Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Million dollar swimming!

I did an open-water swim clinic on Sunday, and one of the attendees, Debra, asked me what is the number one way she can improve her swimming. My clinic focused on all the things she can do to race better in the open water, in order to maximize her current swimming abilities.

What Debra asked is the million dollar question, and guess what...it has a million dollar answer! The problem is, most people don't want to invest the million dollars, (their time). If you want to get better at swimming, just going to a pool and doing laps will not do you any good. You not only ingrain bad habits, you increase the potential for injury, and can face burn-out from lack of improvement.

Here are my recommendations for getting better at swimming.

1. Join a masters program! And when you join, be a bug in the coach's ear! Ask for tips, feedback, etc. If you don't understand what they are suggesting you do, TELL THEM! Too many people are not willing to discuss something and dig deeper to understand the concept they are trying to learn, for fear of appearing stupid. If you knew everything about swimming, you wouldn't be asking in the first place! So make sure when you ask a coach something, YOU UNDERSTAND THE ANSWER THEY GIVE! Coaches will gravitate to the athletes who want feedback and are motivated to learn. Be one of those people, and watch how much you improve!

2. Don't fall into this trap of thinking there are "technique days" and "fitness" or "hard training" days when it comes to swimming. This is BOGUS! If you aren't thinking about technique everyday, every interval you do, every stroke you take, you will never learn it effectively enough to carry it over to a race.

3. Don't be afraid to experiment! So many people get into a pool and are afraid to try anything new. They just hope if they continue to do lap after lap after lap, that their technique will magically improve on it's own. Guess what? IT WON'T! If you really want to understand technique better and learn what works and what does not, EXPERIMENT! Change up your stroke rate, faster and slower. Reach farther in front, less in front. Keep a higher elbow, try a lower elbow. Roll more, roll less. Keep your head pushed down, lift your head higher. Get feedback from the movements and the clock. As you experiment, you will learn what works and what doesn't.

4. If you can ever get video-taped underwater, DO IT! You will never know or understand fully what your weaknesses are in your stroke, until you see them on film. We all think we look as smooth as Mike Phelps, but we don't. We are all biased, and can't fully understand what we're doing wrong until we exposed on film. If you don't know how to get filmed underwater, ask around. Someone in the community can help, I assure you!

5. READ! The more you know about stroke technique and the principles of proper technique, the more you will value it and the more you will try to master it.

In the end, you have to invest the time, effort and energy to improve. This is a big investment, (million dollars), but the rewards are large as well. Now get to the pool, and get after it!

2007 NFA

Sunday, January 14, 2007

An inspiring email...

I got an email thru my website from a friend/competitor in San Diego, who is in the Navy. He's a Navy SEAL, serving in Iraq right now, and we've known each other for a few years, meeting thru triathlon. I wanted to share this email with everyone, because it really had a profound effect on me when I read it. I shared it with my wife and we talked about it as well. I have edited his name, and the names of some of the others, out of respect and possibly national security.

"Hey Jim, I'm writing from Ramadi, Iraq. Just wanted to say the article on you after your IM Florida finish was amazing and motivating. I just wanted to say congrats on persevering through the tough times. I'm in a bit of a rut out here. Can't train much and I'm not sure when we're gonna be able to leave this hell hole. Morgan and Marcus ____ are here with me. They say hey. Hope your training is coming along for a strong 07 season. And kickass for us shooters. Cheers A______"

This email is just profound to me, because here is a guy who thinks I'm persevering, and he's stuck in Iraq! I feel honored to be a source of motivation for him, and possibly others in Iraq, but the realities of the world I face could never compare with what he sees on a daily basis. At the same time, it also shows how important triathlon really can be for people. Sometimes it may seem silly to care so much about triathlon, but when you consider how much triathlon can represent a person's passion, you realize how important it is. Want to test your love for triathlon, or your love for anything or anyone in general? Put yourself in Iraq, away from it all. If this email doesn't make you want to get out and train, nothing will.

I have 2 close friends who recently returned from their 2nd tour in Iraq, and now have these three friends there. Remind me to never complain about training or weather, or anything else so petty again.

Be safe A, and tell Morgan and Marcus I look forward to seeing all of you alive and well when you get home to San Diego! I'll buy you boys beers...

NFA 07

Thursday, January 11, 2007

It's a new phase of life...

Sorry ladies, but I'm now a married man. (Not that any of you probably were ever worried about it, but just in case one was).

On Saturday, I married Orlanda in Ensenada, Mexico, on the ocean shore, with about 100 close friends and family. It was really beautiful, and a wonderful time. I cried like a little girl, struggling to get the words out. Luckily, she and the officiant, Alan, helped me get thru it. She was so beautiful, I'm still in awe.

I felt really blessed with all the friends and family who came all the way here for the event. I had teammates from high school and college come from all over the US, and even from Europe! I was very honored to have them make such a trek for me.

So now a new phase of life begins, married and Ironmans. Though I hadn't been with Orlanda very long, it was clear from the beginning she was the one. She only confirmed that when I took on the challenge of Ironman, and became irritable, tired all the time, and on my bike instead of spending time with her. During that whole time, she never once asked me to sacrifice my training or my goals, to spend more time with her or anything. She was always supportive, knowing it was my passion. For many, this isn't the case. I'm a very lucky man. When I toe the start line from now on, I've already won.

Ok...now where's my bike?