Swimming New Zealand, Email Spam and More Useless Exercise Idiocy

By David

Small things fascinate small minds. If that’s so, the next seven hundred words are going to confirm the author’s pea brain. But I don’t care. I don’t care at all. Why? Because there are a few things in life that just piss me off.

Take Swimming New Zealand’s new habit of sending out mass emails. Their headings are always a rather breathless – Bell swims to Gold in Junior Pan Pacs Opener – and, if true, must make Swimming New Zealand the world’s most exciting and tiring location. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the emails. They keep an expat like me up-to-date with the goings-on down there. I certainly don’t want to be taken off their distribution list. But the law’s the law.

Since June 2003, the Can-Spam Act requires all commercial mass emails offer a facility to opt-out of a mailing by a single action, which usually entains clicking an unsubscribe link. This act is usually enforced outside of the United States by local agencies, such as in this case, which involved a spam operation based in New Zealand and Australia. Swimming New Zealand doesn’t comply with these anti-spam measures. There is no link, nor any instruction, about how to remove oneself from the mailing list. An organization that spent years disqualifying my swimmers for the most minor infringements should make sure their own house is in order.

The Swimming New Zealand author of the emails is Lisa Conroy, the Performance and Pathways Support Manager. What a title that is. SPARC was always going to make sure its member associations produced names like that.

But onto actually swimming related topics: Our pool in Florida has just hosted several college teams for their winter training camp. This year I noticed a huge increase in the range of equipment carried to the pool by each swimmer. Those infamous team vans will soon need to charge extra for overweight gear bags. The value of some of the stuff is a bit suspect.

Those snorkels for example; I’ve heard they are supposed to train swimmers to keep their heads still. And yet the snorkels used in the past two weeks at our pool were moving around all over the place. Every honest swimmer I’ve met acknowledges that the main benefit of a snorkel is avoiding the need to turn their head to breathe. In other words, it allows swimmers to cruise up and down without a care in the world, which is fine, but let’s not pretend otherwise.

As long as breathing remains an important part of swimming in the Olympic final, I think I’ll keep my swimmers honing that skill and avoid snorkels. Like a lot of this sort of stuff, I suspect the main advantage of snorkels is convincing parents and swimmers that the coach is on top of the latest in swimming technology. Fortunately, the ASCA gives out their coaching qualifications based on how fast your swimmers swim, not by the size of their gear bag.

Then there are those small fins; the ones called Zoomers. They are swimming’s ultimate marketing dream. I’ve never understood their benefit; perhaps there isn’t any. If you want to kick with fins buy a decent sized pair of fins. If you want your kick to feel like no fins at all, wear nothing. There is no point in buying something that’s neither one nor the other. I know a number of triathletes who swim large portions of their training with Zoomers. Another name for that is cheating. Leave Zoomers on the store shelf. You’ll be doing your swimming and wallet a whole lot of good.

Pull buoys must be swimming’s biggest equipment con. Why on earth would anyone buy a piece of equipment that does something for you that you should be doing for yourself? Keeping your hips high is important to good swimming speed. Relying on a block of polystyrene to do it for you is called being lazy. “But,” I hear some say, “what say you don’t want to kick?” Then tie your ankles together and don’t kick but don’t indulge in a swimming nap by using pull buoy.

Hand paddles, proper size fins, a kick board and a swimming bungee cord; that’s about all the equipment you need. Much more than that and (to quote Jane’s last Swimwatch post), “you’re not an athlete, you’re just a douchebag.” You are relying on the cost of your gear bag for status. Let me remind athletes and sports participants of all levels that the amount you spend on your equipment is not equal to how good you are at using it.

Just remember this; many Kenyan and Moroccan runners don’t even own a pair of shoes. Sure as hell, they can beat the pants off most of our runners. Want to know their secret formula? Let me bring you in on the secret. They do a whole lot of running. That principle works best in swimming too.