Thursday, November 06, 2008

Right Back At You: My Favorite Swimming Blogs

Okay, I’ll admit it – I walk a different path from the average individual. My recent efforts in the pool should be proof enough of my eccentricity, but if you are even moderately observant the particularities of this blog would confirm it. Even my sister American Sis once commented to me, “Your blog is only about swimming. Is that all you do outside of work?” Thankfully at the time she asked I could truthfully answer no. Yet as a topic of conversation I do think my swimming differentiates me from the rest of the crowd, and thus perhaps potentially noteworthy and interesting to an outside observer. Likewise my internet preferences are somewhat narrowly defined. The big thing nowadays is I’ve limited myself to a very small list of blogs for recreational reading. Almost all are devoted to swimming. There is one I read on a semi-regular basis which deviates somewhat from this, but The Secrets of Isis enjoys grandfather privileges from when I had more time to waste. While her blog is for those with an intellectual bent, especially in literature, on the swimming front she’s trying to rehabilitate a shoulder after multiple surgeries and get back to competing in masters events. I’m looking impatiently to the day when she achieves another personal best to give the final finishing flourish to what I hope is a complete recovery.

So with that rather longish introduction finished it’s time to begin reviewing my list. First thing you’ll notice is there are no recognizable names here. Several world class swimmers blog but I’ve quickly reviewed and dropped one after another – they stick to lifestyle issues rather than discuss the technical side of their expertise and blog infrequently. I understand. When one spends as much time training as they do their natural inclination will be to focus on life outside of the pool. Unfortunately that attitude doesn’t help me learn something new about how to swim faster. Worse, they leave all teaching of the finer points of stroke and conditioning to their coaches in order to concentrate at competing in the international arena. If they reveal anything at all it is in the rare disclosure of a workout or two, and reluctantly I’ve come to disregard even these tidbits as the distances swum, intervals, and recovery periods take on a near fictional hue. It appears details of specific practices at the international elite level are only divulged to psych out or mislead any potential rivals peeking in. How else can you read some of these workouts? One recently released practice belonging to Phelps, for instance, was so difficult even experienced swimmers weren’t reading it properly; commenting on the total yards swum rather than the fact it was mostly anaerobic training. A distance anaerobic workout? Isn’t that supposed to be an oxymoron? My masters club this summer swam a 10 x 100 freestyle set adapted from one Phelps did which Bob Bowman made public. Not a single swimmer in attendance that day could match the speed of Phelps’ final rep ... and it was a kicking set for Michael. More distressing I recently learned the set was only the last ten reps of what was actually a 25 x 100. Who does a 2,500 meter kick set? Apparently some elite swimmers do. You want something truly outrageous? Erik Vendt, the noted workhorse of American distance swimming, once swam a 40 x 1,000 yards on ten minutes with a two minute rest in between. For non-American readers that’s an eight hour 37,000 meter set averaging a sub 1:05 pace throughout. What can I learn from that? I don’t swim 37,000 meters in a week. Do I really need to know what, say, Grant Hackett was capable of? Or what Rebecca Addlington is? Allow me live in my own make-believe world please.

Having thus eliminated most of the swimming blogs out there here are the ones I do follow:

Robs was officially listed just last week. I was surprised to learn Phelps’ history making accomplishment in Beijing this summer had inspired a horde of adults to start competitive swimming. Curious to see how long they lasted I started to follow a few of their blogs and this is the only viable remaining survivor less than three short months later. Contrary to one blog’s title “Swimming is Easy” swimming is actually rather difficult – and everybody who tries to compete seriously learns quickly swimming fast is very hard indeed. I have hopes Rob will continue blogging his experiences in masters swimming for the rest of us to follow. It bodes well that, unlike the other fantasists, Rob has had experience as a competitive swimmer in high school.

Ande Rasmussen is the fastest swimmer I follow over the internet through his Ande’s Swimming Blog. A world-class masters competitor who holds world masters records in the competitive 45-49 age group Ande’s specialty is the 50 backstroke. He also has the advantage of hailing from the outskirts of Austin, TX and consequently trains at the University of Texas. On rare occasion he has the privilege of being critiqued by Eddie Reese himself (as I said he's seriously fast). One interesting perspective of the blog is because Ande’s a sprinter he trains as such; something very different from my own training approach. He also seems to have a swimsuit fetish. At least he possesses a sizable collection of performance suits and will often change mid-practice into another suit for certain 'fast' sets. Readers should note Ande’s very knowledgeable about the sport and always happy to give advice so don’t hesitate to call on his expertise by leaving him a question at Ask Ande. He’s recently switched from a message board format (USA Swimming kicked him off their message board after three very well attended years) to Let him know he hasn’t been forgotten.

I was introduced to blogging by the author of See Joe Run. See Joe Swim. Joe is one of my teammates in the Hyack Masters Swim Club and gives a very good blow-by-blow description of the team’s workouts. Coverage has been a little spotty as of late because of his many commitments but obviously for me he’s a must read. Interestingly his readers are overwhelmingly female – so if you’re of that persuasion you might just want to take a peek to find out what the fuss is about.

