Journey to Olympic Trials: Be Italian

Commentary by Jeff Commings, SwimmingWorld.TV associate producer

PHOENIX, Arizona, February 6. I was surprised how good I felt in the water today, since I hadn't swum once during my 10-day vacation in Rome, Italy, which ended late last night when my plane touched down in Phoenix. It took about 30 minutes for my body to adjust to moving through water again, but I was happy that I was able to stay close to my aerobic pace without feeling too exerted. All I wanted to do today was get my feel for the water again.

If you plan to visit Rome, don't pack your swimsuit. The city has no public pools, and it is quite expensive for visitors to use health club or private pools. And forget about swimming at the site of the 1960 Olympics (and the infamous 1994 and 2009 world championships). I got a stern "no" after acting out my request in charades to the non-English speaking receptionist. Too bad, because the pool is nice. The outdoor pool looked nice as well, though I could only see it through high fences because it was closed to the public — and not open, since temperatures in Rome were at or near freezing.

I suppose I could have loosened up on my euro-pinching, but I didn't think doing a 75-minute workout was worth 20 euros, or about $24. Masters teams in the United States don't charge more than $10 for visitors, and public pools are cheaper than that in the U.S. I was very surprised that my search for available pools on came up empty for public pools in a city of nearly 3 million people. The city didn't have a place for kids to splash around in the summer, or for adults to stay fit all year. It's even more confounding, given that Italy has a rich history of elite swimmers that includes reigning 200 free Olympic champ Federica Pellegrini. I did see a youth swim team at the indoor pool at the Olympic site, but it's still a head-scratcher.

Though I did not swim in Italy, I got plenty of exercise. During the first three days, I walked an average of five miles through Rome each day, seeing all the major sights. The city subway and bus system helped greatly, but we vastly underestimated the distance between some places, since our "trusty" map was not built to scale. By day three, my legs and lower back were in knots, and I wasn't sure if I could handle more days of sightseeing. Fortunately, we had taken in all the major sights in those three days (including the magnificent Sistine Chapel), and the temperature in Rome had started to drop dramatically, which made our time outside limited.

By Friday, Feb. 4, snow had covered Rome for the first time in about five years. The slush then turned into ice that made walking around even worse, since we hadn't packed for such weather. Running shoes aren't great for keeping traction on ice.

Because I stayed active throughout the trip, I doubt I had any setback for my training for Olympic Trials. I think I will be back to my "old self" by Thursday, looking forward to the sectional meet in Seattle next month.

Today at the gym
Five minutes shoulders warm up
Incline bench press (15 @ 95, 12 @ 120, 10 @ 135)
Standing lat pull (15 @ 50, 12 @ 60, 10 @ 75)
Hamstring curls (15 @ 80, 12 @ 90, 10 @ 110)
Bicep curls (15 @ 15 each arm, 12 @ 20, 10 @ 25)
Leg extensions (15 @ 100, 12 @ 120, 10 @ 140)
Ten minutes stretching

Today at the pool
Long Course Meters
12×50 free on :50

1×100 back on 1:45
1×200 on 3:30 (100 free/100 back)
1×300 on 5:15 (alternating 100 free/100 back)
1×400 on 7:00 (alternate 100 back/100 free)
1×500 on 8:45 (alternate 100 back/100 free)
One minute break

4×100 IM on 1:45

300 breast kick no board :30 rest

2×100 :15 rest
25 breast scull/25 breast drill/25 free scull/25 free fingertip drag

4×50 on 1:15 breast kick drill

2×50 :15 various drills

Total: 3300 meters (70 minutes)

One thing I worked on in the pool today was the breaststroke pullout, especially trying to move my dolphin kick to the beginning of the pull. I feel like I hold my speed better with this change, but I find that I'm still putting in the dolphin kick at the end of the pullout, which is where I've been doing it for the past six years. It's going to take a lot of patience to get it to work to the point that I don't have to put all my concentration on that part of the swim, but I have patience.

Reprinted from Jeff Commings' blog at

Jeff Commings, who turns 38 years old on Saturday, will be the third-oldest male in history to compete at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, and the oldest male in history to swim the 100 breaststroke at the meet. He is a Masters world record holder and former NCAA All-American.

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