Coaches Committee Quarterly - Winter, 1999

Welcome to the Winter, 1999 issue of the Coaches Committee Quarterly, or CCQ!

Question #1: In your opinion, what is the optimum length (in time) of a Masters workout?

Personally, our program has opted for the one-hour practice. We have a six-lane pool, conduct 30 practices per week, and try to meet the needs of our 190+ clientele base. It would be wonderful to offer more than one-hour practices, but in order to offer a coached program for the competitive swimmer we must meet the needs of a broader base of fitness swimmer. The fitness swimmer can definitely have needs met in one hour. In our program both clients coexist and support each other very well. So what works may be my best answer, the one-hour practice.
Todd Samland

While we have a range of ages from 20 to 70 years on our club, it appears as if most swimmers don't need much more yardage than this (average of 3000 yds) to swim competitively. Many of them qualify for the Top Ten. Our swimmers seem to be able to maintain this as over time we have had very few overuse injuries. They do come in tired from previous workouts and thus even at 3000 a day we have to schedule some 'junk yards' days. I am not sure, however, beyond this what the consequences are. It is somewhat difficult to get a complete warm-up in...and nearly impossible to work on stroke mechanics or starts and turns in an hour. For this reason, it would seem that a 1.25 to 1.5 hours would be optimal.
Joel Stager

One hour, 15 minutes. I feel a 10- to 15-minute warm-up followed by 10- to 20-minute warm-up/drill set followed by a main set 20 to 40 minutes and finally a 5- to 10-minute warm-down is just about right. In Maui our workouts are scheduled for 90 minutes because our Masters thrive on social time and usually manage to burn up nearly five minutes on deck getting into the water, five minutes during the actual workout socializing, and another five minutes after warm down! (As a coach if you try and interfere too much, you'll have mutiny on your hands.) So this works out perfectly.
Janet Renner

The WSU Masters swim club went from 1.5 hours to 2 hours, and now we are down to 1 to 1.25 hours in length. I think that Master swimmers in general do not need more than 1.5 hours of swimming per day, especially the older swimmers. Older swimmers who might have bad technique could start to experience shoulder pain by going more than 1.5 hours more than four times a week. Younger Master swimmers who might be training for Nationals may need more swimming. Certainly other factors in the swimmer's life need to be factored into the amount-of-swimming decision. Items such as the amount of sleep, work, family responsibilities and other activities, which may lead to fatigue and therefore a certain amount of stroke deterioration, are all factors that need to be considered when determining the amount of time to swim.
Doug Garcia

First, the swimmer can accomplish all that needs to be accomplished in this amount of time and get both an aerobic and anerobic workout (not necessarily in the same workout, although this can happen). The workout must be structured to warm up the muscles, raise the heart rate, provide anerobic/aerobic conditioning, practice technique and warm down. Structure, with a specific goal for each workout, is the key. When all of these are present, a 1:15 to 1:30 workout is fine.
Dan Goerke

I believe that any time shorter than one hour does not allow adequate time for a warm-up and warm-down, especially for older swimmers. I believe that any time longer than two hours is too much swimming for most Masters swimmers, even with several drill sets as part of the workout. I prefer to suggest to my swimmers that they swim at least three workouts per week.
Robert Zeitner

The average length of workout time for all the Master Of Brazos Swimmers is an hour and a half. Some of the slower swimmers swim more if they have the extra time. Some swimmers like to do a longer warm-up or warm-down than others. Usually the workouts are from 3500 to 4200 yards.
Judy Wagner

The optimal length for a Masters practice is whatever the swimmer wants it to be. They are there of their own free will and should make that decision.

Although I benefited greatly from the 3 1/2- to 4-hour long (14,200 yd) workouts I did during the February Fitness Challenge in 1997, I would have to say shorter workouts are generally the most beneficial for Masters Swimmers. At Tualatin Hills, our swimmers really seem to prefer the 90-minute workouts we do at 5:30 a.m. We have the greatest number of swimmers in this group. We also offer 60-minute workouts, and they seem to benefit the swimmers who have less time to train. For sprinters, the shorter workouts are perfectly adequate. For swimmers who are more interested in distance swimming, I recommend greater volume.
Bill Volckening

Question #2: Do you teach modern breaststroke to older swimmers?

