Perhaps it’s because he’s from a landlocked country, Slovakia, that my coach Vlad is so passionate about open water swimming. You need passion and a big personality to get up each morning to be at the pool by 6 to coach anything between 40 – 60 surf lifesavers, tri-athletes, ironmen, and English Channel swimmers, and he has both in spades.
Unfailingly courteous, Vlad greets me each morning with a big smile and a cheerful ‘How are you Michael?” He waits for my smartass reply and then, without fail tells me each morning to, ‘Jump in the water’. I often wonder what would happen if he didn’t tell me to do that; would I just stand there? I probably would. It’s one of the things I love about training with Vlad; from 6 am until we are done I’m not in charge. I don’t have to make any decisions. I’m not responsible for anyone but me and I don’t have to tell people what to do. I just turn up and do what I am told.
It’s best to do what you are told for two reasons. The first is assistant coach Charm. She plays bad cop to Vlad's good cop. It’s an old routine but it works. We all need some tough love from time to time and you can count on Charm to give it to you with both guns blazing if needed not that she’s ever had to for me. She always got the best out of me – like a teenage kid eager to please I always swim faster when I know she’s watching.
The second reason to do what you are told is Vladswim has developed a specialist program for endurance swimmers refined over many years that has enjoyed remarkable success. They are 15 from 16 solo crossings to date with another 10 set for this season. All going well, by the end of this season, VladSwim might claim nearly 20% of all Australians that have ever crossed the channel solo. However the numbers work out, it’s an impressive record and at the core of this success is Vladosophy.
Vladosophy holds that to be an endurance swimmer you must always smile and relax to enjoy your swim. He reminds us constantly, that this is our recreation time so why would we not have fun. He makes a good point. So often we become consumed by goals and destinations that we forget to enjoy the journey. That doesn’t happen on Vlad’s watch.
Applying Vladosophy to the English Channel (Applied Vladosophy) one would reason that there is just one lap to be swum, and there is no one to race across so relax and enjoy yourself, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.