Yes I know you know the date, but I couldn't think of a title for today.
However, I will say that the “getting better”, and Saturday's reference to starting to sense a return of some of my faculties, is becoming more evident in how I'm feeling at the pool.
So here is the workout and then I will ramble on a bit afterwards:
OK, so that's pretty straight forward, but the encouraging thing is I am starting to get the feeling that the cavalry are about to arrive. It's a funny thing, but if you can catch just a hint, and then run with that positive, then the confidence grows and you will be suddenly enjoying workouts more, AND you will certainly enjoy competitions more.
Now let's be honest here – yes, it's nice to have the "friendship” element in one's Masters participation, but I always feel there is nothing more friendly than commiserating with an opponent, after you have just beaten his time by a handy second or more.
When I'm racing in competition, it's about winning; there's no other way to put it, it's about winning.
I mean it's about YOU, that's why you're working out, to get better and improve, or hold your own in your age category. Certainly for me, it's not about sitting around singing wine-induced songs over a lunch, as I have witnessed over here.
They call them competitions because that's what they're all about - competing, not socializing.
And if I can be just a little self-promoting – My Kindle Book “Bedtime Romance: Short Stories for Sweet Dreams” is on SALE, starting tomorrow on Amazon.com, for only 99cents for a few days, and I do have two stories in there that are based around swimming experiences, in fact one is centred around a major Games.
Today I started out with 200 metres legs-only Free without any stops. I was kinda pleased I could get that far, and in fact it was really more to do with the boredom of legs-only, than fatigue that persuaded me to stop. Then I did another 4 x 50 m legs-only Free.
I mean, I used to do 1000 metres legs-only without thinking about it, but nowadays I want to get on to something more interesting.
So I followed with 12 x 50 m doing a kind of mix and match. Sometimes legs-only on the first 25 m and then full stroke Free back. Next one ... if the lane looked like it would be possible, 25 m full stroke backstroke and then after the turn, legs-only Free home. And so on. So really mixing up the combinations any which way. But it got me to the end of the 12 x 50 m with a tad more interest. And I was starting to feel just a hint of a glimpse of something from fitter days.
But I think, and I hope that I am starting to see a shimmer. It becomes evident to me that I may be, ever too slowly, getting back to being able to swim competitively in my Group. Not good, but better.
For example: if I swim a 25 m Free at 90% and I'm feeling under pressure and 'for crying out loud' it's only a 25 m, then I'm pretty sure I'm not ready.
But If I swim the 25 m and I feel that I can move the water about at will, play with my stroke, lengthen, go bi-lateral, hold my breath, alter my posture in the water and alter my leg kick rhythm as I please, then I think we are getting somewhere. But then again …
I finished with 2 x 25 m Free sprints and 6 Fly sprints (4 the full 25 m with no traffic and 2 just 20 m).
So there we go, that's my incoherent ramble for today, but I do honestly believe that once you get a feeling of authority in the water, then things can progress more quickly. And I have also noticed that I am swimming with a bit more intensity and focus, and that is not by a 'consciously' thought-out design, it is just the gradual progression of the mechanisms one took so much for granted in one's youth.
Now that I'm slightly more adult, they arrive a little later … but they do arrive ... and when they do, it's “Gotcha!! Good night, competition, or should I say, au revoir!”
God, I'd better train a bit harder now … 'cos one must be able to walk the talk.
Next pool day Monday – oooh Paddles, y'know my biceps are twice the size of Stallone's now … well they look it to me.
And remember: keep going, keep showing up and it will come. Sometimes takes longer than we'd like but keep going, there ain't no other option !
Before I forget, I would like to thank the people who played the guessing game with me and, in particular, the first three correct respondents … well, it wasn't difficult, was it? Also, to the two who connected with me on Skype: I enjoyed chatting with you and hope you did as well. And thank you for the kind things you both had to say about my book, it's encouraging to know that someone, other than my wife, enjoys my writing!
AND before I get started on today's – Allow me to tell you, I am putting my other book, “Bedtime Romance: Short Stories for Sweet Dreams” on sale starting the 11th Feb, on Amazon Kindle, at 99 cents for a few days. I mean c'mon, 99 cents! But, you know, that reminds me of an interesting thing about Scott Fitzgerald. Did you know that in 1929 'The Great Gatsby' earned him total royalties of … wait for it ... $5.10 cents(*) and his books, all of them, earned him $31.77 cents. Imagine. For today's money multiply by 10. Now, his short stories were a different kettle of fish and earned him most of his money.
(*) Source: “The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald” published by Charles Scribner's Sons 1989.
Well I'm just back from the pool and that was interesting. There was a guy swimming with the full USA colours Speedo, and I had noticed him doing a fairly active and quite fast 400 metres or so with fairly big fins on, but nonetheless he was moving along pretty good, so today I notice he's not in the lane reserved for 'equipment' users, and he's got no fins on but is still moving along pretty good.
