Clinic Talk By: Bob Bowman
Transcript (via: ASCA):
I’m Matt Kredich; I’m one of the ASCA board members. It’s a pleasure to serve on that board. It’s a great pleasure and honor to introduce Bob Bowman to you today our next speaker. We all know Bob as the coach of Michael Phelps which means a lot and I’ll talk a little bit about what that means to me. Bob’s a visionary and I think all of us coaches can imagine that if we have an athlete and we see that that athlete at age 11 can do something that’s never been done, probably never been imagined in the history of our sport, then we’re a visionary. And that’s exactly what Bob did. He’s the architect of – in two Olympic Games, one man won 16 medals. Fourteen of those 16 medals were gold medals. To me that’s unbelievable. It’s hard to imagine especially in the age where we have prelim, semi‑finals and finals. In the age where information is distributed as quickly as it is now. In the age where all countries are having greater access to information and facilities, it’s hard to imagine that that will ever be done again and if it is it will take a visionary like Bob Bowman and certainly a great athlete to create those performances. It’s also fascinating to think that Bob has been coaching Michael for 14 years. If we all think about what that means, that’s extraordinary. I can’t stand myself after 14 years. I don’t know how two people can work together at that level and keep pushing boundaries and keep developing for 14 years. But Bob’s coaching goes way beyond what he’s done with Michael. My first memory of Bob as a coach was when I first started coaching I looked at the cover of an ASCA magazine and saw these awards that actually I can’t really find the description for anymore but ASCA used to give an award for the best stroke technician in the country and there was Bob Bowman on the cover. He’s a young coach and Bob won the award but he’s standing next to the head coach of Las Vegas gold which was David Marsh. Bob then went on to work for one of the greats in our sport Paul Bergen and he’s also had a couple of stints with Paul, did some coaching on his own and then went to work for one of the other greats in our profession, Murray Stevens. So he’s been mentored by David Marsh, worked with David Marsh, mentored by and worked with Paul Bergen, mentored by and worked with Murray Stevens, the tremendous amount of experience and knowledge that comes with coaching with those men and then of course he’s taken over the North Baltimore Club which has been named by USA swimming the top performing club in the country for two years running. He’s done it all. He’s been a college coach at the highest level. He was responsible for coaching six of the athletes on the last Olympic team and it’s exciting to me to imagine what he sees next and what he feels like we as coaches need to focus on so that’s enough for me and here’s Coach Bob Bowman.
Bob Bowman: Thanks Matt. Interesting he mentions those Schlueter Stroke Awards named for Walt Schlueter, great stroke technician in the sport and one of the things that they did was really recognize Age Group Coaching and it was kind of a way to make you feel good about your coaching when you’re just starting out. I actually remember one of the years there were six awards, right? So there were 9 and 10 boys and girls, 11 and 12 boys and girls, 13 and 14 boys and girls. And I think I was fortunate enough to maybe get three of those. Three out of six in one year and I guess not too many people turn them in but anyway.
I was feeling pretty good about myself after that banquet where kept calling me up and giving me all these stuff and after the banquet I was taking these – there’s was a plaque for me, a plaque for the kid, a pair of paddles all kinds of – it’s about this much stuff, right? And I was feeling pretty full of myself after that I was like, “I must be pretty good.” So I left the banquet a little bit early because I wanted to go out and have some fun and got in the elevator to go to my room and I looked over and George Haines was in the elevator with me.
I was so excited but I couldn’t speak to him because why would George Haines want to talk to me? And I had all this stuff, it felt so stupid. Kind of took me down to earth. But we got out of the elevator, he got out at my floor and we walked down the same hallway and our rooms were pretty close to each other. So I stopped and I was putting my key in my door and he stopped right before I went in and he said, “Hey, you know what?” I was like, “Yes, sir?” He said, “If you just worked a little harder, you could have won all these.”
Good lesson from the best, right? All right. It’s kind of widely publicized that I sort of dabble in a lot of different things and I started thinking about why I’m attracted to certain activities or sports or things like that, arts. And I came up with two reasons. The things that I like, number one, inspire me. They’re uplifting and make you feel good, challenge you to be more creative. And number two, they involve hard work and hard work to me is not necessarily just grinding all the time. It’s pushing to your capabilities. What is your potential? How hard can you work to get there? And maybe go beyond what you thought it was.
So I think those are the things that kind of captivate me. There’s certainly something that captivates me about swimming and there are a couple of things that have interested me and I wanted to talk about a couple of examples. You kind of know that I’ve been involved for almost 15 years now in horse racing. And horse racing inspires me for two reasons. It inspires me because the animals are so incredible. None of you could be near a thoroughbred horse right now and not say wow. You either be able to say wow because you’re scared of it or because you are in awe but it’s the physical power, the presence, just a lot of things that inspire you about horses.
