[Introduction] I am David Marsh and with the ASCA Board. It is really my pleasure to introduce our next speaker. He needs no introduction now, but there was a time when he needed an introduction. What is fun about Bob is that every step along the way of his coaching, all you have got to do is look at the last, well since the Sydney Olympics, on into Athens and to here he has been up on this stage about every year telling us step by step, the progression of the young Michael Phelps. And now through three Olympics, he is here to do it again and share with an open book what he has done and I think that says a lot about him and a lot about his desire, not only to develop a greatness in his athletes, but to help USA Swimming along the way. I think this is his way of doing it and we are real fortunate to have him do this today and Bob – we want to thank you for that.
The other thing I want to say, in listening to Bob last night. WOW, what a way to start off the clinic, it just couldn’t have been better. I am still excited about that. Bob talked about a lot of what he has done lately and he talked to the young coaches and said some things to the young coaches out there about if you want to aspire in this sport.
Well, I worked with Bob when he was a young coach coming out and there was a point where Ray Essick, when he was wrapping up in 1988. He asked everybody, I think it was at ASCA, it might have been a USA convention, but for everybody to take out a piece of paper. He had about 4 or 5 questions of – he was going to put it into a time capsule and I don’t think the time capsule has been opened up again. Back in 1988, when Bob and I were coaching together here in Las Vegas at Las Vegas Gold, one of the questions was, who are going to be the future Olympic coaches? And back, Bob was a young 20 year old, 20 something year old. Bob Bowman, is the name I wrote down on that piece of paper. The thing is, you could see that he sought out knowledge, he was extremely determined and then he brought phenomenal passion. That did not happen with Michael. That happened long before and that is what he has brought to our sport.
Bob, when you talked about expanding our horizons by looking at the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and consider the 9th symphony of Beethoven – we were all in Beijing. We may not have been sitting in the bleachers, but we were all there. We were all watching it on TV and not over the course of one evening’s performance, but over the course of 9 days we saw perfection. We saw perfection through a team that you and Michael had put together and started at the Club Wolverine. The whole team dynamic of that and we observed that and as you told us last night, you said, “Look at Frank Lloyd Wright, look at Beethoven’s 9th and you will be changed.” Bob, we watched you and Michael and won’t you all agree, we are changed, so thank you.
[Coach Bowman] Thanks David. Wow. I will try to hook up so that I can move around again. We had a lot of fun in Las Vegas. That was an interesting time, but I learned a lot from David, so much about human nature and getting people to believe in your program.
Today, I was trying to think about what we might talk about and I decided that, since you have not had enough exposure to it recently, this is going to be the “all things Michael talk.” Whatever you want to know and if I know it, I will share it with you and I thought I would get started just by giving you several snapshots about Michael’s training and development through his career and then in the second half of the hour you can ask any question you want to ask and as we go along if you have a question raise your hand and I will take it, okay? I don’t want this to be real formal. We kind of did that last night. I want you to go wherever you want to go with this because I don’t have a great feel whether people want to know the training we did for the Olympics. Whether you want to know what Michael did when he was 11 or do you want to know what he did in between or what he eats for breakfast, but if you have interest in any of those things, this would be the time to ask it.
I wanted to start by just talking a little bit about what Michael was like as an age group swimmer because I think there is some value in knowing where he came from. The first time I saw Michael he was 11. He was already a hot shot age group swimmer. He had broken national age group records in I believe the 100 fly, the 100 back and in the 200 IM. The first time I saw him was in 1996. I had gone to North Baltimore Aquatic Club and essentially I was covering Murray Stevens training group while he was at the Olympic Games in 1996 and our pool is such that it not only a training facility, there is a large outdoor pool and people joined in memberships so families were there all the time. And Michael is what I would describe as a pool rat. You know, he would come in and do a morning practice and because his family was a member he would just kind of hang out at the pool until his mom was off work and she would come and pick him up at the end of the day. The first time I saw him he was running around with a bunch of 11, 10 and 11 year old boys and they would be in and out of the pool. They would be playing this game called wall ball – we had a little pad and they would throw a ball against the wall and if you missed you got it thrown on your back or whatever it was.
He was painfully skinny and he never stopped moving, never. The only time he stopped moving was when the lifeguards pulled him out and made him sit by the thing because he was in trouble. You know how that goes. You got sat out and he always protested how unfair it was, just like today – so unfair, but some things never change. But it was obvious that Michael was very athletic and I thought I would share with you right now, the first practice Michael ever did with me.
And I know some of you are not going to be able to see this and I will go through it, but I think if you get a feel for it, that is the main thing. I will set the stage a little bit for this practice. I was coaching, largely with our top group at North Baltimore Aquatic Club and I was also coaching a group after that in the evenings which was the second level, basically senior group. It was a group mainly of 13 & 14 year olds with some 15 year olds and because Michael was so advanced he was in there and he was just 11, turning 12. This was right before his 12th birthday. This was the first practice I ever did with this group and as you can see, after I put it up, I was sort of trying to make a statement about who was going to be tough and expect a lot from the group so it was a very difficult session and basically I just put it up there and watched him go because I just wanted to see what was going to happen. And see what I had to work with.
Here it goes. Coach Daland, you will recognize this. I started out with a 400 free. Oh God, that is terrible. Sorry, I will try to come up with a better one, maybe the black one. It is nice to know that some things stay the same. In North Baltimore every one of these I pick up is just like that so I have done a million workouts writing them like that.