Now he's a young guy, but I thought, here's a way to gauge how I'm doing. That's one of the drawbacks of training all alone: you have no real idea of how you're moving through the water. Oh yeah, there is a pace clock, BUT that is reserved for proper competitive swimmers; those in the local club or such.
Anyway, I try not to make it obvious but I set off just ahead of this guy at the turn, and I allow him to catch me so that now we're level. I can now gauge that a fairly slow, relaxed free is sufficient to stay ahead of him, and I can also get an idea of my turn efficiency – he's two metres back after the push off, so that's encouraging. So anyway, I'm not in the kind of shape where I want to keep going and I have my assessment made so I shut it down after 150 metres. And that was my warm-up.
So here's a case to illustrate a point about swimming alone without a club. It can get boring, and it can be very easy to cut yourself too much slack. Not that I am a proponent of the 'tough guy, demanding coach' rubbish. All that ego stuff is just a bore.
No, the point I'm getting laboriously to is: to liven up the interest in the training grind, find someone who can swim a bit and then tailor your depart to allow for them being either faster or slower, BUT use them as a tow or a rabbit you must catch. You can get pretty good at judging – I'll give them 15 metres and then aim to catch them by the 50 m or, if they ain't so fast, aim to catch 'em by the 25 m mark.
Right I explained that brilliantly, didn't I? … No?
OK, today's workout was:
On a side note, I have not heard back from the French club I intended associating with so I could compete in Feb … so, if nothing changes, I will look further afield for a competition that allows US Masters members, which I am.
Next pool day: Saturday
It's strange but it is true that even when one doesn't really feel the most all-fired up enthusiastic, about going to the pool, after you have completed your workout, you almost invariably feel better. So as I have said before it's that 'just showing up' that makes the big difference.
I would say for sure that if you allow 'reasons' for not going to the pool to gain traction in your deliberations, you're on a slippery slope where the next workout becomes a 'decision' rather than an assumed, automatically scheduled 'show up' day.
One time deciding not to go is a start, but two days deciding not to go is a pattern and three days deciding not to go is a movement … I'm cutting to the chase there, and if you are not following my ramble, then I guess you don't know the classic “Alice's Restaurant” by the wonderful Arlo Guthrie.
God, wouldn't that one just fly over the heads of our modern music aficionados.
Anyway, I digest … no, that's not right, I dissect … no not right either, “digress” Yes !! Digress. Now what was I on about ... oh yes, the Workout. Here it is, uncut, uncensored and probably uninteresting … it's a Workout for God's sake, gimme a break:
Next pool day Thursday.
So I'm in the pool, and I get to the end of about a 200 metre loosen up, and I'm bobbing at the end with the other 'nageurs' when this fella leans over and slaps his hand on the surface of the water.
“This is what you're doing and it's all wrong,” he says in almost perfect French – well, I mean he is French, but - anyway, “No, he says … see you're swimming like this, but you should be swimming more at this angle.” And he gives me a sympathetic, knowing look to show he understands and empathises with my inability.
Now there's not a lot you can say at times like these but, “What?”
I had a similar occurrence once in Libourne when the lifeguard commiserated with my attempt at backstroke. Now, in relative terms she would have had a point, but we're not talking that level here; so I listen politely and then at the end of this long instructional diatribe, I say, “No, don't think so.” And carry on with my workout.
Now, I don't swim backstroke BUT, when the Meet program is such that it interferes with my working with and riding my horse, I adjust.
So two weeks later I adjusted and swam backstroke – and won a Sleeping Bag and a 2nd or 3rd ranking in France's Masters. Might have done better but for the 1½ foot deep turn area (was a kiddies-biased pool). Jeeez ... I almost broke a fingernail!
So, there we are, I'm sorted re my Freestyle and all thanks to a generously critical Frenchman who has put me right.
I saw him swimming and I think he would be good for a 50-52 sec 50metres. He was swimming side-stroke when I left – here they call it 'educatif' - oh please!!!
The arrogance and the ignorance are stellar.
But then again, without that all-consuming patriotic arrogance, how could they sell any wine at those ridiculously inflated prices when a bottle of Italian Bardolino will knock spots off them.
Anyway, here's the workout what I did today. Who else has used that (bad grammar) phraseology in a very famous book … clue Ketchum? Mostly tried to take advantage of fewer bodies in the way:
And I hate to admit it but that was about it, – now you're thinking, “He's not doing much here, and I'm not getting much out of reading this blog.” But remember it's not how far you swim each workout. It's HOW you swim, certainly for sprinters. Quality. Stroke technique quality, not necessarily speed, but quality, precise, totally adjustable stroke.
