Welcome to the new weekly column, “Dear Katrina”. Katrina will draw on her personal experience as a world-class athlete and coach, as well as her professional experience as a therapist and college sport psychology professor to answer your questions on a weekly basis. She’ll do her best to answer all of the questions, or at least the themes that are coming up in the questions.
Please email your questions to email@example.com, and put “Dear Katrina” in the subject line. In your email, please note your age, and if you are a swimmer, parent, coach, or some other participant in life! Also, if you prefer to not have your name posted, please let us know. This way, Katrina can respond appropriately to the question that you are asking.
Hello Everyone! I look forward to connecting with you, and sharing advice and stories to help you be your best in all areas of your life! Please email any burning questions that you would love to have addressed!
I look forward to being with you on SwimSwam!
- Dear Katrina, When and why did you start swimming? What was your inspiration?
I grew up in Morris, Minnesota, a small farming town, with a beautiful eight-lane swimming pool (underwater windows, a separate diving well, and great spectator seating), at the University of Minnesota, Morris. We had a small team of about twenty swimmers, and a very caring community. My two older brothers (five and three years older than me) were swimming at the time. Since I wanted to be where they were, I followed them to the pool!
The coach would let me go in the underwater viewing room so that I could watch the swimmers through the underwater windows. I imagined myself being able to swim like they did. Yet, at age six, I was afraid of the deep end. I thought there might be sharks down there (like from the movie, Jaws), as the pool seemed very deep (maybe eight feet). I would swim half way, and then I’d hold onto the edge of the pool, looking around and under the water.
From early on, I LOVED being in the water (and still do!)! Growing up, I did many different sports up until age ten or so. But, I felt most at home in the water.
To find what inspires you, follow what makes you feel energized (not something that is just pleasurable but that brings you true happiness). You will be inspired as you pursue something that you love. This feeling will carry over into all areas of your life. You’ll be able to stay committed to your bigger vision even on days where you have doubts or apparent obstacles challenging you along the way. By doing so, you will discover that you are much more resilient and capable than you realized. You will feel good with who you are, and what you can create for yourself in your life.
- Dear Katrina, How do you get out of a plateau? And what can you do to relax while swimming?
-Mara B., Minnesota.
Sometimes when we are training heavily, or trying really hard, our body doesn’t always respond immediately to the training. Sometimes it can take a whole season or more, to have great drops in time show up. This is especially true once kids hit puberty. Often, it is wise to compare your mid season times to last mid season times and then your end of season times. You will likely notice that you will drop more time through tapering at the end of season. This will vary based on the training program you are in.
Generally speaking, most people benefit from shaking up their training, to stimulate their body adaptation responses (nervous system, muscular, aerobic and anaerobic systems). If you do the same thing over time, your body gets adjusted and does not have to adapt. For example, if you started with ten push-ups and that was as many as you could do, your body would be sore, as it adjusted to the new demand on the body. As you make ten push-ups a routine everyday, your body will adapt to that training and ten push-ups will no longer be challenging to your body. So, improvement would slow down, as you maintained a certain level of fitness that is required to do ten push ups, but improvement would potentially cease; thus, a plateau. It is vital to continually alter training throughout each season, and also review the cumulative effect of season upon season. Additionally, by mixing up what you do, you keep your mind fresher, and your heart more excited to train.
Many things can shake you out of a plateau, such as mental techniques, a change in scenery (run cross-country in off season), a new weight program, more kicking, a new test set, a new focus on each practice (five dolphin kicks off of each wall), etc.
Regarding learning to relax while swimming, this can be practiced outside of the pool, anywhere at any time. If you tend to get tense and nervous about how you will perform, it is wise to start with a simple exercise, such as ten slow deep belly-breaths, where you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. The key is to exhale, to release the tension. Pay attention as thoughts might fly through your mind. Let them come and go. Do not try to hold onto them. Don’t worry – they will come back if they need to!
As you practice this, you should notice feeling more calm throughout the day. Then, as this becomes habit, it will carry over into the pool.
Often, when we see someone who clearly is stressed, it also shows up in their stroke as they swim. In the water, practice: letting your body feel super relaxed, vs. “trying” in the pool. You will still be “working” but you will learn to relax and be more efficient as you swim. Let your body be carried by the water, floating, rather than forcing yourself to fight the water. You will find that your swimming will feel lighter, and you will have more energy as you go through a training set, or race.
In addition to being an Olympian, Katrina is an author. Her inspiring peak potential and wellness book, “Be Your Best Without the Stress” will be available June 4, 2012. To preorder, go to www.katrinaradke.com, amazon.com (May 20), and other online sites.
Katrina Radke twitter: www.twitter.com/katrina_radke
Katrina Radke Facebook: www.facebook.com/katrinaradke1