What I learned about Swimming from Muhammed Ali

Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

Last weekend I participated as a guest coach with Dinah Mistillis of Discovery Aquatics to help teach a two – day swim clinic.   Dinah asked me to lead a 15 minute talk that was a condensed version of my  “Every Day Skills for World Champions” talk that I gave in Minneapolis as  keynote speech for the Total Immersion Coaches Summit in May.

For this open water clinic I chose three key skills to share with the dozen swimmers present on Sunday. My first key skill was “Plan a Map to Your Success.”  In order to plan your way to success in swimming or triathlon, you need to know of course where you are now, and where you want to go.

In the context of open water swimming, recognition of problem areas might included open water anxiety, difficulty swimming in a wetsuit, trouble sighting in open water,  that pesky left hand that smacks the water…this list can get really long!  It’s easy at this point for swimmers to feel overwhelmed.

The reality is that each of these skill and mindfulness issues takes time to address.  While Dinah and I were discussing this, she shared a quote with me…eerily this was the day before Muhammed Ali passed away.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
Muhammed Ali

3x Heavyweight Boxing World Champion

In these swim camps and workshops, we typically have a set order of skills to present to our athletes, and we present them in a logical building order that allows each skill to build on the next.  But even if the athlete is 95% competent in a foundational skill such as head position, for example, the review allow that athlete to find any pebbles or grains of sand that may be interfering with a better execution.

There are probably bigger pebbles or grains of sand as well, and at some point, the pebbles become rocks or boulders which are simply too big to be addressed in one lesson, one trip to the pool, and at times, even one training block or season.

I used this quote in our clinic and it was well received, and then I investigated the origin of the quote.  It was used by Muhammed Ali, but it also appeared in military literature 50 years prior to his use of it.

An early appearance of this quote also included several other inspirational admonitions alongside of it:

It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it is the grain of sand in your shoe.

Back up your ideas with courage that will not back down, and there will be no way too long, no road too rough.

The reason most men and women do not accomplish more is that they do not attempt more.

My takeaway from this quote parallels what I’ve learned in my own journey of becoming a better swimmer, triathlete and coach:  be courageous and one by one you’ll remove every obstacle in your way.  It doesn’t matter how long it takes, or how difficult it seems, you and I have the skills and tools we need to improve bit by bit…one pebble out of the way a ta time.  We can accomplish far more not only as triathletes, but as individuals than we think we can because we often don’t even attempt to do something more.

 

Monitoring Your Injury During Recovery–Tips from Halle Frederiksen

Coach Suzanne leading a skills clinic while wearing a walking boot!

Coach Suzanne leading a skills clinic while wearing a walking boot!

It is important to monitor your progress through an injury so as to know where you stand. This is made much easier once you start monitoring yourself while healthy so that you have something to compare it to. When you are injured, monitor how you feel every day. In general, how do you feel doing different tasks, at different times of the day. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to monitor how you’re feeling and set goals for yourself.

  • Recovering from an injury requires dedication and hard work for a triathlete in order to get back on track
  • When one is injured,monitoring what aggravates the injury, how it is recovering, and what hurts or doesn’t hurt is important to track and look back on progress.
  • The best way to improve when one is healthy is by monitoring ones progress,  which may be done through software like Trainingpeaks.com (not an affiliate link, although I do use them).

As I write this, I am edging my closer to a start line. My body is close to full health and as my fitness builds, soon it will be race time again. Nothing excites me more than the thought of battling with the best in the world. But how did I get here? How did I, and so many others, get through such a long period of injury?

Helle Frederiksen

Professional triathlete and current holder of the fastest half-distance time by a female 3:55:50

So You Want to be a Triathlon Coach? Here’s your Reading List…

Triathlon Coaching - Steel City Endurance The most common question I get from folks wanting to increase their knowledge is, “What triathlon coaching books should I read?”

While it’s certainly hard to whittle down the list, these were the first handful of books & scientific papers to come to mind.  As they say, always go with your initial instincts!

Caveat…I have an entire bookshelf of coaching books plus many I haven’t read yet, but these are the books & articles I would START with.  They will help the aspiring triathlon coach or self-coached athlete form a solid foundation upon which they can begin filling in with no end of online-self-coaching articles.

There may be some notable absences from this list…it’s not necessarily intentional, but if you would like to add a book to the list, please leave a comment!

Scientific Training for Triathletes, Phil Skiba, MD, $20

The Triathletes Guide to Training with Power, Phil Skiba, MD, $20

Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Ed, Hunter Allen & Andy Coggan, 2010  $24.95

Triathlon Swimming Made Easy, Terry Laughlin (Discount 10%  “coachsuzanne” at checkout) $9.95 E-book, In Paperback $33 new.

Daniels’ Running Formula-3rd Edition, Jack Daniels, 2013, $21.95

Intervals, Thresholds, and Long Slow Distance:  the Role of Intensity and Duration in Endurance Training, 2009.  Free Download

Endurance exercise performance: the physiology of champions, Michael Joyner & Edward Coyle, 2008, Free Download

 

So for about $100 you can have 7 excellent coaching & self-coaching references that cover essentials of endurance physiology, high intensity training, run training, bike training, swim training & fitness from some of the most notable and knowledable authors.

One of the fantastic aspects of triathlon is that all of these authors are alive & well and accessible by email, webinar or by corning them at a conference on endurance sports.

What are some of your favorites?

 

 

Modular Running Sets – Fitting more quality into your run training

IKIrsten Sass- Best of US - Win just returned from an incredible week of coaching as the head coach of Triathlon Research’s inaugural weeklong triathlon training camp.  I had the honor of welcoming other world class coaches such as Jay Johnson, Bobby McGee (saturday special!), Terry Laughlin, Kim Schwabenbauer, Celeste St. Pierre, Shane Eversfield and 6 Time Ironman World Champion, Mark Allen.

