Archive for June, 2011

If You Have Any Questions

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

By David

Few Swimwatch articles have resulted in the amount of comment generated by the post on Scott Talbot’s aerobic training and our 8000 meter medley set. It is relevant to confirm Rhi’s observation that the 8000 meter swim was swum by only four swimmers on our team recently, three of whom were Open National Championship standard. In fact one was an Olympic Gold Medallist and a second was a Nationals “A” finalist. It might be stretching things a bit to blame this particular session for all Swimming New Zealand’s membership ills. Perhaps ironically, has anyone noticed that swimming’s membership retention problems have increased in direct proportion to introduction of trendy new training programs designed to make the sport “fun”? It seems the fun idea might not be working. Perhaps young people joining a swimming club are looking for success as their brand of fun. A few 25 meter sprints in training are unlikely to give them the success or the quality of fun that they really want.

The fourth swimmer completing last week’s 8000 meters medley is fifteen and currently swims in New Zealand’s Division Two level of competition. She’s one of those rare characters who thrive and prosper on a diet of distance. In the last six weeks she has swum 85, 85, 101, 90, 90 and 90 kilometres. She’s also in the gym three times a week lifting pretty impressive weights. And I would defy anyone to describe this young woman as anything but committed and excited by her journey through swimming. However even she surprised me this morning. Her training day was planned as 10,000 meters in the morning and 8000 in the afternoon. The morning session was 3×1000, 10×200, 1×1000 kick, 20×100, 1×1000 kick, 500 swim, 500 kick. That’s an aerobic session. The afternoon session was not a lot different. Unfortunately the afternoon session was in doubt. A parents’ meeting meant she would not be able to get to the pool. But there was a solution. Could she, I was asked, swim both the morning and afternoon sessions in the morning? After all it was only 18,000 meters. If she began at 5.30am she’d be done by 10.30am. This was entirely her idea.

What would you have done? I have no doubt there are the doubters out there predicting all sorts of ruin; broken shoulders and broken spirits. I questioned the sense of it all for two minutes. Then I thought of Lydiard, Quax, Jullian and others running up to 200 miles a week in pursuit of their dream. Who was I to deny their swimming likeness? Well, all that was early this morning. At 11.30am I got a text message. It said, “I did the 18 btw. I think I might come in and do another 8 tonight. Just kidding!”

There is something really good about that story; a young woman setting her own goals, meeting her own challenges and winning. Hopefully she will be successful in competition as well. However whatever her race results might be she knows, I know and her parent’s know she has set herself goals of a Phelps and Lochte standard and she has prevailed. No one will ever take that away from her. Of course she should have swum the 18,000.

When I first came back to New Zealand after seven years in the United States I was told to forget all that distance stuff. New Zealand swimmers will never do it they said. I don’t believe that. The spirit of Jelley, Lydiard, Snell, Quax and Walker is as alive and well today as it ever was. I’ve seen today’s generation do some remarkable things.

Jane Copland swam 800 meters without stopping when she was three, also because she chose to. I am not sure what drives a child (it was a couple of days before her fourth birthday) to do such a thing, but I certainly was not the cause. She had learned that 800m was half a mile and she decided she wanted to swim that far, without stopping. She did 1000 kilometres in ten weeks when she was sixteen and won her first National Open Championship the following season. Toni Jeffs twice reached 1000 kilometres in ten weeks. Even Nichola Chellingworth who was no great lover of distance conditioning regularly reached 900 kilometres in a ten week build up. Every week Rhi Jeffrey swims in excess of 80 kilometres. National Open finalist Jessica Marston is always around 90 kilometres a week. The American, Joseph Skuba, a 50 second LC 100 meter swimmer, swam over 900 kilometres in all his build-ups. And of course Abigail has just swum 18 kilometres in one training session. None of these swimmers are injured or broken. All of them were or are fine athletes. Yes there is plenty of evidence to suggest the doubters are wrong.

I think it is reasonable to leave the final view on this subject to Dr. Peter Snell. He is now a world authority on the physical effects of exercise and for several years was not too bad at its practice either.

