Thursday, July 28, 2016

Do You FEAR Squad "Failure" - You Shouldn't, Here's Why!

Watch as Suzi and Sally share the love and respect during a hard-as-nails CSS set!

Dear Swimmers

One of my greatest joys in coaching you all is seeing you all improve and also seeing how you all deal with success and "failure" differently, so much so, that I often wonder if the FEAR of "failure" amongst your peers is often what prevents you from truly moving forwards with your swimming? Today I'd like to discuss how to overcome that and tomorrow you can test it out yourself!

We often use the example of squad swimmer Megan Surrette to demonstrate what is possible in terms of improvement. Of course for every email we received that said "wow, that's fantastic - good on her and good on you for helping her achieve that!" we received 3 or 4 emails that had an air of frustration, i.e. "why not me - why can't I improve like that?" - this was such a strong response that we followed up with this blog post on that very topic, Why Not Me? specifically this salient point:

"A key part of achieving that consistency is your swimming demeanour. Megan puts it this way:

"I do know that I felt a big difference when I started swimming Wednesday mornings. I am not sure whether Wednesday improved my CSS or not but it definitely increased my confidence – 1 km TT? *shoulder shrug* … sure, whatever :-)"

Megan's not saying that out of bravado, that really is how she thinks. When was the last time you really shrugged at a swimming time-trial? The key to improving is not to over-analyse or procrastinate but, like Megan, come to terms with the work you need to consistently do, switch off the brain and get on with it.

If you can face your training with an inner smile rather than an inner grimace you've got everything you need to be the next Megan. Don't fear the hard work but actively embrace it - that is the attitude of a true champion."

Could it be that your fear of taking the bull by the horns and leading an occasional set out of concern that you might let others in your group down, be what is stifling your progress? When I'm passing the beepers out for a hard set, I receive far more "no, not me - anyone but me!" looks than "yes, what the hell, I'll give it a go!" - come on people, this is Australia! Where's your digger can-do attitude?!

Nick gives Rob a hearty high-five for leading a solid 400m interval!

The reality is that just giving it a go is what it's all about. We are not racing for sheep stations - a solid workout that gets the heart pumping, blows the cobwebs out and has you thinking about how best to maintain your technique is what the majority of you are after. I've come to realise that more and more about myself - being fit and active is way better than being unfit and thinking of where you once were! Only what you do right now is important, so give it a go!

Training within a squad is a wonderfully motivating environment, challenging you always to be a better version of yourself. It both doesn't matter about anyone else in your lane, and yet it totally does too! A sense of camaraderie and team spirit can lift you on the flattest of days, but if you don't opt to take the beeper and share the love, then you can't get upset and grumpy and see the "red mist" if someone doesn't hold exactly to the pace that is set for the lane! That's Rule Number 1 of swim squad! They're giving it their best shot. This is all I or you can ask of yourself on any given day. You should take that beeper knowing this. Knowing you're not letting anyone down because they didn't opt to take the onus like you did. If you "fail" so what? Does it really matter? No. Learn from it and pass the beeper on! It's fun, or should be!

Chris Froome has just won his third Tour de France title against some pretty challenging odds. Nairo Quintana was his supposed rival, and yet he was never in the picture. Why? Because he was playing a game of defence, a game of safety, never willing to take the risk of an attack, always hoping Froome would eventually crack. He didn't. Quintana lost. Convincingly. 

Are you playing a game of defence with your swimming? Never willing to stretch yourself for fear of "failure"?

To get maximum improvement benefits you'd opt to train totally solo following our totally bespoke system. This would see you tweaking your individually specific CSS pace by small multiples of 1/100th of a second after each session, always moving forwards. But is this ever going to be as engaging as swimming within the Swim Smooth Perth Squad itself? It's finding that balance between specificity and a motivating challenge with your peers that you need to ascertain for yourself. You need to get comfortable with the idea that you, like the next person, might take on the challenge of leading and they might succeed, or they might not - they might even have a stormer and blow everyone's doors off, who knows? But if you're on the front, you're in control. You're the leader. You call the shots. Win, lose or draw, the last thing you should do is fear the challenge!

Mike's quite happy to be following…for now - but when he gets back on front, watch out!

Becoming a Tempo Trainer "Ninja":

In tonight's 6.15pm session and tomorrow's 5.30am and 6.30am session we're going to be doing the familiar Goldilocks set which looks something like this:

  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 200
  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 300
  • 4 x 100
  • 1 x 400

Each lane will do the longer swims (shown in red) but depending on your lane will depend on how many 100s you are instructed to do.

We are going to use the beepers in Modes 1 and 2 tomorrow. Mode 1 allows us to be accurate to 1/100th second and this the mode we'll use for the longer swims where your goal will be to STAY with the beeper per 25m. Mode 2 works in whole seconds where your goal will be to BEAT the beeper for your rest on the 100m intervals. Remember, over 100m, if the set is RM Cycle 5, this will typically mean you should aim for 10 seconds rest as the beeper is 5s "slower" per 50m than your group's set CSS target pace. Similarly, RM Cycle 4 would give you 8 seconds rest etc.

If you take the onus of leading - or are politely asked by me or Sal (and we will still be suggesting who does lead, don't worry about that!) - it will be your job to have a go operating the beeper. It's really very simple:

  • push and hold the top* button to CHANGE MODES in sequence (this is reflected on the screen, i.e. numbers 1, 2 or 3 will display as you do)
  • lightly tap the top* button so you can hear the audible beep to START the interval
  • use the bottom* two buttons to decrease (LEFT) or increase (RIGHT) the time displayed

*always hold the beeper with the single button as the TOP - I often see people trying to operate the beeper upside down with rather comical ramifications!

The beeper will be set for you to start in Mode 2, for each subsequent block of 100m intervals, all you'll need to do is take off 1 second using a light press of the bottom LEFT button

For the longer 200 (baby bear), 300 (momma bear) and 400 (papa bear) intervals, Mode 1 will be required but this will be preset for you so you won't need to change it during this specific session - just press and hold the top button to go from Mode 2, to Mode 3, and finally to Mode 1. Simple.

I hope that's been useful for you both in terms of knowing how to operate the beeper and what to do if you find yourself leading a group, most notably:


When we tried sharing the love in the squad a few Friday's ago it worked really well and everyone agreed it was a great session. So, let's calm some of that competitive tension and put it to better use.

It's amazing what you can achieve if you just let yourself.



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