Archive for the ‘ Training ’ Category

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Swimming New Zealand’s (SNZ) investigation into my coaching is no great secret. I have written about it many times. The investigation was sparked when a West Auckland Aquatics parent (Susan Turner) and swimmer (Nikki Johns) filed the following complaints.

  1. I bullied swimmers on the team.
  2. I was obsessed with Nikki Johns’ breasts and sneaked around the pool taking photographs of her chest.
  3. I recommended swimmers get pregnant to take training advantage of an early increase in blood volume and then have an abortion.
  4. I ordered swimmers to attend an Auckland strip club.

Swimming New Zealand ordered an investigation to be led by an Auckland investigator, Michael Marris. I met Marris on three occasions. I felt his work was at times personally uncomfortable but honest and thorough as he sought to determine the truth. In my opinion he conducted a thorough, able and perceptive investigation. Eventually he completed a Report that was sent to SNZ. I was promised a copy of the Report on four occasions.

  1. Before the investigation by the then CEO of SNZ, Christian Renford.
  2. At the investigation and in writing by the Report’s author, Michael Marris
  3. By SNZ’s “Disputes & Disciplinary Policy”
  4. By the Privacy Act 1993 law.

In spite of these promises, for three years, SNZ have steadfastly refused to provide me with a copy of the Report. The Privacy Commissioner ruled against SNZ and recommended their management (that’s Johns and Cotterill) undertake privacy training. That hasn’t been done.

However, after I submitted my complaint to the Human Rights Review Tribunal, SNZ did offer to allow me to read the Report. Their offer included so many conditions as to make it meaningless.

  1. I could only read a redacted version of the Report that had already been rejected by the Privacy Commissioner.
  2. I could not take notes on its contents
  3. I could not photocopy or photograph its contents
  4. I could not take a copy away from the SNZ office
  5. I could not reveal anything in the Report to anyone except a personal lawyer. That included my family, friends and SNZ members.
  6. SNZ would take “civil proceedings” against me if any of the contents were revealed.

Of course I was unable to accept those conditions and rejected SNZ’s offer. After three years of being told the law prevented SNZ from letting me read the Report, suddenly the law didn’t matter; suddenly I could read the Report even if it was ridiculously conditional. What happened to their version of the law? What happened to all the laws that for three years they had used to avoid me seeing the Report? The offer was a sad and pathetic joke that only served to demonstrate the lies and shallow hypocrisy being peddled by SNZ.

However, in all this, there is one central fact I want to make very clear. There are two aspects of this issue.

  1. The content of the Report
  2. Obtaining a copy of the Report and seeing it made available to the public.

It needs to be stressed that my interest is now only in the second of these items. I have openly been through the investigation. I participated fully with all I was asked to provide. I participated in something like 12 hours of interviews and wrote in the order of 100 emails. I openly discussed the complaints in the national media. I did my bit to honestly and openly cooperate in the SNZ investigation. But now I am done with that.

I will not participate in a rehash of the investigation. I am not into an exercise in double jeopardy. The investigation of complaints made by Susan Turner and Nikki Johns has been dealt with. It is over. All the latter day efforts in the world to question the qualifications of Michael Marris or to add on new complaints will have no effect. Just because the complainers are bad losers, just because they don’t like the result, they will not involve me in their thrashing, desperate efforts to reopen the investigation. I will not participate in a course of events that repeats the investigation over and over until they find someone who will write the report that they want. That is not justice

What I will pursue is the second feature; obtaining an unredacted copy of the Marris Report written after the investigation that can be published for all to read. After three years that is my sole concern. SNZ’s breach of my privacy is now before the Human Rights Review Tribunal. We are waiting to be given a date for a hearing. The purposes are:

  1. To obtain and unredacted copy of the Marris Report
  2. To obtain permission for its findings to be openly and publically available
  3. To be awarded $240,300 in compensation for harm caused.

It is a sad reflection on the management of SNZ that it has come to this. If they had provided me with a copy of the Report immediately after the investigation there would have been no controversy. The issues would have been closed three years ago. There would have been no claim for damages. This mess is down to them.

