Invincible

I suppose becoming invincible is the ultimate goal of any performance athlete, that nothing can get you down. But it will take years of hard graft to achieve that goal. Careful management of resources is required.

This year’s competition schedule, with the unexpected 3km Open Water thrown in, was simply too much for a young person like Madison. She already trains quite a lot, perhaps above average, compared to her peers, yet unexpected demand on strength just collapsed the shoulder muscles eventually when the 400 IM followed an 800 freestyle, which followed the 3km freestyle.

Just because somebody is young and fit obviously doesn’t mean they are also invincible.

We’ll learn from that for next season. Last season we did more than 1 competition per month. We’ll try a more targeted approach, carefully selecting meets and strokes to slowly develop a repertoire that is sustainable and promising.

Talking of sustainable, we noticed that some former swimming and training partners have dropped out of competitive swimming when goals were reached. That is a bit sad. We want to continue the swimming and make it a lifestyle that can be maintained forever. The drop-outs were  swimmers who specialise really early and the danger is that there is not enough to go along with once a certain goal is reached. Yet I cannot rule out that an injury stopped the sport for those who dropped out.

On the other hand, multi-discipline swimmers like Katinka Hosszu, Aimee Willmott or Michael Phelps are much more able to stick to the sport for more years.

George Corones
Swimming Australia Picture

Swimmers don’t have to reach their peak aged 14, there is plenty of lifetime to come. Swimmers need the self-confidence to develop their swimming styles regardless of constantly winning medals. Of course a swimmer wants to reach the regionals but winning medals is often the prerogative of specialist swimmers who decided quite early what to focus on.

I think too much pressure to reach very fast times too early can push swimmers over the edge and drive them to injury. Yet it is often the swimmers themselves who set themselves goals, which are too high.

Every swimmers who takes part in age-group competitions makes a positive contribution to the sport.

 

 

 

Sharks

Just when I thought performance swimming can lead to injuries and weekends at the beach seemed a good alternative, I read this article that 2 children were bitten by Sharks near New York.

A child was killed by a bouncy castle.

It seems that every activity comes with risks. But looking at it overall, some muscle sprain injuries should be the least of our worries. That is relatively save and if managed correctly will not lead to lasting damage.

No money back, no guarantee

Our planned trip to Chichester literally fell into the water.

Any away competitions make it necessary to

  • pre-book hotels,
  • arrange travel, buy train tickets
  • if official, let organisers down

Previously it happened to us that we had booked a hotel near Barnet Copthall for a whole weekend competition.

The injury came relatively late to my attention and the Hide hotel near Hendon Central would not accept the cancellation and I had to pay for the full hotel cost.

This time I was charged £25 at the time of booking the Cherry End Bed & Breakfast in Chichester but the proprietor Steve is a very nice guy and waived the remainder of the cost to be paid.

In any case away competitions can run into at least £200 with regards to the cost. Travel insurance doesn’t always cover such short-stay expenses in the home-country.

Yet the health of our young athletes always has to come first. Any injury that gets aggravated will get worst. We just take our losses and look at the bright side of things.

We do spend our money anyhow, if we do not spend it on a swimming competitions we would spend it on some other activity. And what is spent is spent.

It is worth looking at the whole competition strategy and decide what is just right and what is just too much.

I shall look to reduce the amount of competitions we enter because it is just very expensive. There is no funding to help with the cost of age-group competitions.

A new chapter

Looking ahead to the new season 2019 and the challenges this bring. So many new things and routines are going to happen:

  • school GCSE studies begin
  • swimming, join the youth performance squad with more AM training and gym.

Till the end of this season, Madison diverted away from the usual pool competition focus and spent a lot of energy on the 3km open water races. That puts a lot of demand on the body and having all those pool competitions on top of tough long-distance meets puts any athlete to the test.

One reason why Madison’s shoulder gave way with the 400 IM in the Barking & Dagenham summer meet was the participation in a long-distance Open Water meet and we just shelved the rest of this B&D gala. 2 silver medals won this weekend.