Well yeah, you might be right, but it's the consistency of showing up that makes a huge difference and the even-greater difference is the mental game. Tougher and tougher into the countdown.
Next pool day Monday.
Yes working out at the pool can be a bit boring. I mean, it is a grind to get through the yardage sometimes, and as necessary and beneficial as it is, it does get a bit BORING !!
So I'll run through the workout quickly and then I'll tell you about an idea I had to make things a bit more interesting on this here blog.
So I did:
Now, having filled you in on that, I wanted to tell you about my whizz-bang new idea to lift the boredom quotient in this preparation phase.
I am going to offer to the first three respondents, who can answer a simple question from my Amazon Kindle book, “Riding A Strong Wind,” a 15 minute “question and answer” session on my training, diet, fitness – you choose it, LIVE via Skype. I do not want to farm any contacts, or any of that rubbish, and anyone who participates will do so knowing it will all be confidential. So Gwyneth ... it's OK you can ask and I won't tell.
No, you don't have to buy the book, you don't have to buy anything.
OK the question is:
What's the name of the man (who looks like an Italian movie star) that John Bentley has a meeting with in Rome directly after his meeting Angelica ?
That's it, and it's right there in Amazon's “Look Inside” so ... EASY !! And no, it's not at the end of the “Look Inside,” we're not playing that game.
So just send me your answer via the Contact Form on my Website where, of course, my Blog is posted.
OK, it's Saturday 25 January and the pool is not an option today because of the kids competition … SO let's ramble on, but in a little less flippant vein, and try to touch on some things that might be of interest and use to you, and then again they might not.
Well now, cos we are all different ... “Are we paying attention, Coaches?” We are all different and we all respond differently to our swim workload. Obviously all the distance guys and I.M. swimmers are going to need a really good foundation of mileage put in, BUT for 200 metres on down to the 50 m, life is very different.
So coaches can't just do a “write up the same workout for all on a blackboard and then sit back posing with the whistle.” No, they have to “individualize” the workout to the talent they are working with, AND I believe the good ones do.
Anyway, what I'm getting to for those on their own, is that you need to listen to your own body's response and adjust and sometimes accommodate. So right now I'm struggling on some of those 25 metre sprints, because I'm not really “flying fit” and by that I mean that on a 50 m the first 25 metres should be “no effort required”, it should come by nature; just fly down the first 25 without even having to think about it, then all I have to do is swim a 25 metres - the one coming back.
So, if I can get that “flying easy no effort” feeling, then on the return 25 m I should avoid the tying-up, and that dreaded moment when you start “thinking your stroke to yourself”. Once you're in that territory you want to hope you're only 5 metres max from home. So you see, I'm on a lot about “feeling” here, and that's not really the body and the workouts , it's from the mind.
Now of course without the workouts you aren't going to get the luxury of “self-psyching”, but if you're close, fitness-wise, then you can max the mind quotient in your performance.
So when I'm at the pool and I finish my workout, I dry off, and I look down the pool concentrating, imagining and playing the movie of my competition swim in my mind. Never swim slow in your movie, no ... you are just eating up the distance no sweat. Try it, you never know !!
So to the weights – No Heavy Weights ... No, dumbbells/barbells will do and 15 kilos is fine.
Reps are dependant on the movement – we are not leaving the door open to rotator injuries, anyway, we don't need to, it's just a case of doing more reps. Safer.
Anyone out there reading, I'd love to know I'm not just talking to myself (mostly cos I've heard all my own rubbish before). So do let me know with a comment or such, and for all you Canadian Masters, do give a listen to that track on my Facebook page “Down to Business”. It's by two artists from Victoria BC, Ashleigh Eymann and Ishkan and, of course, my stellar favourite, Mamma Freedom from Manchester - and the track is great to get you pumped.
So at the pool, 5:00 pm.
Miserable rainy day and that doesn't exactly enthuse, but it has to be done, it has to be done.
On the two days off since the last swimming day, I thought about working out with light weights, but then I thought again, and, being immensely lazy, I didn't do any weights.
But, I also didn't wade into eating inappropriate quantities of food goodies, which might not be beneficial. So I had one very small bag of cashew nuts … that was it for the two days. And, of course, some water, and ... I'll come clean, I had two Green Teas WITH a spoonful of honey in each.
I never eat sugar. Of course, one cannot avoid it in essentials like Lindt Chocolate, but there we are, life is not all a bed of dahlias. And an interesting fact is that honey was the very fuel that the Romans used to give them the energy to build those Pyramids in Sicily, (they were later shipped as a present to Cleopatra), a well known archaeological fact.