Arthur Lydiard based stock in his elaborate schedules. He talked about balancing the training. My conclusion is that the details were relative unimportant though I didn’t realize that until 1962. That was when I did his schedule and trained right through when I ran my World Records when I ‘wasn’t supposed to’ based on the schedule. Like Marty Liquori said, all you need is a decent base, some leg turnover work and a lot of the scientific stuff is bullshit. Many American runners run themselves into the ground because that is what the coaches think they need to do. When you have done distance for many months you feel that you have lost your speed so many runners stopped the Lydiard distance and started doing a bunch of speed work and they raced well. Then they concluded that since they saw the light they don’t need the distance work. Then the following season without the base they don’t race so well.

Later on as a scientist I learned that the benefits of distance running are achieved after muscle glycogen depletion. So if you run for two hours a lot of the slow-twitch muscle fibers which were initially recruited run out of glycogen and cannot contract any more. Eventually you use the fast twitch muscle fibers which you normally only use when running fast, so that was a stunning revelation foe me. I didn’t know that when I was running my 22-milers. I just knew that the quality of my build-up work had a great relation to how I raced later on the track.

I tried to run everything evenly so we didn’t do those sessions where a runner gets faster as he progresses. I also didn’t do sessions where I went from 200 meters to 400 meters to 600 meters and back down. I think those are little tricks that coaches use to justify their existence. It’s all bullshit. As long as you get an endurance base and avoid the pitfalls of overtraining you will improve. The ideal training is the maximum amount of race related pace running you can do without overtraining. That implies that you must have the base before to allow you to avoid overtraining.

Key Goals

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

By David

Let’s get back to Project Vanguard. Swimwatch has established to the satisfaction of New Zealand’s best sport’s attorney that Swimming New Zealand has probably acted illegally on at least three occasions during the Project Vanguard exercise. If that opinion is right then Coulter, Byrne, Berge and Toomey are crooks. The stench of suspicion is everywhere. The moral authority to govern is in tatters. SPARC is auditing Cameron’s folly. The organization is in serious danger of running out of money unless Coulter can successfully seize the Region’s bank accounts. What a disgusting mess.

On Swimming New Zealand’s website we are told Project Vanguard has nine “key goals”. This report will look at each of these. But before we do, readers may recall that the only authority Coulter was given by the Regions was to determine how “the current regional structure” could be “optimized”. Coulter has turned that very specific instruction into nine key goals. He has assumed powers way beyond anything the owners of the sport had in mind. No wonder he was dropped from the Olympic Association. Swimming should follow their good example.

However, ignoring the illegality of the “key goals” let’s look at what Coulter wants them to be.

To be a single organisation with a one team approach

There it is – in black and white. SNZ’s constitutional goal is to have everyone doing the same things, the same way, under their control. And it’s nonsense. There is no evidence to support the idea that we will be better if Southland is forced to run their affairs the way Auckland finds best; or Taranaki is made to comply with Wellington; or Canterbury is ordered to tow the line with what works best in Northland. In fact the opportunity for Regions to develop their own solutions to their own local problems; the opportunity to have a variety of systems is an organizational strength. No one expects Countdown to be exactly the same as Foodtown. Having a choice is the power of a free market. Duncan Laing would never have produced Danyon Loader if Otago had been run from Wellington. Remember it was Swimming New Zealand’s Wellington office who described Laing as “lacking man management skills”.

We need to remember that Jan Cameron sold the same line of rubbish when she pushed to have all the high performance money and power centralized at the Millennium Institute. Centralize everything in her hands and medals would flow, she said. And it hasn’t happened. Since she took over we have won nothing. She got her socialism. For ten years she has controlled everything and New Zealand lost. Our country’s swimming is poorer because she sold us a “single organization” approach. In fact her empire is so rotten; it is now the subject of a SPARC audit. The rest of the organization will suffer the same result if it follows Coulter down the path of his clearly expressed socialist fantasy.