The second thing that I love about it is the hard work that goes into the process of getting these animals ready to race. If you think that you work hard and I guarantee all of you do. Go to Bonita Farm in Maryland at 4:30 any morning of the year, every morning, 4:30 because what happens then is the horses have been fed at 4 am by some unfortunate man who spends all night with them and then at 4:30 there’s a crew of must be 10 people because the barn’s 25 stalls on each side and if you walk in there at 4:30, there are five people in charge of five stalls on each side so while the horses eat they are cleaning the stalls, they’re throwing the straw out in the middle of the shed row.
A tractor comes in they shovel all these into the shed row. It’s swept down completely clean, new bedding is put in the stalls; the horses are still kind of chilling out after they ate. So by 5:45 they’ve already done almost a day’s work, everybody grabs a cup of coffee, and then they start training the horses at 6. Nobody works that hard. That’s what I love about it. I have another little interest which I never really talked about before because it’s kind of nerdy but I really love it. A little known fact is when I was in high school I was in the band. I was kind of a band geek, right? And I fell in love with this thing called Drum Corps International. Anybody know about it? Anybody here? Cool, DCI, right? And what it is, if you imagine it’s kind of like a marching band on steroids.
It’s maybe some high school but mainly college-age kids that get together for the whole summer and what they do is there’s a staff that puts together this program, they get together in May and what they do is basically sleep on gym floors, get up, rehearse all day long, like eight hours. Do a show, get on a bus, go to the next town and they do this for months and it culminates in a world championship, which is usually held – now it’s held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. I try to go whenever I can but it’s a pretty cool event because it’s competitive and it’s artistic. And the thing I love about – the inspiring part is obviously the music and the emotional impact of those things and then they have their technical side which is also appealing to me as well.
But the thing about DCI, the point I wanted to make is when you go to one of these shows, there are judges everywhere. There are 10 or 12 judges and they judge the technical precision of what’s going on. Some are for music, some are for percussion, some are for brass, and some are for color guard whatever it is. And they go around and they do what they call ticks. A tick is a 10th of a point so everybody starts with a score of 100 and then they tick, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick and then you end up at 60 or whatever it is, right? But it’s very objective. Anybody who’s trained can see if someone was out of step, if someone played out of tune, if the phrasing wasn’t correct. It’s pretty easy to see those objective things.
And that I equate to like the science of swimming. You can see that. That’s the what. That’s what is going on, right? And then you get to the how, the art part of it. The other score that they give besides the technical score is called general effect, GE, and that is when you’re sitting in the stands. How does the show affect you emotionally? Does it make you stand up and cheer? Does it make you fall asleep? What does it do and the judges actually judge that. And my point here is that your programs operate like that. You have whatever you decide to put in your training program and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. I’m going to talk about the what. What to do?
But along with the – what goes the how and that to me is the art of coaching. How do you put it together? How do you communicate it? What’s the energy that surrounds it? What are the principles that go with it? So I think you have science, you have art, and it’s up to you to decide how much of which you put into your program because every program has both. Some are more science, some are more art. The great part is you can do whatever you want but I think I would like to give you some ideas today on how to organize that. But what we’re going to do today is talk more about training, one of my favorite things as Gregg Troy said the other night kind of labeled me.
Don’t label me please, but I’m one of those pounders. Not true. I’m going to show you how that works right now. What we’re going to talk about today is – I’m working with a lot of post-grads right now. I’m working with some pretty good high school athletes, come in contact with Age Group swimmers. I have a whole staff of coaches that I’m trying to educate to deal with all of those constituencies. When I ran into particularly with the post-grads, right? It’s just amazing that these athletes who have been in our sport for so long, they do well and they do well, and they do well and they listen to their coaches and they do well, and then at some point they don’t need us anymore because they know what they need.
Well, I don’t need to do that. So I was getting a little bit of, “I don’t need to do that,” and after I kicked the first two people off the team I decided that if I was going to keep doing that, I wouldn’t have anybody to coach so I decided, well maybe there’s another approach. Best part about my job is I’m not a college coach. People don’t have to like me. I own the pool. Get out. You don’t want to do it? I’m good. But I did think that probably a more educational approach would make things work better. There is one I couldn’t get rid of so I have to kind of educate him. He really owns the pool.
And pretty much me at this point but anyway.
We’re going to talk about two concepts of training. And don’t be afraid about the chalkboard. You don’t have to see – it’s not important that you see the details. I’m just going to do some kind of general things up here. We’re going to talk about training for capacity and training for utilization. And what those mean, how can you put those together in a program, and how they might help you explain what you’re doing to your athletes. They might actually, as it has been my case, help me explain it more to myself what we’re doing and analyze what we’re doing. And I guess there are about maybe three or four questions you should think about when you’re looking at your program.
