The Training and Development of Christine Magnuson by Matt Kredich (2009)


Published


INTRODUCTION: It is a pleasure for me to introduce our next speaker here this morning – someone that I could probably sit and talk to for days about swimming and the great thing is that he is so willing to share. Matt has been a successful coach for many, many years. My guess is that a lot of people are probably just starting to notice – just because being at more of a high profile school. I know for a fact when he was coaching at Richmond and we had some swimmers that we were trying to recruit that went to school there and he did an amazing job with some kids that were somewhat no- named that just developed and progressed beautifully and he has done that every stop along the way. Now, if any of you club coaches out there have swimmers that are looking at Tennessee and Northwestern I want you to kind of ignore all those things that I just said there a second ago. Matt has done an incredible job in probably one of the most demanding and competitive conferences in the country in the Southeastern Conference, as we all know, it is not easy to go in there and go up against some of those big dogs – no pun intended there with Georgia. It is a tough place to go in and make a name and make your team rise up and compete against the best in the country and he has done just that in a relatively short time. We all know about Christine Magnuson – the amazing progression that she has had over the last couple of years, so without further ado – it is my pleasure to present our next speaker, Coach Matt Kredich.

COACH MATT KREDICH. Thanks. I am going to invite you to come closer because I know that some of the slides that I have are going to be difficult to see in the back. My understanding is that these slides will be available for download from the ASCA website at some point. It is great to see a lot of people here who are really familiar to me and I am going to go over some things that I expect to be challenged on at some point. I have a couple of people in the audience that have really influenced and mentored me in the past – specifically Dan Flack and Clive Rushton – it is great to be up here and have the chance to speak to them. This is fun for me because I am getting a chance to talk about a young woman who is just a wonderful person and a wonderful story. The amazing thing to me is – and you could say this with many Olympians, but her in particular – if you were to look back five or six years ago at Christine Magnuson it would be difficult to say there is a future Olympian, but the fact is – she always was – at every point along her career she was a future Olympian and that is the benefit of hindsight, but if you look at it that way then it should follow and some of the same things that I think you have heard this weekend – that you just never know how good a swimmer is going to be.

I think there were some real keys to her success at the Olympic Games. She certainly has some physical, emotional and mental talent. I believe that the way we structured her training season was ideally suited to her and that is that we really separated the training of capacity and power. She learned in the time that I knew her – how to master her fear and how to embrace competition and then she also was really good at paying attention to detail – both technical – in terms of stroke and tactical in terms of racing. First of all – her physical attributes – she is long and tall. She is 6’1” – about 150 – 160 pounds – depending on the time of the season and she adapts really quickly.

The first year that I coached her she was coming off mono. In her first workout back she lifted until she passed out and it concerned me a little bit so I asked her to back off and she didn’t back off one bit. The next day she was stronger. I also found that in any kind of a practice that I give her a high dose of stress – the very next time we do that type of practice she is better. Her body is a sponge for stress and she adapts really quickly.

If you look at her from the side she has no curvature to her lower spine and I think that is really important in helping her ride high in the water – both in fly and freestyle and she has an extremely flexible neck. I would like to say that the idea to turn to side breathing in fly was mine and that that made all the difference in the world, but that is something that she kind of came on to naturally and she has the ability to turn her head more than 180 degrees. She is also very bright. She is focused and she is very motivated. She has won numerous post-graduate awards – both from the SEC and the NCAA. She has got incredible parents – just dream parents. She is an exceptionally motivated team swimmer. She will do anything for her team – whether it is USA or Tennessee. She has tremendous capacity to mentally engage in a practice. She doesn’t tolerate herself spacing out and when she is at her best she loves to compete.

This is kind of a graphic representation of her training evolution and the density of training that she has done over the years. She did not swim long seasons growing up, but she did play a lot of different sports. She played basketball, volleyball and swimming and did something all year around. The spheres here represent the seasons of swimming and so early on the seasons were short and not real stressful. When she got to high school they were still only three months, but more stressful and then when she got to college she started training year around. This is a progression of her times in the hundred fly from 2003 to 2008. The top line is meters and the bottom line is yards and you will find the same kind of progression for all of her events – the 50 through the 500 freestyle and the 100 and 200 butterfly.