So, we went a 400 free and just asked them to negative split and we actually did it on 5 minutes. These intervals are not all that impressive, but you have got to remember they were kind of developmental kids. In short course yards, they did 4 x 100’s fly 1:20 and they actually did three rounds of this set. The next round, it is back on 1:20 and the last round is breast and I let them go on 1:30, okay? They are descending 1 to 4. Then you go a 400 IM and I believe that one was on 5:30, it might have been 6 minutes so we will call it 5:30 and that was the descending 1 to 3. And then we go 4 x 100 free and there were three rounds. The first round they were on 1:15. The second round they were on 1:10 and the last round they were on 1:05. It was the sendoff; you get to do that three times, 6400 yards. So that is the first thing that I ever saw Michael do in practice. And you have to remember that Michael even though he was a hot shot swimmer and was basically the best swimmer in the group. Even though he was 11, he was still socially very intimidated by the older kids.
So I will never forget, we had 4 short course lanes and people are always surprised to hear that. I ran my practices at North Baltimore aquatic club and will again next week or whenever I go back, in 4 short course lanes. We had 24 people in this group, so six people swam in each lane. It was very funny because Michael chose to go I believe he was 4th or 5th in line in his lane, because the older guys all went first and they were not going to let some little kid go first, right?
So, we started this set and they swam through it and basically I just kind of let him swim. I didn’t really do anything, just watched. I think on the 400 IM I was trying to remember what it was and I will go back and look, but I am pretty sure that Michael was like 4:30. Pretty average time, but good and some people were going faster, some of the older guys. But what really struck me was after we had gone through this whole thing and we got to the last 400 yards free – they did 4 x 100’s free on 1:05 and for these guys that was the fastest sendoff they could make. They had to kill themselves to go 1:05, right? And I wasn’t sure, and most of the people didn’t make 1:05. There were probably out of the group of 24. I am going to say 12 could make 1:05 and 12 couldn’t. But the thing that I noticed as I watched this set was I actually pulled out my stop watch for the last four 100’s and it was kind of amazing. It tells you a lot about how the team was run. Every one of the kids, as soon as I pulled my stopwatch out, started going. It was like okay, now it is serious, right? I didn’t say a thing. I just pulled out my stopwatch.
But on these 100’s I noticed this little, you know Michael was this tiny little skinny kid and he had this cap on and it looked like he had a really big head and a little tiny body, right? I started seeing something from the back of the line moving up in these 100’s and I was like, well, he is moving up. The next thing I know I just started timing him because he was passing a different person every time. Essentially he was going these on a minute, because every time he would pick up 5 seconds and he ended up going first in the line. He was going .57’s on all of them and I don’t know about you guys, but for an 11 year old, that is pretty damn good.
And that was the first time, I said to myself. Well, I won’t say exactly what I said to myself, but basically I was like MY GOD, what is going on here? And as soon as I kind of caught myself getting real excited I just said, nope. I was like okay, nice job everybody, see you later. See you tomorrow.
One of the things that we were conscious about doing in North Baltimore Aquatic Club is not getting too excited about every success. We wanted them to be hungry for the next step and that was a nice little set, but he could do better, probably. I said nice job, good job, come back. And one of the things that if you ever talk to Michael, that he will tell you is that no matter what he does, it is never good enough for me. And that is part of my job because what I went on to learn from Michael after this, when we started training a little bit, was that when we went to swim meets – he always won. He won every race.
When he was 12 years old I saw him get beat one time. I still remember it. Tim Keggleman, the 200 IM at a Zone meet in New Jersey. You were there. Michael remembered, he will tell you that right now. Yeah, Tim Keggleman beat me .02 in the 200 IM, so it was like okay. So, what we had to do to keep him getting better is keep raising the bar and that is why I think Michael is so good at the big meets today, is that he races himself.
I talked to Brent Rutemiller today and we did an interview. He said you know, the interesting thing about Michael is when he comes through the mixed zone after the races, he analyzes the whole race for you. It is even before he has come to talk to me. The great part about Michael now is that I don’t have to coach him at all. He comes and he already knows what the deal is. He tells me everything he did wrong. The 3rd wall I was too short, I should have come out deeper. I didn’t take enough kicks. He analyzes himself, but it started here because the only way to keep challenging him was to find things he could do better. Because he was already meeting the first criteria in swim meets, touch the wall first. So, this is kind of how it got started.
One of the other things that we started doing with Michael at a young age and I would like to thank the Dynamo Swim Club for this is they had a meet, David started it. Where teams from the East Coast, it was called the Eastern Classic. It was in January and they would invite teams and you would bring your top 50 swimmers. It could be any age, any way you wanted to mix it up, but you had 50 swimmers. So North Baltimore Aquatic Club started going down to this meet and the great thing about it was that it was a team meet, as well as an individual meet. But it was an opportunity for someone like Michael and all of our age group kids. When I say like Michael, it was all our kids. They all did the same thing. To go to a meet where they would swim three events in the prelims, three events in the finals, plus relays for three days. So when everybody was like how can Michael swim 17 times over 9 days. I was like well, he used to swim 21 times over 3 days and what that did, was it took the pressure off of individual events.
Michael didn’t have a best event. When you ask Michael when he was 11 or 12, what is your best event? He was like, I don’t know. Well, what are you? What do you do? You know kids say, well, I am a backstroker, I am a this or I am a that. Michael was like, I don’t know, I guess IM’er and that is what we wanted him to be. So Michael learned that you step up and you step up and swim your race, you give your best effort, you see what happens and then you move on to the next one because there is one coming. You just keep doing that and what it does, it kind of frees him up to just get up and try because you cannot put too much importance on one swim because there are too many coming up later. But I think that is a big part of his success today and it was training that you could never get at home. We would have a meet like that in January. We would have a meet like that in December. He would do one in June or maybe one in July, maybe not as many events. But at least three times a year he was doing meets like that and you could come off of that and do aerobic training and they would just go. It was amazing how much better they would get.
