Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber

Did you ever swim with an Olympian?

Swim with an Olympian

Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber in January 2018

Dad and I drove down for the December holidays after a very tiring KZN Premier champs.  Our trip takes us from Durban on the East Coast, through the Free State to the Western Cape with a one-night stopover at Colesburg (half way).  Mom is working in Cape Town on contract and we will spend Christmas with Granny in a small place called Dwarskersbos, 12 km from Velddrif.

The first day is an eight-hour drive and we arrive safely in Colesburg.  The next day will be a nine-hour drive to Dwarskersbos.  It is very sad to see how dry it is everywhere.
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2017 Swim Season New Year message

2017 swim season – New Year message

2016 in Review:

2017 Swim season is ahead of us.  The time has come to take a moment to look back at 2016. We realize that it is still one of the most challenging swimming years we have had to date as Monica, aged 9, competed in the 10 & under, 12 & under and 14 & under age groups.

In 2017 she will continue to swim these events but at least be closer to her 10th birthday, therefore a bit stronger.

Our swimming seasons start in May of every year with pre-season racing taking place until September.  September to March is the official swimming season.  We are at the moment 3 months away from the flagship event – the 2017 SSA L2 Championships.

Our best swim in 2016 remains the unexpected meet record in the 200 LCM freestyle during Action swim champs.  We admire the ease and control Monica maintained during this swim.  The Seagulls 200 SC IM where Monica swam sub 3 minutes takes second place in our top races for the year.  It is a tough choice but third place goes to the TYR hat-trick in the 200 LCM IM.  Great swimming in a year which is supposed to be an offseason.

Competitive swimming in 2016-2017:

Towards the end of 2016, younger swimmers emerged challenging Monica in her races.  We are delighted to see these swimmers come through the ranks due to three reasons:

  1. It is good for female swimming to see young age group swimmers raising the standard, working hard and smart resulting in faster times.
  2. The competition is good for Monica – we find it interesting to see how much harder she is willing to push herself during competitive races.
  3. Commitment – Monica demonstrated a new level of commitment to swimming and training.  She wants to be fit and strong to meet any challenge that comes her way.  She is willing to do the work.

We are, as a result of this renewed commitment, entering the last 3 months of the 2016-2017 swim season with a stronger, highly motivated, committed and healthier than ever, age group swimmer.

Health and dealing with asthma as a swimmer:
Provincial champs 2016

February 2016 saw Monica achieve 6 x 8 & U Provincial records ad 2 x 10 & Under Provincial meet records, despite a battle with asthma during the event.

February and March of every year is a bumpy ride for our family.  We are working closely with our doctors to keep Monica as healthy as possible.  The heat, humidity and season changes, do, however, present us with a relentless challenge.

We trust that this year will be different due to a couple of reasons.  Monica has 8/10 possible level 3 qualifying times.  She is, therefore, not allowed to swim the Provincial championships in February where she battled with asthma last year.

We hope that she would avoid any asthmatic incidents by not having to compete in February, leaving her stronger and healthier for the SSA champs in March 2017.  It is still a challenge every year but we are learning every step of the way.

Our appreciation:

We would like to end our family’s New Year message with the following quote from a Michael Phelps motivation video.  Our hearts are filled with pride and immense gratefulness for the coaches, friends, family, and fans that believe in Monica’s ability, the work she puts in and her love for the sport with this quote:

To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends.  

Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done. ~ football Coach Gary Gaines.

Swim holiday also known as forced rest

Swim holiday

Swim holiday as we call it, is a period of forced rest.

 What is a swim holiday?

Our age group swimmer turned 9-years-old in March 2016 just before the Swimming South Africa Level 1 championships.  She started to swim at the age of 6 and she called her forced rest periods swim holiday.  Needless to say, the term stuck and coaches’ forced rest periods will forever be known in our household as a swim holiday.

Forced rest and its importance to swimmers.

One of Monica’s swim friends broke a toe in January 2016, just before the Provincial and Regional championships which took place at the end of March this year.  At first, she did not rest but it lead to complications and her medical professional recommended a period of 2 weeks’ rest in order for the bone to heal.  She was devastated after all the hard work she put in year-round, just to be booked off before the most important swimming event on the swim calendar.

My advice to her mom was not to stress too much, as one should never underestimate the power of rest.  The principle of swim training includes the idea that you actually train  when your body is resting.   Our swim calendar allows 2 weeks rest during the festive season in December, with training starting in January every year.  We also have a period of forced rest or as Monica calls it swim holiday, at the end of the swim season meaning the 4 week period in April, after SSA Levels championship is used to rest with no swim training allowed.

Swim training during the 4 weeks of rest means lots of play and fun – some swim families use this period to take their annual break and they go on holiday.  We are not so lucky to be able to do just that, so Monica entertains herself quite a bit with some creative street surfing and loads of play dates with friends.

Why do age group swimmers need periods of rest?

We have a great appreciation and respect for the commitment of our own age group swimmer and her friends.  Just like everything else kids at a young age do, this commitment have to be managed.  It is a standing joke when the kids walk around at swim meets with T-shirts stating: Swim, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, but there could be serious consequences if not enough opportunity for recovery and rest is given to the young swimmer.

Let’s take a look at some of the consequences:

  1.  Injuries – none of us want our young swimmers to develop injuries.  Research has shown that children under the age of 14, experience muscular imbalances.  Forced training over a long period of time, could lead to some injuries which are hard to recover from.
  2. Stress – Ask any swim parent what their daily schedule is like.  Early morning swimming, drop kids at school after swimming (if they do not swim at the school), rush off to work, pick kids up after school, lunch, homework or other extramural activities such as music and other sport.  That is quite a busy schedule for young swimmers.  Couple that with swim meets every other week-end and you might end up with a stressed child.  Taking what we call a swim holiday , is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
  3. Peaking at the right time: The road to success in swimming is a long road.  Swimmers that do not take extended breaks might find themselves peaking too early in their swimming career.  FINA World championships, Commonwealth and Olympics all have a minimum age restriction of 14-years.  So what is the rush?  Rather let your swimmer take some breaks, enjoy being a child and go back to the pool in the new swimming season taking off where they left after the last championship.

Whether you call it forced rest, or like us a swim holiday, the importance of rest in age group swimmers should not be underestimated.