Number one, do you know what is actually going on in your training program? That sounds like the most absurd question, right? But think about it. Do you know what’s happening in a certain set that made you want to do it on a certain day at a certain time? And once you put it there and they did it, do you know what effect it had on the next day or how it fit in to the day before? I think there are a couple of things that go with that and the first thing is, if you do not measure it, you can’t manage it. Step number one, for all coaches and there have been a lot of great coaches that don’t do this but I don’t know how they do it. You must record your practices.
You don’t necessarily have to do them in advance if you want to be an artist and you want to go in and let the muse strike you and orchestrate a brilliant practice but right after you got to write down what happened because you’re not going to remember. If you’re like me, I find myself right now I’ll be writing a workout and be like, “Hmm, it’s Wednesday.” And since I have things sort of organized by days, same kind of training thing I’m like, “What did we do last Wednesday?” If I don’t have that book in front of me, I can’t come up with it. So much has happened since then, right? I got a lot going on.
So you have to record what you’ve got so you can look back and see what you actually did because it’s kind of like those fish stories. The fish grows every time you tell it. And decide what you’re going to measure. North Baltimore Aquatic Club, we’ve had a lot of sustained success in our Age Group Program and one of the things that I think keeps that going and feeds into the goal setting process is that every swimmer on our team knows it’s important to get your time. Not have a coach read you your time. If they do, that’s nice. You have to get your own time. Start that with the little ones and we help the 10‑year-olds but we do lots of sets where – and with the older ones that really drives them crazy, right?
You’re doing pace work and I say, “Finish on your feet,” and they don’t. You don’t give them your time because that didn’t count. Well, it’s the same thing. If I do a set of something and I say, “What was your time on that?” And they don’t know then sometimes I just start everybody over and do it again, right? You only have to do that once. But it sends a message that it’s important. And if you know your times in practice, and you know your best time for 100 free kick and you know your best time for a 100 free swim in practice and you know your best time for 5000 for time and you know your best time for whatever you want to measure, you have a whole lot of things to be goal-oriented about, don’t you?
That’s how Michael came up. I’m going to try to do this whole talk without really using he whose name shall not be said – what’s the Harry Potter thing? That’s what we always refer to him, he who cannot be named. But when he was little, that’s what we would do in the sets. I’d be like, “You know, what’s your best in the 100 free?” And he’d be like, “Well, I think it’s you know, 52.” I was like, “Well, I think maybe by the end you could be 50.5, don’t you think?” And he’d be like, “Yeah, probably.” It just gives you a basis to work from. Instead of just doing a set where they go up and down and you don’t know what’s happening, that’s important. So write stuff down and decide what you’re going to measure.
Decide what your program is all about. North Baltimore Aquatic Club is so simple. For 40 years now we are about the discipline pursuit of excellence. Excellence we all know what that is. We want to be the best at every category. If we have 100 breaststrokers we want them to be the best. If we have 10-year-olds, we want them to be the best. If we have 30-year-olds we want them to be the best. If we run fund racing we want it to be the best. So we compare to what’s out there and we compare to the top. We don’t want to be the best in Maryland. We don’t want to be the best in the United States. We want to be the best.
Discipline, mainly self-discipline, that’s the life skill part, right? You have a plan. You follow it. You believe in it. You live it. It’s pretty simple, works for us. You can have whatever you want but you have to have something if you want to be any good, all right? As I said I wanted a way to explain some of the things we were doing in training to my athletes and it was pretty effective. I want to before I go any further give some credit, complete credit to go to Coach Nort Thornton who is in the back because a long time ago he wrote a paper about base training and sharpening training. Probably the best thing I ever read on training. And I went back and found it and re-read it and what I’m talking about today is essentially that.
I’ve sort of changed the terminology a little bit because I wanted to explain things a little more specifically from a physiological standpoint and because I think there are connotations with some of that stuff. I’m sure there are people in this room who will say, “That aerobic base stuff, that’s just a bunch of whatever.” It doesn’t matter. Well I say to you, “You keep thinking that because we’ll keep kicking your ass long course for the rest of time.”
Okay? It’s important. If you don’t think so, you’re wrong. I’m going to explain why in a minute. But thanks, Nort this is for you. All right. Let’s talk about capacity, what that means. The other part that went with this is I read a great book. I did a clinic in Canada, a guy named Jan Olbrecht. He had written a book called, “The Science of Winning.” And man is it a dense in terms of information book. I think I’ve read it eight times I almost understand it. But he talks a lot about some general training categories and he talked about – and I think a lot of it is the translation. Aerobic endurance and aerobic power, anaerobic endurance and anaerobic power and what he means by those are aerobic capacity, aerobic utilization, anaerobic capacity, and anaerobic utilization.
