Thanks very much to the American Swim Coaches for inviting me today and giving me the opportunity to talk to coaches. It is always a great honor to come to a conference and talk to coaches about something we all like to do and that is coach and have swimmers who achieve certain levels, especially with somebody like Brooke who achieves the ultimate level in our sport.
I have listened to a lot of talks over the last couple of days. Beginning with Orjan Madsen on the first day and I was here to listen to Dick Jochums this morning. It was interesting to hear and see their points of view and their approaches to training. I think if you listen to me over the next hour you will hear a lot of what those coaches were espousing and also like Jonty Skinner this afternoon who was talking about the different types of training. This talk is about the things that I think are important and the program that helped Brooke to achieve the success that she had in Atlanta.
As I think about the last part of Dick Jochum’s talk this morning where he said close your eyes and visualize yourself sitting in a ten thousand seat arena and your swimmer finishing and I had the fortunate experience to do that last year in Atlanta — to be able to watch somebody I have seen since nine years of age achieve her ultimate goal of winning the gold medal at the Olympic games. The ultimate goal obviously of a coach is to be part of that experience and that was a tremendous experience for me as a coach and for her as an athlete. I have to thank lots and lots of people for that experience. First of all, the athlete Brooke, for doing what she did and letting me be part of what she was doing every day. That is real important as a coach to understand that. Also, to all the people that helped me to be here.
Here’s a bit of background. I came to this country eight years ago, nearly nine years ago now. I started in a small program in Brandon, Florida, and got the opportunity to coach in a long course facility. That is what attracted me to that job. In Ireland, we didn’t have a long course facility. It was always my dream to have my own pool and my own long course facility and be able to train long course. Brandon Swim and Tennis Facility is the facility that gave me that opportunity and this allowed me to do some of the
things that I believed in.
I talked to Orjan Madsen last night. I remembered how I was inspired back in 1986 when I went to the Virgin Islands and listened to him talk and Michael Lohberg talk about lactate training and the various concepts that they were introducing in swimming. Back in 1986 I had a lot of exposure to things like that. It helped me formulate the things that I felt were important. I think this is real important that we go to these clinics on a yearly or monthly basis, that we formulate our own ideas and try to use the Jochums, the Madsen’s, and the Skinners and hopefully some of you might use what Peter Banks might use and put together what is important to you. I think that you could come here and listen to so many people and get so many ideas you can walk out of here totally confused but I think that the most important thing you can do at a conference like this is to come and listen and try and see what suits you as a coach. I think that is the most important thing to me in United States Swimming and makes United States Swimming great is the fact that we have the ability to be an individual and be able to coach the way you feel and the way that you think is important for your athletes to produce the best. Don’t take that away from the coaches. Have the best resources around but don’t take the individualism away from the coaches and the great coaches that we have in this country. Don’t take that away from what you as a coach and your ability to motivate your swimmers and how you produce that to make you the best and to make your swimmers the best. That is my little soapbox thing to start with.
To start with Brooke and the program, 1989 was when I got involved in the program. Brooke joined the program basically in September 1989. In September, she came to the program as an average nine-year-old and the same as most of the kids in our program. The concept that I had at that point was to try, and I really believed in this concept, to build the program based on the fact that the swimmers have got to be great athletes. I think that this is a really important concept and I think that is what I always try to instill in the swimmers that we have. The swimmers we have, we try to make great athletes. So, we tried to start back in 1989, to develop as much aerobic swimming as we could at the start of the program. It was basically me introducing the program, I didn’t have any other coaches at that time. So, in 1989 we tried to work on as much aerobic type of work as we could.
I was dealing with swimmers who maybe swam one hour a day and never had swam much more than three thousand meters in an hour even if that. Most of them were recreational types of swimmers. So, we tried to build and build aerobic ability into the athletes and we were obviously having some success at this stage but we tried to do that and what I have been able to do is look back, and Jonty talked about trying to keep records, and luckily enough I have been keeping fairly decent records, much better the last three to four years.
Back in 1990 we were averaging forty-five thousand meters a week and that was our program. Brooke was part of that. We were basically doing about eight sessions a week at that time. Why were we having Brooke swimming that much? Brooke just pushed herself into that situation. We did not have an awful lot of swimmers at that time. We maybe had thirty swimmers who swam year around at that time. She basically was one of the swimmers on the team and we really did not have any place to put her. She was swimming with senior age swimmers and eleven year olds and everyone was swimming together. We did not have an awful lot of mixture of groups.