I remember sometimes we got down and the meet battle got really close. So several times Michael, at that meet, would swim all of his events. He would swim the 13-14 relay and then we would put him on the senior relay right after so he is used to swimming lots of events and under pressure. The two times that we went, I think we won the meet by a half a point over 4,000 points and came down to the last relay. Michael was on it. Guess who won, you know? That is how he learned to do these things.
So anyway, that is kind of how his training got started and I want to give you a couple of other things that we did when he was young. Besides working on his strokes, which we started doing a lot and here is a set that I thought was really important for him. You are going to look at it and not be very impressed. Again, we are in the yards. We train yards all the time.
4 x 200’s free, 1 x 200 IM drill, that was on 3:30. He got to do that three times, of course – because I liked everything to be 45 minutes. And the first round they started out on 2:40, 2:30, 2:20. Or sometimes I would make it go 5 seconds, you can kind of play with it. And it took me a long time to think this up. Maybe two and a half minutes, okay? But, once we did it I really liked what it said so I kind of kept going back to it and I think that this set was really important in Michael’s development for two ways, two things.
Number one, this was the first kind of sustained endurance training he had done with a 6 beat kick and I have told this story so I am going to give you the long and short of it. When Michael was younger he did this, you know, water bug freestyle, 2 beat. I mean, turn it over. I watched him swim in a meet, and I think he was still 11. He pushed off the wall in freestyle and he had taken six strokes before he got to the flags and he was going fast. He went like 53 for 100 yard free, but I didn’t think that was going to work.
So I decided that I was going to try to teach him to do a six beat kick and I thought I was going to be really clever about it and I would start sneaking it in on him. So he would be doing a set and I would say, you know Michael, remember that big kick we have been working on? And he was like yeah. I said on the last one do the big kick and he would do the big kick. He would do the big kick and he would go fast. So that was good. I was like, you know we are going to make this relationship – big kick – go fast – Bob is nice – everything is good, right? And I thought that I had a clever plan that I would just start trying to get him to do it more and more and more, but what I found was there was a point at which that didn’t work. He just wouldn’t do it.
So I don’t know, I was just sitting there one day and I was like – how am I going to get this to happen? And he walked into practice and I said you know Michael, come on over. And one other thing that he liked to do that the other kids did not and I kind of let him do it because he really got something out of it is that I would never put up the whole workout on the board. I would just put it up in pieces so that they could just focus on one thing at a time, but whatever the main set was, I would usually give him a preview of it. He would come over and come in my office and I would tell him what it was and what I expected from him and he really liked that. Because then he could go out and tell everybody what it was and they knew he was the informant after that. He still is at Michigan. He is still the one everybody texts, what are we doing today? Because he knows. He always asks me and I always tell him, but we would explain what to do. But when he came in that day I said you know that big kick we have been working on? He was like yeah. I said, you are going to do it from now on out. What do you mean? I said, any time you swim freestyle you are going to do it and if you don’t, you are out of here. And he said, well I can’t do that and I said well, then you are not going to be here very long. So we started practice and he made it 400 yards and then at about 450 he dropped out and went with the two beat. I said, okay. That will be it. See you tomorrow.
And he had an unbelievable temper tantrum and went into the lobby of our pool and called his mom. And said Mom, can you come and pick me up. I got kicked out of practice. And she said no Michael, I will pick you up at 6. It was like 4, right? She says, I am at work and I will see you later. So he sat there and cried and everybody that came in said, Michael, what’s wrong? And he says, I can’t practice. And so he came back the next day and he tried it and we tried it and he made it about 800 and then he was gone. We did it every day and I believe on the 7th day, he made it all the way through. But once he got that and I will have to say, Debbie was really great. Debbie called me that night and said, “what in the world are you doing”? Cause he is – and I said this is what I am doing and she says well, that makes perfect sense. Okay, I am with it. She is like, we are a team. Debbie and I were a team. David talked about the team.
Everybody is like, anybody could coach Michael Phelps. My favorite thing of all time was if you ever read this collegeswimming.com. Which I try not to, but I have to because it is such a laugh, you know? I just get my laughs on it. After the last Olympic Games somebody on there said, that Bowman had done a great job with Michael Phelps and the next post was “what are you talking about? The janitor could coach Michael Phelps and he would still go fast”. And I always said yeah, but could the janitor coach his mother?
So I started working on Debbie and we teamed up. Anyway, we went through this thing for a week where we had to deal with this, but after a week Michael was doing the 6 beat kick. That is when he took off and this is when he started doing sets like this and he would go 4 x 200’s free on 2:40. And I would say, why don’t you start out at 2:20 and hold 2:20’s? And then when the interval drops why don’t you try to drop it 5 seconds? And hold 2:15 and then why don’t you try to hold 2:10 and we kept squeezing the intervals down over time and eventually he could go four on 2:20 and hold 1:54. I thought that was good. I thought that was, you know, everybody I think that sometimes there is this belief that we had this incredibly clever plan of things to do. We just did the basic things really well.
One of the things that we did one fall when he got started was I had another very clever plan that I wanted to kind of increase their aerobic training. So they came in September, which would be like next week, right? The first week of the season and we did 3,000 yards every practice and we did a lot of dry-land and we did drills and we worked on strokes and we did some things. And we trained 7 days so that was 7 x 3,000. And the next week we did 4,000 a practice. And then we did 5 and we did 6, and we did 7, and we did 8, we did 9, and yes, we did 10,000 a practice for 7 practices. Now, I didn’t do that for ten weeks, I did it for one week. Michael will still tell you about “Yeah, we did this week of 10,000 one time and I said yeah, it was one week and you were 13, big deal. But it was a way to kind of start introducing them to the kind of volume that set up what happened later. Man, after you go 10,000 in practice for a week when you go back to 6 the next week – it is a really good 6. It’s probably the biggest benefit, but that just kind of gives you a flavor for the kind of things he was doing and the other thing that we did was we kicked, okay? And probably didn’t start the real hard kicking until he was about 14, 13 or 14. And we did another set that really works well when you have a lot of people in a short space.
