As a Hornsby squad member, it is beneficial to start competing in carnivals. Competition helps provide motivation, plot progress and give purpose by setting competitive goals. Competition and involvement in the club provides social interaction and membership of the team. There are two types of competitions, school and club.
In general, the first meaningful competitions that young swimmers compete in are school competitions. Swimmers compete at a school level and then progress through knock out stages of area, zone or IPSHA and then onto regional, State and National level competition. A number or the Hornsby Squad swimmers did extremely well in their school competitions making it through to win NSW State. School swimming in the early years is important as it has status with the swimmer’s peers. Swimmers who are successful in the older Junior school ages, high school and advanced levels of competition, are normally competing all year round with a swimming club.
In the early years club racing provides an opportunity to practice competing. Hornsby swimming club provides this opportunity for our swimmers.
The club offers free Friday night races throughout summer. The nights are ideal for the novice and developing swimmer. The club also offers a summer club championship The club hosts inter-club meets with other clubs in attendance. The club also targets a number of Inter-club, Area, Metropolitan Championships, State & National competitions. All club targeted and Inter-club meets are supported by having our coaches in attendance to help the swimmers with their warm up, race skills, race plans and friendly support.
Club nights are an ideal introduction and opportunity to practice racing.
- Swimmers enter online through Swim Central (by 8pm the Thursday before).
- Swimmers can come along and try 2 club nights without joining (entry via email – see Club Nights page).
- Entries for all Inter club and official meets are placed on-line via Swim Central.
- Swimmers must be members to compete against other clubs.
Novice and Junior inter-club competitions are an ideal introduction to club competitions. Again, all entries are through Swim Central. Watch out for information in our regular newsletter & also these will appear in the homepage on Swim Central.
Area, Metro and State competitions all require qualifying times. These times are advertised at the start of the season. The qualifying times must be swum at meets officially recognized by Swimming NSW. Some of our club nights are official and all of the inter-club competitions are recognized as official. It is important to plan the season so that swimmer can achieve times to qualify for the later competitions that require qualifying times.
Tips for Competing
These guidelines have been put in place to optimise your performances at competitions. These tips assume that you are in a squad and training consistently. They are not a quick fix solution or a substitute for hard work!
Goal setting is quite easy to do these days with the amount of information readily available on the internet. Swimmers can easily look up websites like nsw.swimming.org.au & swimming.org.au to find qualifying times or to look up last year’s meet results. Using this information swimmers can predict the actual times it would take to achieve:
- Top 16 point scoring swims or semi-finals
- Top 10 or Final swims
- a Win
It is very important for swimmers to explore all avenues of swimming; to experiment with the longer distances throughout the year. Through school swimming, there is such an emphasis put on 50 metre sprints in Term 1. The swimmers who solely focus on 50s, don’t usually enjoy long careers in the sport.
Swimmers should also be careful not to start specialising in strokes and events too early. 14yrs/U’s should be competing in a mixed bag of events. Regularly contesting the 200 IM and 400 FS is a good start. Development of the strokes is not always synchronised. Athletes abilities to perform the strokes can change considerably through puberty.
There have even been examples of swimmers who, at the junior level, have struggled considerably at a particular stroke, then after maturation, they have represented Australian in that same stroke. It’s also nice to have another stroke to concentrate on if performance in one stroke begins to plateau.
Get into the habit of entering lots of events (unless advised otherwise by your coach). If you are at a meet, you may as well get as much race practice in as possible. Most reasonably experience swimmers should be able to punch out 5 good solid performances in one day (assuming they have 45mins to recover between races).
TRAINING LEADING INTO COMPETITION
Don’t taper for every little meet that pops up. Tapering only works well 1-3 times a year, off the back of a consistent block of training. Swimmers need to learn to train through many of the competitions throughout the year, and only reduce their training for the main meets, like National Age and State Age.
There are periods of the season where training volume is more important than race practise at a minor meets. Missing training sessions for low level competitions early in the season will be detrimental to performance at big meets, at the backend of the season.
THE DAY BEFORE COMPETITION – Prepare and Pack
NUTRITION – “Don’t feed a high performance engine low performance fuel”
Swimmers should have a healthy high-carbohydrate meal for dinner the night before (eg. Beans, corn, peas, potatoes, bread, rice, noodles and / or pasta based meals). Having a portion of protein (chicken, meat or fish) about the size of the palm of the swimmers hand is also advisable – don’t eat the whole cow, you might sink!