When you have thirty swimmers you try to work them at the same time and try to do the best. She always had the ability to want to be in the fastest lane and wanted to be part of the best group. So, we tried to make sure that we gave her that opportunity. I didn’t make her do it but she certainly wanted to do it. She turned up to morning practice when she wasn’t supposed to turn up to morning practice. She appeared at the pool when she wasn’t supposed to have appeared at the pool because she always wanted to be there training because she loved it so much. We didn’t point away from the pool but we tried to encourage her to certainly not be there all of the time. She wanted to be there.
That was 1990 and she was ten going on eleven years of age. She was 9:56 at the 800, 4:58 in the 400. They were fairly decent long course times but nothing that said she was going to be an Olympic gold medalist in 1996. She certainly had that drive and she had that want to be there and she always would basically say that she was going to be at the Olympic games in whenever but she didn’t really know when she was going to be there.
Was she different in comparison to the average nine and ten-year-old? I think, yes. She wanted to be at practice every day and she wanted to do the things that the others didn’t care whether they did or not. She wanted to be the fastest in the pool. She wanted to train the hardest. She wanted to make sure she was always beating the senior kids. She liked to do that and I think that was just a part of her makeup. I
don’t think that there was anything that made her stand out or different other than that. She just enjoyed being in the pool. I didn’t really think of her as anything more special. I felt that there was plenty of young people in the program that were as talented as she was and that worked just as hard as she did. I didn’t think she was a lot different than what they were. I just felt she was part of the program.
The development years were 1989-1992. These were the most significant years on the road to where she started to produce national times. Those years were basically trying to develop as I said the program and we did most of our work as aerobic type of work. Most of it was long course. Not having a long course pool in Ireland, I was sort of fanatical about the fact that we did long course and I think it is the greatest development and helps the younger swimmers to develop the greatest technique and the greatest ability of the range of movement. Having the longer pool, having the ability to swim all strokes and all abilities over the longer course helps those athletes become better. I really think it is a big, big benefit. I don’t think it means you can’t develop them out of a short course pool. We know that is not true but I do think it does help them in so many ways.
In 1989-1992 we tried to build a base so that we started to try and work a little bit more as far as the amount of work and the amount of hours we spent in the pool. At the time, we increased the workout load according to the days, the different amount of days. We increased four mornings a week and every afternoon except Saturday and all day Sunday. This was basically our whole program. It wasn’t just Brooke, it was the whole program. We didn’t have an awful lot of people who did every morning, again it was a select group that did the morning practices and everybody tried to do the afternoon practices. The morning practices were a select group. We had a boy named John White who is now at the University of Michigan. He and Brooke developed a good training partnership that eventually helped both of them to be nationally level swimmers. In those years, 91-92, we saw the yardage increase from a 45,000 base in 1990 to 65,200 and there were obviously times when it was a little less and a little more. I just tried to average it out over that period of time. I really think this comes to a point that I feel is really important. The program tried to develop a system that we were all working together and we tried to make sure that we were trying to strive for the highest possible level for the team. You have to remember we were dealing with a team that hardly ever had Junior Olympic qualifiers no mind national qualifiers.
The first year and a half we started obviously achieving some local success with going to Junior Olympics and things like that. I think the first time we had anybody at the national level at junior nationals was 1991 when John made the 1500 Freestyle in Tuscaloosa and that was the first time we had anybody at the national level. So, after basically a year and a half we started to have people start to hit at the national level.
The combination of EN1, EN2, EN3, SP1, SP2 and SP3 — I really to be quite honest with you, didn’t put very much thought into that part of the training at the time. My main concern was to try to get athletes to try and do a little bit more work. I really believed that the more yardage that we could get them to do at that development stage in the club, the better we were going to be because we were dealing with people who had never been exposed to serious training before. It was a process of building it over those three years and I think that those were three significant years in our program as I look back on it. To be able to go from the 45000 up to the 65,000 meters a week. Once again, I am only talking about a select few swimmers at that 65,000. I can’t say that the whole team did that. Maybe we had ten swimmers able to do that by the third year. I really truly believed that we needed to keep pushing, even if it was only five, ten, however many swimmers it was, toward that ultimate goal.
