|Home||Schedule||Dues||Questions||Email Us||Workouts||Coaches||Articles||New Pool||Events|
Jeff's background includes the Olympics, All American titles, and Chesapeake Bay swim championships. He swam the 400 IM in the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and was All American five times: in the 1650 in 1984, 1986 and 1987; and in the 400 IM in 1985 and 1987.
He won the Chesapeake Bay Swim in 1996 and 1997, and held the American record in the 1650 for 11 years (having broken his own record three times) from 1983 - 1994 until it was broken by Tom Dolan. I asked him for an interview to hear his thoughts on long distance training, weights, diet and motivation.
Q: When did you start swimming?
A: I swam summer league for 5 years and then later in high school. I began swimming year round when I was 7. I was nationally ranked as a 10 year old - 2nd and 3rd in several events. I always liked competing and working hard.
Q: Did anyone inspire you?
A: No, I just liked swimming. I ran cross-country in junior high and high school to keep aerobically fit and because it was fun. I never played soccer or football. I always swam. By the time I was 10 years old, I was swimming Monday through Friday for 1.5 hours. My sister swam. She was probably more talented than I am but didn't have the interest. I believe success in swimming requires talent, desire, and dedication. Lots of talented swimmers don't succeed because they're not dedicated. I was always the first one in the water at practice.
Q: What is your favorite race and race strategy?
A: I always liked long events. I like doing 5000s in practice. When racing the 1650 I go out controlled, but by 400 or 500 yards I'm trying to burn everyone else out.
Q: Do you have any training advice for long-distance swimmers?
A: I train a lot - going as far and as fast as I can. I try to strike a balance between distance and speed. You have to practice the type of swimming you're going to do in your race. If you want to hold under 1 minute in a race, you must do that in practice. If you're training for open water it's ok to do endless laps. A 4-6 mile open-water race is a completely different animal from a 1 mile pool race. A pool swim is faster and more technical, involving turns and starts.
In the Bay Swim my strategy is to maintain intensity and focus. It's easy to slide off your pace. It's important to get in tune with your body so that you know your tempo and speed. When beginning your training, you may have to watch the clock but eventually you'll develop a feel for your race pace. I'm rarely off by more than 2 seconds. On good days, I'll hold 1:06 for 50 x 100; on a bad day 1:08. Holding your pace is especially important in open water. Develop an internal clock. Descending sets in practice will also help you become aware of how you feel on any given day.
Q: Do you have any diet recommendations?
A: Stay away from heavy fats. I eat a lot of carbohydrates and a fair amount of protein. I look for low-fat sources of protein, like tofu. I don't eat a lot of junk especially things high in fat. I avoid fried foods, pork and bacon. However, I'll eat just about anything else including chicken tacos at Taco Bell.
Q: Do you believe in weight training?
A: I don't believe in weight training for distance swimmers. Women are an exception because they're not as strong naturally as men. Lifting weights has very little to do with distance swimming which requires aerobics and speed. It's not a function of power. If you're trying to swim the distance using power, you're draining yourself aerobically.
For the 200 or shorter races, weights can give you an edge. However, for the 500, 1650, 400IM or open-water swims, weights are not productive. The extra muscle mass from weight-lifting requires a lot more oxygen. And that can be difficult to maintain over a long race. Of course you do want a certain amount of strength. Weights will help you in a 50 or 100. But even in the 200, you don't want too much bulk.
I talked to Skip Kenney who had his swimmers use weights for a few years. They got bigger but not faster. He finally cut them back to high reps with low weights. The type of strength you need for long-distance swimming is the ability to sustain moderate output for long periods.
If you're training just for the 50, then the power trade-off gained from having larger, bulkier muscles is more beneficial. For anything greater than the 200, you have to give up that extra power. I would recommend no weight training if racing the mile (except for female milers). I do advise using power benches, stetch cords, pulling with tubes - training specific to swimming. Doing a bench press has very little to do with swimming. When you work on weights, you get good at lifting weights.
For swimming, build your lats and triceps by doing anything isometric - bar dips, pushups, and abs. For women, use a 10 lb barbell to do side and front lifts - 3 sets of 10, for stabilizing the rotator cuff. Other than that, you're better off spending your time in the pool than in the weight room.
Q: Have you heard that caffeine can enhance your swimming performance?
A: Oh yes. It releases free-floating fatty acids, slows the depletion of glycogen stores, stimulates the Central Nervous System and raises the pulse rate and blood pressure. I don't drink coffee while training - only before a race.
Some of Jeff's records can still be found in Swimming World Magazine.
U.S. Age Group Records
15-16 yr old boys (1982):
17-18 yr old boys:
15-16 yr old boys: