Metropolitan Junior Championships

Merrylands will be represented by a team of 4 swimmers at the NSW Metropolitan Junior Championships at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre on 2-3 March, 2019.

All 4 swimmers are first-time qualifiers for the Championships, with the hard work they have put in at training over the past 12 months paying off in spades.

Our team will compete in the following 9 events:

Matthew Vicic
50m Freestyle
100m Freestyle
50m Butterfly
100m Butterfly
Helen Macpherson
50m Freestyle
50m Butterfly
Summer Shrestha
50m Freestyle
50m Butterfly
Niushka Shrestha
50m Butterfly

Congratulations to all 4 swimmers on qualifying and to their coach Alison, who has coached swimmers to the Metropolitan Championships for the first time.

You can follow the team's progress over the weekend on the Swimming NSW website.

See Also

Stepping out of your comfort zone

Every person has comfort zones within which he or she operates. Physical comfort zones are easy to identify. If your true AT* pace for Freestyle is 1:30 per hundred, any swim done at 1:40/100 would fall within your comfort zone. On the other hand swimming at 1:20/100 would quickly elevate lactic acid levels to the point of discomfort. Somewhere around 90m you would stray from your comfort zone.

Psychological comfort zones are a little harder to quantify. Most people find talking to a friend or a few friends at once to be no challenge at all. However, the thought of standing up in a room of twenty or thirty people to give a 5 minute speech, even if it is on a familiar topic, is enough to cause goose bumps and moist underarms for the majority of people. Giving a 45 minute speech in front of a live audience of 10 or 20 thousand (or a TV audience of several millions) is unthinkable for all but a tiny fraction of a percent of the human population.

The key to personal growth and increasing success in nearly every endeavour is the willingness to step outside of one's comfort zone. In swimming this might mean doing something physical like swimming a particular set all fly instead of all free, or choosing to go on faster intervals or leading the lane instead of drafting off the leader. It might mean doing something more cerebral like deciding to enter your first meet or setting a goal to swim a personal best time and then training toward it.

Virtually everyone enjoys the feeling they get when leaving their comfort zone results in success. How about asking someone out for a date? This is out of the zone for most people. Yet how wonderful it is when the other person says "Yes."

Yet, fear causes most people to hesitate to step outside of their comfort zone. Fear of failure. And we all know, but rarely admit to ourselves, that the real "consequences" of failure are truly inconsequential and usually short-lived. It just doesn't seem that way at the moment of truth - the moment where we either decide to act or decide to remain quiescent.

It is obvious that enlarging one's comfort zones pays off in many aspects of life. It is not as readily obvious that the persistent and consistent practice of "steppin' out," even a short distance, from the confines of a comfort zone can yield nearly unbelievable results over the long haul.

There is a story about an FFA live stock show where the older boys engaged in a calf lifting contest. Each boy would, in turn, select and lift off the ground a heavier calf than the previous boy. Once a boy failed he was out of the contest. When there was just one boy left and he was about to be awarded the prize one of the younger, smaller boys that had been watching called out "Wait, I can beat that!" The other boys laughed at him, told him to be quiet and ruffled his hair. Undaunted, he walked over to his entry in the stock show, a nearly mature bull that weighed fully three times what the heaviest calf lifted weighed. He proceeded to lift that bull three inches off the ground and immediately was greeted with "Ooohs!", "Ahhhhs!", applause and the prize.

When asked how he managed such a feat, the boy explained that, ever since the calf was born, he would lift the calf off the ground once a day. He never missed a day as the animal grew. The boy's calf lifting ability grew into bull lifting ability. To do this he never had to step very far outside his physical comfort zone. Yet by consistently and persistently taking small steps he managed to enlarge his comfort zone to immense proportions.

I challenge you to define both your physical and psychological comfort zones in swimming (or any other aspect of your life for that matter) and then set upon a course of persistent and consistent forays, outward bound.