That’s why I use these terms today because I think it’s more clear. It doesn’t confuse the issue. When you think of capacity you’re improving the performance and potential of the athlete. How good can they be? And that’s going to involve some decisions from you about what kind of program you’re running. Where the athlete is in their career? A couple of things like that are very important so you’re going to have to think about those things but they call tie in. Think about improving and expanding the infrastructure of the athlete, right? If you think about it in some abstract terms it’s about like making a bigger warehouse, improving your capacity for inventory, having more trucks to haul stuff around. Its how do you improve the basis of what goes on in your business.
Capacity training is long-term and it’s more general than utilization training. So the method you employ might have more of a widespread and less specific effect therefore less volatile and therefore it’s going to take longer for the thing to happen, which is fine, right? Time is on our side for the most part. Utilization is about improving the actual. What can we do today? Standing here with whatever the athlete has right now when they get on the blocks, what is the absolute best possible performance they can get right now? Think about improving sales, that’s what we want to do. Let’s make as much money as we can right now with whatever we’ve got. Whatever the inventory is let’s sell it out right now. That’s how you think about it.
It’s short-term and it’s very specific. I’m going to kind of be going back and forth between the two. If you get confused, just fall asleep and ask a yearbook later, maybe you can figure it out. I want to talk a little bit about capacity and if you can’t see this, don’t worry. It’s not that important, just kind of general capacity. When you’re using a long-term approach, things are going to take time. You have to decide what the essential ingredients of your program are and how you’re putting them into the daily program. The most fun that we’re going to have all week is I’m going to go through before long and name some programs and tell you what they are.
Capacity training sacrifices short-term gains for long-term goals. You have to ask yourself, is it more important that my swimmer go a minute in the 100 breast this season? Or go 55 two seasons from now because some of the things that you may do might make him go 102 this season but help him go 55 three seasons down the road. It’s an important concept I think. Capacity training is methodical and systematic. You’re improving systems. Maybe not specific skill-oriented activities I guess would be the best way to do it. You’re trying to increase aerobic capacity. Well, what does that mean? Number and size of mitochondria improve the delivery systems. There are a lot of physiological things that you can read in the physiology books and they’ll tell what’s happening.
All of them are important. Promotes general fitness and general improvements so if you’re working for general improvement that means your swimmer is going to probably be overall better swimmer. They might not be a better 200 freestyler specifically but they will probably a better swimmer and across the range of events, they will do better. Even though it might be like this instead of like that. And in our visual representation here, capacity represents the cup. That is the worst cup ever drawn but you got the picture. You’re building a cup. Every swimmer has a cup which is his potential or glass. Capacity training makes the cup as big as they can be or small, depending on how you do it.
The goal would be to have a big cup so that when you go into the utilization training you can fill it up. Characterizations of utilization training. Short-term focus, what are we going to do this season? For me that’s as short as I can get. I don’t think I can get like the meet next week but I can get March from now. It sacrifices potential for actual right now. You sacrifice what they could possibly do two or three years from now for what they can do this season. And there’s some real value in that. I’m not going one way or the other. I’m not telling you should be doing one or the other. I think a balance is best. A good example of this would be North Baltimore Aquatic Club has a long history of sort of building swimmers and getting them to the top level and I remember Murray Stevens always telling me, “We only taper once every four years for Olympic trials and games.”
And I thought that’s kind of dumb because it seems like we taper every season. But what he’s saying and how he would explain it would be, Murray would say, “What you do in the Olympic year and the rest and the specific training you give them is going to destroy their capabilities to do capacity training. You’re going to take that capacity and focus on this other stuff and it’s going to go down. So that when you get to the trials their overall capacity to do ten 400s may not be there but their capacity to do a 100 back in a minute is there. I think that’s a good way to look at it.
Utilization training is dynamic and it’s volatile. You don’t know what’s going to happen when you start doing that stuff. You’re either going to get them really good or they’re going to get crushed. So you have to be a little bit careful with it. It operates at the edge of their capabilities. I think Coach Bergen one time wrote a paper on same concepts. Do you train within the swimmer’s capabilities or are you going to try to get him to train beyond their capabilities? And his conclusion was you have to have both. You need to have training in your cycles that are working on capacity, that are done within their capabilities and that’s kind of on the under edge of their potential, right?
