Life’s good

On, what is going to be the hottest day of the year so far, we are settling back into the normal routine.

  • Back to school
  • Early morning before school
  • Early evening after school training.

 

stoke newingtonThere is no such thing as a morning or an evening person. It all depends on the up-bringing and routines we are getting used to from child hood.

I wasn’t raised as a morning person and getting used to AM training on a regular basis was a bit of a chore. But now, early mornings are getting better and better.

 

ClaptonEven the journey back after the training sessions help me  prepare for a busy school day.

The hazy sunshine on a hot morning is very calming and relaxing and I learned to appreciate the sensations I get when looking into the morning sky and I appreciate the changing nature of the trees and shrubs that make a significant part of the skyline.

 

Cambridge HeathThe more trees, the more bird song and the chirping and singing makes a great backdrop on the views. Well really, I just have my earphones in and listen to my favourite songs. Perhaps some birds manage to enhance the tunes I am listening to.

The bus chuckles along and I ponder whether I missed the Newham National qualifier at the LAC last week or whether looking back to the under-water sensation and the fantastic week of Spanish training was stimulating enough for me to smash those national times during the Regional competitions in May.

My year has been set up and I look forward to reaping the better times I am going to achieve this year.

 

Comparison

Look and compare the two pictures, showing the weather in Spain and in London on the 9/10 April 2018.

spainland1weather Since swimmers are expected to get the British National Qualifying times in this narrow 4 months window, incorporating the British winter and often dreary spring, especially for us Londoners, I wonder whether the results of spending a week in Spain, prior to Regionals will push up the performance results.

Lets wait and see.

Eyeing up the Nationals

Somehow Madison made a great leap into the Regionals and now wants to get into the Nationals. There is not such a big margin. The Regionals are quite fast and it is just a matter of sheer determination to succeed. Of course by sheer determination, I mean training and more training and even more training.

But that is all so much fun. Enjoy the swims, enjoy the exercise. Think BIG.

British Swimming publishes Nationals performance lists of swimmers who are eligible. This is now the first preliminary version for this season. Up-dated rankings will be available every Wednesday, till the qualifying window closes on 28th. May 2018. This of course gives all those who take part in Regionals to get those qualifying times.

But just to clarify, of course the qualifying times can be obtained in any licensed meet.

For the 50 back for example, a time of 32:70 LC would still enable a listing. That is all within achievable reach now and we’ll surely try.

Once in Performance the Hunger for top competitions just comes automatically. It is very easy to be a performance swimmer because the vast majority of swimmers are very nice people with a lot of determination and very fair at the same time.

The Training and the Performance

It’s an anagram of the chicken and egg question.

What came first? The chicken or the egg?

What comes first? The performance or the training?

To explain. To get promoted into a higher performance group in a swimming club you need the speed but to get the speed you need the training.

Whilst we get ready for our stint in the Regional Qualifier in Basildon tomorrow, it seems that it is very hard to make that step onto the regional ladder.

It’s achievable fairly easily to get County times by just popping into training about 7 times per week, on some days twice but the regional times are much faster. A few seconds are very hard to achieve.

The athletic ability needs to be much further developed to gain a few seconds on speed.

 

The little green man

a little green man whispered into my ear that the northern clubs always win because their swimmers spend more time in the water.

Oho, I went onto the Sheffield Swimming Club senior elite squad, normally for swimmers from 16 up-wards, those who swim in national and international competition and he presto, they have 10 swim sessions and 7 land training sessions per week.

Just as well that they normally have to be 16+, as then they would have completed their GCSE levels by then.

Clearly top end competitive swimming is a full-time sport and swimmers get little full-time funding. Yet swimmers constantly have to juggle the need for an education and the need for performance swimming; a tough sport.

The only way to fund is getting full podium funding through British swimming, e.g. be in the Olympic Squad or similar squads, GLL funding and/or swimming and part-time work and A-levels.

There is my argument again, that fully committed athletes who train so much per week should get their free education window extended and be able to do their free A-levels once their Olympic phase is over.

Just as well that Hackney doesn’t have such a squad with such intense training routines. That is the reason why superb full-time swimmers have to move to clubs that provide such training. LACPP provided such an options for London but they have unfortunately been dissolved.

strong bones = gravity = land training or can swimming prepare humans for life on Mars?

Exposing our bodies to the full force of gravity by using our bodies with the help of our limbs is what makes our bones stronger. As humans living on earth, with its gravity, we have evolved into boned upright beings that rely on strong bones to exist on this planet.

When I visited a New Scientist lecture event at the Excel last year, I was terribly disappointed that most of the speeches centred around outer space. I thought, so boring, there are no pools in space, I like swimming.

Then I didn’t know how swimming affects our bodies through gravity but now I do; it suddenly dawned on me that swimming takes place in less gravity than outside of a pool activities do. Our weight is reduced in the element of water.

When I watched a recent BBC documentary about the effect of sports on our bone density titled: ‘Which type of exercise gives you the strongest bones‘, I was amazed to learn that cycling is actually worst for bone health than other sports, that cyclists’ bone density is around 20% worst than that of Cricketers or Gymnasts.

That is due to the fact that cyclists do not use their whole body to propel within their activity but use a cycle and sit on it with part of their body. That reduces the physical effort the body uses.

Swimming does not strengthen our bones, it is good for soft tissue and organs, e.g. brain, heart and muscle-building. Because swimming reduces the gravity, I suppose constant swimming would severely reduce our bone density despite developing our muscles.

Most of us swim only for a few hours and most highly competitive swimmers couple swimming with severe land training, which compliments swimming and produces the land based activity that a strong  skeleton needs.

Adam Peaty is famous for his strong-man land training, which makes his the fastest breast swimmer on earth at present.

