Week 1:  Flexibility Stretching

As many of our swimmers may know, stretching is a very important part of swimming and preparing your body to perform, but it is often overlooked. Stretching can help swimmers and all athletes become more flexible. Here are some keys points to beneficial stretching to improve flexibility:

1. Timing: Muscles and tendons stretch easier and farther when they are warmed up. Think of your muscles and tendons as pieces of gum; when gum is cold and you try to bend it, it breaks in half, but if it is warm, it easily bends and stretches. So do static stretches after your workout is complete.

**Remember how our senior swimmers do a DYNAMIC stretching workout before getting in the water? This is because your muscles need to be prepared and warmed up to stretch like "gum" when you're in the water. However, after your swim practice is done, it is important to do some STATIC stretching. Static stretching means a stretch is held in a challenging but comfortable position for a period of time, usually somewhere between 10 to 30 seconds.

2. Full body stretch: We tend to think that we will only be using our shoulders, glutes, and quadriceps during swimming.  In truth, you use almost every muscle in your body, so do full body stretching! 

3. Length of stretch: Each stretch should be held for 30 - 60 seconds to increase flexibility. A shorter stretch may feel like plenty, but it's not. Research has shown that 30 seconds of stretching will increase flexibility, and holding stretches up to 2 minutes optimizes flexibility. 

4. Stretching repetitions: After holding a stretch for at least 30 seconds, release it, relax a moment, and stretch it again. You will find that the second and third stretches go a lot farther and make the muscle feel even more relaxed.

5. Intensity of stretch: Stretching should not hurt. If it does, you are stretching too far. You should be able to feel a stretch as a slight pull on the muscle and tendon. Hold that position until you no longer feel the stretch, then pull a little more until you feel the tension again.

Below is a video of a 20-minute flexibility stretching routine geared towards swimmers! This video is also designed to be followed along, so set it up on your phone/computer/tablet and stretch with the trainer!

*Don't forget: if at any point you feel pain in a stretch, ease up or stop the stretch completely. Continuing a stretch that is painful can lead to injury*

View the video here!

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Week 2: Focusing at Practice

Apart from the physical challenges swimmers face in the sport, swimming goes much deeper than most people might think. As we are all aware, mental health awareness is becoming a big conversation, not just in the medical community but in sport as well. Having a good relationship with ourselves is the first step to being successful in all aspects of our lives. The way we think influences every single thing we do, so its extremely important to have a healthy mental space. 

One big benefit that comes from being aware of our mental state and having ways to stay in a good place is being able to focus. Some of you may have heard the term "mindfulness" before, but if not, it is something you should be familiar with. Mindfulness is pretty self-explanatory, as it is the state of being conscious or aware of something. In other words, you are mindful of your thoughts, feelings, surroundings, responses, etc. The purpose of practicing mindfulness is to be able to acknowledge what is happening around you, how you feel about it, and your responses to your surroundings (remember E + R = O ?). If you are in a situation that is giving you anxiety or making you feel stressed out, you can use mindfulness as a technique to calm your mind and be able to respond in a healthy way. If you can recognize your feelings and what is making you feel that way, you can address the issue and resolve it in a more beneficial way. 

Going further, if you can begin to practice mindfulness on a daily basis, it can help you focus more on the things that are important to you. With the negative thoughts and feelings dealt with, there is more space for you to be engaged in what you are doing at the moment. Since you are here reading this long schpiel on mental health and mindfulness, we can assume that you care about swimming and your success in the sport. Swimming is something that is important to you and you most likely want to get as much out of it as you can. By being able to focus at practice, you will be able to retain what the coaches are telling you, effectively correct what you may be doing wrong, and be aware of how your body is feeling while your swimming. Mindfulness is awareness, and awareness lends to better focusing.

So, now that we are aware (see what I did there?) of the importance of our mental health and how mindfulness is important in everyday life, how does this apply to swim practice? More importantly, how can we get better at focusing while we're practicing? Below are some tips on what you can do to get and stay focused while swimming. 

  • Visualize the way you want to perform at practice. Surely you want to get the most out of practice and come out a better swimmer than you were 2 hours ago. If you see yourself making all of the send-offs, doing your flip-turns correctly, and swimming fast when coach says to go fast, it will help you actually DO those things. Being mindful and aware of what it takes to perform well is the first step to making it happen. On the flipside, if you see yourself putting little effort into a practice and swimming easy when you should be going 80%, then that is what you will do. 