I really felt there was a target of a number of yards that was important with the number of sessions that we had. I felt that if we got somewhere within the 60,000 and the 80,000 we were then starting to hit in the level of training that I felt was important to start competing at the national level. I had this idea that to be at an international or national level we would need to be somewhere in the 80,000 range and I wasn’t thinking about distance swimmers. I had never had a distance swimmer that was a world ranked distance swimmer before Brooke. I never had anybody so my thoughts were not on distance swimming, they were more about developing the athlete and developing the program that would produce better swimmers so really, I wasn’t thinking about producing a great 800 or a great 1500 swimmer. A lot of people think that distance was my only set of focus and it really wasn’t that but more to develop the system so that we could produce a better athlete by producing a better-quality program which included a lot of distance work.
It included a lot of aerobic work or you could call it distance work or trying to get them to understand the various aspects of training that is important. In that period of time we used heart rate monitoring themselves just to get an idea of what kind of level of work they were at.
We used sets of 10 x 300, I didn’t do T30 swims. I found that because we were dealing with many times inexperienced swimmers that really didn’t have the experience. We tried to break something like the T30 swims into 10 x 300 which I felt was probably the best and easiest way to judge their best pace. We would do a 10 x 300 set with twenty seconds’ rest and we still do that at different times of year. We try and average their best pace. We would get their heart rates after each 300 swim and also average those times. That would give us a fair idea of somewhere around their threshold type of work. We were building some kind of system in and I really believe that looking back at the lactate testing that I have done and that I have been involved with and the people that I had talked to that training at the anaerobic threshold was the most optimal type of training that we could do. If I could figure out some way of getting an idea of their threshold then I could figure out the best pace to do our main set of work whether it was EN3 or EN2. I really didn’t know. I really wasn’t scientific enough and did not have the background knowledge enough to know what I was really trying to get at.
I really felt I had done some work with lactate acid testing. I had a machine when I was in Ireland. I had done some testing with swimmers when I was there. That was the one thing or variable that I felt would give us the best results. Listening to the scientist and the people who were involved in that level of coaching and scientific research, that was the thing that kept coming across to me. The anaerobic threshold was so important to be able to get them to swim better and better. So, that was where we were trying to work out the first few years. Getting the swimmers educated to understand heart rates, and to do the test and try to figure out where we were going in those first two to three years. We are still doing it and we are still trying to figure out where we were going because I think in the process one thing I have learned is that the process keeps evolving and as Brooke finished the Olympics I had to sit down and scratch my head and wonder how I was going to get someone who has won an Olympic gold medal to go any further. I will come to that at the end of the talk.
We were three years into our program and at 65,000 meters a week and 9:05 in the 800 and 4:30 in the 400 and 2:14 in the 200. She was 12 years of age and she made her first national cut between 1991-92. It wasn’t in distance freestyle, rather the 200 Fly. She went a 2:25 in the 200 Fly. Again, my thoughts were not on distance swimming they were on getting into to as many events as we could.
We worked on that 200 Fly and at her first junior nationals at Charlotte in 1992 and she got 35th or something like that, way, way down. From that time, down in 1992 we started think about the longer events because the 200 Fly was about the shortest thing we felt she could qualify in. We started thinking about the mile and the 1000 for our spring Juniors in Gainesville the next year. We decided to try to work on some of those longer events.
In the 1992-93 season, we started working more seriously on the longer events and we picked up the mileage a little bit more. We have gone from about 65,000 to 75,000 meters a week’s work. I felt at that point that we had laid three years of work behind with the group that we were working with and we were motivated enough at that stage. I think we had four or five swimmers at the national level.
We had two people that had senior national cuts. We had a motivated group — a group that started to look towards the national level. We felt that we could commit them to a little bit more to training. We increased the morning to two hours along with the two hours in the afternoon and three hour sessions on Saturday morning. We were starting to get about twenty-one hours a week at that point. 75,000 was not an awful lot of yardage in twenty-one hours although it was a lot more than we were used to.
At that point, Brooke was under 17:00 in the 1500, again she was 12 or 13 years of age at that point. She was under 17:00 for the first time. She was at 8:52 in the 800 and 4:24 in the 400 and 2:12 in the 200 and 1:04 in the 100. There wasn’t much difference in her 400 and 800 pace and her mile was coming together a little bit more. I think she was starting to develop a better aerobic ability started to like the mile a little bit more. We were trying to increase the yardage and again we were trying to work on a lot of heart rate type of things. They were based on the 300’s. We were trying to work at a certain heart rate and trying to maintain the paces that we felt were important. We tried to work on that anaerobic threshold and to try to continuously work at that level. So, if you were to graph the anaerobic threshold we were just trying to move that curve to the right all of the time. We were trying to get them to swim at a faster pace.