The hurt for me continues. It really is crazy stuff. However it will continue for as long as SNZ interferes in my privacy by restricting my access to the Marris Report. What SNZ should do about problem complainants is up to them and is none of my concern.

And so much is still to be done to make the Marris findings available . That will continue. But as far as rehashing the investigation is concerned the answer is – no.

I’ve Never Seen An NZ Coach Do Speed Work

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

Compared to swim coaching I’ve seen in the USA and track sessions I’ve watched, I have never seen a NZ swimming coach do speed work. Most swimming training sessions end up as, what Lydiard described as, “fruit salad training”. They are a jumbled mixture of some aerobic swimming, some anaerobic swimming, topped off with a dozen sprints. I’ve even been told that elements of each type of training are included in every session to avoid swimmers “losing fitness”. When I told Lydiard that expression he said, “Where would it go?”

The “losing fitness” comment is nonsense of course. Fitness, whether it is aerobic, anaerobic or speed, does not come and go in 24 hours. There is nothing at all wrong with planning sessions that are short and devoted entirely to speed. Speed sessions have to be short. Why? Because they are fast. Another Lydiard quote explains it better.

“You can’t run around the Waitakeres and a four minute mile at the same time.”

I went through a period where the thought of a 2500 meter training session would fill me with fear. The distance was too short. Bad things, although I was never sure what they were, had to result from such lethargy. But then two experiences occurred that gave me confidence,, that calmed my fears.

The first was during a trip to the World Cup Finals in Majorca. The NZ team was Phillipa Langrell, Danyon Loader and Toni Jeffs. Duncan Laing was the coach. I was there as Toni’s coach. We decided to break the trip for a swim in Singapore. Toni was racing half a world away in three days and so I asked her to swim and easy 500, some freestyle drills, some easy kick, four or five dives and an easy 500 warm down; about 2000 in total. After the swim Duncan and I were having coffee in the pool coffee shop, talking about our shared support for the Otago rugby team.

Duncan changed the subject and said, “This is the first time I’ve really met you. I have to say I liked the short, easy swim Toni did today. I’ve been on teams where, on stops like this, swimmers have been told to plough through 6000 or 7000 meter training sessions and wonder why their racing doesn’t work.”

I’d never thought about it before but Duncan had a point. Certainly his views made an impression on me. If it was good enough for Duncan Laing it was good enough for me. I guess confirmation came a week later when the whole team, all three swimmers returned to New Zealand with World Cup Finals medals; a 100% record at a world meet. As far as I am aware that is the only occasion a New Zealand team has achieved that level of performance in a worldwide meet.

The second was at the Central American Championships swim meet in Kingston, Jamaica. The Kingston athletic track was across the road from the pool. It was the training home of some huge names in world sprinting – Bolt, Ottey, Hemmings, Wint, Quarrie, Campbell-Brown, Thompson. The list of Jamaican Olympic sprint medallists is 77 names long. Jamaica has painted their faces on a wall beside the track. It is an impressive sight.

During a lunch break in the swimming I noticed a couple of huge guys walking into the track. Were they members of the feared Jamaican sprint team, I wondered? Sure enough there on the track were three guys and two girls warming up. Obviously I had to stay and watch. The table below summarises what I saw.

Much more time was spent stretching than in a normal swimming training session

Much more time was spent on technical drills than in a normal swimming training session

Much more time was spent on discussions between the athletes and the coach than in a normal training session

Much longer rest intervals were taken between training efforts. Rests included easy walking and lying down resting.

The main sets were shorter, emphasised technique, and the effort runs more intense than in a normal swimming training session

The atmosphere of fun and laughter was night and day different from the structured slog of the normal, whistle-controlled military exercise characteristic of many swim training sessions.

I was impressed. Surely my coaching for speed would improve by incorporating some of a features used so naturally by the fastest men and women in the world. I resolved to give it a go.

Eyad’s training today is shown in the table below.


