Category Archives: Hints & Tips

Introducing the New Backstroke Wedge

Wondering about the introduction of backstroke wedges for backstroke starts? You’re not alone! Here’s everything you need to know about the change.

AMANZI Girl Penny Hayes backstroke start

The new backstroke wedges will add that extra oooomph to your start. Photo credit: @pennyhayesnz

These wedges were approved by FINA during a meeting at last year’s new rules committee gathering during the July sessions in Barcelona. The backstroke wedges first hit the scene at the grand prix circuit last summer and are now starting to be used more regularly.

The purpose of the new wedges is to create a standardisation of the starting foot placement for backstroke swimmers. With all of the different types of pools and touch pads out there, there is a lot of inconsistency for backstroke swimmers and this is an attempt to fix it as well as to reduce the number of slips during backstroke starts.

One of the best things about the backstroke wedge is that it’ll give you a grip that has been unheard of in the swimming world until now. As swimmers, we naturally pull up to the balls of our feet then rest most of our weight there during backstroke starts. The backstroke wedge allows you to put your weight onto an angled piece of material to push off, rather than trying to grip your feet onto a flat wall.

We’ve all seen swimmers who get disqualified at the very start of a backstroke event. They pull their bodies up in preparation for the start but then drop down a bit too far before they take off. It can happen to the best of us! In fact, these unfortunate slips have happened even at the highest levels. One of the fastest backstroker swimmers on the planet, Elizabeth Beisel, qualified for the 2014 US National Championships then was immediately taken out of the race when she slipped off the wall. It’s so unfortunate but so common! It has happened to top swimmers around the world at events like the World Championships and even the Olympics. If it can happen to an Olympics swimmer, it can happen to any of us.

The goal of the backstroke wedge is to act like a high heel shoe and force your feet to stay in place so you never have to worry about slipping and being tossed out of the competition. On top of that, the backstroke wedge also creates a more even weight distribution so you aren’t killing your arms if you pull yourself high out of the water.

On top of creating stability, the backstroke wedge will also give a push factor. When you stabilise your body, you are in much greater control. Since you are completely still on a backstroke wedge, you can push off with greater force at the start of a race. With your body exactly where you want it to be, you will always start every swim meet at your best.

This new change is definitely something that we are excited about. Hopefully we will be seeing more backstroke wedges rolled out quickly at pools across the globe!

A Guide To Training When You Are Sick

 

AMANZI Girl Charlotte eager to get back in the pool

To train or not to train when you’re feeling sick? Photo credit @chardurand

When you get into the rhythm of a training schedule, a cold or another illness can throw a huge cramp in your style and many athletes are left with the question whether it is a good idea to train or not. Depending on who you ask, exercising when you are sick can either be the worst thing in the world to do for your body or the best. We came to the conclusion it really depends on the illness and the individual. This brief guide will help you decide whether to keep on training or to temporarily throw in the towel.

The Pros and Cons

The arguments for whether to train or not are not all that complicated: exercise can either make you better or worse! So which one is it? The answer is that it really depends on the type of exercise, illness, environmental conditions and the individual.

Exercise is a great way to boost our metabolism and immunity, and this ultimately can mean helping your body get better faster. Essentially there was a little bit of truth to the myth of sweating an illness off. It will also help you make sure your physical progress does not deteriorate as much during the course of the illness.

However, that doesn’t take into account the severity of the illness. If you are running a high fever, raising your core temperature with exercise is a terrible idea that will make you sick. Exercise also can leave you depleted of energy to fight off an illness if you are extremely weak.

Basically, you’ll need to use a little common sense to try to navigate the answer to this question.

To Train, or not to Train?

In this case it is sometimes best to go with how you are exactly feeling to determine whether you should exercise or not. If you don’t feel like you can get out of bed, going on a jog is probably not the best idea. However, if you feel like you have regular energy levels with a just few symptoms then you are probably ready to go.

One rule of thumb that many athletes go by is feeling where the cold is in the body. If your symptoms are the throat and up, then you are probably fine to train. If your symptoms reach down to the chest along with any aches or pains, it is best to sit it out.

One last thing to remember is that you should definitely not start anything new or difficult while you are sick. At most you should just do your standard training distance and time or even go a little less far and hard in order to not overwhelm your body.

