Does exteme training empty the head?


Does extreme training empty the head? Don’t expect an elite athlete to be thinking about much during training – their body is concentrating on going faster. If you need them to think – slow it down.

Not good for athletes at school, unless short periods of epth headiness is of value? Better, as Steve Jobs and Dr Zbigniew Pelczynski and other great minds I know or know off – take a hike. A walk, preferably with a like mind. Not the dog, I pressume.

And where to walk? A local park or countryside may provide a suitable LACK of stimulation, compared to say walking and talking through a gallery or shopping mall?

All this courtesy of page 40 of Daniel Kahneman’s 2011 must read ‘Thinking, slow and fast’.

On the ohter hand most of the Oxbridge rowers are PhD students – or is that there excuse? Do yiu compartmentalise? There is nothing wrong with and no better way to empty the head than during training and competition? Does this leave that vessel, your head, more receptive to learning afterwards?


Goal Setting

For squad swimmers, coaches … and parents of squad swimmers, it helps to set some goals. This is how. Make sure they are:

Planning for competitive swimmers

As a coach you ought to ask yourself the following when it comes to planning for competitive swimmers.

Do you keep records of the following?

Sessions plans
Weekly (Microcycle) plans
Monthly (Mesocycle) plans
Annual (Marcrocycle) plans?

You’ll find mine here. Preparation is important, we know that, but it is assessment and reflection of what you did afterwards that will build your knowledge. Better still if you share it with others, those who can set you right, those who are learning from you too, as well as colleagues. Learning is all about collaboration, deliberation and gradual aggregation of experience, beliefs and applied knowledge blended with theory.

By habit I‘ve always kept a journal, I’ve been blogging since 1999. I learnt to type as a teenager and often say that a week doing a touch typing course at Oxford’s College of Further Education has proved more valuable than the three years I did as an undergraduate at the university.

Some people get into the habit of keeping handwritten session plans and these various cycle in an academic page per day diary. Bill Furniss who coaches Olympic Champion Rebecca Addlington keeps such a hard back Collins diary/journal. A bunch of us trainee Level 3 coaches had the wonder of being shown the pages running up to Rebecca’s Olympic swims. It was touching to see Bill’s notes, doodles and clear delight when she won. (I think he made a note to himself regarding how to deal with the media).

On the importance of keeping accurate records

It is important to keep accurate records

Accurate records allow you to contrast, compare and analyse factors that influence the way an athlete may develop, perform or ‘turn out.’ Inaccurate records that cannot be relied upon, or where there are gaps in the information give only part of the picture and can be misleading. The saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out,” which is no more true than here – if the records aren’t accurate they have no value.

By keeping sets of times achieved by swimmers I have coached and taught across different events I am quickly able to profile and assess any new swimmer I meet. Only by keeping test data on swimmers is it possible to make adjusts to their training, what is more, as you a proven right or wrong by what you do and how things turn out your predictions and planning changes.


Details from Hy-Tek Management System,
Details from my bespoke FileMaker Pro DTB
Session plans with assessments from my Session Plan folders across teaching groups, training groups and squads.

A coach is like a juggling artiste from Cirque du Soleil

On top of their water and land training, you’re going to have to think about nutrition. But to keep them motivated how are they handling friendships, school/college work and the costs of swimming. Are they being supported by the family?

1. Relationships

2. Education

3. Money

4. Family

Keeping them in line and motivated can be achieved the by listening; by doing so you come to understand their strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and ambitions. Too often a swimmer will quit when they get into a pre-exam panic; they ought to have planned their study time, production of course-work and revision just as their swimming programme is planned. By knowing where they are headed help can be given here too by liaising with their school, as we should have done through-out their age group and junior squad swimming ‘career.’

There’s no assuming that all swimmers have a ‘busy’ life; indeed they have made sacrifices in order to swim. The club compensates for some loss of a busy social life by having club evenings and trips away at half term, as well as the annual ‘even’ camp which in 2008 went to Australia. To keep teenagers engaged this is vital, otherwise they will naturally start to feel they are missing out.

Poolside without a session plan? Use your head!

There are rare occasions where you arrive poolside without a plan

I will usually be able to recall what is it I had intended to do in the scheme of things and get on with it. I have never gone more than a single session in a week, or month and in all cases such sessions were part of a pre-planned ‘scheme of work.’ I feel vulnerable, like an actor being pushed out onto stage not knowing his lines, if I have not thought through who I am taking, their age, numbers, ability, issues – availability of assistance, the ‘personalities’ from the club or pool operator and so on.

It amused me that Bill Furniss said when referring to the importance of planning said , “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong,’ because working in television for 15+ years that can be catastrophically true, embarrassing at least, unprofessional for certain and sometimes very expensive. You have to know where you have to be, arrive in good time, know who you will meet or have to support you, know your ‘audience’ and what to expect from them and what they expect from you … and be familiar with layout, facilities, access to equipment and basic safety issues.

For me over planning and wishing to stick to something rigidly has been the issue at times

Learning to put down the clipboard, read the situation, see who I’ve got and how they feel and go with what I believe to be required. For example, I’ve learnt at last that leaving skills coaching, say turns, to a particular week or session or period has its shortcomings because there will always be one or more people who miss it … so to a degree it is better to have ‘a bit of everything’ in all sessions; dives, turns and finishes always matter, all strokes will be swum to some degree, there will always be some sprinting and so on.

I had thought that running out of ideas may be a problem but I’ve learnt from other coaches, if not the athletes themselves, that there is much to be said for repetition – it is safe & other parameters can be pushed. They don’t train to be entertained, they train to get fit and swim faster!