WU 400/4×100/4×50

Kick 400 with fins

Kick 4×25 no fins

MS 10×25 long rest fast done as 5 free, 3 fly, 2 breast

MS 4×25 kick fast done as one each stroke

WD 200


WU 400/4×100/4×50

MS 2000 Straight Easy

Kick 500 No Fins

I can hear the screams from a dozen club committee members from here. “That’s not enough training. What are we paying you good money for, to hand out 2000 or 3000 metre sessions? The club next door are doing 7000 meters of hard 400IMs. I think we need a new coach.”

Well the training was done by the swimmer who has just won the Auckland Short Course 50 freestyle championship. I guess it depends whether you want a 50 meter swimmer who is good at 400IMs or, like a group of Jamaican sprinters, a swimmer who competes over short distances pretty fast. Short, fast speed – try it – it’s fun.

Eyad is on the IOC Refugee Team

Friday, September 6th, 2019

The attached link is to a TV1 News item broadcast last night. It covers the news that Eyad has been accepted as a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Solidarity Refugee Team. Eyad will be paid a monthly allowance and receive assistance with overseas travel.

Eyad and I thank TV1 News for their interest. The interest of TV1 and the IOC’s refugee initiative is deeply appreciated. Thank you Abby Wilson. Thank you Kereyn Smith. Thank you Gonzalo Barrio. And thank you to 843 supporters.

The life of a refugee is not easy. For those who have escaped the troubles currently being experienced in a country like Syria the IOC’s assistance is well deserved. Until I lived in the Middle East and came face to face with their problems I had no idea – none at all. It is rewarding to know there are many who care sufficiently to provide men and women in Eyad’s position with assistance like the IOC’s refugee program.

Both Eyad and I are acutely aware of the responsibility we now have to ensure the support is well earned. If Eyad is selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games Refugee Team we will be working to ensure he performs at his best. Thank you again.





The Magic Of Numbers

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

For those of us who employ a “Lydiard” training policy there are a number of foundation principles. Arch Jelley summarised some of these in an email he sent to me recently. Here is part of what he said.

Building a Strong Aerobic Foundation before embarking on faster work is of the greatest importance.  This is one of Arthur Lydiard’s main contributions to our sport and to many other sports too.  Arthur defied contemporary thinking and his revolutionary ideas were vindicated when Snell and Halberg won gold in Rome in 1960.

The volume of aerobic conditioning required by each individual varies greatly. Not everyone can become a “100 mile” a week person. Even 50 miles per week may be too far for some. How far do you think Juantorena ran each week! Perhaps 80-90km at the most.  David Rudisha the 800m world record holder and Olympic champion runs more than 60 miles weekly during the winter – a very high milage for an 800m runner who runs 45secs for 400m.

I agree with Arch. One hundred miles a week is not the point. Building a strong aerobic foundation is the goal. David Rudisha does this at around 60 miles a week. Mo Farah does it at more than twice that number. I believe John Walker and Peter Snell did it in the 80 to 90 miles a week range. The important point is that Lydiard’s 100 was a good average at which certain physiological aerobic changes occurred; a strong aerobic foundation was created.

Coaches are not training runners to run one hundred miles in a week. They are training runners to build a strong aerobic foundation. That might take a “Rudisha” 60 miles or a “Farah” 120 miles. Lydiard’s point was that 100 miles was a good rule of thumb average.

When I wanted to apply Lydiard’s principles to swimming the first thing I had to do was understand what each phase of a Lydiard program was attempting to achieve. In the build-up the goal was to establish a strong aerobic base. That took around about 100 miles of firm running a week. But what did it take in swimming? I had no idea. Was it 20 kilometers a week? Was it 200 kilometers a week? Seriously, when I began coaching Toni Jeffs I had no idea and I couldn’t find anyone who could tell me.

At the start I thought it would be easy. It took a minute for a good swimmer to swim 100 meters and a good runner to run 400 meters so all I needed to do was divide all the running distances by four. One hundred miles running was the same as 25 miles (40 kilometers) swimming. So I got Toni Jeffs to do her first aerobic build-up swimming 40 kilometers a week. The problem was she wasn’t getting fit. 40 was clearly not enough. Over the course of about five years I experimented with a variety of different swimmers and different distances – searching for the formula that would cause the same “build-up” physical aerobic changes I had seen in runners, like Alison, happen in swimmers.