Listening To Your Body

Obviously since you are sick, you are not going to be able to push as hard as normal. It is important to have body awareness. If you feel worse for the wear after exercise then you’ve probably pushed too hard, and you should take that as a learning experience. On the other hand, when your body feels a little bit better after exercise that means you’ve done the perfect amount.

Remember don’t feel like you absolutely must train during an illness. Sometimes taking a short break will help refresh your enthusiasm, so when you finally are feeling 100% again, you’ll literally be ready to hit the ground running.

Stay warm after your workout

While swimming outside can be wonderful, it can also freeze you to your core! Even if you are feeling warm in the pool, you might feel pretty differently when you hop out. Thanks to icy cold winters in the Northern Hemisphere and unheated outdoor pools, it can be tricky to keep outdoor swimming in your routine.

On top of being uncomfortable, being too cold can be downright dangerous! You already know about the dangerous of frostbite but did you know that the cold even impacts your muscles and your likelihood of injury?

Fortunately, a little bit goes a long way when it comes to getting your training routine heated up. It is important to have the right gear. If you are planning to swim in cold sea water, get a wetsuit. While sleeveless wetsuits might seem more comfortable, you will lose a lot of heat through your armpits. Opt for a full suit and be sure to keep your head covered with a cap and stick earplugs in to keep your core temperature high.

AMANZI Girl Courtney Home in her wetsuit

AMANZI Girl Courtney doing it right this winter! Photo cred: @corky93

If you can relax in a sauna after a cold swim, this is the perfect way to keep your body heated up. If not, ditch the freezing cold wetsuit when you get out of the water and start layering on warm clothes. Rather than throwing on a thick jacket, layering is great because it allows you to slowly strip down as you start to warm up again.

It’s important to remember that your body is always fighting to stay at a comfortable temperature. When you allow your body to get too cold, you are more susceptible to picking up cold and flu viruses so don’t make your body work harder than it needs to! Regulate your temperature after your workouts when your body is already tired out.

When your muscles become cold too quickly, you increase your risk of injury. A sudden burst of cold affects your blood flow and can affect your body’s recovery rate. This is the reason for cooling down slowly after workouts as well as preventing your body from being hit with a sudden burst of cold after leaving the water.

The best thing that you can do after a cold swim is get out of the water and do some cool down exercises. When you leave the water, dry off, layer up your clothing and take a brisk walk. This will allow your heart rate to drop more gradually while reducing your risk of injury and post-workout pain.

So, outdoor swimmers, there is no reason to let chilly weather push you inside! Come prepared and you can enjoy your swim training almost anytime, anywhere.

Top 5 Swim Apps

Just because you can’t take your phone into the water doesn’t mean that you can’t use your phone to take your swimming to the next level. Check out these five amazing swim apps that will take you where you want to go!

SwimPB: This is a great app for keeping you motivated. Swim PB maintains a historical record of all of your swim times. The app creates lists of your current personal best times for every event. If you are looking for a simple, straightforward app to record all of your times or maintain your swim team’s records, this is exactly what you need.

GoSwim: Go Swim is home to all things swim related. Get free training videos alongside weekly inspirational pics and articles, as well as swimming news from around the world. Go Swim has a great fan wall where you can chat with other swimmers to share tips and tricks or just enjoy a good read.  Go Swim’s Twitter feed is home to a current and constant stream of international sporting news.

AMANZI Triathlete Charlotte Durand

Improve your stroke with the advice of the best coaches out there. Photo credit @chardurand

Swim Coach Plus: This isn’t your grandma’s swim coach! If you are looking to improve your technique, this is the place to go. Whether you are a beginner or on your way to the Olympics, Swim Coach Plus HD is a powerful tool. Its video features basically bring the best coaches in the world to your pool so that you can get exactly the feedback that you need. Record your moves, get feedback, watch the best swimmers in action and master your technique!

Active Goals: This app from the ACTIVE Network is designed for runners, cyclists, swimmers and triathletes. You can log all of your workouts and meet other swimmers from around the globe. Set goals for yourself then track your progress. Active Goals has a gorgeous array of graphs and lists that will keep your motivated.