To deliver a better service to members

I agree with this goal and of course that’s all Coulter was instructed to do; optimize the performance of the current regional structure. He was never given license to dash off on a quarter of a million dollars flight of fancy. That guy needs to learn to do what he is told. A national sporting organization is no place for those unable to exercise the disciplines of leadership. By definition Regional people are closer to the sport’s membership than Coulter or Byrne will ever be and certainly better placed to provide a good swimming service. Only the overwhelming arrogance of Coulter, Byrne and Berge would think otherwise.

To champion swimming from grassroots to High Performance

Who would have thought we’d see the day when Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance management would be trumpeted as the way the whole organization should be run. In case you had not noticed Murray, SPARC, that’s the people who pay you to administer the Millennium program, think that it has performed so badly; think that it is in such disarray that, they have ordered two of their directors to sit on to your Board and commissioned their own audit of your High Performance program. Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance program is exactly why Coulter and Byrne should never get anywhere near the grassroots portion of this business.

To create sustainable change

Of course good change is good. Our problem is that the four models recommended by Swimming New Zealand all involve central control. We never asked for that. We don’t want that. We will never accept that. Please, go away and do what you were told. Look at ways that the current federal structure can do its job better. On second thoughts there is no need to do the “what you were told” bit. Just go away.

To support volunteers

This goal is deeply dishonest. Here are the guys who in report after report have told us that although the sport’s volunteers have done a sterling job it is now time to replace them with Swimming New Zealand paid professionals. Even the last “goal” on this list says “to adopt a more professional approach” Project Vanguard is not about supporting volunteers it’s about replacing swimming’s volunteers. Getting rid of volunteers is not called support. Coulter and Byrne want to create a small coterie of sport’s management graduates who will run to their every beck and call; not like those pesky Regions who enjoy and do a good job of managing their own affairs. New Zealand Surf hired professional administrators and now the volunteer base is bit by bit getting smaller and smaller. And they are killing themselves financially in the process. New Zealand swimming does not want to go down the same path.

To take advantage of technology

The inclusion of this goal is simply an attempt by Swimming New Zealand to make the case that the Regional federal structure is responsible for the sport’s inability to apply modern data management systems. That’s ridiculous. Probably the most important technological company in the world is Microsoft. And Microsoft is used in MBA courses as the gold standard of a federally managed corporation. If Microsoft has found their federal system best manages the world’s most advanced technology, Swimming New Zealand can hardly blame federalism for their failure to install half a dozen PCs. That failure simply confirms that Coulter and Byrne are not up to the job. Federalism has nothing to do with it.

To grow membership

Is Mike Byrne really trying to tell us that his Wellington office is better at recruiting members than the Regions and Clubs? Experience tells us the opposite. As the number of staff and influence of Byrne’s Wellington office has grown, the membership of the organization has steadily declined. Coulter and Byrne are the problem. They probably go for weeks without seeing a new Swimming New Zealand member. I saw three new members this afternoon. And I’m not unusual. With the exception of Cameron’s Millennium Institute staff that’s the common lot of every coach and swim teacher in the country.

To secure and increase funding base

Here we go again – the blame game. Swimming New Zealand’s story goes something like this. The insurance company support Brian Palmer secured for the Auckland League competition hurt Swimming New Zealand’s deal with State Insurance. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Byrne and Hemsworth make that claim. And it is just rubbish. It contains not an atom of truth. I challenged Byrne months ago to produce a letter from State Insurance saying they were upset about the Auckland League sponsorship. No letter ever appeared.

I don’t believe for a moment that the funding base of swimming will increase in a sport centrally controlled by Wellington. The Regions earn swimming $1.5 million every year. Would the same level of support be forthcoming from the Southland Licensing Trust, from Otago pubs, from Hawkes Bay RSA’s, from dozens of Regional raffles, swim meets and sausage sizzles if the whole lot was run from Wellington. Of course it would not. Without the work of the Regions local funding would be cut in half. Just look at surf.

To adopt a more professional and business- like approach

Byrne and Coulter revel in the message that they are ‘professional”. They know about business. That is really ironic when 60% of their funding comes in the form of SPARC government welfare checks. They can’t even generate enough real business to cover half their expenses; nothing much private enterprise in that. The sixteen Regions however stand on their own commercial feet. These regional “amateurs” are not on the sporting dole. They manage successful commercial operations. They run swim meets, apply for commercial grants, run sausage sizzles and car washes and sell caps and t-shirts. Their commercially generated income has to meet 100% of their expenses; and it does.

