Since 2006, Lenny Krayzelburg has partnered with the NJY Camps in running the Lenny Krayzelburg Specialty Swim Camp. It was after retiring from competitive swimming that Lenny started his own learn-to-swim program which has now been adopted by 14 different JCCs across the country. Still, NJY Camps’ Specialty Swim Camp is the only program that features Lenny Krayzelburg in the pool, swimming with his students as he teaches them.
What is most fascinating about listening to and watching Lenny teach his swim camp is how rich his knowledge is of exercise science and the nuances that he knows will make a strong swimmer, a winning swimmer. Much of Lenny’s instruction focuses on teaching full body mechanical movements, derived from a person’s core muscles; dry land training to condition athletes from outside of the pool; and a focus on sports psychology and building the correct attitude to win. This all makes sense, when you learn about a hidden part of Lenny Krayzelburg’s story.
Following the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where Lenny won 3 gold medals, he underwent two successive shoulder surgeries from the same labrum tear in 2001 and 2003. Repeating the same injury was “devastating” as Lenny described it. Especially, since the 2003 injury ruled Lenny out of competing at the World Championships for which he was already on the US team.
At now 28 years of age, Lenny was worried about his future as a swimmer with now a recurring injury but with dreams of another Olympic Games still in his mind. He made the difficult decision to part from his career long coach at USC due to a disagreement over what training strategy to go ahead with. Lenny was in favor of changing his training to avoid future injuries. Lenny switched to a new coach, Dave Salo in what became a highly publicized move. Dave had some very alternative methods of training contrary to the generally accepted theory of high volume swimming equaling large improvements. Dave, who held a PhD in Exercise Physiology, created a training program for Lenny with lower volume but focusing more at race pace. The premise was that this training would better emulate competition swimming and reduce injuries.
This worked out for Lenny, except he soon ran into the same shoulder problems and this time it was more serious: A loose shoulder capsule requiring a more complicated surgery. Lenny had the surgery but now in December 2003, he was only a few months away from Olympic trials and in no position to use his shoulder. It seemed a future Olympics were out of reach.
Lenny took time to reflect. “From my mental stand point, I was always used to competing at my best, and having the confidence that I could swim fast, This was a new experience.” Lenny was left with two choices: Either to give up or to play the cards that had been dealt to him. So it began, Lenny adopted some very unique training approaches of only swimming with one arm, completing intense exercise bike sessions designed to emulate swimming and pool sessions purely focused on legs. “I decided that I was going to be the best kicker in the world.”
It was only with 100 days before Olympic trials that Lenny began using his previously injured shoulder and in an incredible effort, managed to qualify for the US team by only 0.03 seconds and even that was a full second faster than his semi final race time. Two months later in August were the Olympic Games in Athens and Lenny finished 4th, missing out on a medal by 0.01 seconds and silver by 0.02 seconds.
Many will look at Lenny’s career record and see that after an incredible showing of three Gold medals at the 2000 Olympics, he struggled to find form at the next Olympics in 2004 with only a team relay medal achieved. But what it took to overcome the most difficult obstacle of his career and come within a whisker of taking a medal at the end of it, is something that Lenny Krayzelburg is as proud of, as the four Olympic gold medals that he has to show from his career.
Perhaps it is the adversities that we face that strengthen us more than the successes we achieve. Lenny would certainly agree and each summer at the NJY Camps, where Lenny teaches his campers at his specialty swim camp, he makes sure to pass on the same lessons that he learned from his career at the highest level.