I would like to talk to you a little bit about the evolution of her competitive mindset. When I first started coaching her – her very first season – she was really successful at SEC’s. She dropped from 1:49 to 1:45 in the 200 yard freestyle and when I talk about times I think if we can set our minds back to whenever the year that these times were done – then maybe they are a little more impressive. That 200 freestyle landed her the second seed at NCAA’s and this was her very first experience being at the top. She really struggled to adjust from being the hunter to being hunted. She was seeded second. She was a mess going into that race. She just felt like everybody was coming after her and she finished 12th with a great deal of relief that she actually scored. Kind of hidden in that meet she split a 53 low in the hundred fly on a relay and that to date really had not been much of an event for her so that was intriguing.

We went into the summer season with some high expectations. It was a selection summer and we felt like she could make a team in the 200 freestyle and she went out slow in that race and came back even slower. She really wilted under what she felt like were expectations from everybody – including her and once that was out of her system she had a really beautiful 100 fly and went 1:00.7 – that was a drop from 1:04 which had been her best time earlier in the season. Then we swam an 800 freestyle relay and at the time and this happens at a lot of meets – the announcer has world record splits from a relay and so with all those splits – I am not sure how useful that is, but when Christine flipped at the 50 – she was ahead of world record pace for the 800 free relay and that was kind of the sign that she was back because she really races best when she is aggressive. She was out two seconds faster than she was in the event and back slower, but it was fun and she learned a lot from contrasting those different events at that meet.

The next season – she came into the season with a big change in her self concept. I think she really started to enjoy thinking about winning. She put in a really good training season and won the 100 fly at SEC’s. It was a big step for her and for our program. She went 52.0 – was 3rd in the hundred free and 48.4 and went to NCAA’s and really enjoyed racing. She finished 4th. She was a little bit slower than SEC’s, but felt great about herself and got hungry for more. She got a taste of what it is like to race at the highest level and not get in your own way and she got hungry for more. The following summer – I will forever be grateful to Coach Schubert and USA Swimming for putting that Japan meet in place after 2006 when all these teams were picked – we had nothing to aim for in terms of International competition in 2007 so along came this Japan meet with a qualifying standard. You didn’t even have to be in the top X-number of people and that may never happen again, but having that standard in her mind be attainable I think was the right thing at the right time for her and it took some pressure off of her performances and just allowed her to swim for herself and again I think at that time that was really important for her.

We had about ten days after Nationals before she was to leave for Japan and in that time we talked about what her goals were and what this would mean and she was real clear. She was more than just happy to be there. She felt like it was another chance to race and I got the call from her dad – I didn’t know where to find results – I got the call from her dad and her best time in the hundred free was a 56 low and her dad told me that on the relay she had split a 54 high which kind of blew me away because I didn’t see any signs of that in the ten days that she trained before she left and then she swam the hundred fly and got in there and really mixed it up with people that had intimidated her before – the Australian women and Rachel Komisarz and they beat her. They beat her by just kicking her butt on the turn and that was cool too because she came back from that meet knowing that she could swim with the best people in the World, but she had some stuff to work on and she got really excited about that. Just that taste of International competition got her really excited about what might happen the next year.

So in 2007 – 2008 I was real sure that we needed to focus on the college season and with the ultimate goal being Christine was going to make the Olympic team, but she had to focus on the college season. She is – as I said before – a tremendous team swimmer and coming off that Japan experience I knew that she had some confidence that could fuel our team and in my mind there was never any question that we needed to get her ready for NCAA’s and that that experience would help her Olympic chances more than anything else we could do. I felt like she needed the experience and she needed the confidence so she ended up having a dream season. SEC’s – she went 22 flat – 51 flat in the fly – 48.2 in the freestyle or that might have been 48 flat. She went 1:43 flat – which at the time made her the 3rd or 2nd fastest 200 freestyler ever and then she had a 22.3 fly split and she was out in 9.9 in that 50 fly with her relay start. She looked absolutely scary at that meet. She was so fast and strong that she just couldn’t control it and I didn’t know what to do because she was having so much fun, but it seemed like she was really out of touch with the water. It was like the water for her – she was so strong she couldn’t feel it and so her races were kind of rough. I sat back and watched because I had not seen anything like it before and it was a meet where I didn’t give her a whole lot of rest, but it doesn’t matter what I gave her because whatever it was – was just what she needed. I am not sure I have ever seen her that strong before. She won three individual events. She helped our relay win for the first time in a long time and she was named swimmer of the meet.