*AT = Anaerobic Threshold—The point at which lactate accumulation begins to rise sharply is the Anaerobic Threshold. Swimmers should train with a heart rate 20 to 30 beats below maximum.

Streamline to Faster Swimming

How important is a streamline to a swimmer? I think it can make a world of difference, particularly in a short-course setting, since streamlines and the idea of reducing drag can be applied to starts, swimming, and turns. My take on swimming and streamlines is they are a way to make a minimum energy investment for a maximum speed return. Not exactly a free lunch for a swimmer, but as close as it gets in the swimming pool. Initiating the first kick or pull is a matter of determining when the swimmer's speed is about to drop from faster than they can swim to their race swimming speed. Experiment with different timing.

From a start, the speed gained from the push off of the block and from the force of gravity is faster than the swimmer can actually swim. If they can maintain that speed for any extra duration, and everything else is equal, their overall time for the race could be quicker. And all they had to was perform an improved streamline.

During the swimming portions of a race, any chances to reduce the external forces fighting against the swimmer's forward progress (like drag) can result in a faster race time. If a better body position through a slight adjustment of head position results in decreased drag, then the swimmer just got faster - without putting any real extra effort into moving forward any faster. Other ways to reduce drag include paying attention to hand entry and hand/arm position (both arms!) during the stroke cycle. And don't forget the legs. A wide kick might have more force to it for some swimmers, but it also increase drag, and it is likely that the wide kick's force is working to overcome the drag it creates, resulting in little or no added speed (in other words, a narrow kick could be more efficient).

What about turns? Lot's of chances to reduce drag on those things, open or flip. How is the direction being changed? Is there a loose limb sticking out someplace that is being "dragged" through the water instead of slipped through it? Is water being pushed against or slid through during the direction change? How about the swimmer's push off the pool wall. The swimmer's upper body must be in a streamline shape prior to the initiation of the push to maximize speed off of the wall. As the push-off continues, the swimmer must pull the rest of their body into a streamline so they area able to hold that speed (which should be faster than swimming) for as long as possible.

The easiest place to make a quick change in streamlines is off a wall. These are the things I look for in a streamline after the swimmer as left the wall:

  • One hand aligned on top of the other, with fingers pointing the direction of travel. The little finger and thumb of the top hand wrapped around the lower hand (to allow leverage and to prevent separation).
  • The fingertips stretching and reaching as far forward as possible.
  • The arms extended, pointing the direction of travel, with the biceps behind the ears.
  • The surface from the back of the swimmer's hands, along the arms, then down the shoulders and back should be one (relatively) smooth surface with no "head bump" sticking up on that side.
  • The head bump is on the chest side.
  • The swimmer's arms are actively squeezing in behind the head, as if they are trying to make their elbows touch.
  • The swimmer's core is tight and straight - every muscle pulling in towards the centre, trying to make the swimmer longer and thinner.
  • The swimmer's legs are adducted (that is, squeezed in and together) with their toes are pointed.
  • I want to see the swimmer become a strong, long torpedo, rocket, or pencil shape off the wall (and on a start).

We practice streamlines off starts and turns regularly. We include a few push offs that are purposely not streamlined to remind the swimmers how much easier it is when they do perform a great streamline. You can practice and use streamlining techniques every swim workout to help make yourself a better swimmer.

Swim On!

High Performance Nutrition for Swim Meets

Nutrition is an important area of successful performance in any sport. Swimmers need to eat nutritious foods to compete and train to the best of their ability. Coaches need to ensure that swimmers are eating well and re-hydrating to complement their training program.  Parents want to help their kids achieve their goals and are keen to support them in every possible way.

Swim Clubs and swimming organisations, selling food and drink at Swim Meets need to ensure that a variety of highly nutritious healthy options that can still generate income and raise funds are available to the swimmers.

Swim Meets, Swim Competitions and Swimming Championships are the places where all the vested interests in swimming nutrition come together: swimmers, coaches, parents and administrators. Everyone is looking for the same thing: how can we maximise the opportunity presented by the competition?