The problem in eliminating the Regions is that the one section of the sport that pays its way will disappear. The whole sport will go on the dole. It becomes government welfare dependant. The number of raffles, sausage sizzles, meets and grant applications gradually declines as the membership decides to just leave it to the professionals. A whole section of self supporting income disappears. Financially the sport will be in a very much poorer place. And that’s where the Coulter gang wants to take swimming. Coulter and Byrne have made much of the fact that Surf and the Girl Guides adopted a professional services delivery constitution. Both organizations centralized power in their Wellington Head Office. However the adulation of the Coulter gang is premature. In both organizations there has not been time for the negatives to appear – until now. Gradually the cracks are beginning to show. Volunteers, membership and fund raising are all in decline.

I have known a dozen unpaid regional administrators who have forgotten more about swimming and business administration that the combined knowledge of Byrne, Coulter and Cameron. In New Zealand I know of one who runs a multimillion dollar sign writing business, another owns his own bank, another is the wife and the sister of two New Zealand sporting icons and another is a multimillion dollar property developer. Would I trust these “amateurs” or Mike Byrne with my $6 million investment in swimming? Let me tell you, the answer is not even close. I don’t know how many of you have read Cameron’s letters from New Delhi. The standard of English is dreadful. Worse than the eighth grade classes, I’m told, she once taught. The other day one of Swimming New Zealand’s “professionals” had to ask one of the Auckland Region’s volunteers what a Rangitoto relay meant. Clearly, paid does not mean good.

So that’s Swimming New Zealand’s nine key Project Vanguard goals. We have explained what we feel about them. Good luck in deciding what you make of it all.

Surf Lifesaving In Tough Times

Monday, June 6th, 2011

By David

In this weekend’s Herald newspaper a stunningly important article appeared exposing the disaster the restructuring of Surf Life Saving has caused that sport. In Surf, their restructuring was called Project Groundswell. In swimming it’s called Project Vanguard. In case you missed the article Swimwatch has copied it below. Have a read and take a look at the future Coulter, Byrne, Berge and Cameron are recommending for our sport. Yes they are leading us all right – right over the edge of a million dollar cliff.

By Paul Lewis

Surf Life Saving New Zealand – a non-profit body known as one of the country’s most financially robust – is facing accusations that a landmark restructuring has been a costly failure; causing financial difficulties.

Project Groundswell started two-and-a-half years ago to coincide with surf lifesaving’s centenary; building a structure to support the organisation long into its next century. It was touted as saving up to $1 million a year in efficiencies and administration.

Instead there are tales emerging that the restructuring has been enormously and perhaps even unsustainably, expensive. There are reports that SLSNZ, previously a financially healthy body, has had to eat into its reserves by $1m or even $2m to pay for Project Groundswell and its aftermath. “They have lost our reserves,” said one surf insider. “One big unexpected bill and we [SLSNZ] could technically be insolvent.”

SLSNZ Board chairman Graeme Cullen, when asked if the organisation faced insolvency, said: “We are in very tough times. The board is acutely aware of that and is working on it.”

Asked if SLSNZ had any reserves left, he said: “That is one of those difficult questions to answer. We have made a call on our reserves, but we have invested longer-term as well and we are in a position where we can free those investments up.”

According to its website, SLSNZ’s income is $6m a year derived from sponsorship, gaming machine grants and The New Zealand Lottery Grants Board.

The organisation’s total annual income is approximately $13m.

SLSNZ does not charge a national membership levy, instead providing programmes and distributing over $2m each year to clubs.

There is no suggestion that key services, like lifeguards on beaches, are in danger because of the strong volunteer component in surf clubs which make up the SLSNZ. But surf lifesaving sources are worried about the sustainability of the current structure, the financial health of a previously robust organisation and transparency around the answer to questions like: how much has been lost and what happens now?