Whereas when you’re training utilization, you’re trying to see what the limit is so you may go past it. You’re trying to do something beyond their current capabilities. And his conclusion was that you have to have both because if you don’t it’s like pushing the refrigerator. If you only push on one side, its true think about it, the why I like the balance of this. Utilization training fills the cups. What are some good examples of some swimmers and cups? I’ll give you one. Michael Phelps before the Beijing Olympic Games, a cup the size of the Atlantic Ocean filled to the brim, took 12 years. Michael Phelps for the Pan Pacs in 2010 a thimble, half full.
I swear to God when I gave him that example, it was like an aha moment. He was like, “Now I get it.” It’s so true. Didn’t matter how full your thimble is either because that’s what they want to do, let’s do more sprints. Okay, well fine but you can only do a thimble full, that’s not a very good shot, right, if you’re used to drinking two gallons. So that’s kind of how you need to think about it. I also think that it’s interesting to think about how this works throughout a swimmers career because they don’t necessarily need this in the right same proportions to their whole career. How about swimmers who come from a high school background where they’re doing lots of capacity training, they go to a college program where they do lots of utilization training, they get real good, don’t they?
I’ll be the first to say I don’t know what the hell Dave Salo does over there. Obviously it works, right? It perfectly works and I have a feeling I know what it is but I think Rebecca Soni’s better in that program because she had a big cup from Tom Speedling [Phonetic] [0:32:54] when she got there. They filled it up as he should. With post‑grads fill, the cup. With high school swimmers, build it bigger. How about Ous Mellouli [Phonetic] [0:33:07] well he trains for the mile. Well of course he does. Who did he have before Salo, Schubert, and big cup? How did Erik Vendt go 146 in the 200 free when he had only been 149 before? He came from Josh Stern, Mark Schubert, came to us. We just filled the cup up. We worked on utilization. We didn’t care that much about – and he still won his best mile 1445 by 14 seconds.
It all fits together in a long-term plan if you look at it that way. So now you can kind of see I think what we’re talking about. It’s not just for swimming. It’s for dry land, mental training, to have to have a capacity to accept some of these things. Then they have to learn the high performance skills. What do you do when you stand on the block at the World Championships? First of all you got to just be able to take a deep breath before you swim when you’re 10 years old before you get to swim, right? [Exhales] Okay, let’s swim. Then 10 years later, you can do that when you stand up at the Olympic Games. It won’t be quite the same. The sphincter will be a little tighter.
Particularly the coaches but it’s the same concept. And I think you do that in your coaching when you’re – early in your coaching career, you want to build your capacity. You want to get as much knowledge in there as you can and then as you move along, you sort of decide on the things you’re going to focus on. I thought Teri gave such a wonderful talk the other night about her toolbox, right? And having had a front row seat to Teri’s evolution as a coach we almost came up together, right? I think Michael and Natalie sort of came on the scene about the same time. Natalie had been there a little bit earlier. But to watch that evolution is just incredible and if you know her story you couldn’t be prouder of someone, right? But that’s what she did. She built a capacity and then she used it.
Now she walks on the deck every day. She’s got a tremendous toolbox. That’s her capacity, the big toolbox. Now she can use it. All right. It’s a spectrum, right? It’s not an either/or. And one of the things I gave you that little in the beginning about the what and the how as I think so many people these days think that the what is the how. We sprint, we work on technique and speed we’re technique and speed based. No you’re not. Not really if you look at it because those two don’t exist independently. And then you have the oven. Well there, those distance space program. No they’re not because they do technique and speed too. They may do it differently. It’s a spectrum and you’re in different places. You might be closer to one side than the other. Maybe at some points of the year you’re closer to one side than the other.
All right who are the cup builders in the world? And once again, I say this saying everybody does everything and all these people are successful and these are my subjective opinions. And since all these college coaches are at home recruiting they don’t get to be here to defend themselves so too bad.
I’m going to put myself in here. Schubert’s probably over here, right, cup builder? One of the great cup builders. Mark Schubert at Mission Viejo, I won’t write names so you can forget quickly, right? So Jack Simon in here, he’s built some cups. These are people that really value aerobic training and I do too. There are people over on this end, Dave Durden. I think Teri’s somewhere in here. Salo and rightly so, they’re college coaches with people who are mature and either have cups or don’t, you know what I mean. Perfectly fine. I think you’d find Gregg Troy and myself somewhere kind of near this end but in the middle you can actually find our band check right in here. The intensity level on Jon’s program is very high.
So you have a broad range of programs. You have a broad range but everybody’s doing everything in the way that best benefits their athlete. I want to talk about some real world examples. What are some ways you can use this concept in your just regular training program? I’m going to start out with what we did in Michigan. Here you go, go blue, big day today. Here’s the training week and this – I always use R for Thursday because that’s what they did in my college scheduling at Florida State so I always do it. And I do two S’s for the weekends, I don’t know why but that’s how it goes. All right. We have a.m., we have p.m. This is not earth shattering, okay? On Mondays and Fridays we work on power training or overload training and I think you can look at that one of two ways. There are plenty of ways you can do that.
