Monday, February 27, 2006

 

Fall Olympics

I really enjoyed watching the Winter Olympics this year. Compared to the summer games, which I also enjoy, the Winter Olympics seem a bit more intimate, with fewer events overall and perhaps fewer athletes. My impression is that you have more multi-event competitors, and it's fun to turn on the TV and go, "what's Apolo Anton Ohno going to do tonight?"

This broadcast seemed less nationalistic than recent Summer Olympics ones, where you'd only ever seen medal ceremonies where a U.S. athlete had won the gold. Just in case you needed a reminder about the tune of the Star Spangled Banner. Actually, I saw only one medal ceremony, where a Canadian had won the gold and no U.S. athletes were on the podium. Tres international!

I loved the hockey. I've finally gotten over my carping about "professional" athletes in the Olympics, since they're all professional now, and since the historical alternative -- the original Olympic ideal when the modern Olympics were restarted in 1896 -- is the idea "gentleman" amateur, someone wealthy enough that they can dedicate most of their time to "sport."

Yet when the NBA dream team bullied their way to the gold medal in whatever year that was, I thought that was no fun at all, and I marveled at how in certain sports, players can have fun crushing people at much lower ability levels. (Something that doesn't seem to happen in tennis or, say, chess.)

I'm pleased to say that the ice hockey in this Olympics was awesome. Yes, there are tons of NHL players, but they're distributed throughout many of the world's teams. It makes the NHL kind of cool -- the imperial center of a truly international sport. Anyway, the fact that the U.S. team got its ass kicked (1 win, 4 losses, 1 tie) was not a source of frustration for me even though I was rooting for them: it will make it that much more fun when in some future games they win.

This year I particularly enjoyed reflecting about the speed and figure skating. In case you ever wonder "how tiring can it actually be to skate for four straight minutes?", I can observe that in addition to all the jumps and spins and one-legged thingies, those skaters spend about half their time going backwards. For reasons I can't explain, it's about 6-8 times more tiring to skate backwards than forwards. This I know from experience. Okay, try this: skate hard around the ice rink backwards one time... oh, right, you actually can't skate backwards. Okay, well when I do that, one lap and I want to stop for a breather.

Not that forward skating is not tiring. Those speed skaters make it look so effortless as the glide around that glassy track clicking one long blade edge seemingly lightly in front of the other. Well, last time I tried to skate laps around the rink -- which is way shorter than the long speed-skating track -- I was dying by 10 laps. So when Clara Hughes collapsed after her exciting gold medal run in the 5000 meters (three miles, people!), I thought, "I hear you girl. I know."

One little complaint I have is the way media coverage in the first week of the games seemed to be all about how much falling down there seemed to be.

One of two things is going on. Maybe there's always a lot of falling down at the Winter Olympics, and our memories are just very short. Look at the events, for pete's sake. Ski jumping! Dancing, jumping and spinning on ice on a narrow metal blade! Some of the events -- particularly "short track" speed skating and snowboardcross -- build excitement by deisgning the prospect of collisions and tumbles. So what do you expect?

If there is in fact more falling this year, that's even more interesting. It might mean that the athletes are bumping up against the very limits of human capability. Maybe they are beginning to push the records to the point where they can't go any farther, at least given current technology and training regimens. That would be kind of cool.

Either way, it's ludicrous for media outlets and talking heads to be criticizing the athletes for falling down a lot. Who's the audience after all -- we're talking about couch potatos for whom pushing the envelope means attempting to assemble a snack that might not be done before the commericals are over.

And I'm also including some of the ex-athlete announcers, particularly the old queens who do the figure skating commentary. It's really annoying to hear people who medalled decades ago doing single jumps now clucking about imperfections in triple -- and even quadruple! -- jumps the perfrmed by the current crop of athletes.

Comments:
"Well, last time I tried to skate laps around the rink -- which is way shorter than the long speed-skating track -- I was dying by 10 laps."

Really? Maybe if you want to improve your hockey game, you could work on basic conditioning.

10 laps is not a lot for a hockey player ...
 
Ouch, and rude anonymous comment...

I love the Olympics, and I mentioned my aggravation with Dick Buttons (the really annoying figure skating announcer) just a few days ago.

I wonder if I'm picking up some of those brainwaves you and Janelle share..
 
It was not rude, by hockey standards. It was a tip for improvement, to strengthen the legs for when you need them in the game.

If he listens to all the pretty girls all the time, he will settle for mediocrity amongst men. Kinda like "encouraging" girls to pursue arts and crafts while the guys go for legal skills.
 
Obviously, 'anon', you have never pursued "arts" or "crafts" if you think that a mediocrity can succeed at either.

Arts: painting, music, literature, film and dance

Crafts: the making of things both useful and frivolous from textiles to glass and ceramics to metals, and even food. What would you rather eat: a McQuckBurger or a 4-course gourmet meal prepared by a Master "Craftsman"?

I never noticed anyone encouraging me to pursue any art or craft - I had to fight tooth and nail to be permitted to do so -- something to do with being able to support myself and a future family.

---
eyjsj (eye-jizz): the crusty stuff in the corner of one's eye that is often found upon awakening.
 
Anonymous: I'm going to call you "Hockey standards" since you refer to them so much. I totally agree and will even go so far as to say that 10 laps is pathetic for a hockey player. In the skating class I checked out, you had to skate hard for 12 minutes, and 25 laps was a C. My conditioning goal is (a) to be able to skate 12 minutes hard at all and (b) to cover at least 30 laps. It remains to be seen whether I can drag my butt out of bed before 6 a.m. 3 days a week to get the ice time to reach these goals.

And yet, I'm far from the worst conditioned among the people I play with, let alone among the people who are true couch potatoes. All the more reason to be in awe of skaters like Clara Hughes (who I did think was kind of pretty), which makes me wonder whether you actually got the point of the post, which is probably what Sleep Goblin was getting at.

