After a break from any endurance sport getting back into the rhythm can be tough and it often takes a while to simply get back to where we were. Over the years I’ve learned a few different ways you can hurry along this process a bit by working on what you’ve lost during the break. So below are 4 different things to focus on, and the strategies I’ve used to get past it.
This article is aimed at intermediate ability swimmers who had a good base competency prior to taking a break.
Step 1: Dial In Your Technique
Having had a break its natural that your technique has slipped a bit, this is particularly true of swimming over say cycling but even then your handling skills will have slipped a bit. One easy way to start to dial back in is to simply do it but the other key way is to focus on drilling back in good form. Heres 3 ways you can work on getting your form back on point.
Swim Drill – Tip to Toe
This drill isn’t so much a drill as a mental refresher, selectively working through your swim Stroke on 100 or 200m repeats spending the interval working on that particular focus point before moving onto the next. Work the list as follows:
Finger Tips – fingers slightly splayed reaching out at the front of the stroke.
Wrist – leading the catch from the wrist, tipping the hand down to point at the bottom of the pool as if you’re grasping a ledge or rolling over a barrel to initialise the catch.
Forearm – coming on top of the ledge or over the barrel to help push through the stroke.
High Elbow – As we head into the power phase of our stroke ensure the elbow remains over the wrist and in turn wrist over the finger tips.
Shoulder – Lets look to avoid crossover in our stroke, focus on reaching out wide in your stroke touching your shoulder to your chin
Head – Your neck and your head should be in a neutral position, straight above your shoulders. try to look at the bottom of the pool, rotating only on your breath.
Core – Theres two main checks I place under core, rotation and engagement. Look to maintain a streamlined position with your core engaged, and look to ensure you are getting a good streamline rotation through the whole body as a unit.
Hips – We’re checking here to make sure we are keeping a straight leg kick, kicking from the hip not the knee.
Toes – relaxed pointed feet, big toes almost touching as they pass each other.
Step 2: Just Breathe
Often one of my first sessions back will simply be dedicated to practicing how to breathe fluidly and regularly again. What we can do is take the 3,5,7 drill where you breathe every 3rd, 5th or 7th stroke and apply that to some focussed work as part of a swim. An easy way to incorporate this in to utilise pull sets and train it during those sets.
5x200m Pull Repeats
With a pull buoy:
50m breathing every 3,
50m breathing every 5,
50m breathing every 7,
50m breathing every 3.
Rest and repeat.
Step 3: Re Learning Pacing
When we swim, like cycling and running, we should have a variety of paces we can switch to and from with ease, we naturally learn these paces by doing and quickly forget them by not doing (these paces also change). One quick way to get these dialled back in is to consciously focus on our various gears and re learn to feel our various intensities and the distances we feel can go for at them.
I’ve found it best to dedicate quite a few sessions to training at various intensities, moving up and down gears throughout. e.g.
400m Repeats for 2000m.
Pacing by HR as guide : Zone 3 – Cruise, Zone 4 – Hard, Zone 5 – Sprint.
Set 1 – 25m sprint into 275m cruise finishing 100m hard.
Set 2 – 200m cruise into 200m hard.
set 3 – 100m cruise into 200m hard, finishing 100m cruise.
set 4 – 200m hard into 200m cruise.
set 5 – 100m hard into 275m cruise finishing 25m sprint.
This set can easily be scaled to suit a 300m repeat for 1500m set.
Step 4: Break the back of it.
This is often a go to of mine, sometimes you just need to tell the mind you can still do it and to stop whining, the easiest way to do that is to do something a bit stupid. As a bit of a tradition after the Christmas break the first session back will be a 5k swim, broken up as needed and with the time not overly important. But afterwards having ticked off the 5k pretty much everyone goes away feeling far more confident about upcoming races and the real training plan doesn’t look anywhere near as bad. Scale to your ability before your break but keep in mind you’re going to be getting comfortable being uncomfortable, bring a friend for support.
There you have it 4 problems you may find when you get back in the water after a period out the water, and 4 ways you can try to help you get back to it.