Eventually I settled on a number. What 100 miles a week was in running – 100 kilometers a week was in swimming. That formula has stood the test of time. As Arch Jelley reminds us that does not mean 100 kilometers a week is right for every swimmer. Swimming too has its David Rudishas. In fact I’m coaching one of them now – Eyad. 100 kilometers a week is too far for Eyad. The aerobic physical changes required are achieved best, in his case, at about 70 kilometers. Jane got her best aerobic results from about 90. Joe Skuba and Rhi Jeffrey were happy at 100. I’ve had one or two who thrived on 120 kilometers a week.

In all cases it was not their application, dedication or effort that caused the difference. It was only that the same physical changes take place in different swimmers at different distances. It was important to determine what was best for each swimmer. For example if I was to demand Eyad swim 100 kilometers a week because that’s the same a Lydiard’s 100 miles it would be a disaster. He would get run down, sick and tired. He would be training like mad and going nowhere. On the other hand if Joe Skuba had only done Eyad’s 60 or 70 kilometers aerobic build-up he would not have improved the way he did. He needed 100.

That’s an aspect of swimming squad training I do not like. Everyone gets in and does the squad’s formula sessions week after week, month after month. There is no way ten or twenty swimmers in a pool are all going to benefit equally from the same training distances. Whatever the squad is doing will be right for two or three of the swimmers but the rest should be doing less or more depending on their physiology; depending on whether they are David Rudisha or Mo Farah.

That principle was another reason I never felt the great Swimming New Zealand experiment with centralised training would work. I’ve heard SNZ CEOs and Chairman say a hundred times how fantastic it was to have New Zealand’s best swimmers competing against each other in training. That’s like saying David Rudisha and Mo Farrah would be better racing each other around the Waitakere Ranges. It might not do Mo Farrah any harm but David Rudisha is not going to be the world 800 meter record holder that way. When it comes to aerobic conditioning build-ups individual attention is vital.

Post Script – I know I said I would steer away from swimming politics but two items did cause me to smile yesterday.

  1. I received an email that said the Swimming New Zealand Constitution was about to be changed. The new draft rules for voting, I am told, are rumored to contain this delightful line

“Only regions that have been deemed ineligible to vote may vote.”

I think it may be time to call the Approachable Lawyer.

  1. Much fuss is being made about the decision to reduce the competitive nature of children’s sport. I agree with the initiative. It’s a good thing. However I had to smile when the CEO of Sport NZ, Peter Miskimmin, was all over Radio Sport on Tuesday promoting his new idea. What a bloody hypocrite. It was his policy of paying for competitive results that caused the problem in the first place. Those who were exploited most were only following Miskimmin’s financial lead. His policies caused the problem. Talk about the fox in the hen house.

Run A Bit, Swim A Bit

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

A recent Swimwatch story, called “Take it Easy”, discussed the importance of not over training. To my surprise it got a positive reaction. The father of a very good swimmer I coached in Florida gave it a thumbs-up emoji. His son, Joe Skuba, was a 50.95 LC 100m and 23.38 LC 50m swimmer. I’ve always believed that he had the potential to represent the USA at the Olympic Games. He was about 6 foot 3 inches tall, strong as an ox and thrived on a Lydiard based program. His best times had dropped to 50 and 23 in less than two years. There was much left to achieve. Unfortunately he went to university in North Carolina and I came back to New Zealand before the job could be finished. It was a loss for both of us.

Joe’s father clearly thought the discussion of training matters was a major improvement from the normal diet of swimming politics. So it seems did triathlete Alex. She swims with Eyad. Here is what she wrote about the “Take it Easy” story.

Nice Swimwatch! I like the more sport oriented ones the best. The lesson I took away from our recent conversations is also “take it easy” but as that applies to between training sessions as much as it might occasionally apply to the training. Perhaps this is even more important when training is tough. You can’t burn the candle at both ends and still have a candle.

