How San Jose State Has Become the Most Improved Woman’s College Swim Team in the USA

By Sage Hopkins
GHP Swim Head Coach
San Jose State Woman’s Swim Team Head Coach

Last year San José State swimmers improved more than any other Division I team in the country … this is our approach to swimming fast.

When asked to describe our program at San José State, the word I most often use is “holistic.” I go on to explain that we look to leave no stone unturned in the development of each swimmer and will teach them to train better, sleep better, recover better, deal with pre-race “nerves” better, etc. Our approach has proven successful and we have developed a reputation as a program where swimmers achieve continual time improvements throughout their collegiate career.

Last spring the website SwimSwam published a statistical analysis of each program in the country looking at a variety of metrics, with the composite rankings listing us as 7th, alongside many of the powerhouse programs within the NCAA:

With the programs ranked by improvement rates, San José State comes out on top:

Looking at every team in the country, our swimmers improved more than those on any other Division I team. While there are a multitude of factors that go into our improvement, the two primary ingredients to our success are:

• The integration of breath work into our program
• Our coaching and training philosophy

While future articles will cover each of these areas in greater depth, I’ve outlined some of the key concepts in each.

BREATHWORK
We first began playing around with various breathing protocols several years back, with a major integration of breathwork into our daily training over the past two years. Each swimmer has a variety of breathing protocols that can help in multiple areas including:

• Feeling anxious (pre-race, academic situations, etc.)
• Sleep
• Recovery
• Race performance
• CO2 Tolerance

Our breath work takes place in 4 separate areas: pre-practice, within training sets, post-practice and pre-sleep. While a future article will detail how we are integrating our breath work in each of the above areas, I can say that our swimmers have noted positive results in everything from the quality of their sleep, to a reduction in anxiety levels, to improved swimming performance.

COACHING AND TRAINING PHILOSOPHY
We look to balance the needs of the individual with the needs and goals of the program as a whole, something that can be a bit of a juggling act at times, especially in the age of the “millennial.”

Building trust and mutual respect is an essential part of getting athletes to “buy-in” to the program and the foundation of this trust and respect is making sure that the athlete knows the coaches “care” for them as individuals.

In terms of the “nuts and bolts” of our training program, we are what is known in the swimming community as a “quality based” program, meaning we put more emphasis on the quality of our training versus the “quantity” of yardage our swimmers cover.

Essentially we are swimming and kicking at high intensity in nearly every practice (the exception being our recovery days on Thursday). As odd as this may sound to many of you, we are a bit of an outlier in the swimming world in that we do not track volume of work in a traditional sense. While I will say this is an important thing to do early on in a coaching career, I have learned to trust my eyes and ears in terms of balancing our work and recovery.

While the overall goal is to get in as much productive work as we can, I always keep in mind the very valuable coaching advice I received from Mike Hastings who I had the honor to swim for, “never get the team so broken down that they can’t bounce back with 2-3 days of recovery work.”

Balancing work levels is a highly visual and sensorial concept for me … probably due to my background in visual arts, and I am always conscious to pay a “deep” level of attention to the body language, quality of movement, and composure of my athletes while keeping in mind to also “watch with my ears and listen with my eyes” to take in the whole picture.

Stay tuned for future articles that delve into the specifics of breath work and my coaching and training philosophy.

I’m fitter, faster, stronger, and leaner at 35 than I was at 25….

Member feature - Lindsey TriathlonIn our latest member feature, meet Lindsey from Norco, CA.

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
Neither my husband nor I had done a triathlon, let alone an Ironman. Neither of us were strong swimmers and I had done two marathons training in the traditional method but thought I was done with distance because my knees have never been the same after training for those two marathons in my early 20s.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
I think the most impressive party of Shift Pro is that you can clearly understand the thought behind the methodology. I’ve always been someone that asked why, and the why is laid out so expertly that the training just falls into place after that. Just follow the program.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
I love the structure and the focus on skill work as opposed to just miles and miles. My husband is a pilot in the Air Force and I’m a Deputy District Attorney, so we both lead stressful time consuming jobs. With the time spent with Shift Pro, you know every minute counts.

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
My husband and I completed our first triathlon, the Memorial Hermann Ironman in Texas on April 28, 2018. As a result of training in this manner, I have finally learned how to run correctly and I can now swim Ironman distances! I have maintained a lighter frame from training and quite frankly want to train six days a week when I was averaging 4-5 prior to this training. We just started training for a marathon in Phoenix in February where I’m hoping to qualify for Boston, which I never thought was attainable before this training. I’m fitter, faster, stronger, and leaner at 35 than I was at 25.

