The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on training schedules; here’s how to get back on track
You’ve probably gone a year since you’ve been able to get regular workouts in at the pool. Even now, getting time in the water may entail reserving a lane for an hour, if you’re lucky.
What’s this down time done to your body and what’s it going to take to get your fitness back?
Starting From Scratch—Again
Your overall health and well-being are paramount in this pursuit. The first step in getting back into athletic condition is reducing and eliminating unhealthy habits that might have accompanied a pandemic-induced sedentary lifestyle: poor diet, bad sleep habits, and irregular physical activity. This also includes the psychological effects of social isolation, falling out of your routine, and other restrictions. So, if you’re feeling daunted by the task of getting back in shape, give yourself a break and take it one step at a time.
It may be tempting to jump right back in and hammer out a few thousand yards in the pool to make up for lost time, but your body probably isn’t prepped for that. Beware of burnout. When getting back in shape after a long time away from the pool, it’s better to be the tortoise than the hare.
Between your workout’s duration, volume, intensity, and frequency, frequency is always the most important. For example, you’ll be better off swimming 1,000 yards three times a week than 3,000 yards once a week. If you do long stretches of yardage and become fatigued, your technique will falter, and by continuing to swim, you’ll just be etching those bad habits in your stroke.
Reconstructing Your Foundation
It’s time to reacquaint your body with the water. Slow, stationary, and deliberate motions to isolate mechanics will be your friend. Even Olympic-caliber swimmers incorporate these modalities into their workouts:
- Floating. It seems so simplistic, but just holding still and focusing on stability engages your core muscles and improves your proprioception (sense of your position in the environment). When you’re floating at the surface, use your arms and legs as little as possible to stabilize yourself and think about every muscle fiber in your abdomen and back. This will also aid your vestibular sense of spatial orientation, which is especially important when you’re in the water.
- Sculling. One of the most underestimated competencies in swimming, sculling is the isolation of a single motion in your hands and forearms to propel yourself. With a firm core, lie wholly at the surface of the water, head up, while sculling in one particular stroke pattern (e.g., catch, finish, side sweep). If at first you cannot keep your legs at the surface, use a pull buoy, but always try to go without.
- Treading water. Another underestimated competency, treading water for prolonged bouts is a great workout of its own. You can use any kind of leg motion to keep your head above water and try to keep your hands out of the water as well. Alternately, you can scull only and cross your legs at your ankles. The added bonus of treading water as a workout is that you only need five square yards of pool space with sufficient depth.
Getting Back Into Your Routine
Don’t rush through the steps above. You can and should continue to incorporate them into your workouts when you begin putting in yardage. Like many triathletes, you might be concerned that the 2021 training season is already slipping away and desperate to not lose another year of fitness and competition. You’re not, however, going to get anywhere by rushing ahead in swimming. That said, every productive workout you can do has a cumulative effect, as long as you swim at least three times per week. Any swimming is better than no swimming.
Let these be your mantras:
- My health and well-being are paramount, above any short-term goal.
- I will reclaim my fitness one day at a time, slowly and deliberately.
- Core stability is the foundation for swimming efficiently.
- I will swim at least three times per week, even if there’s little time.
- Any swimming is better than no swimming.