Essential Supplements that Every Athlete Needs

I’ve received many questions from people about the best supplements that athletes should take to help train harder and recovery faster. The perfect answer would be to have whole foods as they come from natural sources instead of from a powdered bottle. However, due to how fast paced Singapore is, there’s no doubt that we have to take some supplements to help us get to our goals as it is just impossible to prepare healthy meals every single day of the week.

I would like to say that I’ve taken many many many supplements in my whole entire swimming career, and after changing brands after brands and spending loads of money, these are the supplements which I feel has made a difference in my training progress. So if you are thinking on taking supplements, these are a few that I’d strongly recommend.

Just to give you an idea, I am an endurance athlete (200m and above), my training regime is mostly based on cardio. My goals are to stay as lean as possible, and to not have any bulk which may potentially weigh me down in the water, so don’t expect to see “Creatine” in my list of recommended supplements.

Supplements are really expensive, so I hope that this blog post will give you a clearer idea the essential supplements to take and also potentially save cost on expensive supplements which are unnecessary.

 

1) Probiotics

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First off, consistency is key when it comes to training so I feel that targeting the fundamental aspect of your body is key. And to have consistency, preventing yourself from falling sick is the most important thing when it comes to training.

You can have the best supplement stack, but if you can’t stay healthy, any supplement stack would be deemed useless.

We are constantly exposed to bacteria everyday, which increases the risk of us falling sick. So if we include Probiotics in our diet, we can balance out the good and bad bacteria in our body which can potentially prevent us from falling sick.

I drink one Yakult everyday as it is a great source of Probiotics, plus the taste is awesome as well. However, if you’re always on the go, I would recommend you investing in Probiotics pills, which you can bring it along with you.

So remember, prevention is key, so time to start on Probiotics!

 

2) Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is also another good supplement which you can take to prevent yourself from falling sick. As you can tell by now, I have a sweet tooth, so I prefer my supplements to be sweet as well.

I usually take my vitamin C at night, after a 250g of steak, as Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron, and Iron is good for me as an endurance athlete because it potentially increases the red blood cell count in my body, therefore having better oxygen transportation when I’m in the pool.

 

3) Protein + Carbohydrate source

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People always ask, what is the best protein to take?

To me, it’s not about how well the protein absorbs in your body. I know there’s Whey protein isolate, Whey protein concentrate, Micellar Casein, Milk protein, and many many more forms. However, to me, the most important thing is TIMING and HAVING A CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE to go along with the protein

Always remember that protein absorbs better when taken alongside carbohydrates. So instead of finding out on which is the “quickest” absorbing protein, aim for a product which has both Carbohydrate and Protein in it.

With regards to timing, I would recommend drinking your Carb+Protein shake within 30 minutes after training as that is the best window for our body to absorb the nutrients.

I’ve tried cycling on and off protein shakes and to be honest, my muscles are less sore when I started to take protein shakes right after my training, so I would highly recommend it.

For me I take 1/2 a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s PRO Gainer, it taste really good and I like it. Half a scoop of that has a good 40+ grams of Carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein, which is what my body needs after a hard session.

You might be wondering, why take a mass gainer when I want to be lean? Honestly speaking, even though this product is marketed as a mass gainer, it is essentially just a blend of good Carbs and Protein, which is what I need post training. I have not gained any weight ever since taking this product so I think that as long as you have a good training program in place, you won’t go wrong with this product.

 

4) Hydration

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Lastly, hydration is key when it comes to training. (Yes! Swimmers sweat too!)

For me I usually take Gatorade or BSN’s Amino X and it has helped me with the hydration aspect of training. I rarely get any cramps during training so I guess these products are keeping me well hydrated during training.

 

5) Caffeine

Waking up at 4:45am every morning, it’s pretty impossible to stay awake if I were to not have a coffee dose before training. Even the 20 minute drive to the stadium is quite a challenge. I find that a cup of coffee helps with mental clarity and alertness during my training sessions.

For me, I have a cup of coffee right before my morning and afternoon sessions, and I feel that it has helped me.

However, if you are able to hype yourself up before your workouts, you can skip caffeine.