At NCAA’s she went back to being the hunted and the big stuff was – she figured out how to love it. The great thing about the swims at SEC’s being messy – was that there were a lot of things that we could do to clean them up. When we got to NCAA’s I actually do not think that she was as physically prepared to swim fast, but she was smarter and better prepared technically and better prepared tactically and she was also swimming better – just not faster. We started off that meet and she was a little bit more reserved. She qualified 9th in the 50 which was real frustrating for her and the next day was 100 fly. She was the top seed, but Dana Vollmer – who had won the year before with a faster time than Christine was seeded with was definitely on her mind. Instead of being the kind of free-flowing, fun-loving athlete she was at SEC’s, she was a little quiet. Right before her event she came up to me and said – talk to me please and I looked at her and she was smiling this kind of smile that says I am about to throw up. I just said, “listen – no one is trying to GET you and nobody is trying to take anything away from you. They are not going to come into your lane and they are not going to try to slow you down.” It is a cliché – that is just a string of clichés I just spat out, but it is what she needed to hear and she took a deep breath and said okay and she was seeded with a 51.00 and she ended up going a 50.99 because it was a much better race. Her turns were much better and the way she approached her stroke was much better and that is all she really needed.

Heading into finals – well, I will back up a little bit. We have a team with – it is a women’s team and they love to dance and love to sing and they love to kind of be allowed to be goofy. On our bus ride up to Columbus our massage therapist busted out in a Michael Jackson dance down the aisle of the bus and from that point on we were listening to Michael Jackson on the bus rides to and from – in their rooms and that sort of became a theme for that group. They were dancing in the stands – not me – it was them. They were having a great time and so when Christine walks out for finals the theme music was “Beat It” and our team went nuts and the cool part was that Christine was marching down the side of the pool and then marching towards us and she saw them dancing and she just got this huge grin on her face and she was gold – I mean – she went 50.7 and swam a technically excellent race and just had a blast doing it. So that was a huge step. She figured out how to be chased and how to be in that situation.

In the summer of 2008 – again – mentally, now she is starting to think that she has got a good chance to make that team and we went to Charlotte and she went 58.5 in the hundred fly which is right on her best time and 2 minutes in the 200 free and that was at the end of some really intense training so that was a huge confidence boost. And again – just talking about her mental evolution – got to Trials and she was good and in prelims she swam a really good race and had a great mind set – she came out of prelims seeded 1st. In semis she had a great race and went another .3 faster and had a great mind set. Then in finals she didn’t have a great mind set and she didn’t swim a great race, but she happened to get her hand on the wall first. She went – the progression there was 57.7 – 57.5 and then 58.1 and I will go over those races a little bit later. She wasn’t afraid in that race, it was just unfamiliar. I think we saw a ton of that. We saw a lot of people swimming with a mix of fear, desperation and confusion in that setting that none of us had ever really been in before and certainly not Christine.

I feel really fortunate that the hundred fly was first. I actually believe if the 200 free had been first then she would have made the team in that too, but whatever was first – she wasn’t going to make what was second because we were not prepared for what happens when you make an Olympic team. This really makes me appreciate people like Jon Urbanchek and Bob Bowman and what Michael did and Gregg Troy and how he handled Ryan Lochte with multiple swims – keeping their focus through the entire program because I did not do a very good job of that and the following morning in prelims of the 200 free when I felt like Christine was ready to go 1:57 – she went 2 minutes and qualified 18th. There were a lot of things the night before that we could have done better, but she settled down in the 100 and 50 free and came back in those events with the mindset that she just wanted to compete. She wanted to race other people and she would decide how much pressure to put on herself. Those races were really key in helping set up where she ended up at the Olympic Games.

I have taken you up to this point with her mentally and emotionally. Now I want to talk about the training elements that I think are really important. A number of years ago Jan Olbrecht spoke at this clinic and it had a profound effect on me. His premise was that lactate testing – as it was being practiced – was flawed and based on flawed assumptions. He explained that he had this test and this algorithm that could provide a wealth of information on any swimmer’s training state at any given time.
So you take one sample and you know where that swimmer is in terms of their training structure and he was selling this book. I bought that book and I read it cover to cover and there is not one mention in that book of that algorithm and he never said it was in the book. He just said I have this algorithm and he still has it. I don’t know that he shared it with anybody – maybe, but I don’t think so. But, the book is fantastic and if anybody can get ahold of one you should. It is difficult to get in this country, but along the way – I just loved his paradigm for explaining how training worked.