Meet Mobile:  Another great tool from the ACTIVE Network, Meet Mobile will give you all of the swim meet info that you will ever need. No matter how big or small the event, you can get real-time results alongside all of the latest info on your favourite swimmers and upcoming local meets.

 

Goal Digger: How to Realise your Goals in 2016

AMANZI Girl Jodie Duff

Whatever your goals are, you CAN achieve them! Whether you want to push yourself to get in the pool every single morning or just manage your time better, there are a few simple steps that work for any objective you might have. Here is how to get started with any goal, no matter how big or small.

Step one: Create a real target

What is it that you really want? Be specific. Think about something that you can measure. Don’t just declare that you will “get fit” or “stop wasting time.” Break down your goals into smaller pieces that you can monitor on a daily basis. If you want to start using your time better, make a goal to use a planner each day. The more detailed that your plan is, the more likely that you are to achieve it. Forget about the big picture and think about what your real goal looks like every day.

Step two: Spread the word

Tell other people about your goals so that you can get support and encouragement. Ask for help to resist temptation. Don’t be shy! This is what friends and families are for. Spread the word. Everything in life is easier with a bit of help. Find others who share your goals, whether it is your best friend or an online support network. The more accountability and support that you have to meet your objective, the easier it will be so don’t try to go it alone!

Step three: Incorporate it into your daily life

Ultimately, everything comes down to your daily routine. All of your successes and failures in life will always hinge on what you do on a daily basis. Figure out what it is exactly that you need to do every day to meet your goal. If you want to become a better swimmer, what do you need to do each day? Make it realistic and achievable. Take a hard look at your daily routine and see what you can tweak. Find a way to make your goal part of real life.

Step four: Accept setbacks

It is important to recognise the difference between a failure and a setback. A setback is when you don’t meet your daily goal. A failure is when you stop trying. It is too easy to get into an all-or-nothing mentality and that has been the downfall of too many people. Make a commitment to stick to it, no matter what! If you find yourself struggling, start over at step one.

 

 

5 Tips for the Perfect Night’s Sleep

AMANZI Girl Laura Dennis

AMANZI Girl Laura ready for bed? Photo cred @laurajanedennis

Want the secret to a healthy, happy life? Sleep! Sleeping is one of the best things that you can do for your body. Here are a few things that you can do to get the perfect night’s sleep.

  1. Always wake up at the same time. Keeping a consistent schedule can make all of the difference! Of course, sometimes life gets in the way but there is a lot that you can do to keep yourself on track. Don’t sacrifice sleep for a few extra minutes of staring at a screen and forget about trying to make up for lost time over the weekend. Keep on track every night.
  2. Only go to bed when you’re tired. Don’t waste too much time lounging around. If you can’t sleep after 30 minutes, get up. If you have a TV in your bedroom, get it out of there. Make your bedroom into a sanctuary for sleep so that your brain automatically makes the association and you feel ready to relax as soon as you walk in the door. Do whatever you can to make your bedroom a restful place. Invest in nice blankets, pillows and whatever other creature comforts make your time in the bedroom a little more enjoyable.
  3. Create a routine. Start preparing for bed one hour in advance. If you are running around the house until the moment your head hits the pillow, it will be hard to get to sleep. You need to slowly unwind. Get into the habit of shutting everything down an hour before bed. If you haven’t been able to finish it by that time, it can wait until morning. Follow your routine everyday of the week- including weekends! It may be a hard transition but it’s worth it. You will quickly find that getting enough sleep during the week means that you don’t need more sleep at the weekend and your cravings for it will slowly fade.
  4. Turn off the lights. Bright lights are incredibly disruptive. It is important to turn off all of your screens at least an hour before you plan to sleep and recreate the most relaxing environment possible. Get into the habit of reading real books rather than looking at your computer or TV. If you absolutely must be in front of a screen before bed, get a filter that blocks blue light. There are tons of apps out there that will do that for you and it can make a huge difference in your sleep quality.
  5. Put your body into neutral. Close off the kitchen. It’s better not to eat or drink anything too close to bedroom time. This is doubly true for alcohol and caffeine. While it might feel like a drink or two helps you sleep better, the opposite is actually true. Having alcohol in your system actually disturbs your sleeping patterns. The same is true for evening exercise. Like caffeine, the later you exercise, the more it wakes you up. Try to hit the gym in the morning or before dinner for the best night’s sleep. Your goal is to avoid having too much of anything in the hours leading up to sleep.