“What they’ve done is tried to centralise but all that’s happened is that they have ended up building a vast bureaucracy for themselves,” said another surf life saving source. “It’s a mess. A hell of a lot of people in surf were against this change and now everyone is thinking: ‘I’d hate to think what Project Groundswell cost’. Everyone thinks there is a lot we are not being told and that they are glossing over things.”

Project Groundswell took SLSNZ’s 72 clubs in nine regions down to just four regions which have a much more direct reporting line to the national body. However, several sources pointed to a burgeoning increase in staff, as a result of the restructuring, which has helped blow the budgets.

Two CEOs have left SLSNZ during Project Groundswell’s implementation – first Geoff Barry in 2009 and then, just last week, former board member turned CEO, Grant Florence.

“That’s what we don’t understand,” said one source from inside SLSNZ. “The system we had wasn’t broken – so why did they feel they had to fix it?”

There is no suggestion either CEO departed because of Project Groundswell but, in a memo without signature circulated on Tuesday, the board of SLSNZ said an interim CEO was to be appointed by the end of the week.

The memo also said: “The Board are satisfied following independent verification of the organisation’s financial position that whilst cashflow is tight in the short term, the organisation remains stable and there is a healthy budget surplus forecast for the 2011-12 year. In planning for next year, and after listening to our membership we can confirm there will be no reduction in programmes and services planned for the upcoming year.”

“You can read between the lines there,” said one surf source. “They are trying to tell us everything is all right but the only way you can read that memo is that they are trying to get a rescue package together.”

It is also understood that a consultant has been appointed to help address matters. ‘

Cullen said: “Plainly we have had some bad financial news. Our financial year ends this month so there is still some uncertainty as to what the position will be.

“The question whether or not it was Project Groundswell that is at the heart of the matter or whether it is a separate consideration – we have had some communication issues in the organisation in the last few months and the Board has acted to improve that.”

After making the above comments to the Herald on Sunday verbally, Cullen also responded with a statement by email saying: “There was always going to be a settling in period [for Groundswell] and we were always very clear that we believed it would be up to three years from full implementation before we could see financial benefits come to fruition.

“…the full implementation of Groundswell combined with our centenary year meant the organisation was always going to be stretched with high workloads. This combined with the recession and Christchurch earthquakes have seen a need to release cash reserves which isn’t unusual.”

By Paul Lewis

From Suzanne Speer

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

By David

Yesterday an email was sent to all the New Zealand Regions by Suzanne Speer. Since Project Vanguard was first suggested Suzanne Speer has been deeply involved. Until recently she was a Regional Representative on the Project Vanguard Steering Committee.

Many readers will be aware that Swimwatch is a loud and demanding voice when it comes to the subject of Project Vanguard; so loud and so demanding that I fear we may damage the cause we seek to promote. However I have been to several meetings where Suzanne Speer has spoken on the subject of Project Vanguard. She is not loud or demanding. She is measured and cautious. Suzanne Speer is certainly no Swimwatch.

Therefore I cannot imagine the provocation she must have felt before writing this email. Its contents speak louder and with more sincerity than the tens of thousands of words written about Project Vanguard in this swimming blog. Swimwatch copy her email below for your consideration.


Dear Regional Associations,

Project Vanguard

On 14 May 2011, the President of Swimming New Zealand wrote to all of you as Regional Associations. At this time, Murray Coulter updated you on where this Project had advanced to and where it was likely to go in the near future. His letter also referred to the dissolution of the PV Committee, explaining that this action arose through a unanimous decision taken by the PV Committee itself.

I am writing to you as a person who has served on the Project Vanguard Committee since its inception. I was a Regional Association representative on this Committee until it was recently dissolved by the Board of SNZ.

Firstly, you should know that the PV Committee decision to dissolve itself was not unanimous. As one of the few remaining regional representatives on the Committee, I did not actively support that decision. I have had direct communications with the President pointing out that he was incorrectly advised about this detail. For many of you who know me, you will readily recognise that I have actively promoted open and balanced regional representation in this process, not close it down. So Murray’s incorrect words have conveyed a false position to the Regions about their regional representatives. Be that as it may, my non-support does not change the fact that a majority decision was taken and has been acted on.

