July 2004 archives

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25 July 2004

Frustration and the art of holding back this emotion�don�t let it creep in! It is actually called �patience.� In order to overcome an obstacle, one needs patience. Once you let frustration in, it�s all over. I think elite athletes learn to master the skill of patience. One�s athletic technique is always in need of repair, and figuring out how to improve is often a time-consuming task. Actually, I think that the better you get as an athlete, the longer it takes to improve. Often, an athlete must work well with a coach to figure out how to improve technique, as answers are not always apparent.

I think synchronized swimming is a sport where patience is most valuable. Every move of each team member must be scrutinized daily until all eight athletes are doing the same thing (exactly) every time the music goes on. This feat is not easily achieved. It takes literally months, if not a year or more, to create and synchronize a routine. And the task is never done, as there are always mistakes to be found. Anyone who has watched a synchro practice knows the tedium that athletes and coaches go through to perfect a routine. But when a routine is synchronized, there is nothing like it. It is amazing to see eight athletes moving in unison to a perfectly crafted routine. It is this goal that drives the motor of practice.

23 July 2004

Synchronized swimmers train extremely hard in order to be successful. This can mean up to 10 hours a day, 6 days a week at the pool. One difficult aspect about keeping these training hours is that the physical body does not have time to recover from strenuous anaerobic exercise (exercise with an extremely high heartrate causing the body to use anaerobic processes - meaning without oxygen).

Anaerobic activity creates lactic acid in muscles, caused by a break in the metabolic pathway of converting organic compounds into energy. After the process called glycolysis (splitting of sugar that releases energy), lactic acid is produced, which is a lower form of energy, and not as efficient as aerobic breakdown of molecules. You can read more about these processes here.

Lactic acid builds in muscles, causing the burning sensation. Without proper rest and recovery, muscles become sore and feel weak, which impacts performance.

6 July 2004

It is difficult for an athlete to tell the difference between exhaustion from mental fatigue, and exhaustion from physical stress. At this time of year, when athletes are preparing for the US Nationals, this problem is of issue.

When you are mentally fatigued, due to stressful situations and strenuous concentration, I think the physical body responds by feeling tired and even exhausted. Athletes are under constant stress not only from factors outside the pool (school for example) but from hours of practice that requires concentration. Athletes are also physically fatigued due to pushing their bodies for hours each day at the pool. If you combine both of these factors together, it leads to a tired body and mind.

To combat this situation, I think it is important to take care of your physical health, as well as minimize outside stressors. One should take care to eat well and get plenty of rest, while also reducing the number of outside activities that stress the mind. This might include skipping a social evening in order to get more sleep. It might also include eliminating extra responsibilities, such as reducing hours at a job, or missing a meeting or acitivity at school.

Temporary adjustments to one's lifestyle can contribute greatly to a clearer mind so that athletes can focus their attention on preparing for a big competition. These adjustments need only be temporary, and once the competition is over, they can resume as normal.

2 July 2004

A lot of people pity swimmers that practice in outdoor pools. The winter can be oh so cold, and when it is raining, it can be miserable. I remember several occasions where the weather was so cold, and the fog was so thick, that our coach could not see us in the pool! And if you have to use the restroom during practice, running to the locker room when you are soaking wet is a nightmare.

But....on a sunny day! There is nothing like swimming in an outdoor pool on a sunny spring day! We were lucky enough to have a pool located in a park. The green grass and freshly blooming flowers against the blue sky are just magnificent in the spring.

Of course swimmers pile on the sunscreen. In fact, they use things like Desitin (baby ointment) on their faces and shoulders for maximum protection. That is the white stuff you will see on people's faces if you head down to the pool for a swim. After testing numerous products, we found that it is the best at protecting skin from the sun.

1 July 2004

The Junior National Championships are going on this week in Clermont, FLA. A key component of synchronized swimming for junior competitors (ages 13-17) is compulsory figures. Figures are essentially elements that are done individually by the athlete in front of a panel of judges (usually 5).

Figures are composed of continuous movements mostly done underwater. There are many different figures, and athletes must practice each of them in preparation for a competition. Two figures are mandatory, and two figures are selected at the meet, for a total of four compulsory figures. Athletes all wear black swim suits and white caps during competition. There is no music, and the judging is based upon several factors such as height up-side-down (legs are in the air), body control, positioning, smoothness, and tempo. Slower is better, so breath control is an important factor as well.

synchronized swimming insights from an olympic gold medalist