Core Workouts: Why Every Swimmer Needs Powerful Abs

AMANZI Girl Corrie Scott

AMANZI Girl Corrie Scott with abs of steel!

Want to know how to perfect your form? Get your core in shape! As swimmers, we tend to focus a lot on our getting our arms and legs moving but we forget that it’s our core that connects it all.

Powerful abdominal muscles are the key to strong, coordinated movement of the arms and legs. Your abs are what keep your body moving in flawless connection during freestyle swimming and the backstroke. To get the undulating motion that you’ll need for the butterfly and breaststroke, you need your ab muscles to be in top form.

So, are you ready to get focused? We’ve got you covered! Here’s how to get your core muscles in amazing shape and take your swimming to the next level.

If you go to the gym regularly, one of the best workouts that you can do is the reverse wood chop. All you need is the stretch cord. Set it so that it is anchored at floor level. Hold onto it with both hands. Squat down to grab the cord then twist it up and away from your body, moving it from your lower left to your upper right side. Do reps of 12.

You don’t need the gym to get your core in shape though. The best anytime, anywhere workout is the plank. There are a lot of different ways to mix things up here but let’s start by talking about the classic plank. All you need to do is get onto your forearms and toes, making sure that your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Squeeze your abs and butt. Start off by trying to hold a tight, straight line for 30 seconds then work on increasing that time. Be sure to stay focused on keeping a totally straight line and not allowing your stomach to drop down. And don’t forget to breathe!

Ready to take it to the next level? Enter the superman plank. Once you can hold the plank position for a minute, it is time to move onto this powerful move. Get into your good, old fashioned plank position then extend your opposite arm and leg away from each other. By taking your arm and leg off the ground, your abs will go into hyper-drive. Work your way up to 20 reps and focus on keeping them slow and steady.

If your forearms are starting to feel the carpet burn, get on your back! Another great ab workout is the x crunch up. To get started, lie down on the ground and make the shape of a letter x. Basically, that means that you should have your arms overhead with both your arms and legs spread away from each other. Lift your opposite arm and leg off the ground and push them forward until your hand can touch your foot. Lower them both back down to the ground as slowly as you can then repeat on the other side. Do it 12 reps at a time and you’ll have powerful abs in no time!

Elite Sport and School: A Juggling Act

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Trying to balance school and diving can be a mental stress, and this month I really felt it. The hardest thing is simply finding time to get everything done. The start of the school year has been hard. New teachers, new expectations – the workload has become very high. Missing a diving session is not an option for me, but on the other hand school and academic success rates high for me too.

I am part of a program that involves training at least 25 hours a week, either once or twice a day, for three hours per session, six days a week. So at the best of times it can be hard juggling homework with training. It means quite a few late nights. As an emerging elite athlete, I am required to be dedicated and committed to achieving my best – in and out of the pool and uncompromising in the quality applied to training and competition. Working out how school fits into this can be quite tricky.

Here are some ways I am making my week work for me:

  • focusing on what is important
  • being realistic when planning what needs to be done outside training each week
  • realising it is okay to ask for help and extensions on homework and assignments
  • using my travel time effectively – I travel between 45 minutes to an hour to and from training each day so I can get quite a bit done in this time
  • utilising my lunch breaks – I have amazing friends so they understand.

My parents, my amazing coach and the support I receive from my school go a long way towards getting this juggling act right so the balance always stays tipped in my favour.

Thanks for your support too AMANZI,
Until next month
Jade x

The Most Common Swimming Injuries and How to Avoid Them 

AMANZI Girl Laura Dennis

AMANZI Girl Laura stretching between sessions

While swimming is one of the safest sports out there, there are still some risks. Ultimately, any time that you are moving your body, you can hurt it. Poor technique and over training are the most common causes of swimming injuries but it is very easy to avoid injury. Listen to your coach and, of course, listen to your body! Here are a few of the most common swimming injuries that you should be on the lookout for so that you can avoid them.