More important is the change that has now occurred in the ongoing assessment process for Project Vanguard. As Murray’s letter of 14th May clearly stated, “the Board is now actively engaged in fully evaluating concepts/options for a different operating model” — this is minus any direct regional representation. Murray’s letter refers to various consultation work, but as you know consultation does not equal direct representation in the assessment process.

Recent publications by SNZ on this Project include the Operating Model Options Report dated March 2011 which sets out the 4 preferred options now being assessed by the SNZ Board. The status quo, being the Regional Associations and possible improvements, is not one of these options. Instead it appears that the status quo is being used only as a benchmark to plot such things as workflows and processes against which all other future models will be assessed – hence the recent workshops which some of you may have attended.

As they currently stand, all 4 options largely represent variations to centralised models. If one of these models is chosen without further amendment, then there will most likely be the removal or substantial downgrading of autonomous Regional Associations.

Amongst the various options are ideas to create district hubs with regional / district advisory boards with power to make recommendations only to a national swimming body which could still choose to ignore these recommendations. Other options to centralise finances to a national body will also reduce the independence of Regions even if some form of regional governance is maintained.

From now on, when you read new information about any PV assessment work, don’t interpret that this has involved any direct input to assessment from regional representatives; it only involves assessment by largely SNZ board members. From the original founding intentions for the PV Committee to have 3 regional representatives and 3 SNZ board members, active regional representation has progressively dwindled in favour of more and more board members until it has now arrived at zero regional representatives.

Whatever your individual thoughts are about Project Vanguard, please keep asking lots of questions to make sure you get good, useful and accurate information on any proposal for reorganisation. Amongst the many questions you will be considering, do consider the following question: will proposed changes foster good ethical governance for our swimming organisation?

Yours sincerely,

Suzanne Speer,

Past regional representative, PV Committee

Aerobic Swimming 101

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

By David

Coach Kimberly is the very good West Auckland Aquatic’s Assistant Coach. She will be horrified when she discovers I have written this story. It would be difficult to find a more pacific and gentle human being. Please do not attribute to her the shortcomings of those she works with and who write for an internet swimming blog.

Coach Kimberly recently took part in a Swimming New Zealand coaching accreditation course. Part of the weekend program involved watching the Millennium Institute’s coaches take a training session. When the course ended I was interested to hear what she had seen and learned.

She mentioned that she was surprised at the difference between the “aerobic” training used in our program and the “aerobic” training demonstrated at the Millennium Institute. I asked if she had an example of an aerobic schedule used on her course. Could I see it? She did have an example. Here is what had been written on the Millennium Institute’s white board. This is what Scott Talbot, New Zealand’s senior performance swimming coach, paid by the state purse, gave to the swimmers on the course as an aerobic training schedule.


4×150 – 50 free and 50 fist closed and 50 free or back – sc take 1 less every 150

2×100 – kick NB on 4 positions

2×150 – back 6 underwater kicks off the walls, good streamlines and breakouts

2×100 – kick NB on 4 positions

2×150 – Pull Buoy, 100 moderate and 50 breathe 5 hard

8×25 – fins, odd underwater 15 fast, even dead start flags to flags sprint

Aerobic: Heart Rate 50 beats below maximum

1×200 – on 3.00 then 4×50 # 1 drill main stroke

2×200 – on 2.55 then 4×50 “King Fish” tumble main stroke

3×200 – on 2.50 then 4×50 free jump outs

4×200 – on 2.45 then 4×50 sprint middle 20 meters as a “King Fish” tumble

Dives and skills

I could see the reason for Coach Kimberly’s confusion. Aerobic conditioning at West Auckland Aquatics is based on the teachings of Lydiard and Jelley. I began my coaching career in a sport where aerobic conditioning meant spending three hours running at a firm pace through the Waitakere Ranges, or along forest trails in Boulder, Colorado or down a dusty road in Kenya’s Rift Valley. What did Scott Talbot’s fruit salad mix of interval repetitions have to do with that sort of international aerobic conditioning? The answer, of course, is not a damn thing!

