By Dana Vollmer//Correspondent
Hello everyone! I am Dana Vollmer. You probably know me as an Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion, and World and American record holder, but I hope through my series of columns you’ll get to know me personally. I am thrilled to announce that I’ll be writing a column twice a month to share my journey over the last decade of swimming on the US National Team, and my preparations leading up to the 2012 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Nebraska.
I began my career as a wide-eyed 12-year-old making my first Olympic Trials, and it has been followed by a 2004 Olympic Gold, many National Team trips, heartbreaking injuries and many highs and lows along the way. Ultimately my career has been about finding the drive and the passion to keep coming back day in and day out.
Being an elite competitive swimmer consists of hours and hours of training, and as the body gets older, this seems harder and harder to accomplish. As young children, most of us survived the high-yardage, swim-as-long-as-possible practices and lived under the same assumption that a successful practice can be judged solely on how many yards can be fit into two or three hours.
My current coach and the 2012 Women’s Head Olympic Coach, Teri McKeever, has changed the way the Cal Berkeley program views training and I believe she is going to change the whole dynamic of training in our sport. Don’t get me wrong, we still average between 4,000-7,000 meters per workout, but sometimes the 4k will rank as one of the hardest workouts I have ever accomplished! Every one of our training sets has a distinct purpose, a plan, or an opportunity to figure out something about our bodies and how to move effectively through the water. Teri wants us to train how we want to race.
One of my favorite examples came from an old friend of mine. We were both 100 butterfliers back in 2003, and she used to tell me these incredible sets of being able to hold 1:01s on 10x100m butterfly. Yet when she would get to a meet she would only go slightly faster at 1:00. I could not hold 1:01s for 10x100s, but the same set for me might have the first and last 25s of each 100 very fast butterfly. Mine may seem easier, but I was training my butterfly at :57 speed, the speed I wanted to be at the end of my season. I believe that my friend was training her body to hold 1:01s when she needed to be training her body to be able to do :57s. (My friend went on to be an amazing 200 butterflier, so the set does have purpose after all…)
Teri McKeever challenges her team to devote mental energy to finding the relevance for our personal races within every single grueling yard/meter we complete. When I first arrived at Cal, I fell in love with the way she spoke about the body and the water. Efficiency, fluidity, athleticism and grace were some of the words she used to describe how the body moves through the water. It's not just about strength, force and effort. This lesson can translate to all of our lives both inside and outside of the pool. With all of our actions, our “daily routine” and attitude, I believe it’s important to devote energy to ensuring your actions have power and purpose worthy of a record-breaking outcome.