  • Don't try to do everything at once. Yes, you are visualizing an amazing performance at practice where everything you do is great, but it is important to realize that you will not be able to perfect every single detail in every moment at practice. Break things down into smaller, more manageable parts. For example, if you know you need to work on flip-turns, underwaters, and how you enter the water on your freestyle, don't try  to do that all at the same time. Instead, spend the first 30 minutes of practice focusing on your flip-turns. During a set or warm-up, think about every single flip-turn you do and how you can correct any issues. Then, if you want to work on your underwaters or stroke, take the next 30 minutes of practice to work on one of those. You will find this to be more beneficial than trying to think about every detail at once. After all, you still want to be engaged with what your coach is telling you to do (6 x 100s free @ 1:20? You still need to make sure you're paced to hit that send-off every time).

  • Put negative or unhelpful thoughts to an end. If you notice you are zoning out while swimming because you're thinking about that test you did poorly on or something your friend said that hurt you, you aren't helping yourself at all. You are there to swim and get better. If you are focused on anything but what you're doing at the moment, you've lost. Stop the thoughts that enter your head that shouldn't be there. Not only will this help you to focus on your swimming and getting better, but it puts negative thoughts out of your head for the 2ish hours you're at practice, and doesn't that sound nice? Allow yourself to not worry about outside life for that small window of time, you will find a sense of peace and calm.

Want to learn more about focus and how to improve it while swimming? Check out Olivier Poirier-Leroy, a former national level swimmer from Canada who is big on the mindset of swimmers. His book, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset, combines sport psychology research, worksheets, anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

See a brief bio on SwimSwam here, and some information on his book. 

Happy reading! (:

Week 3:  Health in Swimming: Iron

This week, I want to shift gears to focus on nutrition and physical health related to swimming. As a baseline reference, here is a document I created about the basics of what/when/how to eat before and after swimming. Building off of that, there are also key nutrients that swimmers, especially in their teen years, need to be aware of. Iron is one of these important nutrients.

Since I am not a RDN and I am not as qualified as a dietician to give you all the facts about iron, I found a great article written by Jill Castle, MS, RDN (She's credible!) on USA Swimming's website. Jill lists 8 things you may not have known about iron, and how it affects swimmers. Click here to read the article!

 

 

She is the author of Eat Like a Champion: Performance Nutrition for Your Young Athlete. If you want to learn more about Jill, go to her website www.jillcastle.com

She also has some great resources for athletes, and a list of 70 Awesome Pre-Workout Snacks! 

So, this week's goal on the dry side is for you guys to study up on some nutrients, iron specifically, that are important for swimmers like you! I have given you a number of resources to check out, so you can take this information and apply it to yourself. If this is especially interesting to you and you want to learn more or want some more resources, let me know! I would be more than happy to share what I know with you and help you get the materials you need to learn more!

 

Just send me an email here: katiepierce45@yahoo.com 

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Week 4: WATER!

Welcome to week 4, friends! For this week's dry side article, I want to talk about water (ironic, right?). But not the water we swim in, the kind we drink! 

As we all should know, water is one of the most important things we consume in our daily lives. After all, every single one of your coaches reminds you at some point during practice that you should have your water bottle. I know this because I think I've said it no less than ten thousand times. So if we know how important it is and we're reminded frequently to have it with us and drink it, why is it so hard sometimes to do just that?

This does not apply to everyone, since there are some of you who always have water with you and love drinking water. However, this is not the case for others (myself included!). So what are some ways we can forget to bring a water bottle less, drink water more consistently, and learn to like the taste of water more if that's the case for you? Well, let me help you out! Some of these tips may seem silly or no-brainers, but don't underestimate them! You may even find yourself trying out something new you see here and it clicks! 

1. Find a water bottle (preferably reusable - save the planet!) that is fun. If it is something like your favorite TV character, favorite color, or is covered in shiny glitter, go for it! Having a water bottle that looks neat to you and you enjoy carrying around will help you be more inclined to actually drink out of it. I like to cover mine in stickers!

2. The taste of water can be very boring. Lucky for those of us who don't like the taste of water, there are SO many ways to enhance the flavor of water to something more enjoyable for you. It could be something as simple as adding a lemon slice or two, some frozen fruit, even fresh herbs and a veggie or two! Here is a link to some fun ways to switch up your water!

