The third week of our “21 day challenge” has dawned and the end is in sight! We have loved reading about everyone’s gains, losses, and struggles over the past weeks through personal emails and through the Facebook page.
The question remains though — what should you do after the challenge is done. How can you keep those gains that you have worked so hard for over the past 3 weeks? If you have not done the challenge but are just finishing the season, how can you avoid eliminating your fitness that you have worked so hard to build?
The problem with swimming is that it is incredibly easy to lose the feel for the water even after a few days off. Like learning a language if you get out of the habit of using it, then the neuron and neuromuscular connections formed specifically for swimming will fade. Here are my tips for keeping these connections alive throughout the off season.
- Keep doing it! This may seem obvious but even in the offseason, continuing the habit of getting in the water is critical. You do not want to focus on gaining speed or endurance right now especially if your race season is more than 8 months away. That is no excuse to avoid the pool altogether instead change your goals for what you want out of your swim sessions. Focus more on form and efficiency with drill sets (like SWOLF) and form focused swimming.
- Cut it down: If you swim 5-6 times a week in-season cut it down to 3-4 sessions in the off season. Frequent swims that are shorter will not only create/or firm the “swim habit” it will also keep you fresh for in season when training get real.
- Keep alive the need for speed: You do not want to cut all the intensity though. Including a few short intervals or build sets will be just enough to keep things interesting and your muscles fresh. I like doing at least 5-10×50 sprints at the end of each swim session to remind my brain and muscles what it is like to go fast. These are also simply fun to include.
- Focus on nutrition: Now is the time to mess with nutrition. Since you cannot focus on both weight loss and superhuman performance at the same time, the offseason is the perfect time to focus on the former and leave the latter for race season. While some argue that you can allow your weight to balloon a bit, I disagree. I think now is the time to experiment with healthier forms of eating so that your weight decreases or remains stable. Try including more vegetables, cutting the carbohydrates, and including healthier fats and leaner protein. These lifestyle changes usually take a long time to adapt to and need a decrease in exercise until your body gets used to the change; thankfully, you have the time now without the pressure of an upcoming race.
- Hit the weight room. If you noticed a few nagging injuries popping up in the second half your season, deal with them now by strengthening up those muscles. Hitting the weight room 3 times a week now will keep your training interesting while focusing on muscle specific weaknesses.