 

In summary…

PROBIOTICS + VITAMIN C + PROTEIN/CARB + HYDRATION +  CAFFEINE + TRAINING =

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So there you have it! If this is your desired body shape, then these supplements are essential and sufficient for you to achieve your goals. I know this current supplement stack is really basic but trust me, that’s all you need.

Also, an important factor to note is that whole foods are always better than taking supplements. However if you have a really tight schedule like me and can’t have the luxury of whole foods (e.g. having a meal prepared for you within 30minutes after your workout) then supplements will help you with your recovery.

Always remember not to be too reliant on supplements, because nothing beats having a proper training goal and training schedule.

 

5) Things to AVOID

There’s a lot of marketing hype about supplements nowadays but a thing which you should take note of is that if there aren’t sufficient scientific studies done to a specific product, it is best to avoid it as you may not know the potential side effects the products may have. I strongly am against “Natural testosterone boosters” as there hasn’t been sufficient studies done on it.

I strongly recommend going to Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Website before investing in supplements. Here’s the list of grade A supplements (click on this link), whereby extensive research has been done and these supplements are supported for use.

Overall, this is my personal opinion towards supplements. Supplements are really dependent on your goals and lifestyle so choose the supplements which suit your lifestyle and training goals. Some may recommend Creatine for bulking (it is a grade A supplement on AIS) but I can’t answer that because I haven’t tried it myself. It would be great if you consult your nutritionist (if you have one) before trying on these supplements, but I know that not everyone has the luxury of having their own nutritionist and hence this blog post!

I hope this blog post gives you a clearer idea on the supplement stack which I’m on! This is the current supplement stack which I stick to after trying out many different brands of products for years.

Always remember, prevention is key, so staying healthy is the most important aspect when finding your supplement stack. And of course, stop spending money on unnecessary products unless there has been research done for those products.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or write to me and I’d be happy to answer them!

 

EDIT: As feedbacked by Nutritionist Belinda, it is important that athletes are aware that there may be doping substances in sports supplements. It is best to consult a sports nutritionist/dietitian before purchasing supplements which you are unsure of. 

 

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The key to Breaststroke swimming

I recently started swimming competitively, like 5 months ago. I’m trying to specialise into breaststroke, but no matter how hard I train, I feel that I’m not getting better or faster. I really want to represent my school and at least be in the top 5 in my race.

The thing is I feel that my captains are not very encouraging and it really dampens my spirit and motivation to swim and train harder. I also have some problems with my strokes but my team doesn’t have a coach and I don’t know who to look to for help.

I feel like giving up, but I really like swimming and I want to achieve something in the sport.

Any advice? Thanks!

Pang Kai Jun

Hey Kai Jun,

It’s cool that we got the same surname! Hahaha and you know what? Pangs never give up. So don’t ever lose motivation to swim, even during your lowest point in your swimming career.

My advice would be to enjoy the process of swimming, that is what I do. Don’t focus too much on winning medals or being the top, because if you think about it, it will always be an endless cycle, and you’ll end up disappointed in the end. Now you’re aiming for top 5, but once you get top 5 you’ll want to be top in your school, and once you’re top in your school you’ll wanna be top in Singapore, it will always be an endless cycle…

However, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t aim high, what you are doing is right, but you have to have the right mindset towards your goals. If you take your goals as motivation to train harder, then keep it up, if not, it’s time to change your mindset! Because right now your goals are stressing you out too much to the point whereby it’s affecting your mood and training, so instead of creating a positive impact, it has created a negative one on you.

If you read my recent blog post, I did mention that I used to be really goal oriented as well, always focusing on the outcome of my goals, and that really pressured me so much that I didn’t enjoy the sport. It was only until recently that I enjoyed the process of swimming, and I started to have better performance since then.

Swimming is going to be a long career, you’ve only started competitive swimming for 5 months, so just enjoy the sport first! You’ll start to see results with more practice, trust me. 🙂

 

The key to Breaststroke swimming – The glide

Breaststroke is slightly different from the 3 other strokes, remember this:

Increase in stroke rate ≠ Increase in speed

In fact, it may have an opposite effect on your speed. The key to having a good Breaststroke is not about increasing stroke rate or power, it’s about having a good glide.

