So, training has been going well, but maybe times aren't dropping on meet days? It's easy to forget that how you fuel your body before & during competition can have a big impact on your races! Here on the east coast it can be hard to fight cravings for some heavy comfort foods to warm you up during the during the cold winter months. But, I encourage you to muster your willpower and make better choices. Your body (and your coach) will thank you!
BREAKFAST - It's so easy to reach for your favorite everything bagel slathered with cream cheese and a glass of OJ on a meet morning, but there are some better options that will take the same amount of time. Here are some quick fixes that I recommend:
OATMEAL & A PIECE OF FRESH FRUIT
EGGS & A SLICE OR TWO OF WHOLE GRAIN TOAST
WHOLE GRAIN CEREAL WITH MILK
WHOLE GRAIN BAGEL TOPPED WITH PEANUT BUTTER
It may also seem appealing to eat a large, hearty meal to boost your energy level, but this tactic is a poor choice since you usually just end up feeling weighed down. Some foods to avoid for breakfast on meet days are: bacon, sausage, doughnuts or croissants (basically anything greasy, buttery or fried) and sugary cereals. Sad, but true!
LUNCH - This is your recovery meal after morning warm-ups and events. You want it to be light, yet rich in healthy carbs. It's also important to avoid excessive amounts of proteins and fats since this can lead to bloating and take longer for your body to digest. So, although it's great to support your local aquatics club, it's best to skip the pizza, hot dogs or homemade mac & cheese until after your events are over for the day! Some easy options for lunch include:
SANDWICH MADE WITH LEAN MEATS
WHOLE GRAIN RICE OR PASTA WITH VEGGIES
SNACKS - When you're at a meet for 4+ hours, meals are simply not enough. You'll need a little something extra to keep your body fueled for the day. If you're not eating a meal, try to be sure that you're noshing on something nutritious at least every 2 hours. Here's a list of do's and don'ts to keep in mind when you're packing snacks
ENERGY BARS (<10g fat & <35 cal sugar) ENERGY BARS with high fat/sugar
WHOLE GRAIN PRETZELS GOLDFISH, CHEESE NIPS, CHIPS
NUTS, SEEDS, DRIED FRUIT CANDY, COOKIES
H2O or LOW SUGAR SPORTS DRINKS SODA or FRUIT JUICES
STRAWBERRIES, APPLES, BLUEBERRIES RAISINS, PINEAPPLE, GRAPES
WHOLE GRAIN BREADS/CRACKERS WHITE FLOUR BREADS
DINNER - For long meets or those that start in the afternoon, what you eat for dinner can be one of the most important choices that you make all day! Try to get in a light dinner about two hours before you expect to compete. Keep it low in fat, high in good carbs and only moderate in protein. Include some veggies to boost the nutrient content. If you're on the go, these are easy to grab before heading out the door or even pick up on the way:
GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD with oil & vinegar
WHOLE GRAIN PASTA WITH VEGGIES
2 HARD BOILED EGGS, CUT UP VEGGIES, WHOLE GRAIN ROLL
TURKEY BREAST SANDWICH lettuce, tomato & whole grain bread
Hopefully, you've found my meet day menu helpful to give you a lottle extra boost. After all, every tenth of a second counts!
Training small allows you to finish big! There are many reasons to start training kids in small groups from a young age, from camaraderie to more individualized attention from coaching staff. Here are just a few reasons why I'm a fan of small group training:
CREATING A TRIBE
Let's face it - even as adults, most of us want to belong to a group of some type. It connects us to other people who share similar likes, goals and characteristics. Makes sense, right? Exercising in a small group allows kids to establish relationships and make friends with other people that they may not have otherwise interacted with (different school, friends, etc). Brutal workout? Only your tribe can truly understand the hardships that you've endured for the past hour! Running an exercise program that is challenging, fun and creates a spirit of friendship among the participants are the foundations of my fitness-based tribe.
You've seen the workout groups formed by many MLMs on social media. Why are there so many constantly blowing up your news feeds? Accountability, that's why! Having someone else to help hold you accountable can be extremely motivating, accelerate results and help you push your limits like nothing else.
The small group setting allows workouts to be modified as individuals progress, preventing the dreaded workout plateau and the boredom that large groups or solo workouts can sometimes induce. Variety also breaks participants out of their comfort zones and gets them to try something new that they may not have if they were working out on their own or following a one-size-fits-all approach.
Hopefully, I've encouraged you to give small group training a try! SPEED currently offers dryland small group training on a regular basis for intermediate & advanced swimmers.
Being a "swim dad" of two kids and a high school swim coach who has grown up in competitive swimming, it's no wonder that I've never really asked myself this question - that's just the way it is, right? Maybe not for some. In recent months, I've fielded this question a few times from parents of kids who are new to swimming or are just thinking about the sport and it made me sit back and think about the answer. To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure what the right answer is. I can't think of another sport that requires parents to sit through weekly competitions that can last 5+ hours where ALL of the youth competitors arrive at the same indoor facility at the same time, with their respective family entourages in tow.
Looking at it from the outside, I can definitely see how competitive swimming could be a red flag for a parent who may not want to devote the winter (and perhaps some summer) months of their life to a sport, even though their child may have a strong interest. As we experience shifts in our culture, with people putting a far higher value on their personal time, perhaps it's worth decision-makers evaluating some of the "why's" when it comes to competitive swimming as a sport. In order to keep swim programs strong and grow young talent, we may be forced to take a hard look how we do things to make swimming a more "marketable" sport to parents.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Let us know by leaving a reply below!
Todd Eisenhofer is a Physical Education teacher and head coach at Muhlenberg HS in Reading, PA . He is alo a SPEED trainer with a degree in Physical Education/Health Education from West Virginia University, along with a Master's degree in Sport Management from Millersville University and a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.