We heard all of the different explanations from Skip Runkle and all of those different kind of people. We would go 10-30 100’s on a particular time and my goal was to get down to see how many swimmers we could get swimming 100’s on 1:10 or 1:08, and we are still trying to go that distance. We are still trying to get 100’s on 1:05 long course. We are still trying to get people to swim 100’s faster and faster. Whatever you want to call that type of training, that is what we do. That’s what we would try to do and we started way back then.
I can remember way back in 1990 we started with 400’s on 7:30 and I can look at my log book and see that we did a set of 4×400 on 7:30 and thinking wow we had a progression and that was 1990. We are certainly a lot faster than that and further along. Obviously, we are trying to do the same sort of things. If I can get swimmers to go 60 x 100 on 1:10 then they have to be swimming faster. They have to be going in the right direction. As much as unscientific as it might sound, that is what we try to do.
At this point, here we had a lot of success with swimming shorter distances such as 100’s and 200’s and try to go short rest interval stuff. We did a lot of work in those particular two years, the 92-93 season. We put a lot of emphasis on the short rest type of work. We were going lots of 100’s, 200’s, 400’s. We were not going a lot of over distance training. We weren’t going a lot of 3000 or 5000 big long swims. I think the most we have ever done in those type of swims is maybe a 5000-straight swim. We don’t go traditionally big long swims. I think they get bored and unless you have a way of monitoring them all of the time as they go along I think they lose what the intent of the swim is. I prefer to go 10 x 500’s rather than go 5000 straight. 10 x 500 on a short rest to me is more benefit to them at that point.
They know what they are doing when they come in on the clock and they know how to go and what to do and what they need to be doing on each swim. You have some kind of communication with them. I think a lot of the time a lot of those sets in that 92-93 season were very much about short rest short interval type of work getting to try and swim. I think the goal was at that time was to try and see how many 100’s at 1:15 we could get. Could we go 100 x 100’s on 1:15? I think we went to sixty or seventy at one stage but I don’t think we went very much higher.
I think in 1994 we had a series where we went 100 x 100’s on 1:15. That was a goal that we set on the team and they enjoyed that type thing. The challenge of what they were doing was certainly to try to make the best sets and do the best sets and it certainly was a great training way and a great way to do that because we had a couple of people to do that with and that was exciting.
I think that the next stage was the breakthrough in 1994, the first major breakthrough with someone like Brooke. We had a period of training and if you look at that there was basically 2-3 years of very consistent training and as I look back at these charts and put this stuff together I started to see a trend and I believe it is a very important trend to look at. We talk about Quadrenium and four years of planning and work. I certainly saw a trend within what we did. After two years of a lot of work there was a definite improvement, a definite step, a definite improvement in the athletes. Not just Brooke but in a lot of the others. I definitely saw a trend of two hard years of work and the payoff. That is very hard to sell to your athletes. Sometimes they want to see success all of the time and especially when you get to the higher level, I think this is the really important step in what you are doing.
The breakthrough to me with Brooke was 1994 when she made her first national team. She made the world champion ship team in the 800 Freestyle getting second in the trials at Indianapolis. The training is the two and a half years of solid background that she did and that was why I think we saw the improvement. Going into that year I really wasn’t sure if we were going to have that improvement. As that year progressed we saw faster and faster training times. We saw repeats that we would expect to see from somebody who was going to go sub 8:40. We saw somebody physically and mentally changing. We saw somebody starting to grow up and starting to believe that they could do what I was actually starting to think they could do. She was physically getting to the size and the strength factors that would help her produce those sort of times. I think a physical change when she was 14 and certainly the changes that girls go through at that age are monumental to their improvement at that time.
She was mentally aware of the challenge of making and becoming the second fastest person and having the opportunity to race someone like Janet Evans. She started thinking at that point that she could start competing. The spring Nationals in 1994 was a big help to her. She was in the top 4-5 in the country at that time and she felt she could have gone faster. She was a just a little bit scared about it but she started to develop the mental ability with the physical ability to go to the next stage. We certainly saw a big breakthrough in 1994. I put it down to the combination of the two and a half years of hard work and just getting to the right point and the right age where she could continue. 1994 we saw and increase in work. 1994 helped her as we got into that and got the confidence going, to ask a fourteen-year-old to do more work was easy because she wanted to do it. She started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. She started to say, “Oh my, I can make this team” and the thought of going to the World Championships and going to Rome for a fourteen-year-old made it easy to motivate her at that point. She saw the rewards of what she could get out of it and we saw significant drops as I said. We saw 16:36 in the mile, 8:31 in the 800, 4:13 in the 400, 2:06 in the 200, and 1:02 in the 100. In a two-year period, she went from a 9:05 to an 8:31 in the 800. She went from a 17:07 to a 16:36 in the mile so we are seeing significant drops and that is the two-year period that I am talking about from 1992-1994 we can see the difference in those performances. I think that is
significant to look at.