I started incorporating his terminology and his training paradigm into the way I thought about training and it is really built well on some conversations that I had with Clive Rushton – who is sitting right here – in the past. Clive has actually helped since – clarify some of what Jan Olbrecht was talking about, but basically the premise is you are either training an energy system for capacity which is basically the size of the gas tank or for power which is the rate at which you can get the fuel out of the tank in a race. So it is either size or the rate that you can get that fuel out. He believes that you really can’t do both effectively simultaneously as training for one – capacity negatively affects the training for the other – power – or vice versa. So I took this information to heart in planning our season. You can see just in this kind of simple diagram that we will spend the first 2/3 of our season training to increase the capacity – both aerobic and anaerobic and the last part of the season is power training. I felt like since Olbrecht feels that capacity training involves changes in structure – the structure of the body and power training involves changes in function of things that are already in place and that excessive power training can lead to negative adaptations and he feels like aerobic power takes 3 – 7 weeks to fully optimize. Anaerobic power takes anywhere from 2 – 6 weeks to fully optimize and past that – you may risk going into negative adaptation. Then what we did is we left 7 weeks at the end of the season to train power. Everything else is building capacity.

One thing that he doesn’t talk about that I sort of brought in from some previous experience that I had is this concept of parametric training and that – like other words that I am going to use today – there are a lot of different definitions. I am going to try and explain to you what I think of when I talk about parametric training and this is sort of a system that was taught to me by Sergei Beliaev who works for Super Sport Systems. As coaches – we manipulate a lot of different parameters in training. We manipulate – and the idea of progressive overload to create adaptation means that you are going to overload some different things and if we are going to understand how this works then we need to control what we are progressing. We need to control what we are overloading and basically when you want to train capacity the main thing that you want to progress is either time of work – which is a measure of volume, or distance which is also a measure of volume. Your body doesn’t know how far you have gone – your body knows how many strokes you have taken.

In terms of power – we can change or progress effort. We can change or progress speed and we can change or progress velocity. One of the things that you will have available to download is this chart and don’t write it down – just try to understand a little bit and what I provided is kind of a base set and that is ten 200’s on 2:40 where the result is you are holding 215’s and your heart rate which is a measurement of the energy you are outputting is 175. So that is the base set and the question then is how do we take that set and make it progressive – how do we add to it? Well – one way to do that is to add distance or add repetition so you can keep constant the heart rate so now instead of going 10 and a heart rate of 175 we are going to be going 12 at a heart rate of 175 and what is variable there is velocity because you are just keeping – you are progressing definitely the distance and you are keeping the heart rate the same. The second thing you can progress is the speed and that is more towards power so we are going to go ten 200’s on 2:40 and this time we are going to aim to go faster and this time your heart rate is going to be higher. It costs more energy to do that, but you have gone the same distance and you have done it faster. The third thing you can change is the amount of rest and so you have less recovery and a little bit more stress on the body so you have gone – in this example – ten 200’s on 2:30 this time – you have gone 2:15’s and you have got a higher heart rate because you have had less chance to recover so you have progressed the stress there. Then the fourth way and this is what I am going to talk about in terms of increasing capacity is that we are going to add two more 200’s. We are going to go exactly the same time and the time is one of the definites that we are going to keep steady and the goal is to do it at a lower cost. The goal is to go to that speed at a lower cost and so then the next step might be to go 14 and squeeze the interval a little bit – so a little less rest and still hold 2:15 – does that make sense? And this type of progressions – keeping the speed the same and adding volume to it and then maybe even reducing the rest is what I will refer to as parametric training.

