issue #25, February 26, 2019

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the wake-up swim

thoughts on swimming, coaching, and more from ryan woodruff
This is the pool at Centro de Alto Rendimiento, Sierra Nevada, Spain, which sits at 7,500 ft elevation.
Photo credit: Nico Messer of
“If you do not consciously form good habits,
you will unconsciously form bad ones."

-Don Burton
  This week I was interested to read about a few unusual strategies being used at the college level, namely Meghan Small's no-pullout 1:51.62 200-yard IM and Maxime Rooney's no-breath last 25 of his 45.06 100-yard fly. Though these are not the first time these techniques have been employed, these performances are good examples of forward thinking by coaches. Here are three instances where such thinking has helped my swimmers:
  • Having a backstroker with limited thoracic mobility do her backstroke start with one hand in the gutter and one hand on the bar so that she could dive onto her side instead of landing flat on her back.
  • Having a miler who was an exceptionally good dolphin kicker intentionally breathe on the last stroke into EVERY turn so that he could get the most out of his underwater ability.
  • Using backstroke top-arm breakouts (see this Junya Koga example) to get a cleaner breakout and faster first stroke.
  These aren't breakthrough innovations, but the point is that if I had followed the dogma I absorbed as a young coach ("No breathing one stroke in and out of every wall! Putting a hand on the wall to do a backstroke start is for sissies!"), we would never have found these strategies.  In the end, every coach and swimmer is in search of the fastest way up and down the pool -- and it is good to remember keep an open mind about the different ways that can be done.  - RW
loosening up
  • My favorite article I read this week was "Breaststroke Pull - The Knuckleball of Swimming" by Jeff Gross.  It doesn't just explain how to perform the pull, but also the variations in technique that we see in the stroke.  In the mental models we create for each stroke, it is important to make room for individual variations, and I love how Gross covers that for the breaststroke pull.
  • Check out Don Burton's 2011 presentation on called "Test Sets for Champions." (it's a pdf of his slides).  I got several good ideas (and the quote from the top of this e-mail) for our team headed into long course season. Further down the same rabbit hole I came across this research study: Identifying Optimal Overload and Taper in Elite Swimmers Over Time that may be of interest to you total swim nerds.
  • Just doing my best to keep you up to speed with the lingo: A "finsta" is not a training device but your swimmers probably have one.
swimming videos of the week
1. Awesome dryland exercise from @tehran_swimming
2. Check out Lilly King's new American Record 55.88 (!!!) 100-yard breaststroke from Big Tens:
favorite stuff from the blog
parent article

The Benefits of Being a Swim Meet Volunteer by Ryan Woodruff
(This is my latest in a series of swim parent articles that I am sharing here.  Please feel free to share with your team if you wish.)

"If I had one day left on Earth, I would spend it at a swim meet, 'cause those things last forever" reads a swim parent t-shirt I have seen on a couple of occasions.  True, swim meets can be marathons sometimes, but getting involved by volunteering at a meet can make it go by much faster.  But here are some other awesome benefits:

1. You will be helping your swimmer's team.  Most meets simply can't be run without a small army of parent volunteers.  No volunteers means no meets.  No meets means no swim team.
2. Your swimmer will see that you are investing your time in an activity that matters to him or her.  Seeing that you care goes a long way with most kids, even if they don't want to admit it.
3. You will get to meet the parents of other swimmers and make new friends. Let's face it, being a parent doesn't make a vibrant social life any easier, but with swim parents you already have something in common.  Maybe you can even meet a new carpool driver while timing at a meet!
4. You will make your swimmer's coach better by letting him or her focus on coaching.  Meets are often very busy times for coaches, and we are most effective when we get to focus on that alone and don't have to worry about whether there are enough timers or if the results have been posted.
5. You will get a better understanding of the sport.  Even if you were a competitive swimmer growing up, I can guarantee you the sport has changed. By getting involved, you will learn more about the sport and develop a better appreciation for it.
6. You will develop a stronger sense of pride in your team.  A swim team is not just swimmers and coaches.  It requires that parents be invested too, and this family-oriented nature of the sport is just one of the things that makes it great.  When you have invested your time in the team, you will feel even more proud when your swimmer and team are successful.

Don't miss out -- the next time your team hosts a meet, be sure to get involved in whatever way you can!
coaching inspiration
We kept our head down and kicked all the way to the finish of issue #25 . Hit me up on twitter or my rinsta (as the kids say) if you want to connect.  If you have a workout, a set, or just a creative idea, send it my way at  Not a subscriber? You can sign up here or see our archives here.

Happy Coaching,

Countdown to Tokyo: 514 Days
Copyright © 2019 Ryan Woodruff, All rights reserved.

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Ryan Woodruff · 801 Wyndhurst Drive · Lynchburg, VA 24502 · USA

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