So what exactly is a good glide?

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Now this is the tricky part, if you start your next stroke before the maximum velocity of your glide is reached, you’ll be wasting more energy than you should be and start to fatigue too early in a race.

On the other hand, if you start your next stroke when velocity has dropped too much, it would take much more effort to pull the next stroke as you’ve already lost your initial velocity you got from your previous stroke.

To have a good glide, you first have to have a good feel of your speed after each stroke. You have to know exactly when the speed of your glide is dropping and before it drops, you start your next pull again.

speed time graph

I’ve drawn a graph to clearer illustrate what I just said, so imagine this is 1 Breaststroke pull, whereby the point where your speed is highest is maybe 1-1.5 seconds after your pull, as soon as you start to feel a drop in speed, you start your next stroke immediately. So the key thing to note is to pull your next stroke before your speed drops, which is point X. As soon as you found your point X, remember that feeling and practice it constantly in your training.

speed time graph 2

Once you’ve mastered this, you’ll start to see that your speed is more consistent and less effort would be used in each stroke as you’ll have a much better body position in the pool because you’re making full use of your glide.

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So key things to remember in Breaststroke swimming:
1) Increase in stroke rate does not equate to increase in speed
2) Focus on stroke efficiency
3) Be consistent with your stroke rhythm
4) Glide

Every swimmer has their own stroke that suits them best. So all in all, find out what stroke suits you best and stick to it! After all this is just my advice, so it may or may not work for you.

Always remember, perfect practice makes perfect, so keep training hard! Hope I helped. 🙂

 

Feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll answer them to the best of my ability!

 

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Having the correct mindset is important for swimming

Hi Sheng Jun, you’re basically the reason why I continued swimming after 2 long years because your blog posts gives me motivation to start swimming once again 🙂 But right now I’m actually struggling since I just joined the development competitive team & I’ve been having second thoughts on backing out lately since I’m afraid that I can’t cope well with school & social life but at the same time, I don’t wish to stop swimming. what should I do? 🙁 

I’m about to give you my own life experience from my swimming career, hope this would be able to inspire you to keep on swimming.

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When I was young, my aspiration was for my parents to be proud of me. I was more of a hyper active person so I believed that I could excel in swimming if I worked hard for it, thus leading them being proud of my achievements.

I constantly visualized the smile on my parents’ face if I ever won a SEA Games gold medal, and that really motivated me to get up at 5am every morning to train my heart out.

To be honest, I wasn’t the best in my squad during my days of developmental swimming, but that didn’t discourage me because I always believe that as long as I keep working hard, I’d be able to surpass them some day. Always remember that if you believe in yourself, amazing things will start to happen. So start believing! 🙂

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Back to my story, so ever since then, I kept on working hard with the mindset of making my parents proud and it has worked out pretty well for me; however, it was only for the training aspect of swimming.

During the past 2 SEA Games that I’ve been to (2009, 2011) I had failed to medal in those games; I missed the podium by a little every time. It wasn’t because I wasn’t ready to race, but the thought of doing my parents proud was too overwhelming that I crumbled under such pressure, which made my performance go down when the big meet came.

I did some deep reflection and started to question my swimming ability and whether I should continue my career as a national swimmer. But then a thought struck me – Since I’ve already been swimming for most of my life, why give up now when I’ve already held on for so long? Screw it, I’m going to try for one more SEA Games, but this time around, I’m just going to enjoy the whole process of swimming.

pang sheng jun

I personally love swimming a lot because it’s a temporary escape from reality; all the stresses from work, school, parents, they’re just gone when you dive in to the pool. When you’re swimming, it’s just the water and you, and nobody can stop you from experiencing that feeling of peace. This made me continue my career in swimming as I just needed an escape from reality.

However, this time around, instead of stressing myself out too much in training, I decided to have fun and enjoy the whole process of swimming. I still continued training hard, but it was done solely because swimming was my life and passion.

And let me tell you this, things started to take a turn when I started to swim for myself – Competitions became much more fun and enjoyable, and medals were just a bonus. I wasn’t stressing myself out too much during big meets and that was the key to my good performance.

