Take a deep breath! You made it to the offseason!
Well, unless you’re over in Budapest ready to throw down, getting ready to conquer your first English Channel swim, or suiting up for an Ironman 70.3 (Shout out to RITTERSP athletes Siphiwe, Richard, John T., John C., and Juan!).
Swimming offseason are, generally, short and does not give much time for rejuvenation, repair, and progression.
So what should you do? How should you utilize your time?
How to master the offseason!
The first thing you should do is assess yourself. This allows you to see what has happened to your body over the course of the previous season. Did you lose mobility as you tapered? Did your strength drop off substantially? Do you still move well and feel good?
All of this information from an assessment can help fine tune your next season plan. A huge drop-off in strength could’ve affected your power output late in the season. Decreased mobility could’ve shortened your stroke, caused nagging pain, and made you a less efficient swimmer.
What should you do for an assessment? Whatever assessment you choose should measure some key variables.
- Range of Motion/Mobility
- Stability of Joints
- Core Stability
- Buffering Capabilities
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Work on weaknesses during the offseason!
After assessing yourself, it is time to ATTACK YOUR WEAKNESSES. For swimmers weaknesses usually surface in shoulder/t-spine range of motion, core stability, and basic strength. Swimmers get suckered in to thinking that the water is holding them up, so additional strength isn’t necessarily needed. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Use the offseason to carve out the proper plan moving forward.
Take the time work on proper ranges of motion in the shoulder. Mix in some of the following exercises to improve shoulder and thoracic spine health.
The shoulders take a beating during the season. Getting them back on track in the offseason and then keeping up with shoulder health drills is key.
It’s similar to when your mom said/says, “Eat your vegetables!” As a kid (and sometimes as an adult), vegetables are not exciting. There’s much more we would like to focus on. However, it is a foundational piece of life. View your shoulder health in the same light.
Work on the shoulders regularly to see the long-term benefit. Spending 10-15 minutes a day on shoulder and t-spine health will keep you in the water more and progressing towards your goals with less injury stoppages.
Master core stability!
The next step is to master core stability. The swimmer who loses form first usually does not fare too well.
Yes, water is there to help, but you still need core stabilization in swimming. Failing to spend enough time on this aspect of training is very detrimental to performance.
Did you know that the USOC thinks you should be able to hold a four minute front plank and three minute side planks if you’re a swimmer?
They have found this to be a good indicator for injuries in swimming. Fall short of those numbers and you’re on the fast track to pain. Try some of these movements.
What about strength in the offseason?
Speaking of stability and strength! Have you completed our Swim Combine yet? It is free to sing up an will show you where you’re strong and where you need work. Participate and see how you stack up amongst your peers and Olympic athletes.
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Strength is very important to your swim performance. Not only does it keep your joints healthy, help with body positioning, and help you rock life. It gives you a different gear in the water. If you’re getting slower or plateauing, look at your strength and power. Do you even have the engine to go faster?
I’m not saying you have to train like an Olympic weightlifter or world level powerlifter. Just get a little stronger. It is super critical to focus on form and only increase the weight once you have mastered the movement and current weight. Strength can be your secret weapon. Use it wisely!
Keep in mind, even bodyweight training is an excellent tool to improve performance in the pool and in life.
What movements should you master? Hinge, squat, push, pull, brace, and rotation! Find a balance with these movements and get to work
The last thing I want you to focus on this offseason is MOVEMENT THAT IS DIFFERENT FROM SWIMMING. Yeah, you read that right.
Our bodies are not super fond of high repetition. Take the offseason to give your body a break from the repetitive nature of swimming. Even though swimmers spend a lengthy amount of time in the water, swimmers should still be able to run, jump, skip, roll, step up, shuffle etc.
It is important to keep these skills sharp. Many swimmers (especially, masters swimmers) lose basic athleticism. This is working against your performance. Also, this can point out where some weaknesses are and guide the training moving forward. Take some time to reintroduce these movements into your life. You might be pleasantly surprised in performance changes waiting for you on the other end.
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