Monday, October 17, 2011

Accentuate the Positive

Date: October 17, 2011
Location: Phoenix, AZ
252 days to Olympic Trials

I did not have Internet access in Orlando yesterday, so before I go into today’s activities, I want to let you know how I did in the pool at the Rowdy Gaines Classic on Sunday.

I forced myself to warm up more than usual. I did 2,800 yards, most of which was aerobic swimming to try and loosen up the stiffness I felt in my lower back and legs. Though the hotel I was staying in (the Rosen Centre) was elegant, the bed was like sleeping on a board. I’m not a fan of hard mattresses, and I was tossing and turning a lot in my sleep to try and get comfortable. The warm up helped wake up my body, but I still felt stiff in my back. I did some starts to make sure I could still race. The starts felt fine; no issues with trajectory, power and entry.

About an hour after warm up, I swam the 50 breast. Just as a reminder, this was a short course meters meet. I won the race in 29.23. Not a great time, but I was not focused on what the scoreboard said. I swam the race well technically. From the start to the finish, I was aggressive, which is how a 50 of any stroke should be swum. In that hour between warm up and the race, I was on my feet recording race footage and interviews, so in terms of race preparation, I wasn’t at my best. Again, my focus this weekend was more on work than racing.

About two hours later, I swam the 100 back. My back was much stiffer, because I had not sat down since my 50 breast and I was wearing deck shoes that didn’t offer the best support. The time of 59.45 was very disheartening for about two seconds. I instantly cheered up when I saw that Steve Wood had swum a 59.92 in the lane next to me. Steve had been trying to break the Masters world record in the 100 back in the 50-54 age group all weekend; this was his third and last try. I like to think that I pushed him to break the record. I only noticed where he was on the first turn, though I could sense that he was pretty close to me on the final 25 meters. My stroke felt a little sloppy, but it was nice to swim backstroke indoors!

What should I take away from the meet? I’m trying to think about all the positive aspects of each race. I know that I shouldn’t focus too much on the times I swam, given my physical state all weekend. I was happy that my stroke count and technique was not affected by fatigue, that I was mentally ready to race whomever was within striking distance of me and that I have seven weeks to continue to get race ready for my taper meet. I remember that Ryan Lochte doesn’t come close to his best times at in-season meets, and he never gets disheartened by it. In fact, I bet it fuels his fire.

I was up at 4:30 a.m. Florida time to catch a plane back to Phoenix this morning. I slept during four of the five hours to my layover in Las Vegas, and spent the hour flight from Las Vegas to Phoenix preparing for work. I had a lot to do at the office before I left at 3:30 for piano class, from scheduling interviews for “The Morning Swim Show” to sifting through more than 100 emails. And all I wanted to do was sleep.

After piano class, I headed to JR Rosania’s Healthplex for some dryland work in these final weeks before tapering. JR was integral in the Olympic gold medals won by Gary Hall Jr. and Misty Hyman, as well as a few top swimmers from Phoenix and lot of athletes in other sports. (Check out his dryland tips in Swimming World Magazine each month.) I had gone there a couple of years ago when I was diagnosed with acute tendonitis in my shoulder. Those guys are miracle workers. Instead of five weeks of doing almost nothing but kicking, they cut it down to three weeks, with the ability to do full swimming workouts in five! Oh, and I broke a Masters world record eight weeks after that. Combining physical therapy with joint strengthening, my left shoulder feels much better, though it will never be 100 percent, since a small part of the tendon was damaged. Thankfully, not damaged enough to require surgery!

Tonight, JR didn't want to overwhelm me too much, but I did feel like I got a whole-body workout that wasn't necessarily about building muscle, but about increasing the explosive power in my muscles, using exercises that simulate swimming. For instance, I stood about three feet off the floor and threw a 10-pound ball down to thee ground, using the same technique used for the breaststroke pullout: palms down, elbows up. The force of which I was throwing the ball to the ground was similar to the force used on the breaststroke pull. I started slow to "grab the water," then pushed it (i.e. the ball) down with as much force as possible. 

All of the exercises were completely new to me, or were adjustments from exercises I used to do. You know about push-ups with claps? I did two regular push-ups, then on the third one, I pushed up and did a clap and repeated that four times. Another one involved what's usually the tricep curl. Instead of keeping the elbows close to the body, I bent over at a slight angle, held my arms straight out, and pulled toward my body. My lats were involved with this, as well as my triceps. One of the newer exercises was a variation on the hamstring curl. Instead of lying flat on my stomach, I stood with my legs perpendicular to the ground, and my body bent at 90 degrees. I lifted my legs up so my body was parallel to the floor, with about 20 pounds of weight providing resistance. That was tough!

I'll be working with JR once a week until taper. I know I will see improvement, but as I try to remember with each new thing I try: I am 37 years old. I am not 17. Tonight my muscles are simultaneously thanking and cursing me.

Tonight, I am covering the prelims of the World Cup in Moscow for Swimming World. The session will end at 1 a.m. Pacific time, way too late for me to get an adequate amount of sleep before the 5:50 a.m. workout. I plan to attend the evening workout at Phoenix Swim Club tomorrow. The turnout there is primarily fitness swimmers, so essentially I might be doing the workout alone.


  1. Jeff, don't sweat it about slow in-season times. I swam a meet this weekend which resulted in slow times across the board. My 200 back goal time for the end of the season is about 11 seconds faster than I went this weekend. Honestly, I still think that is reasonable when I taper, shave, and put on my racing suit and dome cap. Two days before I did 6700 meters (most I've done in months) and had a tough 400 IM the day before. Plus the fact that the 200 back is probably the hardest event to swim in a speedo. When I was four seconds off the cut I need in the 200 free, my final of nine races of the weekend, I wasn't too worried about going faster when I am fresh. Some of my times were a bit disheartening, but I am still very confident that I will swim well when it counts, and my coach was happy with every one of my swims because I split them well.

  2. Thanks for the words of encouragement, Dave! I've still got my eyes on the prize as well.