Swimmers want to maximise the opportunity of swimming fast at the Meet. Coaches want to maximise the opportunities for the individual swimmers and team to compete successfully. Parents want their kids to make the most of the competitive opportunity and swim well. Administrators want to maximise the opportunity to generate income from the fund raising activities at the Meet. Is it possible to develop an overall nutrition strategy to meet the needs of everyone?

Swimmers

A feature of successful athletes in any sport is how they take responsibility for their own performances. As swimmers get older and approach open level competition they should be encouraged to take responsibility for their own diet and nutrition program – to become coach and parent independent as far as food preparation and consumption are concerned.

On Meet day, swimmers should check their own bags to make sure all the fuel they will need over the day has been packed. This includes not only an adequate supply of food and drinks for the Meet day but enough nutritious snacks to cover the crucial post race recovery period. If for example, the last race of the day is 4:00pm and the swimmer is unlikely to eat dinner before 7:00pm, it is important that foods like fruit, sandwiches and other nutritious snacks are available to munch on between 4 and 7pm. (It is unlikely you can “ruin the appetite” of a competitive swimmer!).

Athletes, by their actions, are above average people. They choose to push themselves to their limits and in doing so are “high performance” human beings. Just as High Performance motor vehicles use a high grade, high octane fuel, “high performance humans” need the best possible fuel to perform at their best. However, athletes do not need to live a hermit type existence and abstain from all Take Away Foods, snacks, nibbles, lollies etc. The pressures of advertising and their peer group will make a totally junk food free existence near impossible for kids in the current times. The goal should be to practice sensible nutrition habits the majority of the time, to understand the basics of high performance eating and to be aware of the link between good food and fast swimming.

Immediately after racing, drink. Water is perfect, or try other fluids such as sports drink, cordial or fruit juice. Also eat something light within 10 minutes of finishing the race. This is the time when your body is best able to absorb and utilise new fuels.

If the Meet is two days or longer in duration, Recovery Nutrition is an important part of racing successfully. Recovery nutrition is about planning an eating and drinking strategy that helps your body:

  1. Recover from the physical stresses of racing.
  2. Prepare for the racing to come.

This is also called the Repair-Prepare approach to Swim Meet eating. Recovery nutrition is a technique which provides the swimmer’s body with what they need to recover (eg carbohydrates to replace used up energy, proteins for muscle building and repair) and prepare for the next day of competition. In between races, recovery nutrition is about replenishing energy stores quickly and effectively so that the next race can be completed at maximum speed.

Foods that aid in a recovery nutrition program between races include fruit, blended fruit packs, tinned fruits and sports drinks – things that are easy to digest and absorb into the body. To maximise the impact of these “recovery foods” they need to be eaten or drunk as soon as possible after racing.

A key element of a successful Swim Meet nutrition program is Eating Timing. Swimmers need to ensure that their eating program is as finely tuned as their training and racing schedule. If competing early in the morning some swimmers may find it necessary to rise early (3-4 hours before warm up) eat, then go back to bed for a little more rest. Other athletes may chose to eat, then go for a short walk or jog to start the warm up / race preparation process going.

Competition Schedule - What to Eat / When to Eat

Early Morning Heats (8: 00am – 10:00am)

Breakfast – Light meal Complex Carbohydrates the focus 6:00am-7:00am

Afternoon Heats/Semi Finals/Finals (2:00pm-4:00pm)

Light lunch – Salad and Sandwiches. Cooked lunch of rice or pasta. 11:00am - 1:00pm depending on start time.

Allow approx 2 hours between eating and racing

Evening Events (6:00pm-9:00pm)

Late Afternoon Meal (Early dinner) - Small quantities of rice, pasta, vegetables. Bread, bread rolls. Fruit. 4:00pm – 5:00pm.