In addition we had presentations at two world class training facilities, Retul Headquarters with lead instructor Ivan O’Gorman and Boulder Center for Sports Medicine with Robert Pickels and Adam St. Pierre (no relation to Celeste!)

Needless to say amongst us over the week a lot of information  was passed along.

Now that I am at home, I am reviewing new material that I picked up, especially from coach Jay Johnson, who focuses primarily on the running chassis as well as training stress for his runners.    I’ve already been incorporating Muscle Activation, Dynamic warmups and Biomechanical Drills that I learned from Bobby McGee.

In fact, during camp Jay and I both presented a 90 minute run session in which neither of us overlapped any information taht I can tell.  That adds up to 3 hours of ancillary run training presented at camp, without including running itself!

So I am contemplating now the idea of “Modular Run Training”.  it’s a simple way for me to compartmentalize all the knowledge withotu getting a) overwhelmed or b) paralysis by analysis.

It’s easy to just not know what to do when presented with so much information.  So here is how I structured my run wen I got back from altitude this past Monday.  I chose to do three “modules” prior to the actual run and allotted 5 minutes for each one.   This constituted my total warmup of 15 minutes.   (the 2nd module expanded to 10 minutes for a 20 minute warmup, but once conditioned, doing it in only 3 minutes is very doable).

This plannign allowed me to fit in the most vital elements to help improve my own running, provided a suitable and ample physical and mental warmup, and covered a few essential biomechanical drills and dynamic movements.  The quality of hte following run/walk was outstanding and the total session lasted 1:30 (one hour & thirty minutes) following which I used my TP Massage kit to roll out my calf muscles as well as doing some dynamic post run stretching.

Here was my modular plan:

  • 5 minutes “Muscle Activations” ala Bobby McGee
  • 5 minutes “Lunge Matrix” ala Jay Johnson
  • 5 minutes of 3 key running drills chose by myself (Karaokes/grapevines, hamstring kick-outs & knee to chest) 

The 5 minute Lunge Matrix I expanded to 10 minutes by walking briskly between each segment (for example, 5 lunges with each leg, then walk 30-50 yards).  I found this kept my mind nicely occupied and got me to the starting point of my run very quickly

The muscle activations are stressed by Bobby as being one of the most important things a triathlete/runner can do on a  regular basis and from personal experience, the more I do them, the more they help…so I wanted to retain those.  I felt that the muscle activations made the lunge matrix less abrupt of a transition.  In addition the lunge matrix resembles some of Bobby’s dynamic warmups as well so it was a good fit.

Finally the 3 Running drills I chose were based on the fact that each of them when done well, requires a connection through the core and incorporates the full body (chest, spine, shoulders, hips & legs).

Following my run/walk into dusk I returned home and stretched out my problem areas, specifically my hip flexors using dynamic stretching techcniques and finally my achilles/soleus complex with my TP Massage Kit that I aquired last week.

Next time you are faced with an overwhelming amount of new information to incorporate into your traithlon training, simple try a “modular” approach.   While the material is fresh in your mind, write down 3-5 “modules” of related drills or activations that you think would work, then go ahead and test them out one workout or training activity at a time.

What are some of your favorite things to incorporate into your pre-run rituals?

Five most Popular Posts for 2012- from Steel City Endurance Coaching

These five posts are the most popular posts for my website, www.steelcityendurance.com for 2012.   I’m glad to see how many people are finding them helpful.  If you enjoy the post, please promote it using the facebook & twitter buttons on the site:

 

Here they are in ascending order starting with #5

Triathlon Swimming Technique – When to Catch the Water

This post was written immediately after my initial Total Immersion Weekend workshop.  In retrospect, I’m pleased with how much I picked up that weekend, now 3 years ago. So much has changed for the better since then with my current involvement as a Total Immersion master coach.

 

Number Four

Breath Better: Breathing Technique in Swimming – Timing the Rotation

This post is all about when to time the breath for seamless integration with your stroke. When you do it right it should feel almost as if you can breath underwater!

 

Number Three

Swimming Technique, Scissors Kick – Do Ankle Bands Work?

Ankle bands do serve a purpose and many people benefit from them…but half of the solution to the problem is still missing when you use ankle bands.  Find out what it is in this post!

 

Number Two

The Process Oriented Athlete – Bring your Mental Focus Inward

This article was written as part of the series for the 2012 Pittsburgh Triathlon and Adventure race to benefit Friends of the Riverfront.   This is possibly one of the single best things you can do to improve your training and racing in 2013…learn how to train with process focus and enhanced mental sharpness.

 

Finally…The most popular article on my website in 2012:

Chris Lieto’s Triathlon Swimming Technique Analysis

There is a funny story about this article.  In November I was in Kona, Hawaii coaching a Total Immersion Open Water camp, and several of our particpants took part in Lava Man, an Olympic Distance race held just a few weeks after the Ironman championships.

As I stood at the swim finish trying to pick out our swimmers, I zeroed in on the two men’s leaders with my binoculars.  One of them looked like he was really going fast…stroking like crazy, sighting every 2nd breath with good form…he must have been working super hard!  The other looked lazy almost…barely matching 1 stroke of his for 2 of the other guys.

The smooth swimmer was leading right up until the final 30 yards when he over-swam the poorly marked exit chute, but finished just a second behind the splasher dude.  it turns out the great swimmer was Chris Lieto.  So amazing to get to see him swim in person, especially after writing this article.

I hope you enjoy these likes and please share them with your friends and triathletes!

-Coach Suzanne