Pack your competition bag with food the night before. The food and drink which is available at competition pools is often expensive and of poor nutritional content (Hot chips, pies, sausage rolls etc).
More information on Nutrition is provide underneath ‘The Day of Competition’.
Stay out of the sun! Dehydration can be more detrimental to performance than fasting. Spending the day before – or the morning of – competition at nippers or on the cricket oval (or similar) is not the ideal way to maximise performance. Pack your drink bottle for all training and competition sessions, regardless of what sport you are participating in.
Often swimmers don’t turn up for training the day prior to competition. This is not a habit to get into. It is usually a good opportunity to brush up on some racing skills! Do not miss training for minor competitions.
REST AND RELAXATION
Save your energy store for racing. Don’t spend all day out in the sun and all night watching TV or all a dinner party. Aim to maximise your sleep – 8+ hours.
During the night, our sleep alternates between rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement.
Non-REM is divided into four stages. The first two stages are light sleep and the last two deep sleep. It typically takes about 45 minutes to slip through the first two stages of Non-REM. Nightmares can occur during stages 3 & 4. Our bodies go through the sleep cycles typically 4-5 times per night, REM lasting longer each time.
We enter in REM about 90 minutes into sleep. Brain activity changes dramatically. Our muscles become inhibited, but our eyes start to flicker around. Brain activity is said to be more awake than when we are awake. Most dreaming occurs in REM. 9yrs/U spend about 50% of time in REM sleep, 10yrs/O about 25% in REM.
When deprived of sleep we spend a longer amount of time in stages 3 & 4 of non-REM during the next sleep period, which means we will spend less time in REM sleep, leading to irritability and emotional problems.
PACK YOUR BAG THE NIGHT BEFORE
- Nutrition – don’t rely on the food available from kiosk at the venue. For more on nutrition see below.
- Club Gear – wearing the Team kit is an easy way to create Team Spirit. Our team should be easily identifiable. Big teams that are all dressed the same can be intimidating to opponents. It is important that coaches, parents and team mates can easily identify our swimmers behind the blocks. This assists in supporting each other and giving feedback – we don’t want to miss anyone’s race. Make sure you have your name on every item of club clothing.
- Your bag should include:
- 2 pairs of racing costumes
- 2 pairs of racing goggles
- 2 Club Caps
- 2 Towels
- Wear you club T-shirt, Hoodie or Tracksuit
- Warm shoes and socks, and a beanie if conditions warrant it
- Entertainment – You should plan to be at the meet for 2-5 hours, but keep in mind that most of the time you won’t be racing. Bring things to help you pass the time such as homework, cards, travel games, etc.
THE DAY OF COMPETITION
Eating the right foods on competition day can help improve energy levels and concentration. Breakfast should be a healthy and high in carbohydrates (eg, cereal, porridge, fruit, toast with jam or honey). Take your own drinks and healthy foods with you (eg. Sports drinks, water, fruit juice, breakfast bars, sandwiches, fresh and dried fruit).
Don’t eat fatty foods (eg. Chips, chocolate, sausages, pies, pizza, hamburgers, biscuits). These foods do not raise your blood sugar level so you’ll feel less energetic.
Eating too many lollies can actually lower your blood sugar– the body releases insulin to counteract and dramatic rises in blood sugar and actually lowers the level below the origin mark.
Many of the top level meets around the country are held at venues (such as Sydney Olympic Park) that host multiple sports. Occasionally your swimming championships may coincide with a big occasion, like the Eater Show, a concert, a Wallabies international, or an NRL fixture. Be aware of any clashes and allow extra time for increase traffic and parking difficulties. ie. On occasion it has taken 75 minutes to get to SOPAC from the Northern Beaches
- At SOPAC the centre generally opens at 7:45am, for an 8:00am warm-up and 9:00am start. If you are in one of the first events you need to have found parking 1 hour 15 minutes prior to your first event
- If you are in a later event you need to allow 1.5 hours before your race, for:
- finding seats/coaches/team-mates
- dry-land warm-up
- pool warm up & recovery
- race instructions
- changing suits
- and marshalling
AT THE POOL
For most meet held at SOPAC we put up the Hornsby Swim Club Banner. We usually sit on the far side (west side) next the finish (diving) end of the competition pool, but sometimes seating is allocated and we are placed in a different location. Look out for your teammates.