In the summer of 2006 when Christine started taking fly seriously – I felt like she needed to do some of this type of training in order to be confident in the fly. The way we set that up is we took 91% of what I felt like her top speed at the time was – which in a time trial was right around 1:05 and so we chose the speed of 1:11. Then the goal is to go your speed on a certain number of repetitions on as little rest as you possibly can – as you need – to do those reps. We started with four 100’s on 2:15 and she completely overshot the first one and by the last one she was limping, but she still went probably 1:12. You can see in progression by weeks – the first week it was 4 – the next week 5 and then up to 20 at the end of 8 weeks. The goal is to set up the set so that she could repeat 20 100’s holding 1:11’s. Even if this has no physiological benefit in itself – then there was a tremendous amount of psychological benefit that it gave her. She could do 20 100’s so instead of thinking about finishing 100 fly – which was a primary concern before this summer – she was able to take that step to start thinking about how she could do it well. This training – over the years that I have used it – has been incredibly effective in helping increase capacity by increasing efficiency. The adaptation goals that we are looking for with this type of training is basically – we are looking for a lower energy cost at a given velocity and that velocity has to be meaningful. If you can get better at swimming that speed at a lower energy cost – then there should be some carry-over into your top speed. We are also looking for a greater ability to deliver energy at a given velocity so it is not just costing less – it is being able to get energy to the muscles that need it more effectively.

Coordination: if you get really, really good at swimming a speed then you are going to start to smooth things out. You are not going to be using muscles that you don’t need. All of these goals or adaptations – we are just talking about efficiency and this is a graphic representation of some 200’s that another swimmer did, but I had it in a graph form and it is kind of beautiful. These were performed over a number of weeks and you can see there that the purple line is speed – velocity. It stays the same. The yellow line is heart rate and as the number of repetitions goes up – her average heart rate is falling and in fact this training goes through a number of different zones. It starts off in a zone that is pretty close to VO2 MAX and ends up being a speed that you are training at threshold pace and it is a distance where the stress is at threshold pace. And the end result is that you get really good at swimming that speed.

If you want to try this then I think it is really important to monitor it. I think you need to watch real carefully at the beginning and the first two practices where you do any set like this are designed to get used to that speed – to become familiar with the speed. I think you need to make sure that the effort that they are giving is a combination of really challenging, but also doable. They have to swim well. It is imperative that they swim well – otherwise – if you set the setup right – they won’t be able to finish. They need to be swimming well from the very beginning. Then recovery – what this means is you don’t want them to recover a whole lot during this set. The goal of the set is by the end, that last effort – whether it is 4 or 20 – at the very end – whatever they have to give – they are giving. If you let them recover too much – if the rest is too much in the beginning then the stress isn’t enough to really make a change and then just be ready as a coach to make adjustments as necessary. This is a table of kind of projected growth of a set like this over a number of weeks – in 8 weeks – so if you start in week 1 with eight 25’s – at the end of the 8th week you should be able to do 40 at that same speed and that is a growth rate of about 20-25% a week and it is really effective at all distances. We have used this type of training for up to 250’s. I haven’t reached into the 400’s and 800’s yet.

So, back to the summer of 2006 she did a progression of these 100’s through the summer and it really helped her. It changed the way she viewed butterfly. Here is an example of volumes that we did in one particular capacity phase. This is actually their shortened season of Spring 2008 and it was six weeks of capacity training and we peaked at about 55,000 meters and so that is the sort of volumes that we were looking at that particular time and we knew going into 2008 that the majority of the capacity work that she had to do had to have been done in the fall and we hit it pretty hard so this six weeks was really kind of getting back up to speed and this is a sample week. I tried to come up with a couple of highlights here again – if you want to download this you can. I am not sure there are too many secrets in here.