We did three sets of 5 x 100’s kicking and I gave them an extra minute before the last five. They got to rest for a minute. But we would go, I think we started out like 5 on 1:40, 5 on 1:35, and 5 on 1:30. We thought 1:30 was like the holy grail of kicking. Man, if we get anybody to kick on 1:30 wouldn’t it be great? Well we started that and we just kept gradually bringing it down and we had them set up in lanes which was the great thing okay? I had four lanes. I had one lane which was always the A interval. That was this. We had the next lane which was the B, we had the next lane which was the C. And when we started out, usually only one person could make the A interval so Michael would be in a lane by himself. And there would be 6 people in the next lane, there would be 12 people in the next lane and there could be, however many in the last one. And they learned that if they ever wanted, if they wanted to have the space, they could just move up. I think the great thing about the North Baltimore Aquatic Club is you could do stuff like that. No parent ever batted an eyelash. Why? Because the coaches owned the pool and if you don’t like it, there is another pool down the street that is not ours. But, we started cranking this down and it was no time before the whole group could kick 5 on 1:30 and then we started making the second one 1:30 and try for 1:25 and then we started starting on 1:30. We would go 1:30, 1:25, 1:20. After a year Michael got down to 1:10, but it was something really concrete. They knew exactly what the goal was. We didn’t do it all the time. I didn’t do it every week. I did it every three or four weeks, maybe every 6 weeks. But we kind of kept doing stuff like this where they saw progress. Where they had a clear goal and where they knew how to do the set. I think sometimes we make the mistake of we want everything to have so much variety that they never have a chance to learn how to do the sets.
And that brings me to my next thing, which I have shown before. But I want to show it one more time today because this is kind of the heart of our training program or certainly was until the Athens Olympic Games and this is the Janet Evans set. You know, I put this up, so it is not that mind-blowing. But lets say you went a 200 free and you went 4 x 200 IM’s. I think Bud is here, right? Yeah, clap. Thank you Bud. Michael thanks you. 400 free, 3 x 200 IM’s, you go 600, you get two, you do 800, 1 x 200 IM. 4,000 set. You can play with this any way you want.
Life is so exciting at North Baltimore Aquatic Club that Murray Stephens and I used to sit around and say, if you are on a desert island and you could only do three sets, what would they be? We would always say this is #1. Have to have Janet Evans. After that we would kind of differ, but we would go the freestyle on a moderate interval when they were younger. What if it was 2:30/5 minutes – 7:30/10 minutes and the go on the freestyle was just swim, just make it. And then the IM’s we would kind of turn the rest down. Maybe they started on 2:40, 2:35, 2:30, 2:25 and we would just ask them to bring down the speed on the IM’s. And I don’t know why it works out this way, but until Michael was about 14 he did his lifetime best 200 IM on the end of this all the time. If he would swim you know, 1:52 in a meet, he would push 1:52 on the end of this set. Because it is, I think, their strokes improve as you go through it because they can gradually increase the speed. Also, they are using a spectrum of the energy systems. It is not purely aerobic, it is an increasing kind of work load and we always place a great emphasis on the pair. By the time they got to the pair we were all over them, alright. Let’s get this pair now, they both have to be good. You do not get to go one medium, and one hard. They both had to be good and I always added it up for a 400 IM. Then they would get to swim a moderate 800 and then they would come back and nail this 200 IM. But this is very indicative of what I would call the traditional North Baltimore Aquatic Club training and the kind of things that you know – Katie does and it is great for IM training. This is Janet Evans.
If we went back and did our famous free IM’s. We put free IM here where they went free, back, breast, free. It tells you when the arrow was, but the kids called that Janet Reno. Sorry, the foreigners won’t get that, but it is kind of funny.
Then we would do an inside out Janet Evans. We would go free IM on the 2-4-6-8 and we would go freestyle on the 200’s. Michael went 1:37.5 on the last 200 free of that a couple of times. So, if you like a set that will get them going fast, this is it. And that is the kind of thing that we did.
Is this the least bit interesting? Do you care about this stuff or do you want me to – okay good. Alright, because I can whip out the Olympic Training camp workouts and everybody can go – ohhhhh, Michael is really fast, but I like this better. This is where it all came from.
I wanted to show you how we set up a week when Michael was younger. For almost his entire career, until Athens really, I will go Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and yes Sunday. For the most part, when Michael was younger, he did not do mornings. Neither did much of my group during the school year because they had to get up too early. It was a pain to kind of get it done and I felt like they got more out of sleeping so we put a little more into the afternoons. Generally, the afternoon practice, they were in the water at 3:45. They swam until 6:00 or 6:15 and then they did 45 minutes of dry-land. They would be done at 7. Later on, we did add the mornings and I will come back and put them in, but the key thing is the afternoon.
And I started learning from Murray Stephens, when I was just studying his workouts and how he would arrange his periodization. I was coming from “”, who had a very strict periodization system and it was energy systems and it was Monday we do this, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. It was a pattern, very much like Urbanchek and I use now. But I started seeing Murray and Murray would look at it from the technical standpoint. He would say, what do we want to work on? What is the skill issue that I want to address the most with the best swimmers in the group and he would start the week with that? That would be given priority and I decided somewhere around Michael at 14 or 15, when he was kind of coming along that his backstroke was what we really wanted to really work on most of the time.
