Continue training to make improvements in technique and training effectiveness for next season
The optimist’s view of the triathlon offseason holds that the time can be used to come back bigger and better for the next season. Without the pressures and distractions that come with following a race calendar, the offseason can be a tremendous opportunity to make gains that will make next season’s race training even more productive.
Reasons to Keep Swimming
The purpose of swim training is not just about increasing endurance. Each stroke is a chance to forge better technique and feel for the water. As in learning to ride a bike and being able to recall the skill without consciously re-learning the movements each time thereafter, muscle memory is the phenomenon by which you can solidify improvements in swimming motions. Of course, we don’t have little brains in our muscles, but rather a complex system of nerves leading to and from the brain to contract and relax muscle fibers in the appropriate sequence and frequency to perform an action.
Practice does not make perfect, but practice can make permanent, so it’s crucial that you do what you can to ensure that the best data is being inputted. With repeated practice, actions can be performed at quicker rates more smoothly and with higher efficiency.
Achieving Fluidity in Swimming
Success in swimming doesn’t depend as much on strength as it does on finesse. (Something that can be quite maddening about swimming!) It’s not how big and strong you are, but how deftly you can propel yourself through the water. This takes not only practice, but the right kind of practice.
It’s necessary to wrap your mind around this valuable concept before your first stroke or kick: The foundation of swimming is a combination of core stability and breath control. It’s only through repetition of the right movements that this concept can truly be learned in such a way that you never need to think about it as you swim.
This is how great swimmers look effortless and are capable of seamlessly going from the pool to open water. You can get there too.
Now, get ready to slow down. Your offseason training sessions should be slow and methodical and have quality over quantity. Enjoy this time of leisurely learning! Remember that practice can make permanent, which also means that poor technique may have been solidified and difficult to break. The offseason affords a triathlete the luxury of taking a huge step back from striving to put in as many miles as possible, so it’s easier to put in some quality training sessions.
Forget about how many yards or meters you put in at the pool for a while. Go to the pool and don’t even count. When your friends try to compare notes, just smile and tell them that you have no idea how far you swam this morning. You’re in the water to concern yourself entirely with your position in the water, how it moves around you, and how your motions affect your movement through it. Think about how the proportion of air in your lungs at any given time makes your movement in the water easier or more difficult. Now is the time to relax and work heavily on things like floating, treading water, sculling, and stroke drills.
Remember that these movements create skill memories in your motor cortex; with enough repetition, they can rewrite and revise any inefficient adaptations. Everything you’re doing goes toward building your core stability and breath control, and you can never have enough of it in swimming.
Take Advantage of Resources
When it’s time to get back into doing workouts, joining a club and having the guidance of a coach will provide you with the feedback and accountability you’ll need to evaluate your progress. Whether or not you have any intention of competing in swim meets does not prohibit you from joining a Masters program. You can join a club alongside other adults who come from a variety of backgrounds and have a range of fitness goals. Whatever your ability level and training intensity desired, a Masters program can accommodate you, and you’ll likely find teammates with goals similar to yours. You can find your local Masters club here.Membership to USMS provides you with access to online workouts for triathlon training, open water training, high volume training, and basic training. There are also discussion forums where you can connect with other swimmers across the country, and drills and technique advice articles and videos are published regularly on usms.org.