Monday morning we were doing parametric 150’s and those progressed through the time period from 5-11 and her time that she had to hold was 1:40 for meters and we did those on 2:10. On Thursday afternoons we did parametric 50’s fly. Her time she had to hold was 30.4 and progressed from 6 to 17 of those, but a typical capacity workout on let’s say Saturday – when the total meters were 7,000. It was about 2,400 meters at a heart rate of 150 – 175 – some race pace work at the end and a volume of consistent, thoughtful – both freestyle and butterfly to make up the rest of that workout. This is an example – we were not able to get a whole lot of heart rate data on Christine because she gets mad at the instrument that takes the data which is a strap that goes around her chest and that strap is evil in her mind and she throws it and she curses it because it makes it difficult for her to breathe and she tried to actually take it off where you see the dip there and I wouldn’t let her – I wanted that data this time and she bought herself an extra few seconds – you can kind of see, but that is her heart rate as it progressed through a set of seventeen 50’s fly and the first 12 were on 1:15 and then she got mad and I think started falling apart a little bit – the last 5 were on 1:30 and she averaged 30.4’s and the stroke count part was really important and I will get to that in a little bit, but we felt like her second 50 needed to be 23 strokes. That is where she was going to swim best and that was the final set that we did. Here is an example of that Saturday morning workout which involves about 2,000 of warm-up and technique work at various aerobic speeds, twelve 25’s – those were a combination of fly and free and that was for efficiency. That was about 92% of her top speed. We did those over in a short course pool and that was just really neuromuscular practice. It wasn’t particularly stressful, but it was a chance for her to practice a stroke count and a speed. Then we went into a typical aerobic set for her fly which is 250’s – keeping her a low stroke count – 100 – where her goal was to build the last 50 and that is real stressful for her – to go 200 in a row fly and then a hundred freestyle easy on 1:50, but that is how we got some of her aerobic fly work in and her capacity work.

Then we moved to freestyle and the goal was – given heart rate – heart rate 127 for her which is about 40 beats below her max. Her goal was to go as fast as possible with a heart rate no higher than that so again – we are promoting efficiency and at the end we did a little race pace work – working on back end speed and back to sort of that parametric pace where she is going 50’s fly and there are 4 rounds of basically three fast 50’s fly with some swimming in between – that is what I think you would call active rest.

So, our power training: when we moved into the second phase of that season, our aerobic power training – the goal was to maximize the way you can use your VO2 MAX. Your VO2 MAX is potential and your power is your ability to use that potential. So, an example of a set that we use to drive aerobic power is three rounds of all out with a lot of recovery in between rounds. One hundred from a dive – really fast – 100 from a push – really fast and then two 50’s from a push. What Christine is really good at is if she understands why we are doing a set then she will execute it beautifully. This summer she was able to go 56.8 on the first one and then come back on the second one and go 59. When we first started that type of training she might go 58 on the first one and 1:04 or 1:05 on the second one so clearly there are some lactate tolerance issues here. We are also – we are blasting – we are trying to get everything that we can out of your aerobic ability so we are over-shooting it, but we are asking your body not only to produce as much energy as it can aerobically, but to do it quickly. She is somebody that is very adaptable so we do this once – you can see a result the next week that is dramatically different and so if we do this set 4 times during a power phase then each one is going to be faster than the one before. We also do one that is a little bit less intense and that might be 2 to 3 rounds of eight 100’s – best average. It is very difficult. It is not as high speed. It is a little more steady state and it is an easier set I think mentally to manage. Those are examples of some power training for aerobic power.

Anaerobic power, the goal is to go as fast as you can for as long as you can and we are trying to again – get the most out of your ability to produce energy anaerobically and this is again the lactic system. An example that we did with Christine would be three rounds – everything is as fast as you can go – a 50 from a dive and then it may not be a minute – just however long it takes her to get out to 10 meters and then four 25’s timed from a turn and those areas fast as you can go and she will cross the 25 and then head back to the 10 meter mark and then do it again. It is maintaining race pace and race speed under what we hope are progressively challenging conditions. I think it is real important though – real important to have multiple swims in a set like this and that gives the athlete a chance to reset – to get some feedback and then really home in on the last repetitions with full concentration on how they are swimming. Another example would be six 25’s on :30 – the odd ones dive – the even ones push and again – those are all top speed and then other types of power training that we actually do all through the year – because I don’t believe that these are counter-productive to capacity development or alactic power. We are working on strength. We use Power-Ex. We sprint against tubing. We do 15 meter sprints or sprints lasting 15 seconds. We do a lot of resistive swimming – both slow and fast and I feel like both of those can help anaerobic power and we do a lot of explosive land work.