It doesn’t matter if an athlete has to pull out of a meet. There are many more to come.

We are now focussing on more intellectual and athletic challenges for next season.

Pool training will soon stop but the summer swim camp is still to come.

School term is nearly complete and with the last week of school term an academic award is still waiting.

The summer holiday will be filled with regular gym sessions, some climbing, canoeing and biking and nature walks. It is very important to relax.

Obviously ultimately the challenge is to get national qualifying times but we don’t want to restrict the variety to just one or two events. The swimmers with the biggest longevity also have the most variety of stroke performance.

Whilst still in the pre-GCSE stage, there is no national training scheme available other than getting a place at a boarding school like Millfield for example. We keep in touch with national swimming by regularly attending the Melanie Marshall swim camps. At age 14 it is progress to keep on getting personal best times and achieving regional qualifying times.

 

A real dilemma

Today’s appearance at the Dagenham Summer meet was cut short by a shoulder injury, requiring ice bags of which Madison received only one at the pool.

Went home as quickly as possible to make some more ice at home.

Madison was really brave to complete her 400 IM race with an injured shoulder.

Make or break

There is now a lot of suspense in the air because Hackney Aquatics will shortly announce squad movements. It’s a very big deal for swimmers whether they get selected for the top Performance squad or the competition squad.

Makes a huge difference, some competitions can only be entered by performance squads. Madison has been in performance since several years now and doesn’t want anything else.

At the moment we are trying to get tougher. We are entering competitions mainly to increase stamina. Going to swim in

Some events we do not enter to win but just to condition.

We know where Madison can get good results but there are those events where the chances are not so good and those are the ones we will enter as well, e.g. 400 free, 400 IM. Winning medals is not always possible but taking part is.

Overall the consistently best swimmers in the long run are always the ones who have the best variety of strokes and distances.

As a special treat for after the summer break. during which Madison will keep busy by attending

  • The Melanie Marshall SwimInspiration summer camp
  • climbing and canoeing workshops
  • perhaps a Hackney Aquatics summer camp

then in September onto the level 2 Cambridge Grand Prix 

and also Redbridge which is always a nice weekend to get some more County and Regional Times for next season.

Overall there is an excellent variety of competitions that Hackney Aquatics attends, which really enriches the life of any swimmer.

Fun is in the eyes of the beholder

Whilst I was browsing the web yesterday, looking for inspirations, I came across some articles whereby people complain about the amount of swimming performance swimmers have to do.

Well what is there in life that is not repetitive?

Every sport requires total dedication if performing athletes want to get to the top of the sport, meaning practise, practise and more practise.

So why is it better to kick a ball around all day rather than swim?

It just all depends what personal preferences are.

Some people just spend all day sitting around playing on the games console or others spend all day on a desk doing paper work.

Fact is that spending time in the pool swimming is one of the healthiest activities a person can do. Of course the swimmer must enjoy it; it is just like everything else, we need to enjoy what we do so that we love doing it.

I can understand warnings that too much time in chlorinated water can have side effects. In the LAC for example there is a system that uses less chlorine and some ultraviolet light to increase cleanliness of the water. Some pools use a combination of saline and chlorinated water.

There is a concern that resistance to normal illnesses becomes less if always in a pool of chlorinated water. There is also the possibility of swimming in Open Water.

Yet too much chlorinated water exposure can be countered by doing activities in the field, going to forests and having walks or jogging in nature. Better still is to change the composition of the water compounds.

Swimming fitness does not necessarily just come from the pool.

If parents are concerned about the amount of chlorine in their local pool, just contact the pool manager, it is mostly pressure from parents, which initiates changes for the better.

It is important to have a day off per week and do something away from the pool. Yet Michael Phelps managed to train every day and even didn’t take Christmas off.

If performance schemes find enough swimmers who cope very well with constant pool training then they will not get any reason to change. It all depends on the ability of the athletes to do the training and if they can, then it is fine and for those who cannot cope they just need to find another sport.

Fact is that each and every sport produces sport specific injuries and some are more prone to some injuries than others.