Often our Senior Swimmers are called upon to give guidance to our novice swimmers
REPORT TO COACH
As soon as swimmer arrives they need to tell their coach that they have arrived. This allows the coach to refer to the timeline and let the swimmer know if the meet is running to schedule, and when the best time to begin dry-land and pool warm-ups would be.
The warmer the athletes’ muscles are, the more efficient the chemical reactions are within the muscle.
Stretches and Dry-land Warm-up
Open swimmers are advised to do 1000 repetitions before diving for their warm up. This would be modified for Age Groupers. Nowadays stretching has moved away from passive stretching towards dynamic ballistic activation before competition. Begin dry-land exercises approximately 1 hour 25 minutes before racing
Competitors should dive in approximately 1 hour 15 minutes before racing. This is a great opportunity take in surroundings at an unfamiliar pool. Lane markings, booms, faults start ropes, height of backstroke flags all vary from pool to pool.
Having the drink bottle handy on race day is just as important (if not more so) than taking it to training. The body cannot perform when dehydrated.
REST AND RELAXATION
Adequate rest is a vital ingredient when preparing for peak physical performances. Save your energy for the race. Instead of running around all day talking each other and going on slipper slides, why not read a book, do some study, listen to an iPod, play a game on the iPad, or just sit, talk and stretch with team members. Just relax. Both mental and physical relaxation allows athletes to control emotions in competitive situations, by creating a positive response to stress.
SEE YOUR COACH FOR RACE INSTRUCTIONS
At Hornsby we very lucky to have an experienced and knowledgable coaching team. It is important that swimmers and parents put their trust into the coaches’ advice, and learn from our observations of countless races and take advantage of our experience over the decades. Swimmers must see their coach right before heading to the Marshalling Area. It is of upmost importance that our parents do not undermine and contradict the coaches advice and instructions.
For information on race strategies see https://au.teamunify.com/SubTabGeneric.jsp?team=nswkpsc&_stabid_=65568
MARSHALLING & MENTAL PREPARATION
Performance and the level of nervousness or arousal just before competition can be graphed on a bell curve. If the swimmer is lacking motivation and would rather be elsewhere, or their mind is elsewhere, we wouldn’t expect a great result. Likewise, if the athlete is extremely nervous, and is intimidated by the giant in the next lane, we are probably going to get a similar outcome.
Swimmers need to learn to keep their emotions and level of excitement somewhere in the middle to optimise performance. At low level meets an athlete might need a pep talk and a gee-up. The same athlete may need to work on calming nerves at a really big meet.
Closing ones’ eyes and visualising the perfect execution of their race is good way to Focus on Process and not Outcome. Imagine your race, beginning with a great reaction time off the blocks, streamlining, holding perfect technique, turning correctly and finishing on the wall with a full stroke.
Swimmers need to just focus on what is happening in their own lane. You cannot control what someone else does. Block out lies, exaggerations and stories told by other swimmers in warm-up and marshalling areas. Stay positive!
BEHIND THE BLOCKS
At this stage it may help to think the training is like recording a video. When the gun goes off, all you have to do is press play.
It is important to wake the body up now, from sitting in the marshalling area. Jump about, swing those arms. Have a physical presence behind the blocks – some competitors might find this intimidating. Make sure you are warm and raring to go.
Stick to the game plan, especially is competing over 200m over more. Don’t get taken out too fast the first quarter of the race, you’ll pay for it in the third quarter.
There is nothing better than a team that supports one another, that creates some momentum, and the individuals feed of one another. It is great to see team members, coaches, parents and siblings all wearing the team colours and cheering each other on. This team environment can make the all the difference and help individual achieve results they didn’t realise were possible.
As we get older the ability to recovery between races becomes a big factor of performance. Swimmers need to get into the swim down pool asap after each race to flush out the accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles and help return the heart to a steady rate. If lactate is not removed it can crystalize in the muscle, making them sore, and can bring on the onset of fatigue prematurely for future races.
Seniors should be doing approximately 800m of swim down (if time permitting). Swim downs usually include some aerobic swimming with the heart rate 40-50 beats below max, some explosive kicking and then some easy aerobic work.
SEE YOUR COACH FOR RACE ANALYSIS
Our coaching staff have decades of experience analysing performances. Coaches often give feedback, both good and constructive, on:
- breath control
- stroke count
- stroke rate
- pace judgement
BACK AT HOME
It is good practise to stretch for at least 15 minutes when you get back home. Often swimmers are cramped up in the back of a car for up to 40 minutes on the way home from a meet – not ideal.