This positive feeling stayed with me through out the 2013 SEA Games and I finally won a medal after failing at it 2 times. The best part of it? I was finally able to achieve what I wanted to achieve since young – To see the smiles on my parents’ face. I still can remember my dad playing the SEA Games race replay 10 over times everyday just to relive the moment, and it was indeed heartwarming seeing him being so proud of my achievements.

So when you’re about to give up, just remember why you held on for so long in the first place. If you enjoy swimming, don’t ever stop doing it, because the joy of every good race you swim is irreplaceable. You just have to believe in yourself and work hard towards achieving your goals, and the sense of accomplishment you get when you finally achieve your goals are worth the long grueling hours in the swimming pool.

With regards to social life, if you look at it from a different perspective, swimmers actually have the best social life anyone could ever ask for. My closest friends are from the same training squad as me as we go through the same grueling regime together every day. All the sweat and hard work, we’re going through it together. So overtime the bond between us will strengthen no matter what and we’ll create an unbreakable bond of friendship through the years. We know each others personalities inside out as we’ve been through thick and thin together.

Don’t be afraid that you’ll lose your social life as a swimmer, because you’ll create new friendships when you start mixing around with your swim mates. You see this guys over here? They’re like my family now, and I’d never replace them.

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Swimming is my life, and it will always be. Just remember that even if you end your career without achieving your life goal, you’ll still be an accomplished individual as swimming teaches you life values like perseverance and discipline, which will definitely help you in your future career. Take me for an example, my medals in swimming were just a bonus. Ultimately, swimming has taught me these life values that will last me for a life time. So just keep swimming!

I sincerely hope that my life experiences would inspire and give you the extra motivation when you’re tired! 🙂

Have a question as well? Ask me and it may appear on my next blog post!

 

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Simple Card Magic Trick

So I’ve been asked many times by different people on what my hobbies are besides swimming, and to be honest, it’s not much actually.

A few years back… I actually aspired to be…

 

A STREET MAGICIAN

I know it sounds quite lame so don’t judge me! I always got really curious and interested in how magicians could do those amazing magic tricks so smoothly, and hence my passion to learn magic tricks grew.

I used to spend hours a week practicing different sleight of hand card techniques required to create the illusion in order for the magic trick to succeed. To be honest, it’s really quite an awesome feeling being able to see how amazed people were every time I performed a magic trick. Some even said I could get girl’s numbers with it! hahaha.

So to give you a clearer idea on the type of magic tricks I do – it’s mostly card tricks, because it only requires a pack of cards without the use of gimmicks, therefore it’s really easy and convenient.

Here’s a video of a simple card magic trick that I do which is a fundamental skill which I can apply across various magic tricks:

Unfortunately I’ve stopped practicing magic tricks due to the high demands of swimming and the different sleight of hand techniques became harder and harder to master so I kinda just stopped learning it after awhile.

Anyway hope you enjoyed this trick! Now you know what I do outside my free time. It’s mostly stuff that are challenging yet relaxing at the same time!

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Tips to Swimming 200m Freestyle

Ask.PSJ

Hi Sheng Jun, I’d like to know for middle distance events like the 200m, how do you usually pace yourself? I’m curious to know as I used to think the 200 is a build up kind of race, whereby you take things easy until the last 100 or 50. But I decided to go all out for all 4 laps at a recent meet and I went under my pb by almost 12 seconds. It was extremely painful but amusing as well. Do you also push yourself throughout the four laps and endure pain?

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Hey there!

Congrats on lowering your personal best time by 12 seconds!

Must have felt really good for you, it is a really great achievement!

I personally find that the 200m Freestyle is the hardest event to swim, not because it is the toughest (400IM feels like the toughest one to me) but because you cannot afford to make any mistakes in a 200m Freestyle race.

If you go too hard from the start, your lactate build up would be too drastic and your competitors may edge you out the last 50m.

On the other hand, if you go out too slow, you will be lacking too far behind to even stand a chance to out sprint your competitors in the final 50m.

If you watch a 200m Freestyle race, you can see that different swimmers take the lead per 50m, that is because every swimmer has their own race plan which may differ from the competitor beside him.

