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Tip of the Month - 2006

The following "Tip of the Month" columns were written by Dr. Paul Hutinger and published in the Maverick Lane Lines newsletter. Our first edition of "Tip of the Month" was in 1997.

Training for Championship Meets

Many swimmers, at any age and any level, attending their first National meet, let distractions prevent them from concentrating on their events. If you watched any of the Olympic events during February, you probably picked up on some of them from top notch athletes, including knowing the bus schedule to events, partying the night before, etc.

Fellow Maverick, James Anderson, 81, swam very good times at the Florida State Senior Games Meet in December, 2004. These qualified him for the National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, in June, 2005. Although he won several of his events, he was disappointed that his times were slower than what he expected, based on his previous exceptional performances. In his best event, the 50 breast, he was three seconds slower.

Based on a critique of Anderson's performance, I have included some tips that I personally use and recommend for any swimmer. These will help prepare you ahead of time for both your mental and physical performance at the meet, as well as being well rested. Swimmers should plan on how they will prepare for each day at the meet. My suggestions also apply to those who chose to use a local big meet as their "championship meet." TRAINING TOO HARD - Many swimmers train too hard before the meet. A month or less before the big meet, they decide nows the time to train more, thinking that this will make up for months of low yardage. This is a big mistake! Your yardage during the last couple of weeks should be less with more emphasis on broken swims.

MENTAL IMAGERY - Mentally, go through each of your events. If you have access to a computer, you can check the internet ahead of time for the posted psyche sheets (list of swimmers, by time, in each event and age group), OR, ask your coach for this information. By doing so, you will know who your competitors are.

GETTING TO THE POOL - Plan for an early enough arrival to allow for a leisurely check-in, seeing the layout of the pool, finding a place to sit, changing into your suit and checking the heat sheet.

WARM UPS - Decide ahead of time what you will include in your general warm up, and what you will include, additionally each day, for your specific events. (Use this as your warm up during the last two weeks before the meet.) Warm up during the scheduled time in the competition pool. Do some pace 50's for your longer events.

TURNS - Work on turns for each of your events. If you are a backstroker, work on turns with the flags. Know your count! Remember, in meter pools, the flags are at least one stroke farther from the wall.

STARTS - Use the sprint lane to do starts for each of your strokes. Adjust your goggles, if needed.

REST - You need to be well rested before and during the meet. Do your touring and sightseeing after the meet, not before.


Be the Best of Whatever You Are

I have frequently commented to swimmers who are suffering through the challenges of illness or surgeries and trying to adjust to slower times to, "Do the best with whatever you have." That reminded Margie of a poem that was read at her girls' camp in northern Wisconsin, one Sunday morning service each summer. I thought it was a good tip for all of us, whether our goal is primarily for Masters competition, health and fitness or triathlons.

If you can't be a pine on the top of the hill,
Be a scrub in the valley ‹ but be The best little scrub by the side of the rill; Be a bush if you can¹t be a tree.

If you can't be a bush be a bit of the grass, And some highway happier make; If you can¹t be a muskie then just be a bass... But the liveliest bass in the lake!

We can't all be captains, we've got to be crew, There's something for all of us here, There's big work to do, and there's lesser to do, And the task you must do is the near.

If you can't be a highway then just be a trail, If you can't be the sun be a star; It isn¹t by size that you win or you fail ‹ Be the best of whatever you are!

Written by Douglas Malloch, 1877 -1938.
Some of the words and phrases are no longer in use. Instead of being perturbed by them, look for the important message, It isn't by size that you win or you fail... Be the best of whatever you are!


Self-Coaching Tips

Many of you workout on your own, at whatever pool is available and whatever time works into your schedule. Without a coach on deck, it can be frustrating as you wonder whether or not you are working on proper techniques. I am available to help you at meets, or perhaps at your pool or my pool with questions you have about your strokes. Even without this regular personal attention, there are many simple techniques that you can work on at your own pool. I've included some easy self-coaching tips that all of you can work into your own workouts. If you compete, they will improve your times; if you're swimming for fitness, think of them as another way to add variety to your workouts.

Distance per stroke - Count the number of strokes per 25 yards. Pull harder and longer to reduce strokes to 20 or less, back and free.

No bubble machine - On free, look for bubbles on your stroke, as they are an indication of inefficiency, such as dropped elbows or poor entry. Tweak your stroke and try and eliminate them.

Pushoffs - Surface at, or past the flags before your first stroke.

Streamline off the walls - "Bury your head!" Feel your upper arms tight against your head and above your ears; one hand on top of the other. No bubbles.

Fast feet - Time your kick sets, such as 8 x 25; 8 x 50 or 4 x 100.

Breast strokers - Count kicks; kick on back and if your knees come out of the water, you're bending too much at the waist.

Backstrokers - COUNT the number of strokes from the flags before you start your turn or touch the wall. At meter pools, you will have one more stroke.

Fly - Use one arm drills and fins.

