For many of you, your current season is winding down and you are already making plans for the “off season” (I prefer 2019 “pre-season”) and next year’s race schedule. Chances are that these plans include taking a break.
If you have been racing and training at a high level with consistency, taking a break will be a good thing. It will allow you to recharge mentally, spend some time with your family, and pursue activities that you are not able to during the peak of your training. But, be careful because this break can be disastrous for your swim training if not done correctly.
Unlike advanced swimmers who grew up swimming and have spent many hours ingraining good form into their muscle memory, beginners lose the feel for the water and their form very quickly. I have seen swimmers lose 30s or more off their average 100m pace in just a matter of weeks. And it took even longer for them to get back to their old paces and times. Consequently, I would not spend longer than two weeks out of the water.
This does not mean you have to go right back into structured swim sets and intervals. That would be a recipe for burnout. Instead, your practices can be shorter and more “fun”. You can experiment with different stroke styles like finally trying butterfly. Or spend time in the deep end vertical kicking. Maybe even master the flipturn so that when you do return to more structured training you will automatically be faster.
This time would also be a great opportunity to refocus on your form by getting a swim analysis to figure out which parts of your form you need to focus on. A swim analysis will also allow you to measure progress. You may get faster over the winter but that does not mean you are becoming more efficient. A swim analysis will give you a good structured plan so that look back next March and say, “Wow! I actually did improve.”
Champions are made in the off season. So use this golden opportunity to build a strong foundation on which to build your 2019 season.
Chris Hague, Tri Swim Coach