 

My Race Plan

For me personally I like to take the race out hard because I find that taking things easy the first 100m will be too risky as your competitors may have already taken too much of a lead for you to catch the next 100m.

It does hurt a lot during the last 50m but as long as you are fit and you keep yourself mentally tough, you’ll be able to hold on to the race and win it.

Of course, do take note that everyone has their own way of swimming their 200m Freestyle race, so there isn’t a pace that is perfect, it is about seeing what suits you best and stick to it.

I have swum countless amounts of poor 200m Free races to get me to the race plan I have today, so practice makes perfect!

 

Pace Work

To get the perfect race plan, you can actually do some pace work during training (E.g. 4x50m Freestyle on 0:50-1min rest intervals with your desired 200m Freestyle race plan) and see if that particular race plan works for you.

Try different race strategies like going fast/slow for the first 2 50m and see which 4x50m added time is the fastest and use that race plan when it comes to a competition!

 

Hope this helps you in your future 200m Freestyle swims 🙂 Different swimmers have different ways to swim their 200m Freestyle, so always remember to stick to the race plan that suits you best and you will be guaranteed to do well!

 

Have a blog post that you want me to do? Feel free to leave a comment to me at Ask.PSJ and I will blog about it in future blog posts!

 

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Workout Music Playlist

Hey Sheng Jun, what songs do you play during your dryland training?

 

Below are the songs in my work out playlist that I play for The G Force’s dryland training. I used to solely play the Hip hop/Dance genre but Coach Gary has recommended a few upbeat rock songs that psyches us up. I have added them to my workout playlist as well.

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All songs are blasted in the gym with full volume and shuffle mode with my Creative Sound Blaster Roars with the Roar function on.

 

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  1. Ten Feet Tall (feat. Wrabel) – Afrojack
  2. Dear Boy (Radio Edit) – Avicii
  3. You Make Me (Avicii by Avicii) – Avicii
  4. Liar Liar (Avicii by Avicii) – Avicii
  5. Fade Into Darkness (Vocal Radio Edit) – Avicii
  6. Heart Upon My Sleeve Avicii
  7. Dark Horse (Feat. Juicy J) – Katy Perry
  8. Summer – Calvin Harris
  9. Titanium – David Guetta Feat Sia
  10. Mammoth (Original Mix) – Dimitri Vegas & Moguai & Like Mike
  11. Everybody Is In the Place – Hardwell
  12. On Top of the World – Imagine Dragons
  13. All Of Me (Tiesto’s Birthday Treatment Radio Edit) – John Legend
  14. Cut Your Teeth (Kygo Remix) – Kyla La Grange
  15. Can’t Hold Us – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Feat. Ray Dalton
  16. Flute (Radio Edit) – New World Sound & Thomas Newson
  17. Something I Need – OneRepublic
  18. Wild Wild Love (feat. G.R.L.) – Pitbull
  19. Revolution (Vocal Mix) – R3hab & NERVO & Ummet Ozcan
  20. Stay With Me (Rainer + Grimm Remix) – Sam Smith
  21. Nobody to Love – Sigma
  22. Maximal Crazy (Radio Edit) – Tiesto
  23. Red Lights (ft. Mathew Koma) – Tiësto
  24. Wasted (Feat. Matthew Koma) – Tiësto
  25. Helicopter (Original Mix) – Martin Garrix & Firebeatz
  26. Starlight (Could You Be Mine) (Asalto Remake) – Don Diablo & Matt Nash vs. Otto Knows
  27. La La La (Feat. Sam Smith) – Naughty Boy
  28. Best Day of My Life – American Authors
  29. Brave – Sara Bareilles
  30. Club Can’t Handle Me (Featuring David Guetta) – Flo Rida
  31. Wake Me Up (Dabox, Raul Mendes & Rafa Carneiro Remix) – Avicii
  32. Eat Sleep Rave Repeat (Teamworx Remix) – Fatboy Slim & Riva Star
  33. Get Loose (Tiesto Remix) – Showtek, Noise Controllers
  34. Wizard (Zaxx Remix) – Martin Garrix & Jay Hardway
  35. Animals – Martin Garrix
  36. Timber – Pitbull feat. Ke$ha
  37. A Light That Never Comes (Vicetone Remix) – Linkin Park & Steve Aoki
  38. The Phoenix – Fall Out Boy
  39. My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up) – Fall Out Boy
  40. Alone Together – Fall Out Boy
  41. Just One Yesterday (feat Foxes) – Fall Out Boy
  42. Young Volcanoes – Fall Out Boy
  43. Rat a Tat (feat Courtney Love) – Fall Out Boy
  44. Save Rock and Roll (feat Elton John) – Fall Out Boy
  45. The Ballad of Mona Lisa – Panic! At The Disco
  46. The Man Who Never Lied – Maroon 5