3. If you're a big soda fan, try adding some carbonation to your water. The key here is to leave behind the added sugars. Some options here could be La Croix instead of soda, although it is not the best idea to drink carbonated beverages while working out or swimming. Switching to carbonated water drinks instead of soda is a good way to get used to less sweet and artificially flavored drinks. Try out some of these types of drinks with a meal, as opposed to at practice. 

4. Going off of that, it will also help you enjoy the taste of water more if you cut back your consumption of juice and soda. These can be extremely sweet, and are not the best option from a nutritional standpoint when talking about hydration. If you have trouble cutting back on juice, add a little water to dilute it. Gradually, you will get used to your drink being less and less sweet. Another thing to try is watering down Gatorade or Powerade. 

5. Drinking water isn't the only way to get hydrated. Believe it or not, there are a lot of foods you can eat that are rich in water and help hydration. Foods like fruits and veggies are not only healthy snacks and are packed with nutrients, but are also good sources of water. Here is a list of some foods that are good for helping hydration!

So, there are tons of ways you can get yourself to drink more water. There are endless resources out there for adding flavors to your water and make it to your liking, its just a Google search away! 

If you have any questions for me, as always, I am available through email! Let me know if you find any really good recipes for adding to your water - I'd love to hear them!!

Week 5: Snacking

As we enter into another week of staying at home and social distancing, there has been something I have been keeping my eye on: snacking. While I am always thinking about snacks and dreaming about what I'm going to make for dinner, this is different. I have been reading from different sources and news outlets about how this quarantine is effecting our physical health. It seems pretty obvious why: we aren't able to participate in sports or our normal workout routines. And while this is true, there is something else going on here. 

You may be familiar with everyone's friend-enemy, Boredom Snacking. This is when you get the urge to eat even though you may not even be hungry, but you aren't occupied with anything and you wander to the kitchen and start snacking on whatever you find. It's not the best way to deal with boredom, but if you have some healthy snacks in the house then it's less of an issue. So, in a time where we are sitting in our homes with little outside interaction and not a whole lot to occupy our time, idle snacking is occurring a lot more. 

On top of that, you or your parents may have stocked up on a little extra food in your house just in case, so there are even more snacking options available to you. While there is nothing wrong with this and being prepared is important, at the moment, the grocery stores are still open (thank goodness!). So, even if you and your family members deplete some of what you have stocked up, its not a big concern because you can always go to the store again and get more. 

This is where the excess snacking comes in. Not only are we more bored and more prone to idle snacking, but we also have MORE food available to us. Which means, we're bumping Boredom Snacking up to Quarantine Snacking! 

But fear not, snacking is not an evil being we need to avoid. Believe it or not, eating smaller, more frequent meals is more beneficial to our digestive system and metabolism than a few large meals that are far apart. More info on that here!

A good way to avoid unhealthy foods or large amounts of snacking is to have the right foods available to you. Below are some helpful lists of foods you can keep in your house that will make frequent snacking have a less negative impact on your health!

How to Choose Healthy Snacks & Snack List

Choose What Type of Snack You Are Looking For!

Some Unusual Snacking Options

Week 6: Benefits of Flexibility

Circling back to week 1 when we introduced flexibility stretching and how to do it, but now I want to give you guys some more in-depth information explaining why flexibility stretching is so beneficial for swimmers. It is often overlooked in terms of training but it can make a major difference in how efficient you swim and reduce injury. This week, I want you all to read this great article from Team USA about the benefits of flexibility in swimming, and the key body parts that you should focus on when improving flexibility. This article will explain to you the why's and how's of flexibility that you may not even have thought of!

 

Check it out here!

*P.S. If you have any questions about this week's article or you have something you want to learn more about, let us know! I am also open to hearing if you all have any suggestions on what you want me to write about! I've covered nutrition, flexibility and stretching, and mental health, but if there's something you want to see on this website, please let me know. After all, the coaches are here for you and we want you guys to get the most out of what we're offering! We hope to see you all soon! (:

Week 7: Yoga for Swimmers

As many of you have requested, this week we will focus on yoga! There are thousands of different yoga poses out there, and they each serve different purposes and work different parts of the body. I have been researching all the different poses that would be beneficial for swimmers, and I stumbled upon a whole page of yoga for swimmers on SwimSwam! This page serves many purposes: it discusses different modalities in yoga, provides free online yoga classes, has articles talking about the benefits of yoga for swimmers, and learning ways to incorporate yoga into your daily life.

I think this page is a very great resource for you guys to use, and it comes from SwimSwam, which I know many of you are familiar with! I hope you all will explore this page as it is free and provides so many different poses to help with your flexibility and strength. 