Back to that short season of spring 2008. We went to Colorado Springs for a few days at the end of the capacity phase of training and this was to help Christine remind herself that she was a National Team Member – she is special and it was kind of a way to give her a break before we headed into what I think of as really dense and intense power training. We didn’t have six weeks for power training – I think we had more like four before it was time to really rest so in Colorado Russell Mark spent some time with us filming and reviewing her stroke. A man named Gordon Wood – who really worked some miracles with her with active release – put her shoulder back into place where I guess that it had been displaced for a little while. She really reset her mind before we came back into this cycle. We decided – since we had a short period of time – that we were going to go 5 day cycles so we are going to go three weeks of 5 day cycles and this would let us do a whole lot of aerobic and anaerobic power work, but since she had a day off every 5 days – there was more of a chance for recovery also. In the very last cycle involved the Ultra Swim Meet in Charlotte so here is an example of the pattern that we designed for the 5 days. On days 1 & 4 we are working on aerobic power in different ways in the morning and anaerobic power in the afternoon and like I said – that is dense training – it is intense training. Day 2 is regeneration – some skill work – some video taping – aerobic capacity maintenance and then Day 3 is a little bit of speed work – stationary work – feeling her stroke and then basically a chance to be ready for the next day so we went through essentially three training cycles like that and then the 4th cycle was the Ultra Swim Meet.

I am going to kind of go back to the beginning and talk about – just kind of give you a summary of her training evolution. So – in her age group years she had multiple coaches – a new one every 1-2 years and this is all from her. She said she learned to be independent and to question and she learned it really well because she is real independent and she knows how to question. In her high school years she moved to three month seasons and her coach then was Donna Driscoll. She spent summers with her dad as a coach and with less frequency and lower intensity. She said the biggest thing she learned in high school was how to attack workouts and that is a skill she came to Tennessee with. Then her freshman year at Tennessee she was coached by Dan Colella who really helped her understand how to negotiate a 7 month season. That was a huge learning year for her and her biggest challenge was really trying to understand the cycles of training and adaptation and then the summer before I arrived she got real sick.

From 2005 to 2007 we basically increased her aerobic volume each season. Her 500 freestyle improved substantially each year and I felt like that progression probably ended from 2008 to 2009. We did not do the capacity work that we needed to and I think her results this summer showed it. In 07 – 08 we had the biggest aerobic capacity focus that we had ever had and we also focused on fly technique. She had great training from December to February and then I talked about her trip there.

I am going to move ahead to her training at the pre-Olympic Camp. She had 33 days to train and her objectives were as follows: In the first 5 days we focused on regeneration – working some light speed and re-gaining control of her speeds and the volume was around 4-5,000. The next 18 days we focused on aerobic capacity maintenance a couple of times a week, aerobic power maintenance at about 600 meters two times a week. At the end of a capacity set and then we worked on anaerobic power – two sets per week with a real focus on stroke count and race pace because we had some good information from Trials that we needed to practice. We also worked on strength and coordination and then had 10 days to taper. You will have a slide available for download with some of the stuff that we did at the camp. One of the sets that was most impressive to me was 18 days out – we did three broken 100’s where the goal was always the second 50 was going to be 29.5 or better with 23 strokes and she was going to descend the first 50 from a dive and on those she was 27.9. This is the first 50 – 27.9, 27.3 , 26.9 and those are always 20 strokes which was the plan and the second 50’s were 29.5 on the first one – 29.1 on the second one and then 28.1 on the last one and she asked for extra rest and I told her – I will give you extra rest and then I sent her – that was 11 seconds – she got 11 instead of 10 and still went 28.1.

Christine’s technical development – we basically worked on three elements of her fly. In the front end of the stroke we felt like she needed the recovery to be forward instead of down and she needed to be patient in the front because she has got such a long vessel and she has long arms that generate a lot of momentum coming forward and so I felt it was important for her to use that and to ride that. In the back of the strokes she tended to rush and retract her hands up towards her belly so we worked a lot on keeping that stroke deeper in the back, she is strong enough to do it. Then at the end of a race she would tend to tighten up – lean back a little bit, but she made those corrections really easily. To tell you the truth – the stroke changes that we really made with her in the last two years were always subtle and they are always fine tuning – except the back of the stroke and I am still not even sure she has that.

