Friday, May 21, 2010

The End Of A Training Cycle Anger

My group is getting ready to head to their first championship meet of the Long Course season, the Central Region Championships scheduled for June 10-13 and right now we are in the final stages of high volume aerobic training. To say that tempers are running a little higher now then usual is to make an understatement.

I love this time of year. I remember hating this time while I was swimming but I find myself loving this time as a coach. It is easy for me to see how much better the swimmers have gotten through the year and as soon as next week starts and the group starts to come down in meters and focusses on the application of more anaerobic speed -- a thing of pure beauty.

Right now the swimmers can not feel how much better they have gotten... they just know they are sore and practices are really hard. However, I am fortunate because this group I have is truly a hard working group that have posted 141 personal best over three meets this long course season, which has been quite nice given that we have swam through all three meets with high volume training.

At the winter Central Regions my group posted three finalists and zero provincial qualifiers.

This time around at the summer version of the Central Region Championships we're looking to significantly increase the number of finalists and certainly add more (or some) provincial qualifiers.

It's a fun time of year.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dr. RJ Treffene Article From TAS Blog

Here's is a blog post I wrote for the Team Aquatic Supplies blog following the Dr. RJ Treffene seminar at the University of Toronto on April 24th, 2010.

Go check out the Team Aquatic Supplies blog, they do a fantastic job of bringing together the best swimming content from across the web...


On April 24th a small group of coaches attended a seminar conducted by RJ Treffene PhD at the University of Toronto. Dr. Treffene has coached some of the most incredible swimming talents from both Australia and more recently Great Britain including, and not limited to, Ian Thorpe, Kieren Perkins, David Davies, and Rebecca Adlington.

Dr. Treffene’s unique philosophies are densely based in advanced physiology so I will attempt to provide a simplified glimpse into some of the issues discussed at the seminar.

Central to Dr. Treffene’s coaching is the utilization of standardized heart rate sets designed to build up a swimmer’s capacity function within their lactate tolerance and ultimately build up that tolerance. Much of the early seminar dealt with how lactate is produced within white muscle fibers and transferred to red muscle fibers and to the mitochondrial wall where the lactate is oxidized to pyruvic acid. Follow along for a second, key within the transfer of lactate from white muscle fibers to red muscle fibers are two taxi systems, MCT1 and MCT4 (I’ll return to explain these taxis further down in this article) and ultimately the more efficient these taxi systems the less lactate that will build up within the muscle cells and the better and longer an athlete will be able to perform without crippling lactate build up. Central to the build up of these taxi systems, as explained by Dr. Treffene is not the usual overload and breakdown cycle that is typically employed by coaches (as we discovered in the seminar) but rather a more nuanced approach with the aim not to overload the system but to gradually increase the average resting point of the taxi systems. It was explained that Dr. Treffene did not endorse the repeated cycle of pushing to the limit and causing a crashing effect but rather build up to threshold and then, with short rest, let the muscle fibers recover slightly before continuing to work up the systems thus not letting the lactate levels to fully recover but to make the athlete comfortable at a higher average lactate “recovery” point.

Dr. Treffene outlined a measurement system he has devised and tested involving Treff Units (created by Dr. Treffene) to find the critical limit to which a swimmer can perform at before white muscle cells reach their lactate limit and cease to work. With practice and understanding of this system a swimmer’s performance can be practiced and designed to build up lactate at a rate at which a swimmer will utilize every bit of energy so at the end of race, by design, the swimmer will reach that critical limit of 15.4 Treff Units within the white muscle fiber cells. In respect to Dr. Treffene’s research I will spare you the mathematics but instead move to the principles at work to help optimize this system.

I referred earlier to MCT1 and MCT4 taxi systems. The basic principle for these taxi systems is that the more efficient the taxi systems, the more efficient the swimmer will be with coping with lactate build up.

MCT1 taxis are those which help a swimmer “survive the distance” in Dr. Treffene’s words. Longer, high heart rate work with minimal rest will build up these taxis, and Dr. Treffene did go on to provide examples of sets that assist in the honing of these taxis.

MCT4 taxis are the very popular sprinter taxis that help sprinters access a great volume of red fast-twitch muscle fiber cells that work more efficiently then stressing white fast-twitch muscle fiber. Dr. Treffene also went on to illustrate examples of high intensity, lower volume, but still relatively short rest sets that are designed to hone MCT4 taxis.

Perhaps the most flawed aspect of this talk of MCT1 and MCT4 taxi systems is that there is currently no method of measuring the build up in the efficiency of these systems and at current time Dr. Treffene relies on the educated guesses of experience to design systems to build up these taxis, however what can not be refuted is that if these taxi systems are built up they will help increase the efficiency at which a swimmer process lactate and thus improve performance.