Click here to go to the page!

Additionally, I found a page that specifically lists yoga poses for swimmers and how to do them. If you want to do your own yoga flow, you can check these poses out and get creative! As a side note, yoga also revolves heavily around breathing, which is an added benefit to learn since it is so important in swimming as well! 

Click here to see the list of poses!

Week 8: May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Welcome to the month of May - I hope you all are enjoying the warmer weather and soaking up some sun! As some of you may know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month, something that is near and dear to my heart! Mental health awareness is important for so many different reasons, and every person either deals with some degree of mental health struggles themselves or knows someone who does - it's perfectly human! So, this week, I want to offer you all some really helpful resources, facts, statistics, and words of wisdom that I hope you will use and share with you loved ones! Always remember, there is absolutely NO SHAME in having mental health struggles or illness, and it is so important to ask for help if you need it. 

First off, the National Alliance on Mental Illness is a leader in the dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. Their website is a huge resource for all things mental illness. They offer everything from endless facts and data, answer questions commonly asked, and can even help you if you want to get involved with their cause! Here is their website, and I encourage you all to take some time to browse. You many learn something new!

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 17% of youth (6 to 17 years old) experience a mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety disorders are the most common!

Another resource that some of our older swimmers may find helpful (but younger swimmers can check it out too!) is an organization that I was involved in when I was at the University of Toledo. It is called CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls), and it is an organization that has 70+ chapters across the US! The main goal CHAARG strives to achieve is for young women to embrace who they are and learn to love themselves. But this message serves for anyone - it is important to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally in order to live our healthiest lives. CHAARG has created a whole page on their website dedicated to Mental Health Awareness Month, where they offer lots of resources, articles, and stories of CHAARG girls across the nation. Its a great organization and they are very involved with mental health, so I hope you'll check them out as well!

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 50% of all lifetime mental illness begins by age 14, and 75% by age 24. Mental illness is not just something only adults experience - its common in young people too!

There are SO many more websites and resources out there that target mental health, and these are just a few that I am very familiar with. I encourage you guys to spend sometime getting familiar with common mental health conditions, terms, and signs and symptoms of those conditions. You may be surprised how common and normal this stuff all is, and I hope it benefits you if you feel you are struggling with your mental health. 

As always, the coaches at CLE are here for you and we encourage you to speak up if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health. Either we can help you, or we can point you in the right direction for getting some help! There is nothing to be ashamed of if you need help, whether its just talking, getting something off your chest, or even seeking therapy or treatment. Just remember to always make these decisions with your primary health care provider - they can help you find what's best for you!

Below are more websites that discuss mental health awareness. Happy reading!

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Week 9: Swimming Fun Facts!

This week, I want to take a break from the usual educational article to do something fun! So, enjoy a plethora of fun facts and swim trivia!

The average high school swimmer swims 1 million strokes per season.

Think about that for a minute. You don’t even have the time to count to a million, meanwhile, some swimmer is well on his/her way to swimming a million strokes by the end of the season. Stress and high stroke counts increase the risk for shoulder injury and disability among swimmers.

Swimmers sweat in the pool.

Swimmers lose just as much sweat in the pool as any other athlete loses on land. There is, however, not enough research to tell us how much sweat swimmers actually lose in the water.

Swimmers use nearly every muscle in their bodies.

While there are so many people out there to dismiss swimming as a “real sport,” swimming is one of the most intense sports there is. Why? Swimming is an all-body exercise. Yes, swimming uses more muscles than baseball and football.

The first goggles were made from tortoise shells in the 1300’s.
Rubber goggles weren’t created until the 1930’s.

Swimming first became an Olympic event in 1896.

Swimming in the Olympics started as a men’s event only but women were able to participate starting in 1912.

Tracy Caulkins is the only swimmer ever, man or woman, to own American records in every stroke. 

Benjamin Franklin invented swim fins to help move through the water more efficiently.

Breaststroke is the oldest known form of swimming stroke.

There is enough water in Olympic-sized pools to take 9400 baths.

Olympic pools hold 660,000 gallons of water, where bathtubs can only hold 70 gallons. That’s a lot of baths.

Over 4 billion people in the world can’t swim.

More than half of the global population does not know how to swim, so you don’t need to feel too bad about yourself. However, it is a handy life skill. Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide.