Swimmers may like to keep a logbook or a spread sheet to keep track of the Personal Best times and goals. With the change from long course to short course then back to long course we often lose sight of how much improvement has been made over a 12 month period.
Competitors usually find the first couple of meets back over long course quite tough. It can be encouraging to compare (hopefully the improvement in) times achieved at the same stage of the prior year, rather than compare the first couple of long course times to short course PBs (which should be much faster) or long course PBs achieved at the end of the season prior, at a tapered championship meet.
Nutrition and Hydration
For the human body to perform in the pool, it needs energy and this energy comes from the food we eat. An adequate, nutritious, balanced diet avoids the need for supplements, delays the onset of fatigue while aiding recovery from training and performance.
The general population should be eating foods which have a Low Glycemic Index, foods which are closest to their naturally found state (minimal processing) and avoid consuming refined fatty foods. To make sure that we are getting enough vitamins and minerals in our diet, our plates should include foods of many different colours.
For more information on the Glycemic Index please visit Sydney Universities site: http://www.glycemicindex.com/
Athletes expel more energy (kilojoules) than the general population, so their diets should be adjusted accordingly. On training days they need a to have a higher carbohydrate intake.
Carbs are found in foods as either sugars or starch. Carbs are broken down into glucose (or blood sugar) – a process called glycolysis. Starches and complex carbohydrates are broken down into glycogen which is stored in the liver and muscles. Muscle Glycogen is broken down to provide energy (adenosine triphosphate – see below) for both aerobic activity and anaerobic activity. Carbohydrate contains 16 kilojoules per gram.
Carbohydrate loading is a strategy used to maximise muscle glycogen stores prior to endurance competition. In the last 3 days prior to competition the diet is increased to 70-80% Carbohydrates and training is reduced.
Dietary fats are found in the blood as free fatty acids and triglycerides. Excess fat is stored as triglyceride in cells called adipose tissue. During aerobic activity these fats are called upon and through a cycle of reactions break down into ATP. Fat contains 37 kilojoules per gram.
Proteins form amino acids, the building blocks of all cells in the body. During normal circumstances protein plays no role in providing ATP, but can be used as a fuel source under extreme conditions. protein contains 17 kilojoules per gram.
It has been found to beneficial and is recommended that athletes ingest protein (food or drink) within the first 15 minutes of training, so that muscles can begin repairing themselves straight away.
Diets for Swimmers
For information on Diets for swimming download the Sports Dietitians Australia Swimming Fact Sheet:http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/content/177/Swimming/
Iron Deficiency – a Common Problem, especially in Female Athletes
Female athletes are often anaemic. Iron is essential for athletic performance, carrying oxygen to and carbon dioxide away from all the cells in the body. An increase in iron is needed when in hard training, for red blood cells and blood vessel production. Low iron levels effect concentration and lower the immune system. Athletes who eat little or no red meat have difficulty meeting the bodies iron needs. Swimmers who are showing symptoms of an iron deficiency (such as fatigue and weakness) can see their doctor for a blood test.
For more information on Iron Deficiency download the Sports Dietitians Australia Swimming Fact Sheet:http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/content/177/Swimming/
Keeping up our fluid intake is very important, but easy to forget. Dehydration has a detrimental effect on performance and can be a greater limiting factor than diet, rest and fitness. Bringing a drink bottle to the gym, to pool sessions and to competitions is as essential as packing a cossies, caps and goggles. Why? When we swim, we sweat. Our bodies loose water which must be replaced.
Parents may be able to recall images from the 1984 Olympic Games, of wobbly marathon runners crawling to the finish line. That’s the extreme effect of failing to adequately replace fluids lost through sweating. When your bodies fluid levels drop below normal, your heart has to work harder to pump out the same amount of blood. Dehydration also eats away at skill levels and concentration.
Swimmers can weigh themselves before training, measure their fluid intake during training, and then weigh themselves after training once dry. If the swimmer has lost weight, they need to increase the amount of water they consume. Any loss in weight (grams) equals the loss of water in your body (milliliters). For every liter loss 1.5 liters should be replaced.
Remember drink bottles should be taken to carnivals. Regular drinking before and after warm ups, races and swim downs is advisable. If swimmers wait until they are thirsty to drink, it can be too late.
