Many factors go into successful beginner and intermediate triathlon training programs, but for the swim, maybe the biggest factor is…..
Consistency does not mean you have to swim everyday. But it does mean you stick to a regular and frequent schedule of swim practices. Creating a program that allows you to be consistent can be challenging. In this blog, I am going to tell you why you need to be consistent and then how to become a consistent swimmer.
Physiologically, consistency builds the muscle memory and motor movement pattern that is vital in swimming. Unlike those youngsters in the lanes next to you who can adapt and learn motor patterns quickly, adult onset swimmers need to practice the proper movement pattern more to ingrain it in their mind. You can teach an old dog new tricks–it just takes time and practice. The more frequently you engage those motor patterns the stronger they become.
Consistency also has psychological benefits. If you are scared of the water, routinely getting into the pool will prove that fear wrong. Or maybe you struggle with pushing yourself to the next level or overcoming self-doubt that you are just a “bad swimmer” or will “never be fast.” The more you practice correctly and face those feelings; the less power and control they will have over you. Each practice can be an opportunity to give the proverbial, one finger salute to those fears. Or as we say at TSC, a way to “laugh at the water”. The more you expose yourself to those mental obstacles, the easier they will be to overcome.
For the time crunched athlete–and I am one of them–I recognize that consistency can be hard to build. But there is a super simple trick that worked wonders for me recently during my #swimreboot project….
Start with the bare minimum.
To build a consistent program, start with the smallest commitment that you know you can do.
Look at your week and block out times that you know you can make regardless of how chaotic the calendar gets. If that is only an hour on a Monday morning, then block that time off and start there. Just looking at those weekly practices should feel easily doable. Once you have those practice(s) in place, then hold that time as sacred.
Look at your schedule again after three to four weeks of making that guaranteed practice, and see if you can commit to another practice. At first, block any time off as “maybe practices”–ones that you can most likely make if outside stress and commitments are stable. These are not replacements for your guaranteed practices, but supplements. After a few more weeks and if you have made all of these “maybe practices” with ease, change them to guaranteed practices.
Now repeat that whole process until you have a certain routine.
It might be tempting to say to yourself that you can swim every morning 7 days a week because you feel that that is what you “should” be doing to get faster, but that mindset can be self sabotaging. It is better to stick to something you know you can make and build from there.
But don’t I need to swim lots to become faster? Yes, the more you practice (and more importantly the more you deliberately and mindfully you practice), the faster you will become. But swimming daily is not always a reality.
It would be wise to adapt a zen mindset to your swimming. If all the time you have is an hour to practice, then that is all you have. So make the most of it. Be 100% committed to that time instead of wishing you could swim more. You might have to adjust your goals and the timeline to reach those goals so that they are in line with what you are able to do. But that is better than scrapping your goals altogether.
Overall, keeping a consistent swim schedule ,committing to each practice, and making the most out of each lap will lead to greater improvements than sporadically and mindlessly hopping in the pool.
Unfortunately, life, which pitches a mean curve ball sometimes, can get in the way of even the best laid plans. But there is a way around that. Stay tuned for next week’s blog where I will tell you how to stay consistent despite unplanned obstacles.