In 1926, Gertrude Caroline Ederle (an American competition swimmer) was  and the first woman to swim the English channel.

The first person was Matthew Webb, who made the crossing without the aid of any artificial buoyancy in 1875. 

Week 10: Swimming Teaches Life Lessons

Do you guys remember a few weeks ago, I talked about Olivier Poirier-Leroy? Well, he's back, because he wrote a great little article about 7 life lessons you learn from swimming, and I think it is important for you all to read (and then read again). We don't often talk about this side of swimming, but instead we think about sets, times, send-offs, etc. This is a perfect time to step back from that mindset and look at how swimming can shape who we are. 

Read the article here!

Week 11: Supporting Your Immune System

Chris Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian and sports nutritionist, has a few articles on USA Swimming discussing different nutrition topics for swimmers. Since we may all be thinking about getting back in the pool and around other people here in the near future, we might be thinking about ways to keep our bodies healthy and safe from illness. Our immune systems are key in keeping us healthy and fighting off bacteria and viruses. 

Chris lists some specific nutrients that help support our immune system more so than others, and offers some types of foods that are rich in these nutrients. Of course, there are endless foods and recipes that offer immune system support, so I have included a few links to give you guys some more ideas on what works for you! As always, keep in mind your specific dietary restrictions and let us know if you have any questions!

Chris Rosenbloom's Article

16 Foods That Can Help Your Immune System

More Immune System Boosters

Week 12: Recovering Your Body After Intense Training

Are you all ready to get back into the pool? Check out this quick article on USA Swimming's website written by Chris Rosenbloom that discusses nutrients that can help your body recover after an intense set or practice in the pool!

As restrictions ease and swimmers get back to intense training, what nutrients help your body recover after a long, hard work out?

Let’s break it down, starting with the most essential nutrient, water.

That’s right, water is a nutrient, although we often think only of carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals when identifying nutrients. We lose water all day long and that loss increases during physical activity.

For most of us, drinking water and other beverages, along with water-rich foods (fresh fruits, veggies, soups, etc.) with meals and throughout the day meet our needs. But, sweat losses during exercise increases our need for water. A typical athlete replaces only 30 to 70% of sweat losses, so work with a sports dietitian to help you learn how much fluid you lose in a typical workout and develop a scheduled plan of drinking to keep you hydrated.

One thing you don’t need is expensive waters that claim to be “smart” by changing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of your blood. Organs, like lungs and kidneys, tightly control the blood pH in the range of 7.35 to 7.45; if gets higher it is called respiratory or metabolic alkalosis and if it is lower it is respiratory or metabolic acidosis, and both are life threatening. So, there is no need to try to acidify or alkalize the body because our lungs and kidneys won’t let us do it anyway.

Carbohydrate and protein are the two nutrients you might think of for recovery. After exercise, your muscles are hungry for carbohydrate. Hormones and enzymes increase to rapidly replace lost muscle carbohydrate (in the form of glycogen), but you need to do your part by getting carbs to the muscle. It doesn’t matter if you drink your carbs or eat them, but many athletes find consuming sports drinks or low-fat chocolate milk an easy way to speed carbs to the muscles.  

Protein, about 20 grams of high-quality protein, like whey protein found in dairy foods, is the dose recommended for recovery. Whey protein also provides a key amino acid, leucine, identified as the trigger to muscle protein synthesis.

A few other nutrients that can help with recovery and may not be top of mind for swimmers: antioxidant vitamins, polyphenols, and omega-3s.

Vitamin E, a fat-soluble vitamin found in nuts, seeds, and some vegetable oils, is a potent antioxidant helping to protect cell membranes. Some studies have found it helps with muscle damage after hard exercise.

Polyphenols are a part of group of compounds known as flavonoids that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You might have heard about the benefits tart cherry or blueberry juice. The colorful flavonoids called anthocyanins, help fight muscle damage and improve strength.

Omega-3 fats, are sometimes referred to as “fish oils,” and most of us don’t eat enough fish to get the beneficial fats. Omega-3s can help you reap the benefits from strength training and can reduce muscle soreness after a hard workout.

Recovery nutrition serves dual purposes: replacing lost water and nutrients and supporting adaptations that happen in many body systems during training. So instead of grabbing chicken nuggets or a greasy pizza, think about what you put in your body to help it perform to the best ability.

By Chris Rosenbloom, via USA Swimming: https://www.usaswimming.org/news-landing-page/2020/05/18/nutrients-to-help-your-body-recover-after-intense-training