For a Medal winning Meet morning breakfast try some of these suggestions:

  • Cereals (not the popular Chocolate or sugary ones). Try WeetBix, Vita Brits, Sustain, Just Right, Sports Plus.
  • Reduced fat milk – e.g. Shape, Physical, Rev, Hi-Lo
  • Low fat fruit yoghurt. Selection of fresh and/or tinned fruit (in natural juice).  Sliced banana goes great on Weetbix and Vita Brits!
  • Selection of bread, toast, crumpets, muffins, and spreads such as margarine, jam, vegemite and honey.
  • Drinks – fruit juices, water, and milo.
  • Spaghetti, baked beans or creamed corn on toast.
  • Poached eggs or grilled tomatoes on toast.
  • Pancakes or pikelets (with small amounts of syrup).

If travelling to a Meet where you are likely to be arriving early in the morning or late in the evening have swimmers carry their first two meals with them. This reduces the temptation to seek Fast Food for dinner or breakfast.

Arriving in a competition venue in the evening means that the only food outlets open will be Home Delivery Pizza and the Hamburger chains.

Arriving at the competition venue early in the morning means coffee and donuts or the Fast Food chains.

Weeks of hard work and tough training may all be for nothing if the final two meals before competition are high fat, high salt and high sugar food choices.

Have swimmers follow a set nutrition and re-hydration routine around every race. Try the R-D-T-E-R routine (Race-Drink-Talk-Eat-Rest). Swimmers race, then grab their drink bottles and take a sip, go the coach for the post race review, have a bite to eat then rest.

Lastly, swimmers don’t always notice it, but sweating occurs when training and racing – even though the activity happens in the water. It is vital that a good supply of cool water, cordial, sports drink or juice is on hand at Swim Meets.

Speed vs Technique

Adapted from an article by Dave Tonnesen, ASCA Level 4 Coach

Ooooohhhh! Look at that swimmer...they make it look so easy, and they are so fast!
Don't you love to watch the Olympics! It is just awesome to watch Ryan Lochte make fast swimming look almost magically effortless.

How does he do it?
Well, the good news is that fast swimming is not magical, and when done right, fast swimming can look so beautiful that it appears almost effortless.

Let's start off with a couple questions.

How do you progress your strokes and drop time?

What should I focus on first, speed or technique?

The Basic Progression is:

  • Step 1 - Master Excellent Technique
  • Step 2 - Maintain Excellent Technique while Building Endurance
  • Step 3 - Speed with Excellent Technique

Why?

Technique is the key because water is roughly 1,000 times denser than air. And for your swimming that means for every unit of speed that you achieve, you get a penalty of 4 units of drag to go along with your speed. In swimming, it is crucial to have great technique so that you can reduce your drag before focusing on endurance and speed.

Step 1 Master Excellent Technique

It is vital that you learn proper technique before you focus on endurance and speed. Proper technique is the fundamental building block for great swimming. It doesn't matter if you want to be a summer league swimmer, a high school swimmer, a college level swimmer, a nationally ranked swimmer or the next Michael Phelps. To reach your potential, you should have a solid foundation in proper stroke technique that progresses them to their desired goals.  Australian coach Bill Sweetnam has a great quote, 99% right is 100% wrong.

Step 2: Swim Drill-Like (Build Endurance with Excellent Technique)

Once you have a solid foundation of proper stroke technique, your next step is be able to hold your excellent technique while building your endurance.  This is achieved through drill progressions - a combination of drill and swim - and longer swims at an easy pace to improve endurance while still focusing on technique. 

Step 3: Race Drill-Like (Speed with Excellent Technique)

At this point, your training will vary depending on your goals. You will begin incorporating race strategies for everything from the 50 to 1,500 Freestyle, 100 to 400 IM, 50 to 200 of each stroke. You may learn about the importance of distance per stroke, stroke efficiency, cycles per second, break out for starts and turns, the importance of underwater fly kick and mental training techniques among many other things.  This is the double edged sword where many swimmers struggle.  How do you hold technique and swim fast?  Most swimmers see this as an either/or situation.  We use sets like decending sets where we begin adding the time component into sets and you have to increase your speed on each repeat, while still maintaining your technique. These sets are not usually achieved the first or second time age group swimmers attempt them. 

