One thing I often hear from an athlete in the middle of the season is:
“Coach, I’m getting slower. Something is wrong!”
“Coach, I’m trying my hardest in training and it is not helping my times!”
Unfortunately, we can’t always have a personal record day when we step up and compete. Things like training volume, nutrition, hydration, and sleep all play a role in putting together a personal best.
One thing that is overlooked when evaluating a season is factoring in the lowest points of the season. Of course a signature day is exciting, but let’s evaluate an entire season to excel at the less than stellar times.
Opening months of a season:
- When you first return to the pool (or any other sport), a level of improvement will be felt within the first few weeks. This may not be a personal best, but it will be better than your offseason form. This improvement is due to the return to practice and training and the rapid response that occurs.
- The initial improvement in time will level off and start to regress after about a month into the season. Then as training volume increases, times generally level off or even decrease. This is usually a mentally challenging time for an athlete. When effort is the highest in training it leaves little in the tank to perform at a new best effort. In an athlete’s mind, warning signals may begin to sound.
- “Am I following the right program?”
- “What am I doing wrong?”
- “There’s no way I will perform well at my big meet.”
What I urge athletes to do is to compare this year’s times to last year’s times at the same point in the season. Although it is not an overall PR, aiming for a point in season PR is huge for overall success. Aiming to be a little bit better than the previous year will lead to continued progress when it is time to shine at a big meet that an athlete tapered for.
Let’s map out a season:
Looking at the graphic above, you can get a feel for how the season will go. Let’s focus on the peak training volume portion of the season. As we can see from the graphic, times begin to decline slightly. The goal is to keep times above the previous year’s lowest times. If an athlete can complete that objective, look what the rest of the season holds. A personal best is in the athlete’s future.
Focusing on a point in season PR can help keep morale high as the training hits its peak. Consistently raising the bar on the low parts of the season will lead to faster peak performances for years to come.
Keep the above graphic in mind as you or your athletes complete their dryland and swim training. Setting goals for the low end of the season will help with an empowering mindset during the entire year.
Have you struggled to peak your dryland training at the right time? This is a delicate process for swimmers and a good dryland program can be the catalyst to a good swimming program! If you are a coach or an athlete, check out RITTER Masters to learn strategies for assessing and creating an individualized dryland program.