Now that pools are open and we can start training again, heed these tips for returning to swimming successfully
Photo by James Keou/Pexels
Triathlon died down during the pandemic but has recently re-emerged from the dead. The decreasing number of cases and positivity rate have made racing possible again.
This, of course, is a good thing, but for a lot of people, we need to relearn how to be a triathlete. Running and cycling were relatively easy to do during the pandemic but in stark contrast, swimming quite literally took a break.
Now that pools are open and we can start training again, how do we get back some fitness? Here are a few tips:
Unlock your shoulders
Lack of specific movement in the upper body (specifically, the shoulders) can potentially cause a lot of tightness, thus limiting our range of motion. This makes it difficult to perform the movement necessary to have a proper stroke.
Proper hand entry, pull, and recovery are all affected by tight shoulders. If you want to glide through the water with ease, start with a few stretches and mobility exercises such as shoulder pass throughs, standing arm swings, and shoulder rotations.
Incorporate band exercises
Related to the previous point above, we need to strengthen our shoulder and back muscles if we want to improve mobility. Resistance bands are great because they allow you to generate resistance for certain movements that would be hard to replicate with free weights.
Take note that we need to focus on the large muscle groups as well as the small synergistic muscles that aid in proper movement. In doing so, we’re able to generate the force necessary at different points in our stroke. Focus on resistance band rows, reverse flys, lateral raises, and band pull-aparts. You can use a smaller loop band to work on internal and external rotations for each shoulder joint.
Don’t go out guns blazing once you jump into the water. Use this opportunity to reset your swim technique. Be more conscious about each stroke and use it as a means to forget bad habits you did before.
Of course, this would be easier with the help of a swim coach, but you can focus on a few things on your own such as proper hand entry, a high elbow pull, and syncing your rotation with your pull. Making sure your legs don’t sink, thanks to core stability and swim technique, is also something you can work on.
It’s tempting to go out and swim as much as we can to regain our fitness levels quickly. However, this isn’t the best approach as when you fatigue, proper form goes out the window. This imprints bad form in your routine and thus makes it a lot harder and slower.
I personally like to start with 50-meter or 100-meter repeats with around 10 to 15 seconds of rest after each repetition. Depending on your fitness level, you can aim for 1,000 to 2,000 meters of swimming at first. Twice a week is the minimum as it’s hard to learn proper technique and build fitness swimming less than that. You can do this on easy/recovery days at first but as you build fitness, you need to amp up the intensity and consider it as part of a “high load” day instead.
Learning how to swim the second time around isn’t as hard as it seems. It’s pretty easy to teach the body how to relearn a proper stroke with the right frequency and build-up.
Also, use this opportunity to correct any mistakes and bad habits you might have picked up before. At the end of the day, swimming is just a part of the triathlon equation and struggling with it for the first few weeks or races is acceptable.
Just remember to work on your weaknesses and most importantly, keep at it.
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