Whilst swimming helps to develop the muscles, land training ensures bone health and strength. Our swimming club, Hackney Aquatics

pilateshas a tremendously varied training routine, which is just about perfect and provides a lot of variety with Yoga, running, gym and Pilates.

 

I once worked on a cycle and cycled 10-12 hours per day, I completely collapsed with severe leg pain after nine months and still suffer from the consequences of an alteration of my leg muscle fibres and tendon damage due to a lot of cycling.

I now swim regularly to repair that damage.

But seriously if humanity would spend long periods of time in the water and had no exposure to gravitational pull and activities, I suppose we would evolve into humans with soft bones, probably what would be needed in an environment like the planet Mars or other outer space environments. mars

Humans with weak bones here on earth would start to suffer from brittle bones and constant breakages.

I like Earth though.

GCSE options

Performance swimmers cannot tone down their training to suit the GCSE learning and exam schedule. Performance athletes needs to tailor their GCSE choices around their training requirements.

Apparently age 14 is the time when most girls drop out of performance swimming. That is the time when we have to make up our mind whether to continue in performance swimming or not.

We need to study core subjects like Science, Maths and English and others like religious education in church schools.

Madison has been chosen for triple Science, is top grade in Maths and English but also wants to continue with performance swimming.

The swimming training involves at least 8 sessions per week, each one 2 hours swimming and half hour land. Two days per week there is twice a day training starting at 6AM till school and then continues after school.

On top of the core subjects or GCSE we need to choose 3 other subjects and there we consider how much time and effort each subject takes and whether we can weave in some learning with the sport.

It is best to choose subjects where the grades are high and learning comes easy, so that the whole experience seems effortless and easy.

We participated in high-end performance training since almost 2 years now and this experience comes in very useful as we are already used to calculating our time very efficiently and learned to make use of every minute of the day without sacrificing our sleep.

Aimee Willmott has been a great role model for Madison, Aimee studied sport whilst at University and being a performance swimmer and proves that combining education and performance swimming is possible.

Keeping up the performance

In performance sports constant fitness regimes and a lifestyle that is focused on performance are imperative.

There is no fast way to sporting results for most athletes, not all are fast starters and many reap the results of their training and clean living efforts later on in life. Remember you can establish a swimming record till very late in life, age-groups never stop.

Learning to deal with rejections and throwbacks is almost as important for a young swimmer as being able to win. Most swimmers probably lose more races than winning them.

It is however very important to attend competitions on a monthly basis to stay tuned.

In swimming as a sport, peaking at 18+ is probably more convenient than earlier because it fits in with the schooling regime that we all have to follow here in the UK.

What is important is that we get into healthy living habits, don’t slack on the swimming training and keep it up.

Performance swimming means being constantly on the swim, on a daily basis. You gotta love swimming a lot to be able to do it.

Once you get selected for national teams, you get a whole host of wonderful training opportunities through podium funding. Prior to that all athletes can apply for GLL funding. But as said previously there are also many practical ways to improve fitness.

Sneaking in exercise

One of the biggest causes of obesity and general unfitness is our lifestyle, the fact that we spend long periods sitting or lying around doing nothing and then only have small periods of activity.

Even though health gurus generally recommend small bursts of high-intensity workouts to keep the body going, that is just about all it does, but it doesn’t increase general fitness stamina.

I recommended this previously, that you should do exercise whenever possible but I have not reached to the parts of the exercise that are generally taboo, the bed and the holiday sun loungers or the beach.

In the bed, the sun loungers or the beach, there is one excellent exercise that is brilliant. Whilst you lay down, and this is best done with plenty of blankets or towels on the legs, to weigh you down, just lift up your legs, keeping them straight and hold them up at about 2 – 3 inches height as long as possible. Repeat at least 10 times. Rest. Repeat. You can do this for hours.

This tones your core, keeps your tummy flat and even tones the neck muscles and face muscles. You feel mentally refreshed doing this. I can’t offer you your money back if you don’t as you do not pay for the advice but try it anyhow.

I recommend this for sleepless nights, lazy days, beach holidays.

Swimmers swim

Just had a very recent conversation with an ‘educator’ who asked Madison whether she hasn’t heard certain information as it is all over the TV.

Unfortunately many people do not understand that there are no TV’s at the bottom of a pool and that swimmers do not read the papers whilst they swim either. They do not understand that swimmers spend extensive hours either swimming, land-training or even travelling to and from swimming training. Swimmers often train even before school starts. Often there are competitions when other people go away for the weekend, e.g. Easter and Halloween for example.

Swimmers literally spend all their time either in school or at the pool. What little time is in between is used for home-work. Sometimes swimmers even need to eat on the go, whilst on the way to a training session. Often it is straight to bed to be ready for the next day’s morning session. There is little time to watch TV at home.

There is no time to do get involved in a lot of other things, have sleep-overs, spend the evening with peers from school.

In Madison’s case we manage to spend time with the Girl Guides 2-3 times per month and go camping a few times per year to break up the monotony.

Definitely I would say that swimming kids are less street-wise than their peers who spend more time freely mixing with other children. Therefore I think swimmers are more susceptible to social dangers. Especially in larger schools, where there is less personal knowledge of individuals, teachers and parents are less connected and kids are more likely to be less monitored.

I always thought that swimming keeps kids out of trouble but it can have an undesired effect in that swimming children have less time to choose social contacts and can get approached by others in schools who are not exactly the best friends to have. Swimming children often do not want confrontation and just want to get on with their routines.

It is therefore very important that swimmers’ parents carefully choose the school their swimmer attends and put it to the school to they need to be aware that their swimmer is not street-wise and not used to the usual street knowledge.