrokers have been horrible the last couple of years—we took all our breaststrokers, we tied their feet with a tube, and we just did a whole lot of breaststroke pulling with a tube. Best summer we had breaststroke in a long, long time; breaststroke legs, everything.
Elizabeth, every day she said, “We are not doing that again, are we?” Yeah, we’re doing it again. But yet when she left for training, she said, “Am I going to have a chance to do some breaststroke pulling and some backstroke with a strap?” When she does not like either one of them. So they know.
Breaststroke with surgical tubing: I think that if you do it with surgical tubing, breaststroke, if you pull over the hips and up the back, it raises the hips and gets you over the top of the stroke. I stopped doing that; we got worse. We started doing it again; we got better. I do not know.
Long fins and short fins. I think long fins….
[audience member]: How do you do the breaststroke with surgical tubing?
[Troy]: We anchor it to the starting blocks and we actually swim. We swim repeats with it; we will go on intervals.
A good distance freestyle set that works is: you go 300 in the surgical tubing—so you are tied-up to one of the light surgical tubes, you go a 300—then come off and go 3×100 at pace. Then you come back two days later and you go 3×100 hard with the surgical tubing, and then time a 300. Stuff like that I think works the tubing.
The breaststroke is over the back. The other: if you can anchor a tube up-high for breaststroke, it is really good because then it really pulls you up over the stroke. But finding a place to do it is tough.
Fly kick with fins: I always used long fins. When the zoomers—not that they are bad—when they first came out, I thought Jesus, I’m going to pay more money for less material, it does it make sense. So I cut-off all my fins. We did that for a while. Then I got to Florida, I had a bigger budget, so then we got everyone shorter fins.
It started out with just the sprinters using it, because I think it is a really-good tool for sprinters. Then we had the whole team in short fins. We were kicking more—and more and more and more—and we were not getting results and we were losing the legs at the end of the race. Now, maybe we were kicking too much—I do not know.
But what I had done, in my primitive mind I had thought that the long fins were easier. So we were using the short fins to train with and the long fins when we rested. And I started thinking about it: I think it’s the other way around. Because the long fin I always use, because it creates ankle flexibility and it forces you to kick from the core, so you are using all the body. So we went back to long fins.
We use the long fins now to train with, and the short fins for technical work. Because the short fin, what happens, they start to bend at the knee too much. They get going really, really fast, but they are bending at the knee. The long fin forces you to use your entire torso, and I think it is especially true in butterfly. So our fly swimmers, we went back this past year.
The thing I always liked about long fins and flyers is that you could do some long fly repeats—garbage yards, right? When I was at Bolles, we had great 200 butterfliers. And we have not been as-good because I quit doing it, but we are going back to it. What we used to do, it was not uncommon to do a repeat set of 200 flys: 9×200 fly, descend 1-3. If you break breathing pattern, you start over—I do not know. I do not think that is garbage; I think it is race-relative and I think it is pressing the envelope. But if you put fins on them, you can hold the technique a little bit better doing it. So we do not want the technique to fall apart.
Training weak stroke IM. That is back to that block thing: if you do not train it, you are not going to be very good.
Surgical tubing IM: Back to Martyn Wilby, he sometimes… I got ready to change it, because I think it has become very rote. He realized when we dropped those things at the end, he has come to me and said we need to put those things back in. It really hurt our backstrokers tremendously. So we put it back and we are seeing some results. But getting them to do it religiously is a little bit harder.
But I was ready to do the surgical tubing set because I do the same one all the time. It is usually somewhere between 12-24 x 50s, descend 1-3. And my comments generally: we are doing 12x50s on 50 (short course) with surgical tubing, descend 1-3, 3 fly/back, 3 back/breast, 3 breast/free. What you are doing: when you are swimming out against the tubing, the big gain spot is when it tightens up; it is like the race. But as soon as you hit the wall butterfly, I require a legal turn and you are going right into the backstroke; it forces you into the next stroke, so it forces the transition.
I was ready to change it, and he said you better not change it because I think it’s like that other thing: I think that’s why we changed strokes pretty well. Because we do not really do that much talking about changing strokes, but my athletes usually change strokes pretty well. I think it is from that set.
And then if they do it on Tuesdays—so they Tuesday they go that way—then on Thursday, they will come back and go 12 but you start from the other end of the pool. So now you are swimming-in fast to the wall with the tubing, and you are working the same stroke and going back the other way. But they have to go whole way to the wall.
Favorite Training Sets
I talked about warm-down with Ray Mitchell… these are just kind of favorite training sets. I do not have a whole lot of things I go back to.
