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by Steph Saullo RDN

August 7, 2018

How to optimize your performance while taking a break

You might take pride in swimming essentially being a year-round sport, but you shouldn’t make your time in the pool your sole focus. You might only get a few weeks out of the pool, so that short break is important in providing you a physical and mental rest.

For many, the off-season provides a chance to concentrate on making changes as needed; for others, it’s a time to relax. Whatever you do, make the most of it. If you have some habits you could improve upon, whether related to training or nutrition or if you desire body composition changes (and those changes are warranted), it’s best that you wait until the off-season before you make any changes. Before the off-season arrives, set your goals and develop a plan. Here’s how.

Adjust Your Nutrition Plan

Keep in mind that your energy requirements are considerably decreased during your off-season. Because your body doesn’t require as much glycogen, you’ll need less carbohydrates. Reduce your intake of sports drinks and other sports foods. Your protein intake should stay the same to help maintain muscle mass.

You might find that you naturally grab comparable portion sizes, but if you listen to your hunger, you’ll likely feel full with less food if you’re less active. You might see a slight increase in body weight and body fat, which is normal.

Take it Slow

Before attempting to make any changes to your weight or body composition, consider if it’s needed. Often, athletes believe they need to weigh less or more or have a leaner body composition to swim better, but your performance might not have anything do with your body weight or composition. Thinner or leaner doesn’t always equal better, especially if extreme measures are required to achieve goals. If you’re contemplating weight or body composition changes, consult a credentialed professional to help evaluate your situation and steer you in the right direction. 

In addition, weight cycling, which refers to repeatedly losing or gaining weight, can be more detrimental to your health than simply maintaining your weight. Regardless of your weight or body composition, you need adequate calories, nutrients, fluid, and rest to help optimize your performance.

Try Something New

The week before a championship race is not the time to try a new food. During the off-season, take some time to try new foods, experiment with new recipes, or plan new race-day strategies that you can attempt when your training begins so that you have a chance to tweak and perfect your plan and approach.


Training causes a tremendous amount of physical and mental stress. Take advantage of time off by resting, but stay agile by doing easy movements that are enjoyable and feel good to you (this could be swimming). You should give yourself a mental break and often that means stepping away from the swimming community, including people. Allow your mind to rest and mentally prepare for the next season.

Set Yourself up for Success

Be realistic with your goals with the time you have. If you need to focus on more substantial changes, maybe you should consider taking more time off from intense training and coming back when you’ve had ample time to invest in the improvements you’ve set out to achieve. An off-season can last as long as you need it to. 

Also, don’t feel like you’re required to change anything during the off-season. Your body is smart and almost always tells you exactly what you need so it’s important to really listen to it and take it seriously instead of trying to outsmart it.


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