So, to unlock the magic of fast swimming, focus of the technique improvements and have patience. Think in terms of a learning curve.

When you are in step 1 - mastering changes in your stroke technique, it is natural for you to be slow and deliberate.  It is common to overthink as you are learning. This is very normal until you have mastered the technique. Once you have a solid stroke foundation, you will start climbing the learning curve and may drop time especially in longer events.  Focus should be on excellent technique and not time drops.  You will go through another learning curve in step 2 as you progress to holding your technique while improving your endurance (swimming drill-like).  In step 2, many swimmers see time drops in distance events, and even and negative splitting become easier.  The final step is swimming fast with excellent technique (Race Drill-Like) and holding that technique at race pace.

No matter what level swimmer you are or want to be it is crucial to understand that great technique comes first! That is why in our squad program, we do drills at all levels, from the Novice Squad, right through to the Senior and Masters Squads. With persistence, patience and hard work the results will be MAGICAL!  Apply these basics and you will become one of those swimmers everyone ooooohhhhs at during your races!

Winning Starts Today

Everyone wants to win on race day. Everyone stands behind the blocks wanting to win. Some hope. Some pray. Some cross their fingers.  Some rub their lucky swim cap. Some, not many, enjoy the quiet confidence of knowing that winning is possible because of the time and effort spent preparing for race day.

Everyone wants to win the race.  How many want to win every workout just as badly?

Former Australian National Youth Coach Bill Sweetenham often says to swimmers, Winning tomorrow starts by winning today.  To win tomorrow's race, first win today's training session.  Will you be a better swimmer tomorrow because of what you did in training today?

Here are a few tips on how to win workouts:

  1. Arrive earlier than everyone else.  Stretch for 15 minutes before anyone else arrives.  If travelling or school commitments mean you can’t get to the pool early, stretch in the bus, train or car on the way to training.
  2. Make sure you have a drink bottle containing clean water or sports drink at every session.  Drink regularly throughout the workout. 
  3. Be the first swimmer to get in the pool and start training.  Start the first lap with a race quality dive or race start.  Ask the coach to grade your dive out of ten for technical excellence.
  4. Finish every repeat (including drills) with a legal, race quality touch.  In free and fly this means no breathing inside the flags.  In fly and breast this means an explosive, two-handed touch.  In backstroke this means a powerful touch on a full stroke without looking at the wall.  If swimming in a lane next to other swimmers doing the same stroke, make a conscious effort to race them from the flags to the wall on every repeat to practice your ability to win close race finishes.
  5. Swim your warm up (and swim down) with the same attention to detail as you demand in the main set.  Quality, explosive starts, aggressive turns, no breathing inside the flags, never breathing first or last stroke in fly and free, full underwater pull with every lap of breaststroke etc.  Warm up and swim down means great skills and excellent technique done slowly.
  6. Challenge someone faster than you to a race every workout.  It could be a kicking race.  It could be a challenge based on skills and speed (i.e. who can swim the fastest lap with the fewest breaths-time added to number of breaths="total" score and the lowest score wins).  It could a technique challenge (i.e. ask the coach to rate your drill efforts out of ten, then try to do it better and achieve a higher score).  If you are a strong backstroker who is a weak butterflyer, challenge a strong butterflyer to a swimming (or kicking) race.  Work on your weaknesses.
  7. When swimming an effort in training, ask yourself four questions:
  • Could I do this with fewer strokes?
  • Could I do this with fewer breaths?
  • Could I do this with better technique?
  • Could I do this with better starts, turns and finishes?

Challenge yourself to do it better every time.