So there you have it, here is my dryland playlist for training. Do note that I listen to different songs during competition.

Have good songs which are upbeat and of the similar genre as well? Feel free to leave a comment below and I will be glad to add them to my workout playlist! 

 

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Swimming Video: How to do a Backstroke to Breastroke Flip Turn

I received a request to do a Backstroke to Breastroke turn so this is how I do my turn in swimming during an Individual Medley race.

 

There are 3 types of Backstroke-Breastroke turn in swimming.

1) Touch Turn

2) Flip Turn

3) Side Flip Turn

 

Depending on the distance of the race, I usually mix around using the touch turn and the side flip turn as I find that you will be at a greater oxygen debt for a side flip turn. The video below shows me doing a Backstroke to Breastroke flip turn:

 

Backstroke – Breastroke Turn Fast Turns leads to Fast Times 🏊 #swimming

A post shared by Pang Sheng Jun 冯盛均 (@swimpsj) on

Things I look out for:

 

1) Always touch the wall with your dominant hand

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Touching the wall with your dominant hand makes the difference as you are always going to have faster turns with your dominant hand. You would not be able to turn as well with your non dominant hand.

As my dominant hand is the right hand, I aim to always touch the wall with my right hand thus being able to nail my turns. To ensure that you always touch with your dominant hand, always use the same amount of underwater kicks off each wall and count the number of strokes you take.

For me, I kick 4 underwater kicks and pull 34 strokes per 50 in my Backstroke. Therefore I am always able to touch with my dominant hand every race.

 

2) Know the exact amount of strokes you take 

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This is crucial for having a fast turn.

In order to ensure that you turn with your dominant hand, you need to be able to know the amount of underwater kicks and strokes per lap so that you will always be touching with your dominant hand.

Always remember, practice makes perfect, so always stick to a standard amount of underwater kicks and strokes and you will not go wrong during a competition.

For me, I do 4 underwater kicks and pull 32 strokes for every of my races so I will always turn with my dominant hand. I ensure that I always practice this standard amount of kicks and strokes so that it all comes naturally during my races.

 

3) Make sure you are in a streamlined position before pushing off 

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This would ensure that maximum speed is generated at the start of your turn. Having good turns can determine whether you win or lose your race, so always remember to be streamlined off each wall!

 

Hope this video gives you a better idea on how to do a Backstroke-Breastroke turn! Feel free to ask me anything if you do face any problems when trying this turn out and I will be happy to answer them! 🙂

 

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How I Kept Myself Motivated to Swim as a Kid

Hi Sheng Jun, I am a big fan. Could you post inspirational stories of yourself to motivate myself and other young inspiring swimmers to continue pursuing their goals? – A swimmer from CSC.

Dad & Me.1

Initially I was afraid of the pool when I started swimming at 6, but with time and encouragement from my parents and a childhood coach, I had the courage to put my head in and start swimming.

As a kid, my parents always believed in enjoying the sport, so whenever I did not want to train, they would not force me to. There were even days that I told my parents I wanted to stay home and play Pokemon on my Gameboy and they allowed me to.

What is the rush of being the best in your age group now? Medals can wait, the main focus right now is about building unforgettable friendships and to have fun.

 

It’s About Enjoying The Sport 

Dad & Me.2

I remember once taking 3 days off swimming and having a whole chocolate cake right before a competition and I still did a personal best time. Surprising isn’t it? The key to swimming success is not always about staying focused and analyzing the race, it is actually all about having fun.

From that day, every time I had a competition, I would be rewarded with chocolate cake either by my coach or parents before my race. That was the life!