Anyway, yesterday I think, being factual, that I only covered about 400 metres of legs only, alternating between free and breast 50s. And then, as the pool was fairly littered with obstacles in the form of erratic and wandering bodies, I tried to squeeze in 25 metre sprints on free. I think I managed around eight. But one has to adapt to the situation if one swims in a public pool and when life hands you lemons, make Martinis with little slices floating in them.
I see folks regularly come to the pool and do their workout routine religiously, and it's commendable but in many cases what they are doing is 'practising swimming slow'. They do good yardage, but it's SLOW and they're memory-banking swimming in that way. Pity, a few sprints would be very revealing, and sometimes less can do more. It's kinda like typing – if you type slowly as a rule, you will NOT be able to dash off 100wpm when the need arises.
My elbow is getting there, and on the free sprints I didn't notice any challenge – fly I'll find out next time there's space to try a 25 m Fly.
Pool closed Saturday for a local competition. So Monday 27th next swim workout day.
And if anyone is actually reading this … give yourself a shot of energy by listening to the “Down to Business” clip from the Sonic Generals upcoming album ... It's on my Facebook page and the song will be featured in the Hackney's Finest movie coming soon. Good for energy !!!
Well here we go again … I managed my 500 metres leg kick and in fact I took the opportunity to do 100 m extra – yes I know, WOW !!
So having nailed what I set out to get done, I used my hand paddles (which I use very little) to basically do a shoulder/upper arm muscle session. So I don't go very fast when I use the paddles, primarily because I'm slow, but I want to catch as much resistance as I can and really use this work as a soft version of a gym workout. So I did mostly breast stroke, to get the shoulders worked and I just let my legs trail for what, in essence, is an arms-only deal. Only probably did 300 metres or so.
So I get this stuff done, avoiding the multi-finned, snorkelled and hand-padded others in the one lane devoted to those using equipment, and I try at this point to find some lane space where I can get a clear shot at a 25 m or at least 20 metres or so before hitting traffic.
So it all goes fine and I cut those in my path lots of accommodation as I come up on them, either shoving the anchors on, or switching to a legs only or such. Managed 4 by 25 metres without obstruction (or little).
The 25 m sprints I did manage were tough and, in truth, it's hard to really let it go when one is pretty sure of coming up on other swimmers before the end. So it's all 80 % stuff , but that will do for the mo.
The elbow is not bad, but if I really try on a few fly strokes, it starts to feel challenged. But, hey, there's a whole 29 days or so to go, so no sweat … right ?
I hope so.
As I intend to compete in a French Masters competition in February, I thought it might be of interest to follow my progress, or lack of it, as I approach the date. I will be writing this in a conversational, relaxed style, and I ask that you don't draw any conclusions about the quality of my literary works on Amazon, from this loose ramble.
OK. Here goes. I have been trying to find a competition not too far from my Bordeaux area of France in which to compete, as a US Masters registered swimmer - NOT SO FAST ! France doesn't really want to open up anything to foreigners, so I am finding the search difficult. Oh yes, the National Championships are OPEN, but they are usually in Paris or some other distant and expensive to attend location … So ...
So I've decided it's less expensive and easier (in fact OBLIGATORY), just to associate with a French club. I won't be swimming with the club at workouts and I won't be taking ANY of their coaching, but I will, to all intents and purposes, be a member of the “team”. Really, I do my own self-coaching and training and so this will be my blog of how it goes.
I've been out of the pool for about 3 years, I thought, but looking at my old e-mail to find out who to contact I see 2009 as being my last effort ?? Time flies.
I will be swimming at the 20km distant pool, 3 times a week, Monday, Thursday and Saturday (when they don't close it for kids competitions or such) and, of course, I have to allow for the 200 or so “fete” days i.e. holidays for the 'workers'. But let me not be negative, I hope and intend to get into the FINA World Top Ten 2014, and with probably only two opportunities, I gotta get it right, and so we commence.
My right elbow has been giving me a bunch of trouble and was close to being un-bendable (it won't flex at all) just last week. Result of a cast put on by an over-zealous doctor decades ago, after an equestrian competition accident.
So I did swim on Saturday the 18th, after having decided on competing and I do have a lot of core work to do, and that means I will HAVE to do some legs-only - god, what a pain - but I will have to, because that is where you are going to get your core strength from.
I guess it's a bit like a boxer, you've heard the commentator say “oh, his legs have gone” and by that they imply the mobility and bounce is out of the athlete, well it's kinda like that.
You have to have the core good enough if not strong, if you want to ride to the end. There is nothing more debilitating than that sinking feeling as the legs tie up and drain all the power from your stroke.
So Monday tomorrow, and I will be doing 500 metres legs and then whatever 25 metre sprint singles I can manoeuvre between the bobbers and floaters littering my path down the pool.
Gonna post more specific distances and efforts as we go day by day, but for now ....
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day
~ Author of fiction