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Old 04-09-2009
terry terry is offline
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Default Incredibly Useful Advice

The quality and diversity of discussion and thought on this Forum -- as always -- exceeds that you can find anywhere else on the web. A superb example is Eric's reminders of (1) "cat and dog" athletes, as suggested by Bill Boomer, and how it emphasizes the importance of individualizing training, avoidance of cookie-cutter approaches, and (2) the critical and little-understood distinction between nervous system fatigue and fatigue in other systems.

Cats and Dogs
While instinct would suggest that sprinters are cats and distance swimmers dogs, Eric mentioned an example of two sprinters, one a cat, the other a dog. I believe many coaches also generally think of women as dogs (sorry -- in the athletic sense) and men as cats.

Thirty years ago I began coaching two very promising distance swimmers, both male -- from age 10 to 16. From age 13, they began participating in a very heavy week of training over Christmas holidays 100km in 8 days (something I would no longer do as a coach). We always swam a meet on the final weekend of this period. One would just get stronger and stronger throughout, and would usually swim astonishingly well in that meet. The other would just get more and more tired, and would be incredibly flat at that meet. I didn't grasp it at the time, but the former was clearly a dog and the latter a cat.

You'd think the "dog" would have enjoyed greater success as a distance swimmer, but it was the "cat" who broke a long-standing national age group record for 800m and later earned world rankings in 400 to 1500. This occurred because I realized I needed to coach them differently, and -- except for Hell Week -- I've always been more strongly inclined to "cat coaching." When I took care to avoid driving him into staleness, and gave him sufficient rest, he performed amazingly.

Unfortunately his college coach (at Arizona) trained everyone like dogs. This cat swam faster in practice on many sets than George Dicarlo and Jeff Kostoff who preceded him there. Both, being dogs, thrived on that kind of training and broke American records and won NCAA titles while there. The cat had a disappointing college career, though some of his training performances suggest at least the possibility that he could've been faster than either, if trained differently.

Nervous System Training
This is probably the least understood - by both coaches and swimmers - of all aspects of swim training. Few appreciate how critical it is to performance, nor how much more quickly it can respond to the right kind of training -- or how slow it is to recover from the wrong kind -- compared to the aerobic system, which has been far more heavily studied and is therefore better understood.

Because quality neural imprinting is more critical to sprinting success than any other events -- because high-skilled movements must be performed at exceedingly high rates and under heavy loads -- and because the potential for overstimulus and thus fatigue is so great -- because of increased reliance on intensive training -- it's far more challenging to get it right when training sprinters.
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Terry Laughlin
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Last edited by terry : 04-09-2009 at 03:10 PM.
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