After the excitement of the holiday season, the first months of the new year can seem pretty bleak. Cold and dismal weather can get you down, and these feelings of misery might be compounded by a heavy training load in the pool.
But even when the skies are grey and taper seems distant, some easy adjustments can help you swim through the winter with confidence and optimism. Here are 5 tips to help you overcome the bad weather and boost your results in the pool.
1. Find a New Hobby
During the winter months, when a lot of time is spent trapped indoors, the daily grind can become monotonous and mentally draining. It’s easy to sink into a sour mood and let your motivation slip. The psychology of athletes is an often overlooked ingredient in the recipe for success. Don’t forget that a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer!
To break up the monotony and breathe new life into your daily schedule, why not find a fresh way to occupy your time? Instead of spending your spare hours mindlessly scrolling social media, start a new project or take up a hobby. Try to find something you can get excited about that will replace your boredom.
It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking or commitment – if you’re studying and swimming, your schedule is already packed. However, a small side project could give your life just the spice it needs. Try a creative venture for fun, find a way to make a little extra money, or (best of all) take up a hobby that will enhance your swimming. Yoga would be a perfect compliment to your work in the pool. Taking the time to track and log your training progress each evening would be productive and you’d learn a lot. Think of how interesting the results would be!
2. Focus on Healthy Eating
Another productive hobby you could take up is healthy cooking. If you find yourself spending more time at home during the winter months, you have no excuse not to put more time and thought into food preparation! Instead of eating out, buy a healthy eating cookbook and do some experimenting. You can practice a useful skill while also improving your diet.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a cooker, you still need to educate yourself on nutrition. It’s one of the most important factors in performance and if you make the conscious effort, it’s something you have a lot of control over. Choose foods that are packed with nutrients and are low in refined sugars to maximize your energy levels.
When there’s a snowstorm happening outside your window and you’re trapped indoors, it’s easy to find yourself snacking on junk food. But pay attention to how you’re fuelling your body! Eating healthy will make you feel lighter, stronger, and happier.
3. Take Steps to Prevent Illness
During the month of February, sickness spreads like wildfire. It’s a time when flu season peaks and an array of illnesses strike. While getting sick is unpleasant enough, it can have a severely negative impact on your swimming. If you’re forced to miss a big block of important practices due to illness, your entire training cycle could be jeopardized. Make sure you take every step possible to prevent getting sick.
Never forget to wash your hands! This simple act is one of the easiest ways to stop the spread of viruses and bacteria. Many surfaces you touch on a regular basis – door knobs, elevator buttons, shopping cart handles, keyboards, and even your cell phone – are infested with germs. Make it a rule that you won’t touch your face or your food before scrubbing your hands clean with soap.
Getting a seasonal flu shot is another easy step to take that could have major payoffs. Nobody enjoys being bedridden with a nasty bout of influenza. Many college campuses and local clinics offer flu shots – just check online for the one nearest you!
Finally, the importance of sleep can never be overstated. If you’re feeling like you might be coming down with something, go to bed as early as possible. A long stretch of sleep will charge your body’s immune system and could lessen the blow of any oncoming illness.
4. Get Your Vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. However, surprisingly few foods contain this essential vitamin because the body is designed to get it through the skin from sunlight. In the winter months it can be very difficult to get all of the vitamin D your body needs – especially in northern climates, where sunlight is scarcer.
One of the simplest ways to get your daily dose of vitamin D is through a supplement. Buy a bottle from your local drugstore, and then set a reminder to take a pill once a day.
Take every opportunity to get as much sunlight as possible – even if it’s only for a few minutes. If the clouds part and a single beam of sunlight filters through your window, take advantage by moving into its warm embrace. Studies have shown that even brief exposure to sunlight can give you a sizable dose of vitamin D and also improve your mood!
5. Remember the Big Picture
When you’re in the middle of a big block of heavy training and taper seems distant, the mind can be your biggest enemy – or your ally. Instead of moping about how tired you are, you need to look past the individual practices and zoom out to remember the big picture.
Keep your goals in mind every day. If it helps, you might want to write them down and post them on your bedroom wall. Keeping track of your progress over time will also help you maintain perspective on your training. By logging long-term trends in your times and performance metrics, you always have the big picture in front of you.
Most importantly, you need to remember that your hard work will pay off when you reach the end of the season. Visualize the sights and feelings you’ll have when you finally reach your big race, carrying the confidence you’ve built over months of hard work in the pool.
During these winter months, pay attention to your lifestyle and make choices that will keep you fresh, strong, and healthy. Never forget why you’re doing what you’re doing – the racing season will be here before you know it!