With all the talk about lactate Dr. Treffene outlined a general weekly program that involved the regular usage of two heart rate sets from which results of time and heart rate could be used to track long-term trends in training performance. Dr. Treffene then showed an Excel spreadsheet he kept working with Kieren Perkins working up to the 1994 Commonwealth Games, an event dear to many Canadians, where Perkins would do 30×100 free holding 100s at World Record pace and monitor his heart rate on each 100. Dr. Treffene’s spreadsheet contained the times and heart rates for every repeat over many months in preparation, the attention to detail and how this data illustrated the adaptions a swimmer’s muscles go through in preparation for such a breakthrough performance were remarkable. Perkins performed this set twice a week for months and as the competition drew closer Dr. Treffene, through his data, illustrated how the set evolved heading through the taper and into the Commonwealth Games and where all the last minute bumps in the road occurred. Perkins went on to break the World Records in the 400, 800, and 1500 at those Commonwealth Games and it was remarkable that the 800 FR world record was set as the split during his 1500 FR, a feat that will likely never be matched ever again.

It is key to note that Dr. Treffene outlined his general training weekly program with just two regular heart rates sets due to the body’s necessary recovery cycles where the body must be allowed to rebuild glycogen needed to produce lactate. Dr. Treffene noted that doing more heart rate set work will lead to an inability to access glycogen for lactate production and ultimately lead to that frustrating point that many coaches experience when their swimmers crash… Also within the weekly program Dr. Treffene explained, in basic principles, the kinds of recovery workouts both wet and dry that help swimmers prepare to handle the rigors of his highly demanding training program.

This seminar lasted just about four hours and I truly hope that I did not lose you in too much of the science in this seminar. I’d like to thank the brilliant John Rogers, Head Coach at the University of Toronto High Performance Swimming Center, for leveraging his long-time friendship with Dr. Treffene to get him to speak with us. From talking to other coaches who attended this seminar, such as Ajax Aquatic Club Head Coach Matt Bell, there is agreement that the level of understanding and attention to detail that Dr. Treffene brings to the physiological aspect of this sport is truly unique and opportunities to learn from icons such as Dr. Treffene are rare. Throw in the attendance of Victoria Academy of Swimming’s Head Coach Randy Bennett, coach of Olympic medalist Ryan Cochrane, who asked some very interesting questions and it was quite the seminar to attend.

My apologies in advance to Dr. Treffene if I have misrepresented any of his work, it is quite involved and has taken years to perfect and the ability to do it complete justice in just four hours of seminar time is not possible but I tried my best.

My thanks also go out to the team at Team Aquatic Supplies for allowing me to contribute to their blog. If you want to discuss this seminar in any greater detail (I took really good notes) or have any questions feel free to reach out to me…

Dave Ling
Toronto Swim Club
Follow me on Twitter @coachdling

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Maybe They Should Simplify This Model?

Just thinking... Maybe the good people responsible for putting together coaching certification curiculum in Canda should consider an easier to comprehend model?

Maybe I'm wrong, but look at this current learning path........

Perhaps something a little more linear would have done the trick?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Not A Done Deal But...

News started to break yesterday that Ian Thorpe at 27 years of age is considering a come back to competitive swimming with an eye at competeting on the Australian 4x100FR relay at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Today Thorpe's management have shot down the rumours (link can be found off my Twitter feed) but where there's smoke there's fire so let's watch over the next couple of days to see what goes on in this story and if it does come to fruitition we can take an early assessment of what a Thorpe comeback could mean to competitive swimming.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dude, Where Are My Records?

OK... Here's the issue... We were at the Canadian Pan Pacific Championships Trials in Montreal a few weeks ago and there were zero new Canadian Records set during the meet.

The swimming world is coming off a controversial period in it's history with the FINA crack down on polyurathane swim suits. This issue has been analyzed to death so I'm not going to get into it at this point but I will re-iterate that there were zero Canadian Records at the Trials.

There were some very good swims and some great breakthrough performances for some younger swimmers but it became clear that swimming in this country is going to take a painful step backwards before (hopefully) slingshotting forward.

Is it the suits?

For some yes, for others no.

Was it the timing of the meet?

Perhaps, the Pan Pacific Championships Champioships are scheduled for August 18-22. The Americans are not selecting their Pan Pac team until their Summer National Championships August 3-7. By Canada scheduling their Trials for late March into early April they are asking a lot of their athletes who are currently attending university placing the Trials right near the end of winter semester and leading into exams... It's a lot to ask. Also factor in that at the end of short course season in February/March most of the country's best swimmers had already tapered for either Easterns/Westerns and/or the CIS Championships. Then to turn around an awkward 6 weeks prior makes the task of getting towards Canadian Records double tough.

Granted for those who were eying making the Pan Pac Team the Trials should have been the focus meet above Championship short course meets... but that's not universally the case. One trip around the deck here in Toronto illustrated that the Trials were not the above-all-else focus.

The result... Good swimming but nothing unquestionably great and the country has been better and I hope that this was just a brief dip down before the arrow begins to point way up.