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
I loved the methodology. And quite frankly, my knees and my work schedule doesn’t allow for typical endurance run tons of miles training.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Just jump in and do it. Read the emails, watch the videos, believe that doing things right is more important than doing them a lot. I really love this program.

 

Linda had already run a Marathon. This time she wanted to run strong and injury free!

GHP Member Feature - LindaIn our latest member feature, meet Linda from Ironton, MO.

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
Age and a past IT band injury. I think I neglected my strength training out of fear I’d ruin my legs for running.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
Oh my goodness!! The programming made my legs wicked strong!! I liked the variety, though as I told Jason, I HATE interval training. Haha. But there’s no doubt the intervals made me faster.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
The programming tailored for my particular sport (running). The great communication from the coaches. The science and expertise behind it all. The opportunity for additional consults – for example, I had a fantastic nutrition consult with Lindsay Ford.

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
I went into my second marathon Uninjured and strong. Despite it being 10 degrees hotter than last year, I beat my time by 20 minutes and was strong all the way to the end. AND I felt so much better afterward than the year before!

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
The range of services, the personal communication, the quality of programming. Also the demo videos and other additional and valuable content. And who knew about breathing?? Learned so much!

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
DO IT. You will not be sorry!! And you will surprise yourself!

GHP Member Feature - Linda

James was feeling a bit burned out with training. Then he found Shift…

Shift Member feature - jamesIn our latest member feature, meet GHP member James from Huntington, NY.

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
Uncertainty leaving CompTrain for a new program… overtraining issues, clarifying longevity goals, was getting a bit burned out training.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
I use the tactical programming and it has been a welcome change of pace. I have built some strength and new levels of aerobic conditioning.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
Diversity of programming. Giving me the programming a week ahead of time allows me to go into the week relaxed and looking forward to what’s coming.

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
Aerobic base and brute force strength.

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
I dug Brian McKenzie’s interviews and I started following the Instagram page. I was really curious about some of the workouts posted from the various programs – a hypoxic workout in particular was a blow me away moment. After getting my ass kicked by simply carrying a kettlebell front racked holding my breath and seconds later gasping for air made me realize there was a whole lot more to fitness than just WOD’ing to death.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Especially in the tactical world, I would say here is a program that will give you mixed energy system training, strength and power building, with a taste of some bleeding edge theories on performance.

Shift Member feature - james

 

 

 

Massimo’s Motivation Was Down. GHP Gave Him The Push And Time Effective Workouts He Needed.

GHP member Massimo from ItalyIn our latest member feature, meet GHP member Massimo from Pesaro, Italy

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
Finding the motivation to go out to run and swim instead of just lifting weights at the gym.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
I make myself add my results to the website comments where the coach can see them which pushes me to do what I don’t always want to do.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
Short workouts that are effective.

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
I feel good and now enjoy getting outside of the gym to train.

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
I went to the Art of Breath Clinic this year in Italy and loved it. Plus I know that Shift places skill before everything else.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Give it a shot. It’s effective and cost-efficient. Jase is fun!

GHP member Massimo from Italy

 

 

 

 

Abe is a Busy Guy. But GHP Tactical Prepared Him for The Ultimate Challenge Without Compromising Time With His Family

Abe - Spartan Athlete

In our latest member feature, meet GHP member Abe from Stuarts Draft, VA

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
I was preparing to participate in Spartan Race’s Agoge in June 8, 2018. It is a 60-hour event involving physical and mental tasks and virtually no sleep. I also participated in Peak Race’s Death Race, another extreme endurance event. The website says “The Death Race is the ultimate challenge, designed to present you with the unexpected and the completely insane! Nothing else on earth will challenge you like The Death Race, both mentally and physically….”

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
The Tactical program helped prepare me for the long physical hikes and carrying weight over long distances. At different times, I was tasked with crawling long distance, carrying logs, and moving boulders. The Tactical program, is an intense program, that prepared me for virtually any challenge given to me during these and other events I participated in leading up to these main events.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
The most important thing GHP gives you is a program that provides short, intense workouts that are effective and still give you plenty of time to spend with your family and work.