No. I feel the modern breaststroke takes more leg flexibility and power than most swimmers over 50 have. If they have a good breaststroke already, I will introduce them to the "modern" breaststroke. (Is age 50 what you meant by older?) I'm a pretty good swimmer at 54, and I have trouble with the modern breaststroke. I understand it and I work on it, but I find myself limited by my diminished leg strength. Most people in their 50s are thrilled if they can swim breaststroke just a little faster and easier so I get them to do a narrower kick and pull and that's a great help to them. As they improve at this level, then I will introduce the modern breaststroke to them.
Dick Pitman

Yes, I do teach modern breaststroke to older swimmers. Most like to hear about the new technique and are often surprised at how much more efficient and quicker the modern breaststroke usually is. Getting them to follow through on a daily basis of doing breaststroke is another thing entirely. Once they have learned about getting their head under the water and into the full streamline position on every single stroke, they do not usually follow through, and it takes a certain amount of reminding to get them to see the error of their ways. For this reason, I usually avoid using breaststroke as part of a cool down, because the cool-down period is supposed to be more relaxing. Most older breaststrokers will go back to bad technique during this part of the workout, as the old fashioned style of breaststroke is more relaxing than the new.
Doug Garcia

Yes. I believe that the newer breaststroke is easier on the knees of the swimmer. I also believe it is easier to learn and is faster than the old form. I have not had anyone have the timing problem with the new form that I had with the old form.
Robert Zeitner

If I see an older swimmer who needs to learn breaststroke, I apply the procedures found most frequently in basic YMCA or Red Cross instruction. The goal is to achieve a legal, relaxed stroke that won't cause injury. If the swimmer displays an aptitude for breaststroke, I would offer the concepts of modern-day breaststroke training and ask them if they wanted to pursue it. Most of the older swimmers I've worked with are not particularly interested in trying to learn the Mike Barrowman or Anita Nall breaststroke because they usually don't have the strength and flexibility to achieve it. Drag reduction is probably the most useful idea I've been able to extract from discussions about modern breaststroke.
Bill Volckening

We do teach the new breaststroke to older swimmers because it is easy to teach using the short-axis body position drills. The old "flat" breaststroke is slower and harder to swim.
Judy Wagner

No! I don't even teach it to the younger swimmers. The modern breaststroke has been pumped up into the best thing since lubricated condoms. The real thing is better...

Yes, but they lack flexibility and most go back to a flat stroke. As in all Masters age groups, I have taught them all of the so-called modern breaststroke (what I call Grasshopper with hip action) and have found that 75 percent have gone back to a modified flat position.
Barney Hungerford

I definitely attempt to teach the modern (wave) breaststroke to everybody. I am aware that the older swimmers don't have the flexibility in the hips that my age-groupers do, and that the older legs might not be able to handle to thrust needed to get the stroke down. That is why I rely on my favorite drill: dolphin breast with fins. With proper instruction, it seems that even those who "don't get" breaststroke get the idea of diving down and streamlining under water to maximize the glide. Once this becomes second nature to them (some learning quicker than others), I start with the breaststroke kick proper and the idea of moving the hips forward setting up the lunge into streamline. In all cases, I emphasize the fact of "head down, looking at the bottom of the pool." This should be done, of course, without jerking the head, but rather placing it down gently into maximum streamline.
Ed Nessel

I attempt to teach the modern breaststroke to all swimmers, regardless of age, although most older swimmers are pretty stuck in their ways and tend to resist change.
Steve Woughter

Modern breaststroke, Hmmmmm? This past year I've been to three major clinics and attended to swim clinics as a swimmer where the breaststroke was taught or discussed. I've not found much consistency in the description of said stroke from the experts, so I've concluded that there are lots of things that could be considered M.B. I use lots of different ideas teaching M.B. to older swimmers - obviously taking care of the knees is paramount - but I've had the most luck by focusing on the timing of the "new" breaststroke. From there we let the swimmer work on choosing their own degree of undulation.
Brian Stack

If they want to learn it, I will be happy to teach it to them in stages. I find my swimmers, whatever their ages, thrive when they are taught new technique. It's always inspiring to learn new technique.
Janet Renner

So often in Masters swimming, I find myself adapting "ideal" techniques to the physical limitations to the swimmer. For older Masters swimmers, I teach the principles of the modern breaststroke and see how far they can take it. How well they accept it also has to do with their mindset, that is, their willingness to change and try new ideas.
Scott Rabalais

Fast fact: The World Record for Men 100 meter (LC) breaststroke is 1:00.60, held by Fred deBurghgraeve of Belgium. The women's record was set by Penelope Heyns of South Africa in 1:07.02. Both records were set at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

Question #3: Do you provide specific instruction or structure for your swimmers in meet warm-ups?

