Despite his busy schedule, I recently had a chance to sit down with Matthew Gordon and discuss his upcoming World Championship, training, and how cocktails fit into all of this.
Kevin: So Matthew, it seems that you are always training for one event or another, what is the next event?
Matthew: I am currently training for the FINA World Masters event in Montreal, August 2nd -8th. Held every two years it’s an invite only event open to adult swimmers from across the globe. This is the long course championship and the first of hopefully two World Championship events that I will participate in this year. The other event is the short course in December in Doha. From early indications the long course event is expecting over 6,000 participants.”
Kevin: It sounds like an incredible event. When did you start training for this?
Matthew: After about 30 years out of the water, my dream was to be able to compete at this level after being dormant in the sport for so long. So I mentally started preparing for the event in January of 2014. I knew after nationals that I was going to qualify, but my body was worn out from over training, so I really committed to this event about three months ago. It’s been an intense journey to get here, from the overwhelming amount of information and advice on training plus running two businesses, community commitments, to keeping balance in my home life. I am just so privileged and proud to be here and able to compete at this level with this caliber of competitors.”
Kevin: What challenges has your body been giving you?
Matthew: I felt very worn out after the event in San Jose. Going into the event I knew I had over trained. Nothing was firing at 100%, and I just knew I wasn’t going to be able to perform at the level I had expected at nationals. It was my body telling me that if I didn’t slow down then something was going to crack. Back in May I was swimming 5x a week with weight training on top of that. I was overwhelmed by all the training advice I was getting and was pushing too many new techniques.
Kevin: How did you alternate your practices to overcome the over training?
Matthew: The simple answer was, I cut back on training. There was no way I could continue with the schedule from the first 5-6 months. I was feeling overwhelmed on my return to the pool. Obviously I can do more than I am currently doing and I know it’s taboo in the industry and a bit risky but I needed to slow down in order to compete.
Kevin: What is your new training plan?
Matthew: I cut down my swimming sessions from 5 times to 4 times per week. I really tried to be smart about maximizing my training so I started focusing on new techniques and positioning. I also dropped all the weight training from my regime and added a day of yoga per week. There are so many new techniques now that I really wanted to focus on training smart and strategically use my time in the pool.
Kevin: What do you mean by “strategically” training?
Matthew: I started focusing on three key areas this time: alignment, endurance, and a whip kick movement. The alignment and positioning is about how my body goes through the water. This is like an automobile test that sends air over the car to see where the drag is. I have been focusing on creating less resistance in the water by body and head alignment.
The next addition was endurance training. I am doing power sets 20 x 50m times butterfly sets repeats. Really trying to get the intensity up, think HIT training.
The third thing I started focusing on is the 5th stroke or kicking while incorporating a Whip movement during the kick, starting from the core, instead of so much hip movement. This whip like movement generates power and coming from the core gives much power than from the hips.
Between endurance, whip kick and head alignment, it’s been quite a bit of an undertaking in terms of incorporating it all in three months.
Kevin: So what have you learned during your training?
Matthew: The top two things are balance and nutrition. I feel most of us need to be more disciplined, there only so many minutes during the day and unless you are very focused on schedule training tends to fall off. You need to find a balance in order to fit in all personal, professional, and swimming obligations. What ends up happening is other things tend not to happen — social engagements diminish quite a bit. With a little more planning it is possible to get more out of your day. Balance what and when to eat. Scheduled it in advance – because without mapping this out, you will not have the right fuel for your work out or your career.
Kevin: What is the best supplement for training?
Matthew: I have been experimenting with branch amino acids, but have not seen results. To be honest, I find the best supplement to be eating clean and balanced nutrition. Also, I am a big fan of chocolate milk after a workout — half for the protein, half for my sweet tooth.
Kevin: What keeps you motivated to train?
Matthew: Knowing that I am still pushing forward at my age, not many people train this hard or have such high athletic goals after 50. I am love the feeling of competing, and of being in shape and fit. It always makes me happy to work towards good physical health.
Kevin: How do you see yourself ranking against the competitors in Montreal?
Matthew: I have only swam one race over this training period, this summer in long course. My time would have placed me 9th in world competition in 2012 in Italy. Now looking at the seeding of competitors on the heat sheets, I am currently a 20/21 seed. So it should be interesting to see how the times on the heat sheets compare to final times in the worlds. Many fast swimmers have come out in the last two years. I see this increasing the difficulty to break the top ten. Hopefully with slowing down, new strategies, and good planning I can make a good showing. At this level with the competitors from around the world I will be thrilled to have a ranking, let alone to come in the top ten. It’s just an honor to be among this field of swimmers.
Kevin: Best of luck In the worlds, we can’t wait to hear how you do.