Turns - Swim fast into the wall and turn fast.
Finish - Swim hard into the wall; touch the wall or pad UNDERWATER. NEVER lift your hands out of the water and slap the wall. Free and back - reach for the wall with one hand, slightly on side. Breast and fly - two hands.
Broken swims, at pace, for your specific events - sets of 25's or 50's for 100's; sets of 100's for 200's or longer.
Starts - practice with goggles you use at meets; do several starts for each of your events during warmups.
When you swim your events at meets, don't think about pain (it will always be there during hard swims); think about your stroke and technique.
If you do these little things in practice, they will become so routine that when you compete in a meet, you will be on automatic and not even give them a second thought.


Fine Tune Your Technique

When you are at a meet, work on the starts, turns and finishes for each of your different strokes. If you train at a pool that has no starting blocks or backstroke flags, it is even more important to work on these basic techniques.

STARTS - After your regular warmup, go to the sprint lane and do several starts for each of your different strokes. Concentrate on clean entries, streamlines with arms tight to your head, power kicks (other than breaststroke) with fast, short kicks and good pull outs. Keep your chin tucked to your chest on your entry to keep your goggles on, or wear them under your cap. Sprint at least halfway to get into the groove of swimming fast.

TURNS - work on turns at race pace. You need to practice fast turns so you develop good habits in timing your strokes from the flags to the wall.
Free - open or flip turns are your option. A good open turn may be more efficient in your longer events. As you get older, you will appreciate the extra time you have for a quick breath on the turns.
Back - Especially important to work on turns, open or roll over, so you know your exact stroke count from the flags to the wall. Remember, you need to add at least one more stroke on meter courses.
Breast & Fly - timing is crucial from the flags to the wall. You touch the wall on a complete stroke, with two hands. Swimmers have been disqualified for taking partial strokes at the wall.

FINISHES - How many of you have ever worked on finishes? Each stroke has important, specific techniques, similar to those used in turns. Whether you need a one or two hand touch, use your finger tips to touch the pad or wall. You can gain over a second by a finger tip touch out instead of grabbing or slapping at the top of the pad. On your last backstroke pull, drop your head back under water and kick in hard for your finger tip finish.

COOL DOWN - swim at least an easy 100 after each race to aid in eliminating the lactic acid from your body. This is also a good time to work on your turns and finishes for your next event.

NO LONG COURSE POOL TO TRAIN IN? Years ago, when I swam in Illinois, I had no local 50 m pool. Several times I drove 50 miles to train in a 50 m pool or joined the local age group team on their 50 m training. At a LC Masters meet, I would do extra warm up yardage and stay after the meet to do a set of 10 or 20 x 50¹s (select an interval that works for you) for additional long course training. You may find other options to get to a 50 m pool every couple of weeks.
These ideas for specificity of training will help your program, whatever your competitive level. In addition, include these suggestions in your training at your own pool, and you will be farther ahead when you do your meet warmup.

Hydration Revisited

Coach Paul has been under the weather all week, due to a bout with the stomach flu. In his absence, we have a guest columnist, Jani Sutherland.
She lives in Bend, OR, and is the Chair of the USMS Fitness Committee, and Fitness Chair of Oregon Masters Swimming. Reprinted with permission.
Originally published as the USMS Fitness Article of the Month, January, 2005, www.usms.org, at the Fitness Article of Month link.

In 2004 the Food And Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine released new Dietary Reference Intakes for water, sodium and other electrolytes. The recommendations are for the average adult, who could be sedentary or just mildly active. For athletes training regularly it may be necessary to modify these guidelines.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that adult males consume 3.7 liters of fluid daily, while female adults should consume 2.7 liters. The Institute of Medicine advises that fluid intake be driven by thirst and by consuming beverages at mealtimes. This recommendation does not benefit athletes who should rely on more than thirst to maintain adequate hydration.
Body fluid levels are already low when you feel thirsty.

Sodium recommendation focuses on the prevention of high blood pressure, with sodium intake being limited to 1500 mg daily. Research indicates that reducing sodium intake along with a high potassium intake can help prevent the increase in blood pressure that comes with aging.

As an athlete, hydrating before training and rehydrating after training is a top nutritional priority. Make it a daily habit to carry a water bottle to encourage steady fluid intake. Remember that juices, milk, yogurt and fresh fruit are hydrating. Clear urine during the day is a sign of adequate hydration (urine is more concentrated in the morning so check it during the day).

The Institute of Medicine acknowledges that it¹s sodium guidelines cannot be applied to most athletes. Daily sodium loss through urine is about 25 mg daily in a sedentary person but can range from 460-1800 mg in an active person. How much sodium an individual loses is a product of your sweat rate and sodium loss. Sodium can be replaced with a sports drink containing sodium or with the sodium in your daily diet. You do not need to replace all the sodium you lose during training; consume just enough to prevent sodium levels from dropping too low. If you are being treated for hypertension check with your doctor regarding sodium intake.

And don¹t just take that water bottle to practice!! Keep it full and with you all day long.


Workouts getting boring? Looking for new ideas? Needing suggestions on training for meets, tapering, open water swimming or stroke improvement? Tell me how many yards you swim, how often, your 50 yd. times on each stroke and daily workout yardage per week. -Coach Paul Hutinger


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