We have been training eight times a week, in addition to a weight session on Tuesday and Thursday, with no breaks. The fatigue has really started to show in the pool. The swimmers are broken down and their technique is starting to slip. Itï¿½s necessary to try to correct their technique during this initial phase, and I do my best, but it can be a little frustrating for the athletes. They have taken in a lot of suggestions about their swimming in a short amount of time. We have the perfect remedy: This weekend is Fall Break for all of the students. This gives the athletes a break from school and, more important, a break from us.
So with a few days off, I decided to venture down to the Go Swim home on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. I had been there once before for the day but had never gotten a chance to soak up the sights and sounds of the area. The first night I was there I was treated to a crab dinner at the local crab house. This was my first experience eating crab, and being in a crab house. It was everything I could have imagined.
Some of you might not know what goes in to eating crab, or what goes on inside a crab shack. The crab shack that we went to would make any hungry, swashbuckling soul proud. It was located right on the water, so the crabs were as fresh as possible. The ground floor was a giant room set up cafeteria style. The second floor was a smaller version of the first. The place was packed with all kinds of clientele, from businesswomen to salty dawgs. It was my kind of place — loads of people and not pretentious. After a short wait at the bar, we were seated at a table for six. Our waitress then covered the entire table with a ï¿½tableclothï¿½ of brown packing paper. She then plunked down a plastic basket ï¿½ the kind you use to carry your shampoo and soap to the beach or the pool — filled with every condiment you would ever think of applying to a piece of seafood.
Minutes after the waitress took our order, she returned with two plastic trays, staying with the cafeteria theme, full of steaming crabs covered in Old Bay seasoning. This is where the fun part comes in. Eating a crab is as much about the process of getting to the meat as it is about the food. It was funny that after being on the giving end of instructing swimmers for the past six weeks, I was now on the receiving end of learning how to eat crabs. Much like swimming, there is a process to getting the most out of your crab and, more important, not eating what you arenï¿½t supposed to.
How To Do It:
1. Rip off all of the claws and legs. Set the claws aside for later, and throw the legs away — unless you are interested in battling the Old Bay seasoning to get what little meat is in there. I was cautioned that this is not a wise endeavor if you want to be able to taste anything other than Old Bay for a week. After the legs and claws are gone you are left with just the shell of the body.
2. Take the shell of the crabï¿½s body and put it in the palm of your hand. With you other hand, rip off the top shell to expose the inside. This is a fairly easy step, but it leaves you with a big mess. At this point there is a pile of appendages and broken shell with green stuff everywhere. Both of my hands were covered in goop, and pieces of crab were flying everywhere. I hit the lady who was sitting next to me with a piece of shell but she shrugged off my apology, as if getting hit with a piece of crab in the head was par for the course.
3. Before you hit pay dirt, there are a few things you need to get rid of, including the green stuff (AKA goop) and an assortment of organs that are not for ingesting (lungs, black things, and more green things). Once these are gone, there is only one thing that separates you from that sweet, sweet crab meat: a thin layer of shell. Crack this open and then do one of two things with the meat ï¿½ eat it right away or pile it up to eat it all at once.
4. Go back to the claws that you ripped off in step #1. This is probably the most enjoyable part of eating crab. First you break the claw away from the leg, and rip off one of the pincers. Then you position the claw just right so that you can smash it with a wooden mallet. This makes the pieces of crab fly everywhere, and I mean EVERYwhere. The leg part gets the same treatment, and then you can enjoy all of the fruits of your labor. Some people enjoy dunking the meat in butter, but I think the crab tasted just fine all by itself.
I know what any of you are thinking, if you are still reading this. ï¿½ Great! I now know how to eat a crab. What could this possibly have to do with swimming?ï¿½ I was getting to that. The process of eating crab is much the same as learning how to master technique in all strokes. This is what we have been hoping to accomplish with the first phase of our season. Proficiency in each stroke, that is, not eating crabs.
How To Do It Really Well (The Fine Points):
1. Take away the arms and legs. All swimmers instinctively want to swim using their arms and legs only. Our first move when thrown into a body of water as a kid is to pick up our heads and flail our arms and legs. This is counterproductive to swimming so we take the emphasis away from our arms and legs. Because we are dealing with humans we canï¿½t just rip off their appendages (even though sometimes we would like to). Instead, we have to tell them not to use them.
2. Focus on balancing with the core of your body. This is where 95% of your bodyï¿½s mass lies so it is an essential element of fast swimming. The core is where your large, strong muscles lie. A loose definition of ï¿½coreï¿½ is from the shoulders to the top of your knees. This is the area we focused on during our first five weeks. We are trying to get each swimmer to move through the water using the power and momentum of their core body.
3. Clear away the insides to get to the most important parts: the hips. Yes, you need to use the lungs for balance and the shoulders for power, but they are not so important as the hips. I think that in swimming as well as in many other sports, the key to fluid motion is in the hips. The center of balance for everyone, regardless of size, is the navel. The hips become important in balancing because they rotate around the belly button. This rhythmic rotation or undulation is the key to all strokes.
4, Once you have found the hips to be at the center of all fluid motion, you can start to work on the arms and legs. You have to make certain that they are in tune to what you worked so hard to get to in steps 1 to 3. The hardest thing for swimmers to do, especially males, is synchronize the movement of the arms and legs with the movement of the core body. While this is the hardest code to crack, it is also the most important.
So there it is. Eating crabs is much the same as training for swimming. The question at the end of the day is similar, too: Why would anyone want to go through all of that trouble for just a small portion of meat? Anyone who asks that has not tasted how good crab tastes after all of the effort it takes to get to it. In the case of swimming, why would someone want to work so hard every day on training AND technique, when swimming fast will get them no great praise? Anyone who asks THAT has never experienced how you feel at the end of a really good practice or at the end of a really good race. Itï¿½s worth it, regardless of who else knows.
I donï¿½t have a practice for this week because we were off for the first three days. I will come back next week with a practice that will shift us into Phase 2: Training. This will mark the shift into discipline-specific training. My area of coaching is working with the sprinters, and I am looking forward to it.
To see exactly how it’s done, Click Here! WARNING… GRAPHIC IMAGES!