If you’re doing vertical kicking with weight and you do 10 rounds of 45 seconds on a minute, I’m pretty sure you’re building some kind of capacity. If you do 10 rounds at 10 seconds on a minute, it might be something different. But for us it was more a mix. On Monday afternoon, we did threshold training which was the famous colors, right? And the colors were designed to give us a specific target. That’s capacity training right here. You got to see here big one. If we did active rest which is easy fast kind of work, it’s about a half and a half. So you can get more towards the capacity side if you cut the rest down. You get more towards the utilization side if you get the rest up. So a good example would be – early in the season, let’s say they did a set and I’m going to make this super basic, right? Let’s say they did 20 times a 100 free also 50 easy.
And we just did the whole 150 on 140. There’s only so fast they can go, right? And they’re really operating at more of an endurance-oriented deal. It’s kind of a mix because you got some rest, got the easy rest, but then two weeks before the conference meet we might go four times or fifty, plus a fifty of each stroke and descend at one to four so there’s only one fast one and they’re going super fast. There’s a minute race speed on that. That’s utilization, same kind of training just done a different way. So it would depend on the season. Once again, don’t worry about it, it’s not that good. All right, on Wednesdays we would do quality training. It’s a very vague term but anaerobic training and that’s pretty much utilization for college swimmers.
That will be something where they would do a broken swim. So they would do rested 100s one every six minutes, something that’s going to train a system that is going to be used immediately in a race that year. You can build a capacity for that too. If you did three of them it’s one thing. If you do 10 of them it’s another and that will be up to you to decide. My goal today is to give you a fishing pole, not a fish. You got to fish for yourself. I just read a great quote its like Benjamin Franklin said, “Everyone in America is entitled for the pursuit of happiness. They have to catch it on their own.” That’s what this is all about. All right and then we just kind of repeat this through the week. That will be easy kind of capacity building aerobic, right?
We would just do this again here, here, and here but that’s how you sort of look at it one way in training. I’ll show you a little bit of old school North Baltimore because I’m old school I’ve been told. Didn’t think that was funny? I didn’t either. All right, as has been seen in many, many clinics that Janet Evans said, “I hope you do it because it’s pretty versatile.” I’m just giving you the basics so I can talk you through it. Six hundred, oh no we’ll get a two, four, six, eight, two, four, six and eight and then one times 200. And this will be a way we would design a lot of sets because it’s kind of a mix and the reason that we like it is, it’s a lot less volatile than some of these other things like six 100 dive on six minutes. That kills them, right? They do that, they’re not doing anything for the next couple of days. They go one all out 200 within five of their best 200 time, they’ll come back tomorrow okay.
So this is how it works. You’re going four two’s on the most basic interval 230, the three two’s or 225, 220, 215, it can be anything. It can be free, fly, whatever. It doesn’t matter. The stuff in between is kind of on a moderate interval, 220, let’s say we’re going yards, 440, eight, seven minutes and 920, how are we going to do it? And you just kind of make that suit. The in-betweens are relatively low stress and you start pretty low stress up here. So this is kind of building their capacity to do four 200s on a decent interval, right? It’s not an easy interval and they’re doing some quality but the quality is higher here and by the time you get to the pair we are all over them. We are all about the pair. If you do two 200s IMs it should be close to your best 400 IM time. That’s starting to get into some utilization training. That’s immediate, that’s neuromuscular, and that is super specific.
That’s allowing all the myelin that has been wrapped in years and years of doing four and eight and twelve and ten to do its job. If you’re a Talent Code fan and I am. And then we go at 800 and right here that’s it you go for it. When Michael was 11 and 12 almost until he was 13, every time I did this set with IMs, he did his best 200 IM on the last one. I mean meet time best. That’s some pretty specific training but it didn’t, we didn’t give up much because its 4000 set right? There was a big general component to it but it ends as something very, very specific. All right, how are we doing on time? You people in the back don’t run out early for your lunches. It’s not true there are only 400 free ones.
I want you to look at it another way. Let’s say you have your training program and this is something we did in Napa when I was his coach. Bergen and I actually use it a couple of times, it works pretty well. Do you remember? I don’t think we talked about it that much anymore because it’s kind of negative and there are other ways to express it. When you guys were swimming, did you have hell week? All right, week after Christmas, right? Merry Christmas and basically in hell week you just swim as far and hard as you can, right? Swim as far and as hard as you can, very scientific. Talk about capacity building I mean I think some of Dennis Pursley [Phonetic] [0:46:10] swimmers were still ready to taper. But, am I too for that matter but what we did in the course of our season. We started experimenting with this concept and were like, “Why is that good?” Well, it’s good because it builds their capacity to do some things, right?
