I have been swimming with Dr. Dave Salo since May of 2002. Whenever a coach finds out that I swim for the Irvine NOVA’s, I get asked the same question: What does Dave Salo do that’s so great?
The first thing the Dr. Salo does is make sure workouts are not boring. Now, they aren’t entertaining at times, but for the duration of 2 hours all of his swimmers are thinking about something. How does he do this? The first thing he does that no other coach I’ve swam for does or doesn’t do actually, is use a dry erase board. Nearly every coach in the country or even the world fills that big white board up with motonous scripts of 10x that and 30x this. BURN IT! Dave gives us each set orally one at a time, rather than throwing the whole stupid workout on a piece of paper and putting it on a kickboard. He’s involved inbetween each and every set. This also makes the swimmers sharper, and we tend to think about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. This position has made practice more involved, instead of being overwhelmed by it and attacking it with a "let’s just get it done attitude".
The second thing he does is several shorter distance sprints or aggressive "all out" efforts on a daily basis. Very Rarely do we do more than a 200 in practice. And even 200’s are a rare breed on our pool deck. All the swims are 50’s, 25’s, 75’s and 100’s mixed up in various combinations with drills, sculling and kicking. The only easy efforts come after a particularly hard set in which we get 3×50’s on 50. Now, this is the area that causes a lot of confusion in the swimming world. If we don’t do alot of 200’s and more, then NOVA must be a sprint program.
Well, yes, and no. It is true that Jason Lezak trains with NOVA, but he does even less than most of us. Mike Cavic, the fastest High Schooler ever in the 50, also was developed here doing what Jason does. But that doesn’t make this a "sprint" program. Keep in mind, Aaron Peirsol broke the World Record in the 200 Backstroke under Dr. Salo. Gabrielle Rose swam the 200 IM at the Olympics, and is World Class in Freestyle and Breaststroke events as well. As for me, I can tell you, I came out here with the intent of just swimming the 100 breaststroke. After swimming with Dave for a mere two and a half months my 100 time wasn’t any faster. I did however drop a full second and a half in my 200 Breaststroke from 214.7 to 213.1.
Above all, Dave is creative. We use Physio Exercise balls in workout in a variety of ways. We swim with parachutes and chords. We scull in positions I didn’t know it was possible to scull in. Dave tries new and crazy things all the time, because he isn’t afraid to.
I swam at one of the best, if not the best, college programs in the country (WAR EAGLE!). I developed into a World Class swimmer there, and I loved it to death. But I started loathing workouts. They were wearing me down, and I spent several of them asking myself "how is this making me faster?" After reaching the point where I couldn’t contribute to the team anymore with my performances (because my eligibility was up)I decided it was time for a change. I came out to Irvine to swim with Dave and I can tell you that I look forward to working out. Each workout has a purpose and I feel like I’m getting better everyday.
This isn’t a pitch to get more people to swim at NOVA with Dr. Salo. Instead, I’m bringing Dr. Salo to you. Under the ELITE section I will post our workouts two or three times a week so hopefully you can experience what I get to experience everyday.