issue #48, october 2, 2019

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the wake-up swim

thoughts on swimming, coaching, and more from ryan woodruff
This sweet swimming spot in the Portuguese Azores Islands was visited this year by reader and coach Elaina Jacobs. As she describes it: "This is the port of Caloura, in the village of Agua de Pau.  Beautiful local swimming hole, among dozens of other spots on the islands. Guys would swim laps back and forth from the boat ramp out to the concrete pier, about 50 yards.  Awesome!  Swimmers everywhere!"

Motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing. That's the Law of Consistency. It doesn't matter how talented you are. It doesn't matter how many opportunities you receive. If you want to grow, consistency is key.


-John Maxwell
Read more at:"
You might win some, you might lose some. But you go in, you challenge yourself, you become a better man, a better individual, a better fighter.
Read more at: Waldo EmersonYou jYou
 I started blogging (how old-fashioned!) my workouts almost 10 years ago with two primary motivators - to share and to learn.  Posting my workouts online I hoped would help other coaches find inspiration for their workouts. In turn, I wanted to learn from others by seeing their ideas and practices. Both have happened, but little did I know that one of my favorite aspects of the journey would be helping other coaches when they ask  me questions.  I don't pretend to know all the answers, but often these questions help me crystallize my own thoughts in a way I hadn't before. So for somewhat selfish reasons, I offer this... Do you you have any coaching questions I can answer? I can't promise the quick/easy solution or the wisdom of someone like Eddie Reese, but I can offer the perspective of one humble coach and maybe we can learn together.  - RW
Ask Ryan a Question
loosening up
  • I have enjoyed listening to the first two episodes of Mike Anzano's Swim Coach Mike Podcast.  In the first episode, he gave an introspective self-critique of the last year of his coaching career.  For me, a long-time club coach, his criticisms and stumbles were easy to identify with and felt authentic to my experiences.  In the second episode, he riffs on the topic of mindset and how critical it is for swimmers.  I gleaned a couple of good ideas to use in my own coaching.  My favorite nugget from the article he based the episode around: "Not every workout can be a transcendent victory experience, but the ones you have to grind through have value -- indeed, no less than the transcendent victories, no less than the transcendent ones that are stepping stones toward your goal."
  • The swimmers on my team are in need of some flexibility/mobility work, particularly in the thoracic spine and shoulders (is it the phones, too much sitting, bad posture?).  We have tried yoga, but I don't think they took it seriously enough to really get maximum benefit. We have started to do some work with mobility sticks, and have tried some exercises along the lines of these 5 stretches you can do with a broomstick to open up your shoulders.  Coaches - if your team does something similar, would you be willing to share your methods with my readership?  If so, please drop me an e-mail at
  • Check out these Top 10 Team-Building Ideas from Jon Gordon.  I have tried several of these in the past -- my swimmers enjoyed them and they helped us understand each other better.
  • Success is Ordinary: an excellent article about Mary T that I will be reading to my team soon.
favorite stuff from the blog
  • Seven was our lucky number with Quality 7s, one of the most popular workouts on the blog this past year.
  • Coach Mike Cook has been a consistent contributor here.  This month he gave us Saturday Madness.
  • My favorite workouts are those where we are swimming at or around race pace.  The Freestyle Race Pace Spectrum workout was one of my recent favorites because it really challenged all of our swimmers, from sprinter to distance types yet they were able to rise to the moment successfully.
  • Coach Elaina Jacobs contributed a recent workout with the Mason Makos in addition to the picture at the top of this e-mail.
  • The set below one of my favorite ideas I have had in the last few years... and the best part is we could do it again tomorrow and it could be totally different. It also can be adapted to any age, any ability, or any length of time. I love it because it stokes my creativity, keeps the swimmers on their toes, and is just plain fun!
question from the inbox:
Do you have some sets or drills to work on distance per stroke? I have some tempo trainers, too, but do not feel I am very efficient using them either. I really want to work on these facets this season. Thanks a bunch.

My Answer:
Distance per stroke... I agree that this is a major consideration in improvement and is the best way to improve in a long-range progression.  In my opinion there are a few major questions to ask about a swimmer (particularly a 14 & over swimmer) working on distance per stroke:
1. Does the swimmer have the strength to create the propulsion needed to improve distance per stroke? If not, work on this strength aspect first - weights, pulling with paddles, resisted swimming, etc (all dependent on age and physical maturity level).  If yes, proceed.
2. Does the swimmer have the kicking ability and body position/control to improve distance per stroke?  If not, work on this aspect first.  A swimmer who is out of alignment consistently in freestyle (wiggling down the pool, for instance) will be unlikely to significantly improve distance per stroke until fixing this issue.  A swimmer with a weak kick will likely be unable to maintain speed while improving distance per stroke.
3. Does the swimmer have the mental patience to improve distance per stroke? If the swimmer is impatient (refuses to lengthen a stroke, is resistant to changing technique,or just has poor body awareness or attention to detail in general), you have to start with changing his or her mind first.  While it is possible to help swimmers lengthen their strokes with the methods I mentioned in points 1 & 2, if the swimmer doesn't understand what they are doing or WHY they are doing it, distance per stroke is less likely to be improved.
Tempo trainers ... I have used them quite a bit... they certainly could be used to help with distance per stroke, but I tend to use them for the opposite approach -- improving tempo.  I have a few sets with tempo trainers on the blog... just click on "tempo trainers" in the tag cloud on or just go here:
videos of the week
1. It's hard to believe we are less than a year away from the Olympics... that said, it's never a bad time to watch an inspiring Olympic-related video, even if it isn't about swimming:
2. Duke football coach David Cutcliffe explains his thoughts on confidence. This is simple but brilliant stuff.
coaching inspiration

Thank you for reading issue #48. Got any swim coaching questions? Please send them my way.

Happy Coaching!

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