Rotator cuff injuries: By far the most common injury that you will find in the pool, you can easily recognise the tell-tale signs of a rotator cuff injury. You will feel a sharp pain in your shoulder with every single stroke. The pain will be the sharpest when you extend your arm forward and over your head. This pain combined with shoulder inflammation probably means that you have a rotator cuff injury. One of the most common causes is simply overuse. Of course, it is best to check with your coach to make sure that you are swimming with a proper technique and, if the pain is chronic, check in with your doc. In the long term, focus on strength training but be strategic. Swim and lift weights but pay attention to your body to make sure that you aren’t pushing yourself too hard.

Lower back pain: This injury is often a result of the butterfly stroke. The movement puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar vertebrae because you are arching your back and pushing it out of the water. If you are feeling a general stiffness and swelling in your lower back, it’s time to take a break then focus on strength training and flexibility. To keep your back limber, stretch after each workout. To get your back strong, there are a few workouts that you can do. Get in the habit of adding side planks, lunges, hip bridges, squats and dead lifts to your routine. Make sure that you are maintaining good posture, whether you are working out or just hanging out, and focus on slowly gaining strength.

Swimmer’s knee: Feeling a pain on the inner side of your knee? Blame the breast stroke and take a look at your form. One common cause of knee pain is actually excessive hip rotation. To prevent pain, have your coach watch you closely to make sure that your breast stroke is spot on. Be sure to also mix it up in the water. Use different strokes so that you aren’t overtaxing particular muscles.

Neck injuries: Between holding a high head position and rotating your neck back and forth, a lot of swimmers deal with chronic neck pain. To stop it before it starts, focus on strengthening your neck with neck extension and shoulder roll exercises. While you are dealing with pain, stay out of the water as much as possible and stretch your neck and shoulders regularly to keep yourself flexible.

Time Management: A Juggling Act

Gypsy Tribe

Photo Credit @mindbodysoultransformation

 

The many hats an AMANZI girls wear:

  • Swimmer
  • Student
  • Athlete
  • Sister
  • Friend
  • Teammate
  • Leader
  • Daughter
  • Girlfriend/wife
  • Nutritionist
  • Mother
  • Cook
  • Professional

… And the list goes on and on.

How do we wear so many hats? It really looks ridiculous as we walk down the street trying to balance everything on our head without running into any obstacles life seems to throw our way. What is an AMANZI girl to do?

We’re sure many of you out there, as AMANZI girls, already know a whole lot about juggling a lot of responsibilities all at once. We may be preaching to the choir here, but we hope there is at least one golden nugget of knowledge in here to help you pull off all those training sessions and the rest of life!

Tips on Time Management for Swimmers

1. Keep Track of Your Energy
With training, your energy can fluctuate dramatically throughout the day. Try to fit in tasks that don’t require much thought or energy into periods when you are experiencing low energy. For example, if you are feeling tired and sluggish do your chores or other brainless tasks that must get done. Your room is a mess! We can see it from here girls…

2. Eat, Sleep and Live Healthy

Want more energy? A big part of that is all about the lifestyle you lead. Avoid unhealthy foods, sleeping patterns and habits to help sustain high levels of energy. Let’s face it – you have to get up way too early tomorrow morning to be staying up watching Netflix all night! Not just one more episode for you!

3. Keep Track of Time Wasting Habits

We all have our own special unique ways of wasting time. Do you love Facebook? Daydreaming? Procrastinating? All of these habits add up rather quickly. Keep track of the time you spend wasting time for one week, then reassess how you can cut back on these habits to free up some much needed time for that math homework you never seem to get around to every night.

4. Prioritise

Take the time to list things that are most important to you. Consider everything that does not lend itself to those priorities. Sometimes we have to let go of people, places, activities and other things that do not help us shine in life. This is a natural process.

5. Cook Simpler Meals

This isn’t to say you should pop a frozen pizza in the oven and call it a day. But you can still eat healthy with simple recipes. Research snacks and meals you can make without a huge investment of time in the kitchen. Save the gourmet cooking for when you have more time to spend on it!

6. Give Yourself Some Much Needed Self Love

You rock! All of the things you already get done are amazing. Learn how to give yourself some much needed rest and self-love. This way when it comes time to get back to work you’ll feel invigorated with a refreshed kick butt attitude to take on the world!