Swim coach raises the bar for amateurs

Credit: USA/Allsport
Siri Lindley showed up at her first Boulder, Colo., Aquatic Masters workout in 1994 feeling embarrassingly clueless about swimming.

I asked if a 50 was 50 continuous laps in the pool, and how could I do that in one minute, remembers Lindley.

Jane [Scott], thankfully, did not laugh. Just four years later, Lindley won a U.S. pro championship title at an Olympic-distance triathlon in Oceanside, California.

Jane seemed to have a plan in her head for me, says Lindley. She knew how to get the most out of me. Then she started putting me in lanes that I thought were above my head and ability level. Despite my protests, she told me I had to stay there and just do the best I could for as long as I could.

Jane Scotts plan was right on target: Lindley has blossomed into one of Americas top short-course pro triathletes and is currently living and training in Australia with Michellie Jones, one of the winningest triathletes in history.

Lindley is not the only one who has come under Scotts spell. In a city filled with Olympic and world-class athletes, along with an endless supply of health clubs, gyms, pools, and Masters programs.

Boulder Aquatic Masters, under the direction of renowned coach Jane Scott, draws most of the local pro and amateur triathletes. 1999 Ironman New Zealand champion Tim DeBoom and 1999 Ironman Germany champion Sue Latshaw both train with Scott.

In summer, the number of triathletes under Scotts expert eyes nearly doubles when visiting pros like Peter Reid, Paula Newby-Fraser, Greg Welch, Cristian Bustos, Wendy Ingraham, and Mark Allen show up for one of Scotts five daily workouts.

Scott, whos coached in Boulder for 18 years, is the sister of six-time Hawaii Ironman winner Dave Scott.

She started swimming when she was 3, swam in high school in Davis, California, then continued to swim and played water polo at the University of California-Santa Barbara. For her first coaching job, she assisted her brother at a Masters program in Davis that had 300 members.

Davids my main source for information on exercise physiology, training, and stroke technique, Scott says of her brother. Although, we dont always agree.

Together, the two Scotts have an immense store of knowledge. They both have degrees in exercise physiology, and Jane has a masters in education. Her brother has one of the most impressive Ironman careers ever.

Dave may be good at hanging tough, but Jane is known for being tough. Her workouts are challenging but incredibly popular.

Its because I use a lot of abusive humor, she jokes. Seriously, she says, swimming is a great way for triathletes to be together and socialize its different from the bike and run. With so many workouts scheduled seven days a week, everyone can always find a time that works.

Scott doesnt give triathletes different sets than non-triathletes, but shes noticed some traits that distinguish them from lifelong swimmers. And she has some tricks for turning even the clumsiest beginner into a superior swimmer.

Lighten up
A lot of people who dont have a swim background really resist being in the water. They arent comfortable, says Scott.

If youre uncomfortable in the water, chances are you dont breathe properly, you keep your mouth closed under water, and you take too many strokes per length.

Scott suggests using imagery to help you loosen up. Think about imitating a big windmill. To get your mouth open, pretend to hold a pencil between your lips.

If youre used to cross-country skiing, as many of Scotts Boulder-based swimmers are, think about transferring to the water, the stretch and glide motion used on the slopes. It helps lengthen your stokes.

Loosen up
You may stretch before and after you bike and run, but how often do you stretch your upper body? A tight upper body affects your swimming.

Youve got to stretch, says Scott. Triathletes are so used to holding their shoulders up for running and being in one place for biking that they get tight in the water, she says.

This tightness pulls you down, so it feels as though youre swimming uphill. Once you start to relax and loosen up in the water, youll discover a more comfortable, regular breathing pattern and body position.

Ease up
Dont compare your fitness on the bike and run to what youre doing in the pool, says Scott.

When you first come to the pool, its easy to get frustrated quickly, because you feel so confident in the other two sports and know youre in a new element learning so much new technique. Treat swimming as a new adventure and be patient; its a whole new game. Learning to swim efficiently takes years.

Mix it up
Im a triathlete and I do only freestyle. If thats your battle cry, dont expect Scott to listen to it. Youll become much better if you do all four strokes, she says.

Swimming breast, fly, and back builds strength and efficiency for freestyle, because more muscles are working. Doing all four strokes builds flexibility, prevents injury, works your cardiovascular system better, and improves your mental outlook on training.

Tough it out
Triathletes are accustomed to drafting in the swim leg when they race, so they draft in workouts, too, says Scott. But one way to get faster in swimming is not to draftto rely on your own system, not someone elses. It doesnt matter if youre going to draft or wear wetsuits in races, she says. You might as well get as fast as you can without that help.

Go natural
Equipmentfins, pull buoys, paddlesis helpful to some extent, says Scott, but you can abuse it. The only way for you to improve is to wean yourself off of equipment and use your body in its natural state to make it work, says Scott.

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