  1. If you want to be the best swimmer in your club, your state, Australia or the World, you must be the best swimmer in your lane first.  You must set yourself a higher standard than anyone else in your lane is prepared to.  You must set a higher standard and more challenging goals than even your coach thinks possible.
  2. Aim to do it to faster, with better skills and excellent technique especially when you are tired.  Race day success will require you to swim fast when you are tired, under pressure and hurting.  Make training more demanding than race day.  Deliberately make training tougher than the toughest race.  Ask your coach if you can do a time trial at the end of training.
  3. Believe that anything is possible.  You can do PBs in training.  You can swim 25 metres at maximum speed without taking a breath.  You can kick 40 metres in your 50 metre PB swim time.  You can do it.  The words, "I can't" usually mean, "I am not prepared to try in case I fail".

There are no guarantees to success.  You can, however, increase the likelihood of success by making training more demanding than you ever thought possible, attempting to so the impossible everyday and aiming to win every workout.

Racing Turns

What is important for great turns in all four competitive swimming strokes? Two principles immediately stand out as critical for the success of fast turns.

  1. Always swim into the walls strong, or fast. Build your momentum going into the wall, and you will have the greatest potential of coming off that wall fast and with a strong push-off. The harder you throw a tennis ball at a concrete wall, the harder it will rebound off that wall.
  2. Streamline in the full torpedo position off every wall, under the water and the surface tension. Learning to streamline better and more efficiently off every wall has the potential to significantly improve your swimming times.

Both of these principles must be practiced daily in every training session, and emphasised in every swimming set. Win every wall in practice and you will begin to do the same in competition.

Freestyle & Backstroke Turns

These two turns are essentially the same. Backstroke swimmers rotating from the back to front going into the wall, and breaking out in the Backstroke position being the difference. The turning essentials are the same.

Technique Tips

  1. In Backstroke, know how many strokes it takes you to get from the flags to the wall.
  2. In Freestyle, don’t breathe while you are inside the flags.
  3. Maintain nose to knees, chin to chest, and heels to hips.
  4. Push off the wall on the balls of the feet.
  5. Kick the wall as you make contact.
  6. Kick off the wall with very fast dolphin kicks in Backstroke. Use dolphin or flutter kicking off the wall in Freestyle, according to the swimmer’s ability preference.
  7. The feet should be apart at shoulder width on wall contact and push off. This is a horizontal squat position.
  8. The last stroking arm is swept downward under the body.
  9. The head dives down and forward, tucking the chin and using a dolphin kick. The legs must be apart to the wall.
  10. Strive for a 90° flexion knee to hip.
  11. Pull out with the bottom arm in Freestyle.
  12. In Freestyle, don’t breathe on your first stroke.

Breaststroke & Butterfly Turns

The turn is the same for these two strokes. The main difference is in the underwater pullout in Breaststroke.

Technique Tips

  1. In Butterfly, don’t breathe while you are inside the flags.
  2. Learn to judge the walls. Know where the wall is in relation to your stroke for turning so you can touch on a full stroke.
  3. Touch the wall with both hands, just short of full extension. The elbows are flexed, then straightened.
  4. The lead hand releases the wall on contact and the knees drive towards the wall. Drive the knees towards the chest as quickly as possible. This will get the feet on and off the wall quickly.
  5. One foot should be on top of the other to get to the wall quicker.
  6. The head snaps directly back.
  7. The first hand off the wall sculls up towards the ceiling.
  8. The second hand off the wall drives to the forehead, close to the ear.
  9. Go into the turn and come off the turn through the same hole. A vertical eye position when the head snaps back will help get the swimmer in and out through the same hole.
  10. Hyperextend off the wall and break out into the stroke.
  11. Practice your underwater Breaststroke pullout, complete with the single downward dolphin kick, every time you do a Breaststroke turn.
  12. Use a strong first stroke to break out with momentum, and then get into your racing stroke rhythm.
  13. In Butterfly, don’t breathe on your first stroke.