At that point, in 1994 to make sure she could keep going, she began to think about Janet Evans and if she would be able to get close to Janet. Janet had been swimming tremendously for so many years that I felt that the opportunity was there to go and challenge. I think the success of Janet had shied people away from those events. I felt this caused people to back off from those events and go to others because they thought Janet was a lock in those events. I think it gave the opportunity for somebody like Brooke to come in and get success and make a team in 1994 with an 8:35 at the trials which wasn’t fast compared to other 800 freestylers that this country has had in the past. I think that was one of the reasons, the fact that Janet had gotten so far ahead of everybody that people sort of backed off those particular events and we weren’t getting as many people entering them. It gave her the opportunity to get in there and swim those particular events and go to the world champion ships and perform at the highest possible level.
It builds her confidence and as anybody that knows Brooke, you know that the more you give her the more success she has and the more she wants, the more she tries to achieve that and go after it. After coming back from Rome, she certainly had the idea that she wanted to try and compete with Janet and try and go after her.
In 1995, we saw a little bit of increase but now we are coming against pressures of school, having 21 hours a week and there is only so much time you can fit in the pool. Re ally, to try and get the average yardage increased we had to increase it during holiday time. We probably increased the average to holiday time putting a bigger amount in over Christmas, Summer, and any kind of breaks we had. We did 3 hour or 5 hour sessions a day rather than four hour sessions a day to try to increase it. So, that is an average figure that doesn’t look high compared to the other years but we tried to boost it up by going sessions where we would go 90,000 to 100,000 a week but very rarely would we touch the 100,000. It would be more weeks at the 90,000 and things like that.
In that 1995 year we are looking at the first two years of 1991-1993 — those years enabled the improvement and then we keep that increase going. Between 1993-1995 we see the yardage and the intensity is still on the upward. That is one thing I have tried to do, is every year look back at my last year’s work and look at what we did and if we were doing certain sets and look at specific sets that we did each year and things that made us swim faster and try and make those better next year. What did we do last year in the Olympic year that we are doing this year and how we can do those particular sets better? How can we make those sets faster, how can we do those things a better way, so that we are all the time pushing the envelope a little bit more? We are trying to up the yardage and go to a significant increase in what we have done before.
If you look over the years, you are talking about from 1990-1995, that is a five-year period, we have gone from a 45,000 base to an 85,000 base. It has taken us five years to get that far. It doesn’t happen overnight and that is one thing to remember — not to put your kids in a program that goes 85,000 right away but understand that you have to start somewhere and build to a point in what you are trying to do within that four to five to six-year period.
The yardage in the last year of that period from 1990 1996 was 85,000 meters a week. Possibly with her, it was significant to look that we didn’t swim a mile that year that was faster. Then we went from 8:29 in the 800 to 8:27. In the 400 she went 4:10 so there wasn’t any improvement. She missed the 400 at the trials. 2:03 which was faster in the 200. She went 59 in the 100 which was also faster. Looking at that, that was a combination of the end of a six-year period and it takes six years.
It was interesting to hear Dick Jochums saying this morning it takes anywhere from five to eight years to make an Olympic champion, he believes. I am scratching my head here saying, “He’s right.” I didn’t think of it that way but look at those figures and you say six years and six years in the making is somebody going from a 45,000-meter base up to 85,000. I think that is a significant amount of improvement on the amount of work she did and I think that the thing that is interesting to me is the percentage change in performances
over those years from 1990-1996 was rather significant.
We had a 14% improvement in her 100, a 16% improvement in her 200, 16% in the 400, 18% basically in the 800, and about 16% improvement in the 1500. So, over a period of six years that is not an awful lot of improvement when you look at the percentage of those things but certainly improvement that made the difference to becoming a champion.
I think the most important thing is to look at the significant improvement in her times related to where the yardage had improved. I think that was real significant to her improvement and where we are going to go in the next number of years.
