By Alan Dickson
Since our training was so rudely interrupted a few weeks ago by the Coronavirus I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can come back to the water in a better place than we left. We have the luxury of time and I think we should use it to go forward rather than look back.
Let’s not do what we have always done – let’s try to come back with a new attribute or skill. Let’s challenge ourselves to do things differently.
I am doing that too and trying to learn a bit more about how a physiologist called Jan Olbrecht plans and schedules training. It challenges a lot of how I previously thought, and I would ask you to do the same.
One thing that struck me was how quickly I saw our swimmers turning to running or cycling as a means of keeping fit. It’s impressive to see how quickly some of you started to work on maintaining that aerobic fitness.
It’s not the full picture, though. For one thing, when you are swimming your weight is fully supported.
Neither of these land-based alternatives stress your body in the same way, and it would be easy to find yourself exercising too vigorously. This is particularly true for non-runners who start running. Cycling is a bit easier to manage the intensity and your weight is supported to an extent by the bike however it is terrible for your all-important flexibility.
It doesn’t’ mean you shouldn’t do them, but I would advise that unless you are used to using these sports you go easy with a good awareness of how hard you are working.
Aim for heart rate about 55 - 60 below max. If you are struggling to hold a conversation think about backing off a bit and also think about taking a break at your half way point to stretch, especially if cycling.
I do not expect or even want you to come back to our first session at the same level of fitness you are now. Indeed the principal of specificity means that would not be possible regardless of how hard you try.
You might be running fit or cycling fit but you can’t possibly be swimming fit.
Also bear in mind that when we come back to swimming we will not be going straight to a competition the following week, and probably not even the following month.
I would envisage a 6 – 8 week period of training where we slowly build up to where we were, coming back with new skills and strengths is what is needed to go beyond that point.
So what should we focus on? I would suggest there are three areas which we can improve:
We rarely focus on this and the strength programme we put together – see the videos on our social medial - using body weight exercises only will give you an opportunity to develop this aspect of your fitness.
The two sessions a week will give a great introduction to this.
More strength means fewer injuries, improved balance coordination and stability and means you can apply more force to the water – which has to be good.
This is an essential part of any swimmers’ regime and one which is sadly neglected.
Good flexibility allows you to attain and maintain the positions in the water needed for efficient swimming.
The pre-pool programme I posted on our WhatsApp group is a good starting point but there are loads of resources out there so look out for more information on the “New Normal”.
Longer muscles can apply force for longer, so you are less prone to injury and you are able to swim more efficiently.
This is a very powerful tool and I have given some guidance on how to perfect this skill along with some ideas as a starting point. Practicing for a few minutes two or three times a week is all that is needed
These three elements, along with your aerobic work are covered in the weekly schedule which hopefully gives you enough guidance to get started and importantly they are all things you can control - unlike the date for getting back to training.