Kahncept Of the Week 

On this page:

July 27 2015


In the year leading up to the 1988 Olympics, Matt Biondi wrote monthly advice columns for SWIMMING WORLD. One of his favorites reinforced his attitude towards attitude. In reference to the following story, he once said, "Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment and quit worrying about winning and losing".

Maybe so. Maybe not. We'll see.

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, "Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see."

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, "Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see."

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, "Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!" The farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see."

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer's son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, "Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!" To which the farmer replied, "Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see."

The moral of this story, is, of course, that no event, in and of itself, can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate, but that only time will tell the whole story. Additionally, no one really lives long enough to find out the ‘whole story,’ so it could be considered a great waste of time to judge minor inconveniences as misfortunes or to invest tons of energy into things that look outstanding on the surface, but may not pay off in the end. We can see that it is not the events of our life that make us who we are, but how we manage our attitude towards those events.

The wiser thing, then, is to live life in moderation, keeping as even a temperament as possible, taking all things in stride, whether they originally appear to be ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ Life is much more comfortable and comforting if we merely accept what we’re given and make the best of our life circumstances. Rather than always having to pass judgement on things and declare them as good or bad, it would be more meaningful to just sit back and experience the emotions and events with an open, accepting mind".

Back to top

July 20 2015


This week I'm offering three fun swimming videos. (Well, fun for me.) Take a look and see if you notice any new aspects that could be adopted into your personal swim world.

The first is a side-by-side comparison of the Men's 100 Free swum 80 years apart at the Olympic Games in 1932, Los Angeles and 2012, London. The lack of flipturns, goggles and tricep extension follow-through probably contribute most to the 11 second difference in times. The kicks on all the swimmers in both races appear to be equally powerful.

Next is a snippet of Kevin Cordes (Univ of Arizona) who is America's top yards Breaststroker because of his great streamlining and powerful pull and kick. What's remarkable about his achievements in the 200 event is when we compare his 2012 Strokes Per Length (SPL) to his 2013 SPL.

2013 Finals SPL 3/4/4/4/4/5/5/6      35 total strokes     Time 1:48.68
2012 Finals SPL 4/5/5/5/6/6/7/8      46 total strokes.    Time 1:51.97

In 2013, He took 11 fewer strokes during his race and went, 3.29 seconds faster. The biggest difference was his attention to tight streamlining after each kick and before his next pull.

Last, we have Swedish swimmer, Sarah Sjostrom who recently set the Women's 50 fly World Record with no breaths. Watch the slo-motion re-run of her race and notice her hand acceleration and wrist flick at the end of each triceps extension.

Back to top

July 13 2015


Our sport, as all competitive sports, has a rule book. It's 200 pages long and looks like this:

Inside are six sections and six appendices, with contents ranging from competitions and facilities at pools, to Open Water and Long Distance, to Bylaws, Codes of Conduct, Amendments, Records and Directories. But of all the sections, the shortest, by far, are the 5 pages of Article 101 that cover the Starts, Strokes, and Relays. It's short because swimming, unlike football, baseball or golf, has rules that are absolute, not situational. Here is the link to the Rule Book, Part 1, Article 101.

If you don't have a few, spare minutes, here's Stu's condensed version. (Note, just like an intersection that doesn't show a No U-Turn sign, if it doesn't say you can't, then it's OK to do it.)


At the beginning of each heat, a series of short whistle blasts direct swimmers to stand behind their assigned block. Next, a long blast indicates swimmers should take their mark on the blocks, at the pool edge or in the water. For backstroke, the first blast means enter the pool, a second long blast means to take your position on the wall. On the command of 'Take your mark", swimmers assume their starting position with at least one foot at the front of the block. For backstroke, both feet must remain fully submerged at the start. Upon assuming the ready position, swimmers remain motionless until the starting signal occurs. If after the signal, the officials determine that someone was moving prior to the start, that person is disqualified AFTER THE RACE IS OVER.