On Monday afternoon the emphasis would be backstroke. I am just going to give you the strokes first and then we will work on how we did it. Tuesday was breaststroke. Wednesday was distance free. That was everybody’s favorite day. It was my favorite day. Usually on Thursday we would do some kind of IM or free IM or I would put in kicking and pulling, some emphasis on kicking or pulling. Friday was just a technical day. Friday fun day, they called it. Maybe some kicking and then Saturday would be their main stroke or sometimes I would go main stroke and IM. These would switch. But one thing was for sure, Saturday morning was the practice I looked forward to all week, okay? And then Sunday was technical so we swam 7 days. And I don’t know if you look at this and you see a little pattern in there – back – breast – free – IM. I think there is something to that, because we would really go after backstroke in a major way. We would come back the next day with breaststroke. We would come back the next day with freestyle. Then we would put it all together. Where is the butterfly you may ask? The butterfly is in little doses all along. Usually here – here – I like to put in fly here and if they did their main stroke, they would do fly as the main stroke so they were getting 2 times. If they were a backstroker they got backstroke here and Saturday. If they were a breaststroker they got it here and Saturday. If they are a freestyler they go here and we would probably do a distance free or a fly. I always like for the D guys to go fly and if they are a butterflyer, they got one big day of butterfly and little doses all along. So that is kind of how we set up our periodization and what we did in terms of energy systems was a little bit different.
I will give you a couple of examples of the type of work that we were doing here. Just so you have a feel for it, alright? With backstroke, one of our favorite sets that we did is very similar to Janet Evans, but we might go 4 x 200’s, 3 x 200’s. Can you tell I like 200’s of stroke? And in between we go 8 x 50’s. The 8 x 50’s are drilling. Two of each and they would probably be on :55 seconds and we would drop the interval down. We would go the first 4 on 2:40, 2:35, 2:30 and 2:25 or we could start at 2:30 and bring it down. However you wanted to do it. By the time Michael was really good he went 1:41 on that 200 back. The American record was 1:40.8 at the time. So you can see that we had a fairly large set, but it was again, starting off aerobically and gradually increasing until it got down to some serious speed. But what I like about this set is that it wasn’t just one repeat where he got up and timed a 200 back like a meet. He had to manage his energy systems all the way through. So I thought that was very important to his development. The type of training we were doing.
Breaststroke, we did a lot of different things. Most of it never worked until he was older, but we worked a lot on the parts. We would do kicking, we would do pulling, we would do drilling. Michael loved to do breaststroke with a dolphin kick because that is the one time he felt like he was really moving, okay? But we would do a lot of continuous work breaststroke. Maybe something where we would take five different drills and they would do a 50 of each. Then they would rest 20 seconds and time a 50 fast and you go eight rounds of that. Something like that. I don’t know and depending on the time of the season we would mix in other things.
The distance free, this is usually pretty long. It could be 10 x 500’s. We would go 10 x 500’s and drop the interval 5 seconds each time. I have seen them go, he pushed yards 4:24 on the end of a set like that. So you can see, we are always ending up with this tremendous speed, but he is kind of working his way down to it.
The IM sets could be Janet Evans. It could be 10 x 400’s. It could be some other little clever set where you do it. The technical days were basically, Friday afternoons. I started feeling like on Friday afternoons a lot of the time, I was really tired. I don’t know about you guys and I was like, if I am really dragging and I can barely get myself to go out there; imagine how these kids feel that are just getting out of school. So I started making Friday afternoons real low key for everybody. Swam an hour and a half and got out of there. And we would do games or maybe relays or something or some kicking. But what that did, it would set up Saturday. And that is when we would really go for something in the strokes and that might be more quality-oriented. Maybe that is when we would do some lactate type work or broken swims.
There was a set I did a lot. I remember when he was younger where we would go 4 x 50’s like a broken 200. Sorry, maybe they were fly. Everybody would go stroke and I started out on :10 second’s rest, but you know, it gets real messy when they are all going at different times. So I put it on an interval like maybe :45 seconds and then we would go right into a 100 kick of that stroke. The butterflyers would go on their back all out, as hard as they could go. We would time everything and then they would do a 200 easy and we would just go rounds of that. It is kind of an example.
And then Sunday morning they would come in at 8 o’clock and we would do another hour and a half, usually of technique work. Some type of skill, some kind of just continuous aerobic work and what that really does is it makes you real good on Monday. My guys really felt like if they ever took a day off they really didn’t feel good when they came back and we were happy to keep them feeling good and that was also a way not to have to do mornings during the school year. I know a lot of people got all up in arms when I started saying we swam on Sundays, but North Baltimore Aquatic Club has always done it. Largely, because that was when pool space was available. We have always had age group practices on Sunday morning and they are always the best attended practices of the week. So if you are in a situation where you have some pool time problems, I would suggest you look at that. It is not as bad as you think. They come in at 8 and they are done at 9:30am. You can go to church, do whatever you want to do. It also helps them not be quite so aggressive on Saturday night. I theorized that. I don’t know if it was always true. So anyway, that is kind of you know, how things went when we were really trying to get things going in the early years. Now, what we did later, any questions about that? Don’t be afraid.
Yeah? Question? When you gave a drill set was that always certain drills or do you allow them fitness drills? Answer. That is a good question. The question was when I gave a drill set, did I give them certain drills or did I allow them to pick their drills? And I usually gave them certain drills because I felt like if I let them pick their drills they were always the same ones and they were always the ones that they thought were the easiest. Usually, what we did at every place that I have been is for each season I would pick maybe one or two drills per stroke and that is what we would work on, you know? And gradually over a period of years they would develop a repertoire of drills, but maybe we would just pick one or two drills and really try to be good at those. I felt that was beneficial. One of the things that you get when you say okay, do a 200 drill right? You just get all of this sloppiness so we tried to give them chances to be as precise as they could.
Alright, I want to give you a little taste of what happened right before Beijing because I think you would like to see that and a couple of the sets they did in the Palo Alto training camp. Mark explained the set. I think Mark and I were talking about two different sets and I will clear that up too. Maybe I will do that now. The set that I was talking about was really 3 x 100’s. It was a 100 plus a 200 and that was 7 days before the meet.