As for "pretty girls" and "mediocrity amongst men" I really don't know what you're talking about, so let's all just move on.

gemaoshl: (hard "g" -- ge- mao -- shool) (yiddish) a school for Jewish maoists (or Chinese talmudic scholars)
 
Re. arts and crafts, I was referring to making clay figures and drawing blog doodles.

Nothing wrong with that (just like nothing wrong with skating only 10 laps). Just don't kid yourself, or encourage others to kid themselves, that that's what it takes to be successful in a chosen field.

Glad to see you recognize this; thanks for the update on your hockey conditioning. I swim, and no way would I ever admit to being tired after swimming only 20 laps.
MGLYNN
 
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
 
"Glad to see you recognize this; thanks for the update on your hockey conditioning. I swim, and no way would I ever admit to being tired after swimming only 20 laps.
MGLYNN"

You must not swim very hard. I swam distance in college. I did the Ironman and was out of the water in under an hour. I fancy myself a strong swimmer. After I swim 20 laps, I am damn tired. Unless I dog it. I'd imagine the same is true for skating. 10 laps of skating hard is probably pretty tiring for the best skaters.
 
I disagree, Dan.

20 laps is only 500 yards (in a non-Olympic sized pool). I don't treat that as a sprint, but I don't dog it either.

In my routine, endurance means more than speed -- beating the guy in the lane next to you. I get into myself, and don't try to "compete".

I'm sure if you do try to sprint a 500, that tires you are more easily, and you're done, or taking a break interupting your flow after what, 10 minutes?

No doubt also, you are built more like an "IronMan" (muscle) and are having to work harder to pull your body through the water. I am not and therefore can keep going (switching among strokes when I get bored) for longer (?)

Also, maybe there are inefficiencies in your stroke, wasted motions? I taught a few adults -- interested in triathalons how to swim/better their skills. One of the first things you noticed is these competitive folks tended to "attack" the water, rather than working with it, going with the flow, so to speak, to maximize efficiency.

Finally, particularly for freestyle and breast stroke, establishing your breathing is essential. If you are pushing hard attacking the water and not getting into a comfortable breathing routine, you won't be able to go for very long.

Once you have the breathing timing down, it should be just as natural as running outside. (Ran cross-country in HS too.) The key is, exhale while your face is in the water. That way for the milliseconds you turn your head with the arm stroke, all that time is spent inhaling -- you pull in more oxygen, not having to spend precious face time out of the water exhaling.

Not trying to brag here, or compete with anyone, just I happen to know something about swimming. Re-read what Oscar wrote about skating and try not to get defensive or make excuses if you want to improve. Sorry, you're wrong on this:

I'd imagine the same is true for skating. 10 laps of skating hard is probably pretty tiring for the best skaters.

Then again, maybe we have different definitions of "tired". After a good workout, my body can feel it sure, but it actually feels BETTER with everything circulating, and it's not like I want to sit down and rest. Sure, you sleep better though.

MGLYNN
 
PS.

I could tell ya fancy yourself, Dan.

Kidding!!!
 
MGLYNN,
I'm sure you know everything there is to know about swimming and running and skating and everything else. You probably even have a subscription to "Runner's World" magazine. I'm sure that the insights you provided in your comment are far wiser than anything that any of my college, club, and highschool coached ever told me. Even the one with three olympic medals. But my point still stands. A more efficient stroke only means that you can swim the same distance at the same speed and be less tired. But if you do that, you are weak. Your more efficient stroke should allow you to swim faster and farther and be equally tired. If you are not tired during and after your workout, whatever the distance, you are not working hard enough. This is true in swimming, running, skating, or hockey.
 
"A more efficient stroke only means that you can swim the same distance at the same speed and be less tired. But if you do that, you are weak."

Or... it means you can keep going, for longer distances. Ever see those 60 year olds in the pool? They're not trying to win an Olympic medal. Think conditioning, doing it more for your heart rate than to build your ego.

I fully concede though: you are probably younger and stronger than me. (Feel better?)

One last efficiency tip: always keep your fingers together and your hands relaxed but slightly cupped. (Sometimes people forget the easy little things when they're out there wailing at the water.) Tell me, were the Blugolds a very competitive Div. 3 team?

Finally, you said: "If you are not tired during and after your workout, whatever the distance, you are not working hard enough. "

Sounds like a coach talking to a student, someone who doesn't swim daily and then go to work or have a life outside the pool. Think about it, my friend...

MG
----
WV:
cuiker: (1. Q-KER) something obscene having to do with a cucumber?
(2. KWEE-KER) an off-key Quaker.
 
“Or... it means you can keep going, for longer distances. Ever see those 60 year olds in the pool? They're not trying to win an Olympic medal. Think conditioning, doing it more for your heart rate than to build your ego.”

Look where this started man. You said:

“Nothing wrong with that (just like nothing wrong with skating only 10 laps). Just don't kid yourself, or encourage others to kid themselves, that that's what it takes to be successful in a chosen field. Glad to see you recognize this; thanks for the update on your hockey conditioning. I swim, and no way would I ever admit to being tired after swimming only 20 laps.”

Someone who would never admit to being tired after swimming 20 laps seems like someone with an ego problem to me. And I don’t need your efficiency tips.
 
I stand by my original point: if you want to be successful in any sport, think basic conditioning and endurance.

Fact is, 20 laps is nothing in a pool -- that's a workout warmup, even for older "Masters Swimmers" you know. Has nothing to do MY ego. Having a better coach, buying magazines, competing at smaller schools can't change that basic fact -- sorry if that hurts your feelings.

I won't clutter this thread anymore, Dan.
 
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