Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Swimming Breakthroughs

Can you really see a big swimming breakthrough simply from sitting thru a lecture on swim technique? The answer is yes. Here's a perfect example, and I receive at least one of these after each time I do these lectures. 


I have meant to respond to you since attending your clinic.  I sat near the front, we talked for a few minutes after your presentation, I was a swimmer and water polo player in high school and college many years ago.

I wanted you to know what a huge difference your technique made for me. I was doing a 400 in about 6:07 before your lecture, and after on my first swim I did a 400 in 5:34.  I was so amazed, I had to do another just to make sure I hadn't misread the clock or something. What an astounding difference! Mostly just from aggressively reaching and throwing my arms forward. My 100 speed went from 1:30 to under 1:25.

Your presentation was well organized and very informative. Obviously also very helpful for me.  Thanks so much!

Andy Sweet"

Most athletes hop into the water and just start swimming. They see other swimmers, and think, "Ok, throw one arm in front of the other, and that's swimming." That's like saying golf is as easy as swinging a stick at a ball, and watching it just go into the hole. 

Ever gone to the store and bought a product that has "some assembly required"? You pull out the pieces, and set the directions to the side, not even giving them a glance. You just start putting the product together like you think it should be, based on how it appears on the cover of the box. Then you get about half-way to three-quarters done and realize the item you've got and the one on the box don't look alike. You realize, "Oh yeah, probably time to go back and read the directions." Sound familiar? 

Many us approach swimming this way. We just hop into the water, without reading the directions and understanding what it is we want to accomplish in the water, to make swimming truly happen. There comes a point when going back and reading the directions are needed. That's what the lecture I gave was about. If you missed it, you can still get the information two ways:

1. View the webinar at, called Learning and Understanding the 3 Most Important Technical Aspects of Swimming. (CEU's available for USAT Coaches).

2. Download the talk with the videos and the slides, from my store.

If you're struggling with swimming, stop. Go back and read the directions, and get a fresh new perspective, so you know what it is you want/need to accomplish.

Coach Vance

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Precise Monitoring of Athlete Training

I recently have begun training a cyclist who lives in Australia, and he just got a power meter. We spent the first few weeks with me prescribing some training, with no real idea how well the execution of the workouts was going. I had to just take his word for it.

Once we got the power meter, we did a field test to find an FTP of 280 watts, and then established his power zones. I prescribed some Zone 2 riding to help build his aerobic endurance, (goal was at least 50% of ride time in Z2 on a flat to rolling course, 151-212 watts), since he has a VERY long road race in a just a few weeks.

When I went to the review the file, it was clear the goal of the workout was not accomplished. You can see what I noticed here: (click on images to enlarge)

You can see how I was able to see what actual energy systems the athlete was training, and how the choice of course affected the stress. If all I had was him telling me how it went, or heart-rate data alone, I would not really have been able to see how effectively he was training according to the plan.

This post is not meant to throw the athlete, "under the bus", but help to show the power of data as a communication tool between athletes and coaches. This athlete is learning how to train, and power data is helping to facilitate the learning.

The data is helping me to assess his strengths and weaknesses, and make sure the training addresses those, allowing for precise monitoring and prescribing of training for the athlete.

If you're not using data, this is just some of what you're missing, and how you might not be training as precisely as you think.

Coach Vance

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Underwater Swim Video Clinics and Downloads

If you missed my talk at B+L on The 3 Technical Aspects of Swimming, you missed a great event, with over 80 people in attendance! You can download the talk here, complete with the underwater videos we reviewed.

I'm doing 2 underwater swim video clinics in San Diego, the next 2 Sundays, which provide:

- Video of left and right sides, front angle as well.
- Videos belong to the athlete, will be emailed.
- Breakdown and review of the video with the coach.
- Pool time with Coach on deck after video session to practice and reinforce technical changes.

Here's the venue:

Sessions are Sunday, Feb 19th, 10 AM - 12 PM, and Sunday, Feb 26th, 12-2 PM, both at Cathedral Catholic High School. Both sessions are limited to 10 people only! (The 19th has only 3 spots remaining).