I suggest that sprinters warm up between 750 yards to 1000 yards, and distance swimmers from 1000 yards to 1750 yards. It depends on that specific meet. Everyone is strongly encouraged to do starts and turns before the meet starts. I think after a little warm-up swimming, drills and a few sprints, you will perform well. Lastly, after a swimmers event, I encourage the swimmers to cool down a little in the other pool. This is done to lower the heart rate and try to take that lactic acid out of my swimmers muscles.
Christopher Klemm

Not really. I tell them what I do to warm up at meets, and I tell them to warm up until they feel loose and a little buzzed. For newer swimmers I insist they take some practice starts off the blocks and practice turns at both ends of the pool.
Dick Pitman

Once I read a story about John Wooden. He didn't do too much coaching during the games, but felt that with great preparation, the games would take care of themselves. He believed in taking care of business well before the game. Now, I ain't no John Wooden, but that's pretty much what I follow. I try to prepare them, teaching them how to warm up beforehand, then let them go do so at the meets.
Scott Rabalais

I do not provide meet warm-up instruction. Most of the time the swimmer just knows they need to get the body warmed up, and a certain amount of blood circulating and sweat flowing. The main reason I do not provide instruction for my swimmers at meets is that I hardly have any swimmers attending meets. Due to our remote location, most meets are 1.5 to 3 hours driving distance from home, and many swimmers to not want to travel that far to swim. How do you get swimmers motivated to swim in meets? I usually participate myself, and have invited people to car pool with me, or help to organize car pools, but I just do not get much meet participation.
Doug Garcia

Yes. I try to have each swimmer tailor their warm-up to mirror the events that they expect to swim. I also emphasize starts off the block, since all starting blocks are different in different venues -- and also turns for the same reason. I believe it helps the swimmer to visualize what they are going to swim, shortly before they swim the event, and in the pool they will be swimming.
Robert Zeitner

Yes, but each swimmer warms him- or herself up differently. Many older swimmers need more of a long slow warm-up than others do. Older, more experienced swimmers are more in tune with what they need to warm up. They like to do what they feel is necessary for their body to warm-up. The coach gives different warm-ups to different people and helps everyone with sprint starts. In general the coach should give advice and recommend different things for different swimmers.
Judy Wagner

Yes, I give a warm-up in the form of a printed 1000-yard workout, but its geared for freestyle, and much work is needed to provide one for each stroke and for sprinters vs. distance (plus another for open water). Taper is another area that often has the swimmers confused (local vs. national meets) and needs to be addressed by event.
Barney Hungerford

I definitely do provide instruction for meet warm-ups and cool-downs, both of which I feel are important. I have a printed format that I hand out to each competitor on the team (notice I said "competitor"). They are to memorize the formula and utilize it when they race. Those who follow my instructions have given me positive feedback, especially with the warm-down between races and for the next day's recovery. The formula consists of a straight 200 freestyle swim, nice and easy, long strokes with emphasis on body real speed (15 to 30 second rest). Then, depending upon what strokes they are racing, 4 x 50 free to stroke on either 50 or 60 seconds at about 60 percent (1 minute rest). Repeat, this time going 4 x 50 stroke to free with the same intensity (1 minute rest). Then repeat the 200 freestyle swim nice and long. And finally, if it works for the individual, no more than four 1/2-lap sprint builds off the blocks. All this must be done allowing for at least 20 minutes rest down so any accumulated lactate can dissipate. So it behooves the swimmer to know which events he or she is swimming and how much time after warm-up or cool-down until the race.
Ed Nessel

Prior to meets I discuss warm-up protocols and the needs for warm-up presented by different events with the swimmers attending. We rarely travel together so it's hard for everyone in my group to arrive at the same time and to get all the warm-up I'd like. The more motivated will get plenty, and the one's who come late are always moaning about how they "shoulda got more w/u." The best teacher is still experience.
Brian Stack