There are some physiological adaptations that take place in that kind of training that don’t occur anywhere else and there are a lot of psychological adaptations or maladaptations that occur during that kind of training that you can’t get. One of my favorite is 5000 per time. Why would anybody do that, right? That’s dumb; all new school people told you that’s a waste of time. Their stroke breaks down to da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Okay, I use it because if you’re doing a 5000 straight, it’s about an hour and they’re swimming at whatever their maximal effort is for that and they’re swimming a stroke, which I like. I just like 5000 free you can mix it up you can do all kinds of stuff. I kind of like just free. But I like free because there is set up a time for one hour where very small muscular movements are going to be made over and over and over with really no escape except for the turns.
You’re going to target a specific movement and many smaller movements that support it in a way that cannot be done any other way. You cannot get that by training ten 500s. It’s just different. It doesn’t mean its better but it’s certainly another way to do it. It’s certainly a way to build some confidence in people that don’t think they can do anything hard and it’s not even really that hard. Well, not for me but that’s why we would do some things like that. It’s muscular endurance. It’s not about aerobic capability. I can get them aerobically fit by going six 400s or something. It’s about that. So that’s why it gets back to saying, “Do you really know what’s going on?” And it’s mental too, right?
I tell you the best thing I ever did on Michael. He’s usually a step or two ahead of me sometimes in these little games that we play but I really got him one time because I had for years on of my distance guys in North Baltimore to go 10,000 per time long course and I felt like that was something that you can’t really give him very often. I’ve only done it once but I had a group of girls, they’re really distance-oriented and I had a boy who was really distance-oriented and I thought it would be good for them to do for these reasons. So we just talked about it and it was going to happen on Saturday and this is back when we were training on – we were doing some doubles on Saturday. We would do singles during the week and double on Saturdays.
So Saturday morning they came in and I said that I didn’t have Michael on that lane and I had him over here and I had the distance guys over here. I said you guys got 10,000 per time, everybody does a good job on this, and you can take this afternoon off. He was like, “What about me?” I was like, “You’re not doing 10,000 per time so you’ll be here this afternoon. “Well, can I?” I was like, “Hmm. Why of course you can.”
And he actually did it, and did a really good job. You got to sell this stuff but back to what I was talking about. We had this hell week concept and what we thought about and what we really figured out about it was if you’re training at your program at a certain volume and I think volume is important when you talk about your training but it’s only important for your program. The volume that Dick Shoulberg does has a meaning within his program. The volume that I do has a meaning within my program meaning that if I say 7000 yards we’re going 7000 of this kind of training that has a pretty standard intensity level. Jon Urbanchek and I, we’ve worked together so long now we say, “Look, let’s just go 8000 threshold, 4000 main set,” and we know exactly what that means. But it probably means something different to another program. So, while you talk about mileage being something I like it because you can hang you hat on it, it’s kind of program specific.
I’m sure that if Teri looked at it, she probably thinks about it as time. I don’t know. I haven’t talked to her about it. Maybe she thinks about it as 4000 but maybe it’s an hour and 40 minutes. It’s the same thing. Yardage is time. So, you can think about how much you’re doing and usually program to program within your program it has as definite meaning in terms of consistency. So let’s say you’re working at your program and your average mileage is 7000 a practice. I’m just doing that, right? And then for one week you bumped it up so your average was 9K. And then you come back to your seven. Our theory is that this is a better seven after you’ve done the nine. Why because you built your capacity to do some things that you would then come back to in your normal program and use.
So we took that concept and we did a thing where most people have a meet in December that you kind of ready for, right? I would think and might get ready, some people shave and taper, and some people go three weeks. I go like four, five days of kind of rest. But what we did was three weeks out; we were working on our program. Three weeks out we did the hell week and what we did was a drastic hell week. That means if we were training in the water for I think we had an hour 45 to two hours in the water and we had another 45 minutes to dry land. So let’s say we were two hours and 45 minutes total in the afternoons, we drop to dry land and swam the whole time. We got serious about going as far and as hard as you could
But no dry land because that – how much stress can they take? We did that for a week, then we came back to our program and this was three weeks out of the meet. We had three, two, one. Actually we would do it sorry, the third week out we come back, we’d have kind of a normal weeks but maybe the quality was a little higher and then we’d have a week where we rested. Man that worked like a charm. But that’s not normally how we do it, right? We did hell week and then you just go back to hell week and I actually like this hell week concept. I did hell decade, right? I think it was the 90s. But it’s just something to think about because you’re building some capacity here then you’re going to go a week of utilization training and another one where you really kind of rest up and get very specific.