This next one, broken 200s, it is the absolute-best short-course set. I got it from Tim Hill years ago; it is fantastic. If you are beat up, you are not swimming very well; you do this set, they swim well after it. 75 fast on 40, 50 easy on 1:00, 50 fast on 30, 50 easy on a 1:00, 50 fast on 25, 50 easy on 1:00, 25 fast on 10, and then any kind of easy recovery swim. They always go fast; I do not know why. Maybe it is just my team, but they always go fast. That is what Tim told me when he gave it to me; I have been using it for years. They just go fast in that set.
If you add-up the fast, you get a broken 200. The intervals: they are not going to make 10, but it really highlights what you are doing. As soon as you finish, you go right into a long swim. Depending on where you are in the season and what you want to get volume-wise… garbage yards here. Early in the season, when I am putting in a lot of garbage yards, that easy recovery swim might be a 300, good technique. Late in the season, it might only be a 100 good technique, but we will sit around a little bit longer before we do it again. We will do up-to six cycles of that. They are cooking when they do that: the whole pool goes fast—I do not know why. My favorite set.
Goal kicks (I think I got that from Tim Hill too). We kick 75s at race speed. Real-good short course; it works long course too. Long course you do 100s: kick fast through the 75 and then go easy to the other end. It is a great team set because everyone can go the same. (We are back to garbage yards.)
When we do that set, we might go… say we are going 10×75 goal kicks, they know that they are going 75, they know the goal is to be a 100-swim time. And then the distance guys will go a 500 hundred swim, the middle-distance guys will go a 400, the weaker middle-distance guys will go a 300, and the sprinters will go a 200. Everyone will go on 7:00. So the entire team is together.
The distance guy has elevated their heart rate. I like to do this after the distance guys have been beat-up the day before, because they get to go with the whole team so they do not feel really bad. They have been beat-up for a couple days, they are really tired, so then they do this. It emphasizes their legs, which they are going to need at the end of the race and they need getting out anyway. Then they follow with a 500 swim. Their heart rate is elevated, there is no break; so their heart rate stays way up while they swim. And then seven minutes seems to work just about right; they usually see the wall for about 10-15 seconds and they are taking-off on the next one. I guess that is garbage, but I think it relates to swimming those distance events well.
30 minutes race pace. I do not know, someone else probably does this; I think it was one of mine: You go thirty minutes of 50s on 1:00. I guess I can sell this one; we used to do it every Saturday morning in the summer at Bolles. You go 30×50 on 1:00, have to be one quarter of your race. If you do not, you have to go slow. Switch the tables on them; it is amazing: they will cheat to go fast. The same kid that does not want to go fast when you ask him to, will cheat to go fast.
You go 30×50 on 1:00, and you have to go slow if you do not make one quarter of your 200 time. They will cheat. You have got to make them go slow. They have to go swim; now they get to go a slow one on a minute and get back in. So you just go 30 minutes like that.
Backstroke stationary kicking. I have talked about it before. It is one of the best drills in swimming, if you have got a crowded pool. Arms over your head, really streamline, stretched out; tremendous core body exercise. We do a lot of that. We will go… we went Tuesday afternoon, we went 10 cycles of 2:00 flutter kick on your back; really stretched out, arms out top. You have got a good connection with them; all the coaches are walking around. They want to grab on the wall; they do not get to grab the wall, they have to really stretch, no space between their ears. They are kicking two minutes nonstop backstroke/on their back, and then they went right into 4×25 breaststroke kick on 30.
(Is it vertical?) No, it is stationary on your back. You can do it vertical, sometimes we have done it vertical in the deep end, but that day, we just went 25s. So they push-off, right after 25.
That is kind of one of my IM deals too: even if you are not a medley swimmer, a lot of the guys are doing medley. I think changing strokes is conditioning the whole body.
Get-in sets. I used to do at Bolles; I have not done them much at college, because college guys are a little more jaded. But, you know how everyone does get-out sets, come in when you feel like the team really is not doing a good job and do a do a get-in set. Stretch. Like Chris Plumb is talking about: you activate them out of the water, you get in. We’re going to start out, we are going 2x100s. You have to be this, or you have to get out and go home.
Any sort of building IMs. I build them all kinds of different ways—that is probably a whole other talk.
And Free-IM, got from Chuck Bachelor again. I did it years ago and stopped doing it. Instead of swimming the butterfly in the IM, you train free-IM. I think you work the same energy system and it helps your breaststroke leg. Because sometimes, if they are weak flyers especially, they get so fatigued in an IM set, that they just swim awful breaststroke. So you go free-IM; you still elevate the heart rate but they are not quite as fatigued. Especially if you are looking for the back-end of the IM to be better, I think free-IM set is really helpful.
I do not have any time for any questions (and I took part of your lunch time). I am sorry. Thank you very much.
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