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by Lee Carlson

July 1, 2003

Something to try with your club

About 10 years ago the PNA held a fitness clinic emphasizing stretching, nutrition, and body fat measurement. Our board decided in a planning retreat that we wanted to conduct an up-to-date clinic as way to give back to PNA members for their participation and support of our LMSC.

A fitness clinic committee was formed. The committee included the PNA Chair, fitness chair, treasurer, a coach and physician. We met three times over a year in planning the clinic. Our objective was to develop a clinic reflecting the latest techniques in fitness and to introduce these to our membership so they could improve their level of fitness.

The committee selected the topics for the clinic based on an email survey of possible topics. They selected stroke efficiency, workout strategy, injury prevention and management, nutrition and developing core strength. Nutrition and injury prevention are typical fitness subjects. Stroke efficiency and core strength were new “hot topics” and may be viewed as subjects for competitive swimmers rather than general fitness swimmers. However, after discussions with the experts in this area and watching the great demonstration on core strength development using balance balls at the USMS convention we were ready to break some new ground.

We priced the clinic at $25 per participant, included registered coaches for no charge and estimated 40 participants. We included an hour swim workout prior to the actual clinic. We attracted 30 participants and ended up just about breaking even after paying an honorarium averaging $200 per speaker.

Let me start by saying I agree fitness is a state or condition of being fit, in good health or physical condition. We describe this clinic as an attitude of continuous improvement, a total approach to fitness that emphasizes working smarter rather than just harder.

For presenters we asked for a list of local leading experts. Several names kept coming up and we chose to keynote one of our own master’s swimmers and record holder Gary Chase. We were also fortunate that several of our members were able to convince their fitness club to donate the clinic facilities and recommend and encourage the participation of their fitness Director and an outside consultant. All speakers received great marks in our written clinic evaluation.

Gary Chase, a PLU professor in exercise physiology, swimmer, coach and consultant conducted an in-the-water demonstration on long axis strokes, (freestyle and backstroke), Gary demonstrated improved stroke economy. He defined this as using less energy to swim at the same pace. Chase demonstrated proper body rotation initiated by the hips and swimming in the front quadrant using a high elbow recovery.

Chase discussed a perceived exertion scale where he encouraged us to assign a point scale based on our exertion during the workout. The scale is based on 0-10 (maximum). By targeting a workout somewhat heavy-to-heavy without excessive fatigue we can target our maximal heart rate (52-85%) and maximal aerobic capacity (31-75%). Using this approach we can learn to work at a higher capacity.

In discussing workout strategy Gary emphasized maximizing stroke efficiency, monitoring workout intensity, improving aerobic capacity, increasing anaerobic threshold and maximizing anaerobic power.

Gary Nicholson, a trainer with a wealth of experience in all sports activities discussed shoulder injuries. Recent studies according to Nicholson report that 50% of master’s swimmers report pain that lasts three weeks and interferes with swimming. This is an over use injury that involves inflammation in the supraspinatus and/or bicep tendon. The causes of the injury are dropping the elbow and failure to roll the body from side to side. Treatment includes doing non-aggravating strokes, kicking drills and evaluating stroke mechanics. Ice packs and heat packs and stretching and strength exercises are recommended.

Cindy Farricker a registered dietician and sports nutrition consultant discussed the impact of nutrition on performance. Sources of fuel include grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, milk and simple sugars.

Cindy recommended eating a high carbohydrate meal low in fat and moderate in protein and fiber 2-4 hours before activity. One to two hours before exercise eat bread sticks, pretzels, non-fat yogurt, low fiber cereal/granola bar or fruit. Less than one hour before exercise do not eat simple carbohydrates such as sugar, honey soft drinks or juice. Make sure you stay hydrated. During prolonged activity use a carbohydrate containing drink such as Gatorade. Take two juice boxes following activity

Sue Matyas the Fitness Director for the Bellevue Club discussed core muscle strength. Core muscles are the units of several muscles that work together to provide adequate stability of the pelvis and spine. These are the areas of trunk rotation that develop or generate the power in the swimming stroke.

Chest/back, abs/low back, quadriceps/hamstrings must be trained with equal emphasis. Using balance balls, Sue demonstrated a series of exercises designed to use all muscles efficiently and yet together. The ball emphasizes balance and using more muscles.

The posterior muscles: hamstrings, gluteals, the erector spinae and muscles of the low back are the back stabilizers; are essential for efficient movement, explosions, acceleration and deceleration.

Dynabands and stretch cords were also recommended to develop strength and flexibility in the lower extremities.

The evaluations from the clinic were very favorable. Out of a possible three points (Excellent) here are the responses:

Clinic organization 2.7
Clinic format and schedule 2.6
Value of the clinic 2.9

Suggestions for improvements:

“More time for balance ball, Do a stroke clinic. More time for each session, two people in the water to demonstrate.”

Most useful part of the program:

“Nutrition (8 responses), Balance ball (5 responses), workout strategy. A lot of value for the amount charged.”

Other comments:

“Well prepared session; each speaker presented with passion; nice job; absolutely the right amount of time on each; the topic order was excellent (applicability and interest level) Loved the aerobic program. Excellent overall; thank you. Make the clinic free for new PNA members to get them in the habit of coming to learn. Thank you all for a great program and your professional presentation.”

Lee Carlson is immediate Past Chair and current Sanctions Chair of the Pacific Northwest Association, and he is a member of the USMS Fitness Committee.