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
Using GHP, I’ve been able to refocus my training and I have to confidence to take on greater challenges. All the while, I still have time to teach high school, coach high school football and wrestling, practice jiu jitsu 2-3 times a week, AND have time for my wife and son.

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
GHP provided an inexpensive program that was an answer to my training needs specifically for long tactical style endurance events.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Do it. It’s worth it. If your commit to the program, you will succeed in whatever goal you have set.

Abe Spartan Athlete

 

 

Jo Was Unfit, Tired and Stressed Before Joining Shift. Now She’s Healthier, Stronger, Fitter and More Confident

In our latest member feature, meet GHP member Jo from Cumbria, UK.

Jo member feature What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
I was exhausted after 2.5-yrs self-building our house; it left me strong but unfit, tired and stressed. But I was eager to get back to swim fitness and needing to exercise to help bring stress levels down. I kept trying my old combinations of CrossFit and swimming but the intensity was wrecking me. I couldn’t get the recovery right so I kept loading more stress onto a stressed body and pulling muscles while not getting any faster in the pool.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
Shift Pro gives me a structured routine I can dip into when time allows both in the pool and focused strength work outside the pool. Most crucially it has taught me how to recognise when I’m still recovering or when I’m ready for the next WOD through the breathwork. My swim times are improving; I can WOD without exhausting myself by using nasal breathing and I don’t feel wiped out after it all!

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
Through nasal breathing it gives me a way to understand what my body is telling me about how tired I am and what it can or cannot tolerate – basically whether to rest up, exercise gently or push my limits!

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
I’ve smashed my 200 and 400m swim times without wrecking myself! I feel healthier, stronger, fitter and more confident about exercising without asking too much of a tired body.

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
I used to follow Brian Mackenzie when he did CrossFit Endurance and that really worked for me so I knew I loved his methods and theories; no other service offered me a structured program of sport-specific exercise aimed at swimming AND a method of learning about recovery like GHP does.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Get signed up! Especially if you are time short and need something tailored to your sport rather than more general fitness.

Jo GHP Swim Member feature

A sub 11-hour Ironman on 8-hours training a week

In our latest member feature, meet GHP member Florian from London.

What obstacle/s were you facing when you decided to join the GHP program?
I have a limited amount of time to train given my busy work schedule, and few opportunities to go for long runs or rides as I live in central London. I also suffered from knee arthritis when I was younger and still have pretty bad knees compared to an average person, so training in a smart way, avoiding junk volume and getting stronger/more efficient in my movements were key for me! Most importantly, I wanted to take out the brain work of having to plan my own training and have a program with periods of higher/lower intensity and rest to make sure I was getting the best of my hours in the gym without burning out.

How has GHP helped you overcome that/those obstacle/s?
Shift Pro is super high quality training so that you don’t need to spend hours doing unnecessary volume. The focus on proper technique, good form, functional strength, and then intensity helped me become fitter without having to log in more than 8 hours of training a week and kept me away from injuries. It made my training more straightforward and forced me to take needed rest periods.

What does GHP provide that you value the most?
A holistic approach to training – Shift has made me much more aware of all the other important aspects outside of just pure training when preparing for a race. Breath work, heat/cold exposure, rest days and recovery weeks, nutrition etc. These things all add up over time to help you recover faster, train better and ultimately race harder!

What have been your results or the impact on your life from training with GHP?
Just an overview of the things Shift has helped me achieved over the past year…
– 4 ultra distance trails, including two +100kms and one 145km/+10,000m/-10,000m – all finished in the top 25%. I now have enough points to enter the lottery for the Ultra Trail du Mont-Blanc (the mecca of ultra trail in Europe – fingers crossed I get a spot!)
– 2 Olympic distance triathlons under 2h30
– my first ever full distance IronMan under 11h (top 10% of all finishers)
And again all of that without any major injury, short recovery times even after my ultra trails, and around 8 hours of training a week! I would not have done that without GHP

Why did you choose to join Shift over another program/service?
I loved the underlying philosophy of quality over quantity, the focus on strength which makes training sessions more fun, and the convenience of the website where I could easily preview my training weeks and plan my workouts.

What would you tell others who may be considering joining Shift?
Be open-minded if you come from a different training background and are used to more volume and less technique/side work, give a try for a few weeks and just look at the results… they will speak for themselves!

Florian - Ironman UK
*Image courtesy of Ironman UK