I have a basic meet warm-up I like to do. It starts with a 400 free swim, alternating closed fist and open hand. The free swim is followed by two or three continuous 200 IM's alternating drill and swim. I sometimes suggest four pace 50's on :15 rest and always two or three dive sprints. If the swimmer has been doing a lot of volume I suggest longer warm-ups. I also recommend swimming for 5-10 minutes before and after racing. If we're at a different pool I always try to point out that the pool may be different in certain ways. I remind swimmers to count their strokes from the flags to the walls on backstroke. I also remind swimmers to check the blocks, walls and pool depth at the turning end if it's shallow. After races, I remind swimmers to loosen-up the legs by doing some kicking.
Bill Volckening

During the weeks prior to the meet we try out different sample warm ups. Come race day, I leave it up to the swimmers to decide what will be the best warm up for them.
Janet Renner

Committee News...

Altitude Training Camp

Plans are set for the 1st Annual USMS/Olympic Training Center High Altitude Training Camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on February 4-7. Twelve athletes chosen by the USMS Coaches Committee will be in attendance, along with two coaches, Michael Collins and Jim Miller, selected by the committee. Also attending as coaches/administrators are Nancy Ridout, USMS President, Scott Rabalais, Coaches Committee chairman, and Leslie Cooper, who has been the chief organizer of the event. Strength and flexibility expert Mark Stoker will also join the crew. A full report will appear in SWIM Magazine's May/June issue.

Nike Clinics

Beaverton, Oregon, was the site of a very successful Nike Champions Clinic in mid-December. Clinic organizer and Coaches Committee member Bill Volckening reports that 40 swimmers were in attendance, making it the biggest Nike clinic yet. USMS Past President and Indy SwimFit coach Mel Goldstein is the organizer for an upcoming Nike Clinic is Indianapolis in February 20. The guest Olympian is Kristine Quance. To apply for a 1999 clinic, contact Rob Berry at 617-547-7667 or

Open Water Clinics

The applications forms are ready! If you are interested in hosting one of the two Open Water Clinics to be sponsored by USMS this year, contact Scott Rabalais at 766-5937 or

On-deck Coaching

It won't be long until the Short Course Nationals are upon us, so sign up as an On-deck coaching. You'll monitor the sprint lanes during warm-up and help with block starts. It's a fun job, and you get a T-shirt for your contribution. To lend a hand, contact Bill Volckening at 503-533-5567 or Or, check out "Coaching" on the USMS web site.

Busy Billy is on the verge of instituting an on-deck coaching program across the country through the zone level of USMS. On-deck T-shirts will be sold to coaches interested in serving swimmers during warm-ups. Once again, contact Bill for info.

Coaching School

A Masters Coaching School, presented by the Masters Aquatic Coaches Association (MACA) and the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA), will be held at the Courtside Club in Los Gatos, Calif., in conjunction with the USMS Short Course Nationals. Presenters are Coaches Bonnie Adair, George Bole, Scott Rabalais and Michael Collins. The school will be held on Wednesday, May 12, from 1-5 p.m. Contact Mo Chambers, (408) 395-7111 x211 or, for more information.

Discussion Forum

Have you been to the Coaches Forum on the USMS site lately? It's full of great questions, answers and ideas from coaches and swimmers from around the country. To get there, follow this link. How about adding a topic of your own?

Coaches Manual

The USMS Coaches Manual is a work in progress. This means that your articles and contributions are welcome! Perhaps you have written an article lately for your local newsletter or team. Why not pass it along to and get greater exposure for your ideas? Thanks!

Next Meeting

The Coaches Committee meets in person once per year - at the USMS annual convention. This year's convention is in San Diego from September 15-18. For more info on the convention, contact USMS Secretary Betsy Durrant at 757-422-6811 or

What one thing can you do this month to make yourself a better coach?

Back Issues of the CCQ

Summer, 1998 Issue
Fall, 1998 Issue

Send any suggestions and topic ideas to Scott Rabalais at

Sponsor #51Sponsor #59Sponsor #49Sponsor #58Sponsor #20
Sponsor #60Sponsor #43Sponsor #62Sponsor #13Sponsor #61
Sponsor #29Sponsor #52Sponsor #25Sponsor #41Sponsor #36Sponsor #56Sponsor #42Sponsor #14