She left on the 9th of July to go to the Olympics. She went to the training camp. The fact that I wasn’t there for a lot of the time was a little different. I tried to be fairly detailed in what I had written down for her taper. When you are not there with them in that position it was important to try, and be as detailed so the coaches that were working with her really had an idea what to do with her at that point.
The type of workouts at different times of the years? Our workouts are fairly basic. This is back in 1994. Nothing really terribly different. Individual Medley work and trying to do the type of EN1, EN2 work. I wasn’t really sure where we were working in those energy systems. A lot of it is aerobic type of swimming. We do a lot of kick and fins, a lot of fin work. We do a lot of individual medley work and we do a lot of fly and back with somebody like Brooke purely to help on the recovery point. A lot of times she likes to do fly just rather than do a lot of freestyle just to change what she is doing and that helps a lot. We would try to do sets of 5 x 100 where we would go 5 on 1:15, 5 on 1:10, 5 on 1:08, 5 on 1:05, and if they fail at it I don’t care. If they did two or three at it maybe the next time they will do four of it. We just try and do sets like that quite a lot. That is typical of a lot of the type of stress and work we try and do. Again, I am not sure where the energy systems come in here. Some of the times the energy systems change as we go through the sets. I am not being the scientist, I am just being the coach. I think a lot of the times we just try and figure out what they are going through.
As John Urbanchek says, “They go through a rainbow.” All of the different types of energy systems is like a rainbow in some of those sets. There is so many types of things they go through at those particular times. That is the typical type of thing that we do when we are working in a hard workout period of time. We try and challenge them as many times on those short rest things as we can. We try to give them as
many opportunities to swim fast as close to their distance race pace as they can. Somebody like Brooke who is trying to swim 1:02’s on the 800 freestyle or 1:03’s, well if she can get the opportunity to go 5 x 100 on the 1:05 and make them and eventually go 8 and eventually go 10. Well, to make
1:02 and 1:03 consistently is not going to be very hard. We are trying to strive for those particular times.
At that time, I had a boy, John Reich who was 3:56 in the 400 Free. He was a 15:47 miler and so he was leading the way in a lot of the things like that. That helped Brooke to do a lot things like that. She got a drag off him a lot of times to do some of those things. She misses that and that is a big drawback to our training and we are trying to look for areas and ways to help her through that particular time when you become the fastest person in your group in the pool and your team. It is hard to get yourself to the next level. We all come through that and we all have problems like that where we have swimmers who as younger swimmers they have the opportunity to swim with older swimmers and get faster. Then those older swimmers go off to college and as age group coaches we are left with a faster swimmer and nobody else to chase. We are looking at different ways to try and help her get through that, especially through the next four years.
I would like to talk just a little bit on what we have done since the Olympics. I know this is really the “Preparation of Brooke” but I think it is important to see where we are going since the Olympics. One of things that we have sat down and tried to do since that point was to try and make sure that we again look at the distance in the six years. How can we go any further and any faster? How can Brooke go from an 8:27 in the 800 to an 8:24, or 8:20, or try to get under 8:20? How can we go under 16:00 for the mile? They are the things that I thought were real important. This year we have made a concerted effort to try and look at the mile as a big goal for Brooke and look at how can we work her and how can we increase the yardage and the mileage that she did plus deal with the physiological changes, the psychological changes, and how can we make those things work for her in the future?
One of the things we did this year was we increased significantly the yardage that we swam. This year we had many weeks where we were 110,000 and 112,000 meters. I had never gone to that level before with a swimmer and it has been interesting to see the changes that happen at that level of the swimmer. They need change, let me tell you. We went to the bottom of the well. We found the bottom of the well this year. I have never seen swimmers or her, in particular, go downward in a spiral so quickly when we got up to that level. As an athlete, she was willing to try that and we talked about what she needed to do. It was interesting to see her do that. You are not going to get many athletes and many people to subject themselves to that level of training.
It was interesting to see where she just couldn’t do the things quality wise that we wanted her to do. What we got out of the distance drastically affected the quality of what we were trying to do. We couldn’t do the same type of re peats we were doing a year ago. We could do the distance and we were increasing the yardage by going maybe 15-20 minutes later everyday but we couldn’t do anything else to improve the quality of those particular swims. Again, I think it comes back to what I talked about earlier which is that two-year window. That is what I think we are looking at is that somewhere in that two-year window, there has to be a significant increase in the volume of work, the type of work that you do in that two years.