So there are any number of ways that you can think about this. Jon Urbanchek calling. Jon, you should be here and then you wouldn’t be interrupting me. I’m trying to watch the time. My watch broke so I’m just trying to make sure I don’t cut over too much. This concept, it changes with age and I think one of the reasons I like to do this to talk about this today is that if you’re in an Age Group Program, and you have developing athletes and you’re looking for something to hang your hat on in terms of how you’re going to train swimmers. I think you can learn so much from every coach in America but every place isn’t the right place for everything. I think if you’re working with 10 and unders and 11, 12s and you’re running Dave Salo’s Program, I’m not sure that’s developmentally correct that he does for his post-grads. Because that’s all you hear about, right?
Well, what are they doing today? It’s great, I love it. And you shouldn’t do what I do with my post-grads. You shouldn’t do what Dick Shoulberg does with Arthur Frayler but you should have a vision of how you’re going to get there and then work yourself back. It doesn’t mean you can’t do things that are in the theme of those work-outs but if you’re running a utilization program and you ace your program predominantly, they’re just going to level off and not get better. If you’re only doing capacity they’re probably going to get bored because it’s super slow even though they’re growing. Balance it out. The younger they are, the more capacity. The older they are, the more utilization. There’s some sort of progression there. That’s my main message.
And one thing that I’d also like you to do, as young coaches, don’t try to re-invent the wheel. I won’t give you this total boring story that I told at National Team Coaches but I got hooked up with Paul Bergen when he was into horse racing right and he had gotten into this totally foreign environment. This is a guy who’s a genius in one area, gone over to this new area because it was exciting and he wanted to deal with it and I was with him. I was his accomplice to these crimes against horses. Not really, we never mistreated a horse. I don’t behave like that. But we looked at this from like; they’re doing these things the same thing the way did it 200 years ago. They’d take them out, they do a short run, they come back, and they stay in the stall all day. Surely there’s a better way. Well, we found 10 better ways only they never want to race.
They’re not strong enough. Let’s give them weight training because it works for swimmers, so we did, we built a sled and we had the horses carry – a race horse, right? Number one, can you imagine putting a race horse in a harness, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do but we did that and then they would pull this sled and get stronger. We were convinced that made him stronger and you know what? It did but there were some other things that we couldn’t figure out and that was if you’re going to make any money in race horsing so you can live to actually enjoy it, you have to work with 50 horses. It took one horse, two people and hour to get this strength training done. So it didn’t work. We wanted to train them in the gate, right? We put them in the gate because starts are important, right, just like swimming. Starts.
We’d walk them in the gate; we had this whole elaborate thing. First we want them comfortable in the gate so I would sit on the gate and feed them carrots while they stood there, right? Okay, fine.
And then we wanted them to be able to stand there by themselves so we did although they started to get pissed when they didn’t get the carrots every time, right?
And then we’d open the gate and they’d walk through it and there was this whole elaborate progression and they would start pretty well but you know what? I’d watch these other barns come up and they’d stand them in the gate and then they’d open it up and they’d kind of gallop out, and then they do it again and hit them one time and they’d come out pretty fast. We were trying to do things that – they race for millions of dollars that kind of focuses people on what works. We were just doing it for fun and obviously that’s – so when you’re coaching, right? It doesn’t have to be new to be good. When I talked about aerobic base and I was joking, that’s a serious point. I think 11, 12s need to swim some mileage. Do they need to swim some sloppy mileage? No, they don’t.
I think if you’re going to have young girls that are going to be world class someday they need to be doing some work before they’re 14. What does that work entail probably not 20,000 a day but maybe 10 sometimes? There are things that are proven to work, find those things out, become a classically trained coach and then go crazy. If Beethoven walked in today and opened a score of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, he would recognize every note. He would be able to read everything on that page. The instruments would be basically the same and he wouldn’t know what the hell was going on in that page but he had a basis from which to appreciate it and he would probably love it.
He didn’t just – Stravinsky didn’t come in and say, “Okay, I’m just going to throw away scores and just write x’s and o’s on a page and then that’s how we’re going to play music. His early compositions are harmonic and melodic and he evolved to something incredible but very different and that’s I think how you should go about your coaching. Learn the scales first, learn all the scales. Da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. Then learn how to do something crazy because if you just start out here, you’re going to miss a lot of things that work and you’re going to learn what they are but it’s going to take you a long time to get back to that.
Thanks for reading,
Harmilee Cousin III
Lead 13-14 Coach / Assistant Senior Coach