The next blog was discovered when a comment was made congratulating Joe setting a couple of new PBs. A long ago post described my reaction to this.
An aside here: my teammate is an active blogger and one of his readers, a very good master swimmer from California, congratulates him on his race results in a most exuberant manner. After seeing the quality of Californian’s own posted times, however, I think I detect a little tongue-in-cheek in his generous accolades. To be fair, as a quiet Canadian I might just be misreading one very outgoing and gregarious American (there are a lot of them and frankly I find it irritating). Regardless, our Californian speedster would probably be impressed my teammate accomplishes what he does averaging just a couple of swims a week.
I have had no occasion since our introduction to feel the need to change that initial impression of Joel. Over the past two years I’ve followed his blog I’ve come to think of him as someone I could become friends with if I didn’t live 1,800 kilometers away. Not to mention that as a consistent USMS Top 10 swimmer in several events he really is fast. His workouts are many and varied, and his blogging equally prodigious. Rarely a day goes by without at least a couple of posts on The 17thman. Plus, because he lives in Hollywood, on occasion he’ll treat you to some tantalizing pictures of well known personalities he comes across. A very interesting blog to follow.

Tony over at Southern Cal Aquatics Swim Club is another blogger with whom I share thoughts about our shared sport. A popular blog even with non-swimmers Tony blogs pretty well anything to do with water on almost a daily basis. He has a great artistic eye and will take you from a swimming hole perched right on the edge of Africa’s Victoria Falls to the latest in techno pool design in New York City; show a video exhibiting ‘water dresses’, delves into stirring discussions like how one university requires its students to be able to swim in order to graduate; and on rare occasion even exhibits some of his own computer drawn artwork. For the dedicated swimmer Tony relies on lots of instructional videos on technique, news about open water swimming, and a broad smattering of posts on his own efforts in the local masters swim scene along with the latest results in international competition. You’ll always find something interesting on SCAQ.

But my favorite blog is Floswimming; which some may not consider a blog at all. The website is a collection of videos from all over America interviewing coaches and swimmers about what is going on in swimming right now. It’s an invaluable resource to learn more about the sport. Some of the world’s best swimming coaches hold forth on various topics of interest, favorite practice sets are revealed on Wednesday Workouts, and top flight swimmers discuss their tapering, competition, and drill work along with many other aspects of their training. Recently the website has started presenting tips on specific techniques in a guest video every week called Technical Tuesday – a great addition. It would be nice to see some non-American faces reveal some tricks of the trade which have worked well for them, but until they do the States has more than enough to carry the site for a few years to come. This is a must view blog for anyone who coaches or wants to know how to raise their training to the next level.

An example of what I'm talking about is this video from October presenting a distance set both fun and competitive as well as having a little speed work thrown in. Every coach needs a few of these to pull out of his or her pocket when needed.

Visit Floswimming For More Videos

So there are my favorite swimming blogs. I’m still searching for a couple good ones from the U.K. and Australia so any reader who can recommend something from those far off lands please send me your suggestions. And best of luck in your own swimming pursuits wherever they may take you.


Rob D said...

Thanks a lot for mentioning my blog amongst your favorites and turning me on to a few new ones! Who knew I was the only post-Phelps swim explosion blogging survivor :) I've had a lot of fun blogging about swimming and it really helps keep me motivated. Plus it guilts me into going to the pool on days that I don't feel like it because I know there's a few people watching!

Joel said...

Thanks for the shout out. I think that is what the kids call it these days.

The other day I was trying to explain to someone how a small handful of swimming blogs have come together and communicate via emails and commenting on each other blogs. How together this small group all share a common bond but have such different takes on sharing this common vision of swimming. Of course it was in the context of social media websites but I think all the people who you mention in your post have all created a small little social network of our own. One that is far better than swimnetwork or swimroom. The reasoning for that I believe can be best summed up in your second paragraph.

As for being impressed by Joe's times I gotta admit that I'm impressed by everyone's personal bests. One thing that I always find impressive is that in our 90 minute practices how more fast lane swimmers get out early while a majority of the medium swimmers just plug along trying to finish. Personal bests are not about how fast you are going in relationship to others it's your own personal best. I'm so not the cheerleader type normally but when it comes to seeing others do well in swimming I'm the first to get on the deck and start yelling the loudest for them.

Once again your fan in Southern California.

Joel / the17thman

Ande Rasmussen said...

thanks for mentioning my swimming blog

folks can find
March 2005 - Sep 2008 at

Sep 20th on at

swimmers can ask swimming questions at:

Ande Rasmussen

Scott said...

Rob, if I had any doubts about your ability to continue swimming it vanished with the 500 yards fly you announced today. I'm satisfied when I can squeeze in 400 meters of the damn thing into a workout. You'll find being able to announce your favorite stroke is butterfly in masters circles has the same effect as driving a '65 Mustang in high school (okay, I'm exaggerating somewhat). But the instant respect other masters will give you is rather impressive.

What the kids call it these days? Joel, you were in kindergarten when I was checking out universities I wanted to attend. You're not that far away from being a kid yourself. You won't be surprised I agree with all your points but with a few twists of my own. Such as I agree about the accomplishment personal bests represent for everyone who accomplishes the feat. For 99% of us that should be our real goal in swimming. On the other hand I have this need to always measure ever time I see against the current world class standard. So I could swim a 100 lcm back in a 0:59 something and I wouldn't think of broadcasting the achievement (and boy, wouldn't that be something) because as times go there are plenty of fifteen and sixteen year olds who can beat it. I really got into this with Joe in a early post of mine about the dubious glories of masters swimming here.

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