I think it doesn’t matter the program you are training whether you are training with somebody like Brooke or you are training your age group program. You go back to that volume increase or the increase in what you do over a two-year period and look and see how you develop the program over those two years. So that on the third and fourth year you are going to have that significant improvement on what you are going to do. Hopefully, that is what we are trying to do in 1997-98 and hopefully 1999-2000 we can see the improvement that is going to happen over the next couple of years.
We still were faster this year than we were last year. We were 8:26 and 4:09, and 2:01 on her events and 16:10 in the 1500. We certainly have some ways to go. She swam faster in her mile than she ever did going out. She was at world record pace up to the 500 and then got off the pace but things like that were significant in the training aspect of where we were trying to go over the next couple of years. I think as a coach I was trying to put a new slant on what we were trying to do. Again, scientifically I don’t know whether I am right or not. Maybe I will find out next year or two year’s time when we do or we don’t do what we want to do. I think as a coach but I am trying to learn from listening to the Madsen’s, the Jochums’s and the Skinner’s and those people of what I think I can do to make her go faster. I think that is all I have ever done. It is not anything real scientific and it is not something that is real complicated but I do try and think that it is being smart enough to listen to other people and to be smart enough to know that what other people do and look and listen to what other people have done has got to make our program better. I think she can swim a lot faster and I think she thinks she can swim a lot faster which is the most important. I think she does believe that she can swim a lot faster.
I think she was a little disappointed this year and she was a little disappointed with the Olympics that she couldn’t have gone faster. That’s okay to be disappointed in that way and I think we are trying to work on some things this year and next year that hopefully will get her to swim faster. I really believe and I am looking at this year on stroke rates and stroke counts and tempos. I really believe that is the way to go with some of the improvement with Brooke.
I think that is significant. We have been working with the project Sidney with U.S Swimming and they have been really good about giving us information back about the stroke rates and the stroke counts for her races at nationals and major international meets.
Looking at those particular figures I think there are some things that are going to be significant to her ability to go faster down the road. She hasn’t, and you know if you have seen her swim, she hasn’t got the most stylish stroke in the world. She has the ability to maintain that momentum or that tempo or whatever you want to call it. It is a natural thing that she has and something that I don’t want to take away from her. As bad as it looks and maybe as technically wrong as it is, it does work for her. I think that is something that I don’t want to get out of. I think it is maybe wrong and might not be the right thing to do and I might be saying the wrong things here but to me for her to change and go real long in her stroke is not going to be easy for her to do. I think at this stage of her swimming it would be significantly detrimental to what she is going to do.
I think she can go faster doing the same thing she has been doing but I think at looking how many strokes per cycle and how many strokes per minute. She is doing 57 strokes per minute now and she is swimming at a certain pace and a certain time. How can we make that work better for her as she goes 800 or 1500 meters? I think that is real important and that is what I am trying to look at. Looking at pieces of information as I go around and looking at things that will make her go faster. To me that is the one area plus the heart rates. If I can get a monitor on her, if I can see the heart rates as they go up and down the pool and see where the changes occur when they do a set of work, when they are doing 10 x 400, then I will have some useful information like whether their heart rate is starting to drop to low, whether we are not putting the amount of stress that we need to put on the athlete to keep them going.
It goes back to the significant increase of stress whether it is distance, whether it is heart rate, whether it is a set whether it is a stroke rate. All of those particular things we are trying to gather them all together and make some sense out of them to try and make sure that we are again trying to go in the right direction.
I think to summarize and to try and put a lot of sense in what I’m saying is to try and say that the accumulation of information is real, real important. Try and keep good records. My records at the start in 1990-91 are not as good as now. If I come back in four years and give a talk I would hope that I can put a lot more graphs and a lot more times and a lot more information up for you. I think I have a lot more
than I had four years ago in the sense of putting it together. Now I know a way to put it together and collecting it and it has made me a better coach to do that. I see the significance of knowing what she does. We have other swimmers who are doing the same thing. We have other swimmers who are swimming as fast as she was or faster when she was 11-12. So, I can look back at least now and look at those swimmers and know what they should be doing, how many 100’s, 400’s, those sort of things. So, it has given me a tool to help me go forward and I think that is real important. I think anybody can write a workout for a swimmer but I think the thing of breaking it down and trying to get information about the type of work we are doing, the type of things we are doing is important.