Most certainly aerobic means the same thing in the world of swimming as it does in running. The problems highlighted by Scott Talbot’s program are specific to the Millennium Institute. All New Zealand swimming coaches should not be tarnished by what goes on over there. Scott Talbot’s program is not aerobic training. The author is clearly having a joke with his swimmers or has no idea what the word aerobic means.

I do not know whether Scott Talbot has ever been taught the meaning of aerobic. While Wikipedia may not be the soundest source of coaching information, Scott Talbot could learn a thing or two by reading its definition of aerobic exercise. It is pretty accurate.

“Aerobic exercise is physical exercise of relatively low intensity and long duration, which depends primarily on the aerobic energy system. Aerobic means “with oxygen”, and refers to the use of oxygen in the body’s metabolic or energy-generating process. Many types of exercise are aerobic, and by definition are performed at moderate levels of intensity for extended periods of time.”

As you can see the emphasis is on low or moderate levels of intensity for long or extended periods of time. There is none of that in Scott Talbot’s program. In fact, it is full of expressions common to tough anaerobic training programs. For example:

  1. Breathe every five strokes hard. Scott Talbot even underlines the word hard in case we hadn’t got the point that he, alone in the world, thinks that 2×150 done hard fits comfortably into an aerobic training schedule.
  2. 8×25 underwater 15 meters fast. I didn’t notice the word fast in Wikipedia’s definition. Come to think of it, in ten years of listening to Lydiard and Jelley discuss the importance of aerobic training I never heard them use the word fast. Scott Talbot clearly knows something these two missed.
  3. Dead start, flags to flags sprint. Now here’s something new – aerobic sprints. Scott Talbot introduces the world to swimming’s version of the attraction of opposites.
  4. 4×50 jump outs. This exercise involves sprinting 25 meters, climbing out to run around the starting block and sprinting 25 meters back down the pool. Even the most generous Millennium supporter might find that stretching the definition of low intensity for a long duration. It will be valuable though, when sprinting around the starting blocks becomes an Olympic event.
  5. Sprint middle 20 meters as a “King Fish” tumble. A “King Fish” turn involves diving under the water at the flags, turning under the water and swimming to the flags again before coming back to the surface. Aerobic primarily means “with oxygen”. I’m not sure why Scott Talbot would include an exercise clearly designed to deprive the swimmer of oxygen in a program that he twice labels “aerobic”.
  6. Even the idea of descending a set of 200s is hard to characterize as truly aerobic.

The good news is that Scott Talbot includes a definition of aerobic swimming in his program. He says swimmers should hold a heart rate of 50 beats below their maximum. That’s a pretty good guide. A swimmer with a maximum heart rate of 210 beats per minute should stay under 160. What is impossible of course is to “sprint” the “hard”, “fast”, “King Fish”, “jump out” intervals in Scott Talbot’s program and still be under a 160 beats a minute heart rate.

All this wouldn’t be too bad if the only people affected were the swimmers at the Millennium Institute. Surely they know enough about swimming to realize they are being asked to do aerobic schedules that are not what their coach says they are. I asked Olympic gold medalist, Rhi Jeffrey, if Scott Talbot’s program met her understanding of an aerobic schedule. I thought she was going to die laughing.

The really sad aspect of a program like this is that Scott Talbot is employed by SNZ to tutor young coaches. Let’s hope he researches the meaning of “aerobic” before he tries to convince the next class of trainee coaches that 8×25 meter sprints is a sound bit of aerobic conditioning. Anyone paying $400 or so for their Bronze coaching accreditation has a right to expect better than the nonsense he dished up on this occasion. Last Wednesday morning our swim team did an aerobic program. It was our version of a 24 mile run through the Waitakere Ranges. Many coaches will not like what we did or think it was necessary. They are entitled to that view. What cannot be argued is whether it was authentic aerobic conditioning; warm up 1000 kick, main set 1×8000 IM, warm down 1000 kick. I first saw that schedule swum by Phillippa Langrell at a training camp in Blenheim. Her coach knew the meaning of aerobic.