From here we can conclude that the secret to performing well is to just enjoy the whole process, to enjoy the competition. Do not stress yourself out too much, it will only have a negative impact on your performance.

 

A Setback in my Swimming Career

Edited 2

Lucky for me even when I was swimming for leisure and fun, I was still winning medals, which really motivated me to train much harder. However, there came a time when the move focused I became, things started to fall apart for me.

I was training harder but ironically my swimming results became worse. The reason behind my fall was not because I was over thinking my races or anything, it was just that every guy in my age was going through puberty. I was a late bloomer so I was racing against guys that were 2-3 heads taller than me. It was as good as a boy racing teenagers. I’m not exaggerating.

I felt really discouraged to lose over and over again to those bigger guys so I told my parents that I wanted to quit swimming. Imagine training harder than you have ever trained before and still losing, how is that worth it? Obviously my parents did not allow me to quit, and told me that “this is just a low phase in your life, be strong. Remember telling us that you want to be an Olympic Champion? Even champions have their low moments in their sporting career. Trust us you will get past this in no time.”  You have no idea how angry I was at them at that point of time when I could not quit swimming.

What was worse was that I was far behind on my school work due to all the swimming training and I was often canned for this by my form teacher, Mrs Lim.

“SHENG JUN, QUIT SWIMMING LA, WHERE CAN SWIMMING BRING YOU? YOU CANNOT EVEN COMPLETE YOUR HOMEWORK AND YOU STILL WANT TO SWIM?” This statement was followed by a few strokes of the cane on my hand with a ruler. Teary eyes for me every time I was caned and I still do not know why I continued swimming. I feared school as I was caned by my teacher, and she was the person I feared most in life.

Even though there were so many things going on in my life at that period of time, I still continued training hard as I trusted my parents’ decision.

 

Have a Goal in Mind, and Never Give Up No Matter What Happens

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It was only after 2 years of hardship that I finally grew (well just a little) and started winning medals again. My happiest moment when I was a kid was winning the Overall Champion for the ACS Swim Carnival. (Photo above)

As I collected the Overall Champion award, a familiar voice shouted from the crowd, “Sheng Jun!!!! Well done!” I immediately turned at the direction of where the voice was coming from. To my surprise, it was Mrs Lim!

After I saw her she waved at me with a smile, and she was standing beside 2 other teachers. “That is my student!” She said proudly with a smile to the 2 teachers.

All the fear, the hard work, and the amount of sacrifice over 2 years was worth the moment I saw the smile on her face. You have no idea how much happiness I felt at that moment of time as I had been through so many tough times to the point where I was going to break.

That was the time where my passion for swimming grew strong and I started to live by my ‘Hard Work Pays Off’ motto and kept training hard from that day. Never give up on your passion and goals no matter how impossible or hard they may be, because all your hard work will pay off one day, it is only just a matter of time. You are in control of your own life, do not let others tell you otherwise. Just take me as an example, if I had given up when I was a kid, I would not be where I am today.

 

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I have come a long way and it is amazing how much I have grown since, but nothing has changed. My passion for swimming has still remained strong and I will keep training hard until I achieve the goals I set myself out for.

It is obviously very different now in the National Team, but it is a whole new experience. I will never forget the friendships made back then when I was a kid. Always remember to have fun, and you will realize how much more meaningful the sport becomes!

I am really thankful to my parents for the constant encouragement during my lowest points in my swimming career. Your family will always be by your side through the darkest moments of your life and I am really lucky to have them.

So, this is my story. Hope it inspires you and your friends to train even harder and continue to pursue on your goals! 🙂

 

Have a question as well? Feel free to email me at hello@pangshengjun.com or drop me a question on Ask.fm 🙂

pang sheng jun

 

pang sheng jun

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A Deeper Look at What’s in my Swimming Bag

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I received a request from someone to show what I have in my swimming bag when I go for training sessions, so here it is:

 

1) Loads and loads of Swimming Trunks from Arena

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I’ve been an Arena sponsored athlete since 2009. And since then, I’ve been piling up the trunks that they sponsor me in my swimming bag so that I have the freedom to change the swimming trunk designs I wear for every training session. I have more than 10 trunks in my swimming bag. Since I train 2 times a day, I would personally get bored if I were to wear the same trunks every day.