I’m not fully understanding the EN1, EN2 still. I still don’t have that clear in my mind where we are in that figure. I think Jonty probably has and some other people have a better view of that. I am still not 100% sure and I am not ashamed to say that. I think a lot of times we think we know where we are and I think we don’t. We are between somewhere. I really believe the anaerobic threshold is where we need to be. If you can get somebody working not anaerobically or aerobically but on anaerobic threshold. I really believe that one point is the most optimal part of the body. The body is producing the right conditions to swim at the best level. I think that is real important. That is my piece of scientific information for you and I think that is the scientific information that I derive from it. Anaerobic threshold is so important to have the athletes at. How we determine that is by doing the pulse rates and develop a steady state heart rate as they swim so we know where they are going. Also develop those type of stress tests as they swim with heart rates. I think there is somewhere we can go with it but I am not the scientist and I don’t have the time because I have 150 kids. Jonty talked about maybe some of you might have 15 in front of you. I have 35-40 kids in front of me and I don’t have time to do all of the things that need to be done. We are all in the same position. A lot of times we like to take what they say and we wish we could do what we want to do but in reality, we don’t always get to do what we want to do. Use what you can out of this and hopefully it is something that has given you information.
Questions: Do you think the stroke rate for Brooke should be higher than her current rate and are you going to raise yardage from where you are now?
Response: No, I don’t think the yardage will go any higher. I think we found the limit they can be pushed volume wise. I think diminishing returns starts to come into it. As far as the stroke, I think one of the significant things that happened this year was that she went 2:01 in the 200. If I can continue to match what she did on the 2:01 side with her stroke counts and try and extend that into the 800 freestyle, I think that is going to help us to be a little bit faster. The stroke rate that helped her go 2:01 and the distance per stroke we will try to translate that into the 800. Somewhere in between we have to come up with where it needs to be.
Question: At anaerobic threshold, what type of things are you saying to her and what type of sets are you doing that are good.
Response: I think the threshold to me is at the heart rate and is normally about 160 to 170 beats per minute for her and I try to maintain that heart rate on a set of work. If we do like 10 x 400 or 8 x 400 on a 10 to 15 second rest interval that it is maintaining the threshold heart rate. We want to maintain that as long as we can for the type of endurance that we are trying to work on. It is a length of time plus the heart rate that we are trying to work with.
Question: How do you break your group up? How many different sub groups do you use on any given day? Do you have certain days of the week or every day?
Response: When we are in the middle of the season we try to use a pure distance group, a pure middle distance group. I don’t try and go a sprint. I think we are dealing with age group swimmers and I don’t really ever have a sprint group. Maybe coming to the taper time of the year we try and divide it up and do a little bit more sprint and stuff for the younger ones but traditionally it is all middle distance or distance. That is how we do it. At the start of the year we start together and then begin to break it down as we get to the middle of the season.
Question: Do you have a max heart rate on Brooke?
Response: No, I haven’t been able to get over 180. I have never been able to get it above that. Maybe on land she would but I haven’t tried that. In the water, she has never been able to get over 30 beats for ten seconds. Her threshold is about 168. There is a very small window between the threshold and the max heart rate. For her to go up to 180, she just can’t do it. It is too hard for her. Maybe as she gets older that may happen but over the last year I have not been able to get her up to 180. She gets frustrated because the people beside her will go 190, 200 and she can’t get it up there. She thinks she is trying harder and she can’t get her heart rate up.
Questions: Was her stroke rate more efficient in the 200 this year than the longer distances?
Response: Distance per stroke was a little bit on the end, I noticed that when she would come home the last 50 she would be more efficient but she would use her legs a little bit more. The middle part was basically the same, very slight changes between her 400 and her 800. I think significant enough that if you translate them into her 800 race they could make a difference in her 800 race. It is only a small percentage difference when you look at it. It is only a 1%-2% change but enough to see a difference over an 800 period.
Question: Is there anything significant that you have done in dryland that you think has helped her?
Response: In the last year and a half I think that is the most significant area of improvement in what we have done. In the previous years, it was very hit and miss. Our dryland training consisted of trying to do a lot of callisthenic type of things and a mixture of some weights, some type of circuits. This year we have a new coach on our program who has added greatly to that program. He has changed it to what I feel we have to do. We do an awful lot of medicine balls, a huge amount of sit-ups. We do an hour every single day
Monday through Friday. I think we will see a significant improvement over the next year or two again. I am real excited about that part of our program and the big improvement that I see in it.
Question: What is your time frame on the world record for the 400 and the 800?
Response: I would like to see the 1500 first. The times are so outstanding and the times are way up there at the moment. I really feel that if there is an opportunity to do those that we are working for somewhere in 2000.