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Spicing Up Holiday Practices

Creative workout ideas can bring a holiday atmosphere to a pool near you

Bob Jennings | November 19, 2014

From the end of October to mid-March, coaches can really break the monotony of workouts by offering a few special holiday practices. Adding a little spice to practices this time of year helps encourage swimmers to step away from their busy schedules, slip into a warm pool, and escape from the cold dreary weather. Since many people travel for the holidays, these special practices don’t have to be on the holiday, only close.

Halloween has been one of our team’s favorite practices. Swimmers are encouraged to arrive in costume, but to win a prize; each swimmer must swim at least a 50 while wearing it. For Halloween this year, we held a Fins and Candy Day. Swimmers wore their fins for the entire practice, which allowed for faster intervals, and coaches gave out candy throughout practice. This is a big draw for some of our swimmers. One of the coaches even wore a clownfish costume.

We also incorporated Halloween-themed drills into the practice. Near the end of practice, swimmers joined lanes according to their birthdates. Anyone born between the first and the fifth of the month swam in the first lane; anyone whose birth date fell between the sixth and the tenth of the month swam in the second lane, and so on down the pool. Then we swam relays and 25s. This was great because everyone got a chance to swim with someone other than his or her regular lanemates.

For Thanksgiving there is always the Turkey Burn-Off practice on the day after Thanksgiving. During this practice, one of my favorite sets is 25s while gobbling like a turkey or swimming with your drumstick (leg) out of the water. To get away from leftovers, the team can organize a team breakfast or lunch after practice.

In late December, we are planning a candy cane practice. Again, swimmers have been encouraged to arrive in holiday-related costumes. This year to be different, we are hosting an Ugly Holiday Sweater competition and practice. The winners will receive a coupon to sit out a set at practice. We plan to play holiday music throughout the practice, and lanes for relays and 25s will be determined by swimmers’ birth months, rather than days, to mix it up some more. Everyone will get candy canes for refueling after practice.

For the first New Year’s practice, swimmers can wear their party hats and bead necklaces for warm up. Then, use leftover noisemakers to cheer on relays. Later in January, coaches can make the USMS Speedo 1-Hour ePostal National Championship more exciting by having swimmers predict the total number of lengths they will complete. No watches allowed, so all your swimmers have the same chance to win.

Valentines Day practice can be a sweetheart of a workout. Encourage swimmers to wear red suits and caps. Those wearing red can receive a special advantage somewhere in practice. For example, swim only 9 out of the ten 100s. Everyone always appreciates a coach who hands out Valentine’s Day candy rewards between sets, too.

For St. Patrick’s Day, play Irish music during practice. Encourage your swimmers to wear green suits and caps. Tell the swimmers your average attendance number and then the average practice distance so they can figure out how many practices it would take the team to swim from Dublin to Belfast, a distance of about 88 miles.

These spiced up practices are a great way to break the winter doldrums and mix up your swimmers allowing them to swim with other teammates. Get creative and have some holiday-themed fun!

USMS Wave Seperator

About the Author—Bob Jennings

Bob Jennings has been coaching high school swimming for 35 years and coached summer league for 25 years. He was sports director for swimming and diving for Montgomery County Public High Schools for 15 years. He serves on the USMS Coaches Committee and swims for the Florida Aquatic Combined Team.

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