I always believe that sharing is caring. Swimmers forget to bring their swimming trunks for training sessions at times due to certain reasons; E.g. forgetting to put them back in their swimming bag after drying them, etc. So if anyone were in need of trunks, I would be happy to lend them mine. I’m pretty sure Zheng Wen and Michael Yong can relate to this.

 

2) A spare set of Swim Cap and Goggles

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Call me crazy, but I always have the fear that my goggles/cap will snap one day with the amount of time we spend on training, so I always bring a spare set of cap and goggles in case one snaps. So far none has given in yet. (Maybe because they are from Arena haha)

You might be wondering: Why 2 sets of caps but 3 pairs of goggles? I bring a spare pair of goggles in case someone else’s snaps and they need mine. It has happened quite a few times. Swimmers like Kei and Samuel Khoo have borrowed my spare goggles before so they have come in handy.

 

3) A lot of fluids to keep me hydrated 

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Staying hydrated is key to performing well in a hot and humid environment like Singapore. I carry 2 bottles of Gatorade to stay hydrated during and a bottle of protein shake for immediate recovery post training. Sadly I can’t really afford to share my water as it is just sufficient for me.

 

4) Creative Soundblaster Roar Wireless Speakers

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Lastly, I bring my Creative Soundblaster Roars for every week’s dryland session (Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons) as our group finds that music does give us that extra motivation and pump when it comes to working out.

These speakers are really bass heavy and loud so it suits the hip hop/dance genre that I usually blast during our dryland workouts.

 

So there you have it, all the stuff that I pack in my swimming bag. To be honest, it’s a really heavy swimming bag, but lucky for me I only carry it for no more than 5 minutes before putting it down.

Have any more request? Do email me at hello@pangshengjun.com and I will be happy to answer them.
Alternatively, you can just drop me a question at ask.fm if you want to remain anonymous.

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Different Muscle Fibre Types Determine Whether You Are A Sprint or Endurance Athlete

Question from Aaron Yeo:

Nice article about Endurance vs Sprint Athletes. So what is the difference between type 2a and 2x muscle fibres?

 

My Reply:

We have 3 types of muscle fibres in our body, mainly type 1, type 2a, and type 2x. Like I said in my previous blog post, type 1 is slow twitched muscle fibres which are for endurance athletes whereas type 2 muscle fibres are fast twitch which are for sprint athletes. Here are more details of each of the muscle fibres:

 

Type 1:

–          Low in force production, suitable for long duration and low intensity exercises

–          Fatigue resistant

–          Suitable for endurance races like a 1500m swim or marathon

 

Type 2a:

–          Moderate in force production

–          Slightly fatigue resistant due to having similar characteristics as type 1 muscle fibres

–          Suitable for high intensity and short duration races like a 200m/400m swim or 800m run

 

Type 2x:

–          High in force production

–          Fatigues easily

–          Suitable for very high intensity and short duration races like a 50m swim sprint, 100m run or power lifting which require a lot of explosive force

 

World Class Swimmers With Different Muscle Fibre Types: 

Type 1: 

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Sun Yang, the world record holder for 1500m Freestyle, has predominantly type 1 muscle fibres.

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Oussama Mellouli is the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Champion for the 1500m Freestyle and 10km Open water race. He definitely has predominantly type 1 muscle fibres.

Type 2a:  

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Phelps on the other hand dominates practically everything from 100m – 400m races, he has predominantly type 2a muscles fibres, which explains why he can do endurance races and sprint races at the same time.

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Park Tae Hwan is similar to Phelps, which explains his endurance in the 200m/400m races and also his speed in the 100m races.

Type 2x: 

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Sprinter Cesar Cielo Filho is the world champion in the 50m Freestyle and Butterfly races, he definitely has predominantly type 2x muscle fibres.

 

So which type of athlete are you? Do leave a comment at the comment section below 🙂

 

Got a question as well? 

Feel free to email me at hello@pangshengjun.com or simply leave a comment below and I will be happy to answer them for you.

 

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