The set that Mark was talking about is one that we did in Palo Alto. We did it with a big group of people and Michael did two rounds of it, three rounds of it. And that was 2 x 50’s on 1:30 and 1 x 100 from a dive. Everything was from a dive and the 100 didn’t really matter. We called it 2 minutes because in between they had as much rest as they wanted. They either did two or three times because Michael did fly and he was going really fast so I told him he could do two. But on this set he was on the first round 24 flat, 24.1 I think. These are on my watches. I am a little optimistic, I’ll tell you. If it was Colorado or Omega it would be 24.4 or 24.3, I don’t know. But he went 51.6 on a bunch of watches. That was dive fly. That was with a suit, leg suit on okay? And he came back the second round and just did exactly the same thing. He went 51.6 twice from a dive. We thought that was really good. When he did the 51.6 in Singapore, that was from a push, no dive. So that always makes you feel better, right? You know, if he did it from a dive in Palo Alto. He did it from a push in Singapore. He must be improving.
We did a freestyle set that was similar to this. And that was one where we did the 100 first and then we did the 50’s after. And we did a 100 dive. No, how did we do it Jon? Where are you? How did we do that freestyle set? Push? Yeah that was it. 50 dive. See how detail-oriented I am. 100 push. I didn’t mention it yesterday, I am not a numbers person at all. Great profession, right? 50 dive. So they did a 50 dive on 1:30, 100 push on 2:30, 50 dive on 1:30 and this is kind of a Michigan special set. We do broken 200’s like this all the time and they have to add up a lot faster, right? Obviously, they have to be a lot faster than their times. And Michael did two rounds of this I believe and he was on his feet, he was 23.6. And then he pushed 50.2 and in his fastest round he went 22.9 on the last 50. He was not the only one going fast. Tons of people were going fast. Peter Vanderkaay was just about the same, but that is just an example of some of the kind of fast stuff he does.
One of the things that we did in the training camp was a lot of just controlled speed swimming. You know the color charts that we use at Michigan – white, pink, red. So that is not real exciting because that actually holds him back a little bit. They can’t really push it. But you know, we felt that that was very beneficial, particularly for Michael. Because it kind of kept him from being under the gun to just kill everything because when they are feeling good like that they just want to really go fast all the time and it kind of kept him under control.
Some other sets that we did there. Ryan and Michael did this amazing set early on. It happened to be on the media day, which I think made everybody more excited. It was 16 x 50’s on :45, 12 x 50’s on :50, 8 x 50’s on :55 and 4 x 50’s on 1:00. And the 16 x 50’s you go every 4th fast and then on the 12 it is every 3rd. You get the picture. The next round is every other and then the last round is all fast. And what Gregg and I wanted to do with Michael and Ryan was they did the 16 x 50’s. The fast ones were fly and then the 12 they were back, then they were breast and then they were all 4 free.
And to show you the difference between me and Gregg Troy, when we came out to do the set they started the set and Michael started off going freestyle and Ryan started butterfly and Gregg is like, what do you mean these 16 are not all fly? And I was like no, only those fast ones. Michael would never have done them all fly and done them well. So anyway, they did 3 easy frees or smooth frees on :45 and they went fast. Those guys were head and head, 26’s alright? I think the fastest was, Michael might have gone 26.0 on the 4th one. They went into the backstroke and got down to 26’s again and again. They were just right together. You know, one would be a tenth faster, one would be a tenth slower. They kind of trade off, it was really exciting.
They got to breaststroke and Ryan absolutely whipped Michael. Ryan was going 31’s and Michael was going 32.3 and we thought that was really good. And then on freestyle they just were head to head to head at 25, 25, 25 and they ended up 24.8 or something like that. So, that is the kind of stuff that is really fun to watch and you have to really protect against doing too much. I think one of the things you get in the training camp is everybody is fired up. Everybody is kind of in a peak condition and you want to use the advantages of a training camp of actually having – you know Michael never has anybody to race like that through all the strokes and neither does Ryan. But it is not something you can do every day, but I thought that was pretty amazing and really fired up the rest of the team as well as those two guys.
Alright. It is time for questions. Who is going to start out? Yes?
Where do we go from here? The beach? No. Honestly, Michael is going to take an extended break and do I think that is the best thing for his swimming? Probably not physically, but mentally I do. Because one of the things, it is hard to realize right now is what he has gone through since the minute his last swim was over in Athens. He has just been on a whirlwind of things. In the last week he has been in Florida, New York, Chicago, he is in San Francisco today. He will be in LA tomorrow I believe. So he needs time away from swimming to do stuff like that and that is an important part of his mission, to improve our sport and grow it. He will come back after the first of the year and we will start on our preparations for the next cycle. I think we are going to try some different events. We will see how it goes. I am going to try some different things in training, just because I want to try something different. And if it works fine, if it doesn’t I will just go back to this. Got plenty of time and it is something that we have both been planning for a long time. I don’t recommend that anybody who wants to move to the next level take an extended break. But Michael doesn’t need to move to the next level. He just needs to come back to this level or somewhere near it and we will be very happy. So, that is kind of what is next.
Anybody? Yes? Yeah, can I speak to his physiology, about his lung capacity or MAX VO2 or muscles. You know, obviously we have some data on Michael. We do not have a lot. We know that he recovers really quickly from races. You know, Dave was saying the other day in his talk. Dave Salo, we had a meeting actually the other day and he said you know, basically the lactate testing tells us that you have to swim down for 30-40 minutes to clear your lactate after a race. Michael is about 20. Almost never over 20 so clearly he uses his aerobic system more than, or more efficiently than other people. He can build a high lactate peak and clear it really quickly. I theorize he has a very high MAX VO2, but we have never measured it because we never really had a venue to do that. It is all kind of anecdotal, but you have to think that he is different from the average bird, you know?