Cost of session: $110
If you'd like to schedule your own session with me: $125, or $200 for 2 people.

If you're looking for to make the next jump in your swim, this is the opportunity.

Email me to register at

Friday, February 10, 2012

Swim Lecture with Video Analysis

As I mentioned in the previous post, I will be doing a public speaking event, helping to explain the technical aspects of swimming, keeping them simplified, filtering thru the depth of information to what is most important. Below is the info if you're interested, and if you can't attend you can click the link on the right to find my webinars with the topics, or look for the recording and presentation in my Coach Vance store...

If you're struggling with getting faster in the water, TrainingBible Elite Coach Jim Vance will explain and simplify what is most important to go faster in the water. He will also share some underwater video footage from swimmers to better understand the application of the technical discussion.

What: Learning and Understanding the 3 Technical Aspects of Swmming
Cost: FREE! Food and drinks will be served
When: Wednesday, Feb 15th, 2012
6:15-7:45 PM
Where: B+L South Store
3603 Camino Del Rio West
San Diego, CA 92110

You can RSVP for the event here:

Hope you can make it...

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Coaching Endorsement

Saw this great interview with Gerry Rodrigues, one of the foremost authorities on the sport of swimming, especially within triathlon. He discusses many of the issues facing triathletes when trying to learn to swim faster. You can read this interview here, but I felt honored to be mentioned in this excerpt:

"The horizon: Fortunately, with triathlon becoming an Olympic sport in 2000, more substantive coaches are entering the space, raising the present mark of swim coaching and triathlon coaching in general. There are many good swim coaches for triathletes; unfortunately, many do not publish. Here are some examples worth following when they do publish: Swim Smooth (Paul Newsome); Jim Vance; Mike Collins; Joel Filliol; Brett Sutton; Matt Dixon. These coaches together, along with a few others, are the future for triathlon swimming."

That is a who's who of triathlon coaching, and I feel honored to be a part of it. I will be announcing a speaking event and some swim clinics in San Diego shortly. Stay tuned.

Coach Vance

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A turning point for triathlon?

I saw this ad at the website, for a triathlon/cross-country coach, for a Division III school, Marymount University. (I've captured the screen shot for when the position is filled and the ad is pulled. Click on the image to enlarge.)
This could represent a big turning point for the sport, as this is the first time a school is designating triathlon as a sport they will support financially, via their athletic department. In every other university, (to my knowledge), the sport is strictly considered a student club, funded by the members of the club.

Why is this important? Well, with a paid position for the coach and funds to help provide the necessary support of facilities, travel costs, equipment costs, athletic trainers and other items, this will likely lead to more enhanced and better development of athletes.

This is a Division III school though, not a Big Ten or Pac-12 university, so the caliber of athletes in these programs will likely not resemble those at the highest level, as Division III institutions offer no athletic scholarships. However, with the support offered, and a cross country season likely tied to it, it does have the potential to provide athletes with an impressive amount of support while pursuing an education. Could this lead to more Division I universities taking part in a similar program? That seems a long way off yet, but the Division III institutions have a chance here to leverage this aspect of the sport, and bring some great notoriety and exposure to their schools, helping them to offer a sport a Division I schools can't offer. Though this may not sway the top athletes, there have been many cases of hidden gems of athletes coming thru a solid development program and blossoming late. And with a committed time thru school focused on the sport, developing their weaknesses, athletes could potentially leave these programs ready to or already performing at a high level, with their education completed.

There are some drawbacks to triathlon being an NCAA sport, which I outlined some of in the LAVA magazine article from August/September 2011. Two of the main concerns have been Title 9, (gender equity policies), and restrictions placed on coaches at the institutions. The main restriction being that a top level coach can only work with athletes on their team, not coach juniors, as that would be an NCAA recruiting violation. There also must be a decision made on the style of racing that collegiate triathletes will do, and whether they will focus on a draft-legal race model to help Olympic development, or stick with non-drafting, and miss out on the key skills and experience needed for ITU and Olympic athlete development.

So what are your thoughts? Is this good for the sport? Or will this cause more headaches than it is worth?

Coach Vance