This is a video Genadijus used his black box on her that May when we went out to Colorado Springs and this is her swimming fly. I feel like at that point she collapses her elbows and she was retracting her hands up into her belly and losing speed. It just felt like she was exhausted at that point in her training and that was the part of the stroke that gave way and if you come to my talk later this afternoon I will tell you some ways that we have addressed it that I think are pretty cool so I felt like she was missing some good water in the back of the stroke so some of the ways that we worked on this were by doing fly at near race pace with a low stroke count, but also by doing freestyle and trying to get real deep at the end of the stroke in freestyle. This was just a week later and actually no – this was still in Colorado and it was a substantial change from what she had been doing with freestyle earlier. Keep your hand deeper at the end instead of pulling it up into her belly. Then her stroke at – I don’t know if I am allowed to show this so do not tell NBC or whoever videotaped this that we are using it, but this is some underwater footage of her at the games and man – she was swimming well at the Games. I felt like she was – she had it and I feel like her hands – she was able to keep her hands deeper for longer and she is able to keep a good angle on the water with her forearm. She is still collapsing a little bit, but there is always room for improvement and if you are going to go 54 you have got to make some changes.

The last thing I will do is I will just kind of take you through how we use some race analysis and how her technique and how her technique and her race tactics developed. I hope you can see that, but the top is her race in Japan and this race analysis is very helpful, but in fact it is wrong. In a lot of cases and thank God we can go back to the video for confirmation because even though it says that at Trials she was 20 strokes – she was actually 21, but this is her first race at Trials and see – she was getting great distance per stroke – low tempo – really under control and that second 50 was faster than she had been in Japan – both parts were faster. We felt great about where she was at that point. That was prelims at Olympic trials. Her start and turn in that race were absolutely abysmal. 6.7 on the start and look at that turn time – 1.24 – I don’t even know how you can go that slow. Her semi-final swim at Trials was really good and in fact that was 21 strokes again and her turn was better. The start was still slow and so she was 21 and 24 strokes and at night – that is when the nerves hit and the wheels came off. She was 23 strokes going out and that 23rd stroke was long it should have been 24. She was spinning and look at that tempo – .97 and I talked about earlier – we wanted her to be patient out in front and she just wanted to get to the next stroke and she didn’t go fast and she used a lot more energy so all that efficiency training that we did – you can see – it helped in the semifinals – didn’t help so much in finals. Then that 25 strokes coming back is accurate and nearly gave me a heart attack, but she finished really tough and that gave her a lot of confidence.

Then at the Olympic training camp she did a whole lot of work on her start with Jonty Skinner and you can see – that really paid off. She actually had some of the best starts at the Games and was at 6.4. She also did a lot of underwater work with Natalie Coughlin and Natalie just took her under her wing and helped her and Teri McKeever helped her a ton too. So at the games her starts were .23 seconds faster and I think a lot of that had to do with the work that Jonty did with her, but also the work that she did underwater with Natalie. The goal was 20 and 23 strokes and in semis she was actually 21 – again – and that was a short stroke – the 21st stroke was short and in finals she was actually 20, but it was a long stroke and it was heading into the turn where these two Australian women just again – kind of destroyed her. This is my favorite race that she has ever swum because of what you will see when she comes off the wall because she kind of knew she had gone long into the wall. She kind of knew she had made a mistake, but instead of panicking she got excited. She actually believed – for whatever reason – that she could run anybody down because nobody caught her at Trials. She has run people down before and she had that belief in her mind that she could run anybody down and I think that is all you need.

This is her final race. I don’t have sound and there is a lot of footage here of the winner as there should be, but Christine is on the other side of her and for warm-up at this meet – I was up in the stands and I watched her do warm-up and it was the best fly I have ever seen – still to this day – from her – she was so ready to go and the first 50 I think was beautiful. She just drifted into this wall here – with 20 strokes which was what we were aiming for, but came off a little behind and here she goes and she is patient. She is not panicking. One of the negatives – the side breathing – is that if you are in lane 5 and your competitor is in lane 4 and you breathe to your right you are not going to see her, but it works well the other way too so that is what you get. But in this last 25 you can see her gaining on Jessica Schipper and finally passing her and I believe if she had had another 5 yards she was going fast enough to have run down Libby Trickett. I just love that race – I love her mindset – I loved the way she finished. There were two people in that building that were a little bit pissed off that she had a silver medal and that was me and her and that is what makes her great.

Thanks for your attention – that is kind of the story of Christine and I hope you cheer for her in the future because she is worth cheering for.

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Sponsorship & Partnerships

Official Sponsors and Partners of the American Swimming Coaches Association

Join Our Mailing List

Subscribe and get the latest Swimming Coach news