One thing that Michael does have, Michael is not without his issues. Before the Sydney Olympics we would have practices where he would be doing things and he would get a very high heart rate and it wouldn’t come down – tachycardia, alright? And we had him tested and echocardiogramed and looked at every possible cause. And the bottom line was, Michael is a very salty sweater and when he sweats, he loses a lot of sodium in his system. And once you go below a certain sodium level, that is what happens. So we watch that very carefully. He actually had an episode of that in the Palo Alto training camp where the water was very hot in the shallow pool when we first got there. We were doing a big set of 400’s and by the end he had what we call a heart attack. People who have never been around it get really upset. Michael is having a heart attack. He will just kind of stop and he will take maybe a sodium tablet. He actually has some that he can take or a Gatorlyte. There is a product called Gatorlyte that he will take. But you know, that is kind of some of the medical issues and every swimmer is going to have those, but physiologically he is pretty special.
Next, yes? Yeah, an example of a fly set for Michael. I kind of alluded to one the other day. We have a couple that we do. The one that I think is most beneficial leads into the 3 x 100 that we did before the meets and we just call it easy/fast. Where he will go a 100 fly from a push and that will be fast and then he will swim a 100 easy. And maybe we start out with ten rounds of that, maybe eight. And as the season goes on we cut the number of reps and the speed increases, but he does a fast one every 4 minutes. And I think that is why he finishes the 200 fly so well. I think it is an ideal lactate tolerance set.
Another fly set that we might do. Usually once a season, this is kind of a crazy one, but it is a real good team bonding thing, at least it is with college guys. And I did it in North Baltimore too is that sometimes they come in and we warm up and we just get them up behind the blocks and they just do dive 50 fly’s and we time them and they climb out at each end. And we just go until I get tired. It is a good exercise for them because they don’t know what the end is. The end is after the whole team has given a full effort and gone past what they thought they could do. And what you end up getting is you kind of get the weak link starting to kind of back off and go slower and the team has to get them going because they know we are not stopping until everybody is going. We did that at Michigan last winter and it is the best practice I think I have ever had. I have never felt better about a practice, ever. Because the team was just amazing. We actually had people, we have our training room upstairs and there are sometimes people are always coming through the pool. There was a whole crowd of people that don’t know anything about swimming just stopping and watching it. It was amazing. And there is a benefit to that. I remember when Michael was younger, we would go out to a 25 meter pool that we have, it has a kind of high bulkhead and he would dive off. We would have the group dive 25’s. Same way, they would just dive, we would call out the times, they would climb up. I think there is a lot of benefit in doing fly very fast with good technique and there is not much benefit in doing a lot of fly with poor technique. I don’t think there is a benefit of doing fly with poor technique hardly ever. I mean, you can kind of, there are times when you just kind of look the other way, but not a lot.
One other good fly set. 30 x 50’s, well it is more than that. It is 45 x 50’s. 10 x 50’s, we do this short course on :45 seconds so it is and easy interval. You have to hold 28, maybe 27. These are Michael’s times and I realize they are kind of absurd. And then you go 5 x 50’s on :35, as fast as you can go. And Michael would usually hold between 25 and 26 seconds. Usually about 25 seconds for five 50’s on :35, and you do three rounds. And my favorite part is there is no break, so you go this basically a broken 250 and then you go right into the 10 x 50’s and you have to maintain stroke control the whole way and this all fly. That was one that I thought really helped him coming up?
Any other questions? Next. Yes? The question was how did we introduce Michael to weights? And I think that what we did first was he had a very strong, he had a very good introduction to dry-land training. Before he started weights he had done a very aggressive body weight program. Like we had done the Barrowman Medicine Ball Program for an hour at a time, which is tremendously challenging. He had been able to do lots of pull-ups and pushups and those kinds of things. But when we introduced him to weights what I did was I kind of started him on the program that my Michigan guys were on. But if they were doing it three times a week, he did two. And I kind of just let him work with our strength coach and start learning the techniques first. I thought that was the most important thing, but what you find with Michael is – he always does that naturally. Whenever he does any exercise, he really is very conscious of the form that he is using and we just started with lighter weights. I didn’t let him really challenge himself fully until maybe three or four months and then I just kind of let him go and that is how he got introduced to the weight program.
Yes? The question was, Michael’s last wall tends to be really amazing. It is something that we do in training, but I think it is something that he works on all the time. It is not just like we have a set where I say okay we are going to work on it right now. He does it in sets all the time. When we were going repeats at Michigan, sometimes we would have the guys lined up and they would be doing repeats of whatever, 100s or 200’s. Whatever they were, they would try to get near the end and everybody was really going all out. They would be pretty much all even with Michael and then you could tell, Michael would go to the next step and start putting in those kick-outs. And everybody else would start getting pissed off because he was beating them, you know what I mean. It is like having another weapon, but that is how we would work on it and that is how Michael descends sets in practices. He starts adding the kick. He will kick out more, he will kick out more and then on the last ones he will hold his breath and really kick out.
Yes? Okay. The reason for making him breathe every single stroke. I let him breathe every single stroke is probably the correct way. I don’t know if this has any basis and I told this to Jonty once and he scoffed at me so maybe this is wrong, but this is what I have noticed. The very best butterflyers, that I have seen under water, get their knees to 90 degrees when they kick. They are 90 degrees, they are not below or above that. The best butterflyers in history are 90 degrees. Michael has a very long torso, okay? In relation, if you have ever read about Michael you know, it is like everybody knows, he has a very long torso. But what happens is because of that, when his head is down, he can’t get his knees to 90 degrees. So if he is taking a stroke and his head is in the water like that, it is very difficult for him to get his knees in that position, so his kick is not as effective. So when he is breathing every stroke, he is able to get a better position to get his knees to that angle and get the maximum use of his kick. And one of the things, when we started looking at that, we started noticing that he would use a little technique, particularly when he was trying to pick up speed. If we were doing the sets of 50’s or something like that he would push off the wall and he would get into his regular rhythm whether he was breathing every stroke, but when he got to the end and he really wanted to try to pick up speed, he would put his head down and not breathe for maybe two strokes, maybe three. And you could visibly see when he did that it was almost like he stopped moving as well, but the next one when he did breathe was like he was shot out of a rocket. He was getting himself revved up so that he could really set his feet and he will do that sometimes in a race. He will come down, he will be swimming and he will be swimming, he will take one without and when he comes out of that he is always going faster. Because it is just a way for him to feel getting his feet in the right position.