Isn’t that a super turn of phrase? So while not forgetting or ignoring the other important things going on, I guess I had better follow her advice and spend a bit more time on the “sport oriented ones”. Who knows, I may even get another emoji from Joe Skuba’s dad. What then shall we talk about today?

What about this? There is a photograph posted by Gary Moller on the “Arthur Lydiard’s Legacy – Runner’s Group” Facebook page. The photograph shows a field of female runners competing in the 1979 3000 metres national championships. I don’t know the name of all the runners in the photograph. But the ones I do know are elite members of New Zealand women’s running – Tina Wild, Allison Roe, Barbara Moore, Heather Thompson, Lorraine Moller, Glenys Quick, Alison Wright and Mary O’Connor. The record of that group includes winning the New York and Boston Marathons, a Commonwealth Games medal, an Olympic Games bronze medal, several New Zealand records, a UK national championship and a team World Cross Country title.

The runner I know most about is Alison Wright. I’m married to her and along with Arch Jelley helped with her training. You may be interested in some of the basic statistics of her training.

Alison competed for 16 seasons (8 years) as an open competitive runner and a further 7 seasons (3.5 years) as a masters runner.

The table below shows the distance she ran in training during the 16 open seasons and the 7 masters seasons. The distances shown are in kilometres. Each season is 26 weeks and includes aerobic build up conditioning (10 weeks), anaerobic training (4 weeks), speed training (4 weeks), racing (6 weeks) and a holiday (2 weeks).

Competitive Seasons Season Distance kms Annual Distance kms
1974 1200
1975/75 400 1600
1975 1551
1975/76 2415 3966
1976 1480
1976/77 2309 3789
1977 1778
1977/78 2250 4028
1978 2840
1978/79 2237 5077
1979 2770
1979/80 2631 5401
1980 3026
1980/81 2984 5900
1981 2916
1981/82 3018 5934
Total Competitive Career 35805 35805
Masters Season Season Distance kms Annual Distance kms
1984 330
1984/85 1327 1657
1985 677
1985/86 2386 3063
1986 1892
1986/87 2544 4436
1987 2259 2259
Total Masters Career 11415 11415
Career Totals 47220 Miles 29513

Most of this competitive training was done either through the idyllic Windsor Great Park and the Windsor Athletic Track or around steep Ochil Hills in Perthshire, Scotland and Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh.

Over her eight year competitive career Alison averaged 94 kilometres (59 miles) each week. Her biggest mileage in a six month season averaged 126 kilometres (79 miles) per week.

Her biggest season aerobic build up was 1979/80 when she averaged 10 weeks of 152 kilometres (95 miles) per week. The first 5 weeks of that build-up averaged 173 kilometres (108 miles). The second 5 weeks were less because of including two transition speed work sessions per week in this period.

We didn’t keep detailed records of the track-work times run in training. However some that are in my diary are shown in the table below.

Track Session Average Time Track Session Average Time
8×200 28.9 6×800 2.21.2
6×400 61.1 3×1600 4.55.6
12×200 29.2 1×3200 10.06.5
10×400 63.6 1×2400 7.26.0

The result of that training was the following personal best times – Women’s 800 2:02.7 Cologne 1979, Women’s 1000 2:38.54 Berlin 1979 (NZ Record), Women’s 1500 4:11.68 Zurich 1979, Women’s 3000 9:00.85 Cork 1981. She won national championships and represented NZ, Scotland and Great Britain. Her national championships were won on the track outdoors, on the track indoors and in cross country. She ran in the Commonwealth Games, the World Championships and for Oceania in the World Cup.

Alison raced an average of 21 races per season (42 races per year). She averaged 4 personal best times per season.

And so I guess the old adage that “miles make champions” is true. Certainly 47,220 kilometres (29,513 miles) in an 8 year career is a good distance to be run by any standard; I would think a distance also covered by several of the women running in Gary Moller’s photograph. I suspect that’s why they were so good at their job. The internet tells me the world is 40,075 kilometres around. It seems therefore that if you want to be a good runner, set off now and run around the world.

Our next Swimwatch story will consider how running training distances compare with swimming distances.