For more information on Hydration download the Sports Dietitians Australia Swimming Fact Sheet:http://www.sportsdietitians.com.au/content/177/Swimming/
In the human body energy is needed for:
- digestion & metabolism (breakdown of food)
- growth & metabolism of cells & tissue
- work & physical activity
Energy comes in different forms including chemical, electrical, heat, mechanical, nuclear energy & sunlight. The two main forms of energy important for movement are:
- chemical energy (or potential) energy, which is inactive or stored energy
- mechanical (or kinetic) energy, which is energy used to produce movement
When we move or exercise chemical energy in the form of food is transferred into mechanical energy in the form of movement. Heat energy is a by-product of this conversion.
There are four basic energy compounds in the body; the primary energy compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), and the three secondary compounds of creatine phosphate (CP), glycogen (carbohydrate) and fat.
Our bodies breaks down food in the form of carbohydrates, fats and protein to produce ATP, the mechanical energy required for muscle contraction.
Muscles store a small amount of ATP, ready to carry out explosive sprinting. In sports that have repeated muscle contraction such as swimming, the supply of ATP must be constantly replenished from other fuel sources.
Initial energy (eg. energy used to dive at the beginning of a race) may be obtained from substances already in the muscle, without the need for oxygen (anaerobic). The anaerobic energy is produced from high-energy phosphate substances (phosphate energy system) or from carbohydrate stores (lactic energy system).
So in other words food provides energy in the form of chemical energy, which is converted to mechanical energy. The breakdown of food produces energy that is stored in the body for later use.
At the Molecular Level
As the body uses ATP it produces more – metabolism. The ATP molecule is made up of a large molecule called an Adenosine molecule and three smaller molecules called phosphates. When one of the phosphate molecules breaks away from the ATP molecule (creating energy) a double phosphate molecule called Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) is formed, along with a single molecule – Adenozine Monophosphate (AMP).
So ATP is broken down into ADP and energy, and is then re-synthesized by enzymes through two reactions:
- The reaction between ADP and CP which produces creatine, ATP and more energy.
- The reaction between ADP and ADP which produces AMP and ATP
The Energy Systems During a Race & Training (Pubescents and Adults)
The supplies of the phosphate energy system last 5-10 seconds and are used up in the first 25m of a race. If the swimmers rests after an effort the energy stores will be rebuilt by 50% after 30 seconds and 100% after 2-3 minutes.
At maximum levels of effort the amount of ATP present in muscle is sufficient for only 1 second of exercise and the phosphate energy system in total will last 5 seconds. Lactic acid will already be produced at 10 seconds, and will reach peak volumes quickly, forcing exercise to cease.
In all swimming events the anaerobic supply is depleted and the energy source has to come from elsewhere . . . the lactic energy system. Energy is now provided from glycogen stored in the active muscle. As well as producing ATP, glycogen produces Pyruvate, which is further broken down into ATP and lactic acid. This production of lactic acid is said to give the feeling of fatigue.
Continuous activity, which leads to exhaustion 45-60 seconds, results in maximal values for lactic accumulation. There is a given level of effort where energy demands will be unable to be met from aerobic energy release alone, and lactic acid will be produced. Exercise done at a higher intensity than this is limited by lactic accumulation.
Recovery / Swim down
Lactic Acid requires up to 45-60 minutes to be completely removed. For senior swimmers it is important to spread out tough events on race day which have significant lactate production and tolerance eg. 100 & 200 BF. Lactic Acid is removed more quickly if the swimmer continues some light exercise rather than resting completely. It has been found that swimmers should do swim downs with a minimum of 800m.
eg. 200 FS HR 40 bbm, 4 x 50 K exp. 1st 15, 4 x 50 S exp. 1st 15, 200 E BK
The Importance of Aerobic Fitness
During longer evens and efforts oxygen is the the predominate supplier of ATP for continual muscle contraction. Oxygen is used to release energy from glycogen and fat stores. The athletes ability to transport and utilise oxygen becomes a more limiting factor to performance, the longer the event is.
So it is important to have high stores of carbohydrates before training and competition, so performance isn’t reduced. Exercise supported by aerobic metabolism (oxidation of carbohydrates and fat fuel stores) is 13 times more efficient as anaerobic activity.
Improved cardiovascular function will mean the body will be able to transport blood more efficiently, allowing the body to supply oxygen and nutrients to the muscle cells, and remove lactic acid more quickly. Vascular development equals quicker recovery time for swimmers!