  • Freestyle - A swimmer may swim any style, except on the freestyle leg in an IM or Medley Relay, where the stroke must be different than the Back, Brst or Fly. In 99.99% of races, the chosen stroke is the Australian Crawl. After 15 meters (16.4 yards) some part of the body must remain at the surface. Swimmers must start and finish the race in the same lane, must touch the wall at the end of each length, cannot advance themselves with the bottom or the lane line, and cannot interfere with another swimmer. 
  • Backstroke - Stay on your back at all times, except when approaching the wall for a turn. During the turn, swimmers may roll onto their breast as ONE ARM crosses towards the roll and pulls through the water in a continuous motion. Kicking is allowed during the turn. The 15 meter rules applies here, also. At the finish of the race, swimmers must touch the wall on their backs.
  • Breaststroke - Stay on your breast at all times, especially when the feet leave the wall. Throughout the race, the stroke cycle is one arm stroke and one leg kick in that order. Arm movements must be simultaneous and in the same plane without alternating movements. The elbows cannot go above the water, but the hands may. Except during the pulldowns off the wall, the hands may not go past the hipline. The head must break the surface on each cycle. Anytime after a turn, a single dolphin kick is allowed prior to the first breast kick. The toes must be turned outwards during the push phase of the kick. Leg movements must be simultaneous, non-alternating and in the same plane. At the turn and finish, both hands must touch the wall simultaneously at, above or below the water level.
  • Butterfly - Stay on your breast at all times. Unlimited kicks and one arm pull are allowed underwater before the 15 meter mark. Throughout the race, both arms must be moved simultaneously above and below the surface. All up and down movements of the kick must be simultaneous. The breast kick (one per pull) may be used exclusively or interchangeably with the arm motions on butterfly. The turn and finish on fly is the same as breast. 
  • Individual Medley - The rules for each stroke are described above. If turning within a stroke, then the above turn rules apply. If transitioning from one stroke to the next, then the above finish rules apply.
  • Relays - Four swimmers each swim one- fourth of the prescribed distance. The above stroke rules govern all of the applicable legs of the relay. Swimmers re-entering the pool before all lanes have finished shall have the entire relay disqualified. At the end of the first three legs of the relay, swimmers may remain in the water and hold onto the lane line, as long as they don not interfere with the automatic timing equipment. The team with a swimmer who leaves before the preceding teammate touches the wall shall be disqualified. Mixed relays must be two men and two women.

Back to top

July 6 2015

Fountain of Youth

Barring congenital problems, physically fit people tend to live longer lives than those who don't exercise. And now, according to a new study from Norway, older athletes can be much younger, physically, than they are in real life. The study found that the athletes’ fitness age is typically younger by 20 years or more than their chronological age. I cam across this information on vacation last week in an article written by Gretchen Reynolds for the New York Times.  

This concept of calendar age versus biological age was developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim who had taken note of epidemiological data showing that people with above-average cardiovascular fitness generally had longer life spans than people with lower aerobic fitness. So at any given age, fit people were relatively younger than were people who were out of shape.

Using a mobile exercise laboratory, the researchers went out and tested the fitness and health of more than 5,000 Norwegian adult athletes and used the resulting data to create a sophisticated algorithm that could rapidly calculate someone’s aerobic capacity and relative fitness age based on his or her sex, resting heart rate, waist size and exercise routine.

They then set up a simple online calculator that people could use to determine their fitness age.

The effect was similar for both male and female athletes, regardless in how late in life they started exercising. Virtually every athlete, in fact, had a lower fitness age than his or her chronological age. 

Using the online calculator with myself as an example, I ran numerous trials to determine which training variable produced the greatest reduction in my chronological age. The matrix allows for changes based on training frequencies, duration and intensity. By far the single biggest difference in reducing my fitness age was the intensity level of my training. The next most important factor was how often I trained, and lastly, it was the amount of time I trained.

These are the training options offered in the calculations;

  • Frequency - a) less than once per week, b) once per week, c) 2-3 times per week and d) almost every day.                                               
  • Duration - a) less than 30 minutes and b) more than 30 minutes
  • Intensity -  a) easy without breathing hard or sweating, b) little hard breathing or sweating and c) all out!

Here are my results.

Training less than once per week, regardless of duration or intensity only lowered my fitness age from 62 to 60. Just two years.

Training once per week, was slightly better, regardless of duration, as my ages went down according to intensity changes from 59 (easy) to 55 (medium) to 51 on all out efforts, nearly 11 years younger.

Two to three times per week at less than 30 minutes lowered my numbers to 58 easy,54 medium and 48 all out. I'm almost 15 years younger. At durations of over 30 minutes, the numbers improved slightly to 58 easy, 51 medium and 43 all out, nearly 20 years younger.

Training almost every day for less than 30 minutes yielded the same results as 2-3 times per week for more than 30 minutes; 58 - 51 - 43, still 20 years younger.

Finally, by claiming I train almost every day, regardless of duration, my ages decreased to 57 years old at easy levels, 47 years old at medium and 34 youthful at the all out intensity stage. That's an incredible 28 years younger.

The moral of the story is that some exercise is good, more exercise is better and hard exercise is best.

Here are some other good reasons to swim

Back to top