The Michigan men”s swimming team is heading west over winter break, but there will be no exotic location, no warm beaches and definitely no surfing.
While the women”s team is in Hawaii, the men will be spending their holiday in northern Arizona, where they will train for 11 days in Flagstaff.
“Flagstaff is not a place to go for entertainment,” Michigan coach Jon Urbanchek said.
It is, on the other hand, a place to go for high altitude training. The campus of Northern Arizona University, where Michigan will train, sits at 7,000 feet, about 1,000 feet higher than Colorado Springs where the team has endured altitude training in the past.
The altitude makes training physically and mentally difficult. Senior Eric Wilson said even though their workouts will look easy on paper, once the Wolverines hit the water they”ll find they can”t swim their usual times.
“It”s not real good for the mind, but its good for the body,” Urbanchek said.
The training increases the number of red blood cells, which in turn increases oxygen intake. So while the Wolverines may struggle for air in Flagstaff, they expect to notice an immediate difference once they descend.
“I”ve heard it feels like you have an oxygen tank strapped on your back,” Wilson said.
The Wolverines are looking forward to an escape from balancing workouts and final exams and they will be taking advantage of the opportunity to focus completely on swimming.
“It is a training camp,” Urbanchek said. “All we do is eat, sleep and swim, and then if you have energy left, you have fun in between.”
The high altitude also means Flagstaff will be snow-covered, but when Michigan does find time for fun, it won”t include skiing.
Urbanchek said he has placed all “dangerous” sports off limits, adding “We”ll be doing a lot of indoor activities.”
With only one road trip so far this season, Michigan hasn”t had as much time for camaraderie. Shopping, playing videogames and watching movies will give the team a chance to bond and build chemistry.
Wilson admitted those activities “might not be as much fun as the women have surfing in Hawaii,” but he added that his team will get in plenty of quality training time, “which is why we”re there.”
Michigan will also be in Arizona to compete. Its main priority is training, but at the end of the trip the team will face Arizona and Arizona State.
The eighth-ranked Wildcats and fifth-ranked Sun Devils each finished in the top five at the Texas Invitational Nov. 30 through Dec. 2. No. 12 Michigan placed 13th in Austin.
Michigan expects two close meets, but the Wolverines are confident their training will prepare them for tough opponents.
“We can compete with both teams,” Urbanchek said. “In fact, we can swim with anybody in the country.”