I’ve witnessed kids falling over and breaking an arm by just running down a straight line but that doesn’t mean that we will cancel  school sports day.

Swimmers who are naturally talented for the sport and who enjoy the training must be given the opportunity to take part. But here are some statistics of injuries swimmers can get.

With whatever we do or don’t do, we run a risk of harm or injury,  it is up to each individual to decide whether the health benefits outweight the risks.

Please bear in mind that inactivity is the worst thing we can do to our health.

Mental health

Is a big discussion going on and one of the questions that plague young people is: “Why do adults keep on talking?” Chas and Dave’s song “You won’t stop talking, why don’t you give it a rest?” also questions constant conversation along those lines.

My simple answer to this is, adults who do not engage in sport, fitness simply spend more time talking, constantly seeking emotional security by engaging in conversations. But there are 2 types of emotional problems, the destructive and constructive type.

Yesterday’s performance of Hamlet was a very good example how badly managed mental health ends in tragedy and death for everyone involved.

Hamlet didn’t like his mother’s re-marriage to his uncle and Hamlet became quite abusive and threatening towards his family and friends.  Hamlet listened to his dead father’s ghost. He killed Ophelia’s father, then fought with Ophelia’s brother, then his mother drank the poison that was meant for Hamlet; Hamlet then forced his step-father to also drink the poison and eventually drank the rest himself, leaving the stage full of dead bodies.

My motto is always, do not succumb to bad moods, avoid any moodiness and rather spend time on thinking about positive things. However talking doesn’t work for everyone. Engaging in fitness and sport can help reducing dark and destructive or self-destructive moods.

On the other hand we all heard about Michael Phelps’s problems with mental health but in his case, the outcome was very positive. He won a lot of medals and established a happy family life for himself and even helps others by opening up about his struggles.

There are different qualities to talking and conversing, the one which is constantly being negative and talking only to see the dark and problematic side of things and on the other hand there is the struggle to succeed and fulfill a goal or ambition, which involved bettering health and performance.

But seriously don’t be a slouch and spend all your time just talking to others, take some time out and do some fitness exercises and that doesn’t leave all that time for talking but clears the mind and helps the blood flow to the brain, which makes it work better. Perhaps politicians should go for a run or swim in between sessions instead of having drinks. Many employers now make gyms and fitness facilities part of the employment environment.

 

 

 

Powerwalking Epping Forest

I don’t think it is good to just laze about suddenly, when the body is used to regular exercise, so I suggested a leisurely walk through Epping Forest.

into Epping Forest
enter Epping Forest at Snaresbrook

We started at Snaresbrook and walked along a fairly wet path, which turned out to be muddier further in and some rain drops still fell from the leaves of the trees, when we were greeted by a pair of friendly Mallards who wanted to show us the way.

Mallards Epping Forest
pair of Mallards showing the way

We came past a wonderful meadow with lovely yellow flowers, which was rather big.

Meadow Epping Forest
A wonderful meadow opened up and showed this wonderful clearing

then leave trees paraded on both sides of the path.

Trees Epping Forest
leaves on trees, very relaxing

There was a very interesting contrast between some old and dead trees and new growth, a little ghastly.

sunshine Epping Forest
A ghostly old tree

It gotten even spookier when we arrived near the old and dark swamp.

swamp Epping Forest
The murky Swamp

The creepy, dark swamp was actually filled with black water, which I think makes you sink if you fall into it.

On the way we crossed 2 motorways and went under 1 tunnel on another one.

motorway Epping Forest
Footbridge over motorway

When walking through Epping Forest you are never far away from traffic noise, which is sometimes the only evidence of civilisation around us.

We managed to walk for 2 hours till almost near Walthamstow and then found we are walking around in circles and whilst we left Snaresbrook at 8, we arrived at South Woodford at 10:30, which is only 1 station away from Snaresbrook.

Madison walked very fast, equivalent to a 2 hour kick-session in the pool I should imagine, at least my legs felt like it when we gotten home.