One thing that I preached with Michael a lot as a child was that we want him to hold water on his feet. I don’t do a lot of coaching at meets, but one of the things that I look for in butterfly when he warms up for races is I want him holding water on his feet and not just wagging them up and down. So, if you were at the Olympics in the warm-up pool and he is doing his 25’s which is what he does to warm-up. We don’t time anything. I would just kind of watch and I would probably just go like this maybe if I felt like he didn’t have his feet set and he would go okay and then that is it, but that is kind of how that came to be.
Yes? Yeah. The comment was, that last year we showed an underwater video of his 200 free and he had this little scull of his hand which I thought was a balancing technique. It wasn’t particularly efficient and he said, where do you go from there? I think he has done a much better job of being even on freestyle and we are just going to continue trying to make that even better, and to make it more symmetrical. I think, it is getting pretty good, but we will keep working on it. Anybody else?
How about in the back? Question?. How it has changed, is obviously we go mornings? Usually three mornings, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Sometimes four. The mornings are more devoted to power type training where he would do you know, stretch cords, vertical kicking, pulling with resistance, parachute work. The afternoons we followed a pattern like this. The afternoons are more energy system-oriented, so we go threshold training on Monday. We would kind of go on active rest which is an easy/fast sort of thing, speed play. And then we would go a MAX VO2. And then we repeat that on, we would come back with threshold again on Thursday. We would do technical work Friday and we would do another MAX VO2 on Saturday. And then Sunday we would either go technical, mainly technical or we would take off Sunday sometimes, but then I would fit the strokes into that.
Yes, in the back. What are the things that we did with his breaststroke? I think the key thing that we did was just kept working on his kick. And one of the things that Eddie Reese told me was finally, Michael is holding water on his feet through the whole breaststroke kick. And what we tried to do was to get him to kick backwards more instead of down. And one of the things that we tried to think about is if you are going to kick backwards, your knee has to come up. So instead of keeping your knee the same and kicking down to your knee we had him start squeezing his rear end together and trying to think of raising his knee up on the kick. So that was one thing. And the other correction that is very difficult to make for some reason is that Michael is very good in this part of the stroke, where you hold onto water. But what he would tend to do was he would go, well, he would do a couple of things. #1. He would go like, his hands would come forward like this. He would stop them like this and then turn them over and start the stroke so we worked real hard on having him have his hands flat. Finish with them flat so he could get into the next stroke easier and also finish at the surface instead of this, he would go forward. We tried to have him have his finger tips out until his arms were straight and then put his head down. So those are the two major things.
Yes? I will give you his exact warm-up. Here it goes. You are going to be so disappointed and this is one he started when he was 12 and just stuck with it:
800 mixer. Mixer means you do, he will do 50’s long course. He will go 50 free, 50 something else and the something else is usually a lap of each stroke with the fly being drill, okay? He will go 600 kick, 400 with a pull buoy, 200 IM drill. He will follow that up with about 8, 6 to 8 times and he goes on how he feels, 25 fast, 25 easy. And he just takes as much rest as he likes at the end of the pool. Waits till there is a good space to open up and he will just go a strong 25 of whatever he is doing. If it is an IM he will start with fly and probably he will always kind of look over and I will give him a cue. And if we feel like his butterfly is good after one, he usually does two, if it is not good he will do three and then he will go on to backstroke. If backstroke feels good he will move on to breaststroke. He usually gets a couple of breasts and usually only one free, but that is basically what he does. After that he will probably swim 100 easy.
He might vary this sometimes – depending on his mood. He might go 6 – 4 – 4 – 2 or 6 – 4 – 2 – 2. But in general, most races, particularly when we had the morning finals he was going 8 – 6 – 4 – 2. Because he really wanted to be warmed up and he kind of judges how he feels on how much he does and unlike most swimmers, when Michael doesn’t feel good, he knows he has to warm-up more. Most of them want to do less when they don’t feel good, right David? Are we about out of time or how are we doing on time? I’ll check.
I’ll take one over here in the blue shirt: Loosen up? Okay, we follow lactate clearance protocol USA Swimming offers. So he will come back, he will take a blood lactate level and he will swim for ten minutes. He will take it again, he will swim for 10 minutes. He will keep taking it until his blood lactate level is somewhere around 2.0 and it usually takes about 20 minutes, 17 to 20 minutes.
Okay, one more question. Can I give you a look at what his 2012 schedule might look like? I can tell you what it won’t look like. He will not be in the open the water or the distance free. You know I theorize that Michael will be swimming. I would love to see him swim some backstroke and he wants to swim backstroke. He wants to swim 100 free. I think he needs to work on his 100 fly. He will definitely be swimming the 200 fly until he gets a time that he is happy with. I don’t know how the program is, you know, we always have to wait and see what the schedule is of events. But I think he will stick with the 200 free because that will be you know, he really likes that one and it is good for the relays. And I am not saying that he won’t swim the 400 IM, he will probably definitely swim the 200 IM. It is a guess basically, we don’t know, but the options are open, okay?
Thank you very much guys. I really appreciate it.