Now that we’re into September, swim teams all over the world are back in the pool and gearing up for a new year full of possibility. Amidst all the excitement, it’s important to remember that the first few weeks of training set the stage for the entire season.
Take advantage of the opportunity to get back to the drawing board and make changes that will launch you into a successful swim season by following the tips below.
1. Learn from the mistakes of last season
While there is a lot to take away from the successes of the previous season, it’s even more important to take a critical look at what went wrong last season, and how it could be done better this time around.
Deconstruct your preparations and performances from last season so that you can identify areas of weakness and figure out what changes you could make to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
2. Set good habits from the start
The beginning of the season is a fresh start. What better time to form habits that will set you up for success? Don’t wait to shift gears back into training mode – make sure that you have great nutrition, lots of sleep, and a productive routine from the first day of training.
It’s much easier to form good habits when you have a fresh start than it is to change bad habits after the fact.
3. Maintain perspective
Depending on how much time you spent away from the pool and how active you were during your break, you might have a vastly different fitness level from a teammate at the start of the season.
Don’t stress out if other swimmers seem to be adjusting to the training faster than you. Remember that the start of the season can be more difficult for some than others, and it’s important to keep this in perspective.
It might be painful at the start and you might feel strange in the water, but you’ll get back into a rhythm soon enough. Keep fighting!
4. Facilitate team bonding
The start of the season is the time that a team sets the foundation for its direction and character that will lead it on a path toward success or disaster. Do not underestimate the power of a highly functional team.
Make sure to welcome newcomers and set the stage for a healthy team atmosphere. The beginning of the season is a blank slate that each team member can influence – make sure you do your part to facilitate team bonding and create great chemistry from the start.
5. Make technical changes early
While improving technique takes time and is always a work in progress, the best opportunity to make big advancements is at the start of a season when it’s easier to form and hold on to good habits.
Making significant adjustments to your stroke can feel uncomfortable at first, but early season is a time when you likely feel strange in the pool anyway as you get your feel for the water back. This is the perfect chance to make big leaps forward when it comes to your technique and skills.
6. Focus on kick
High-intensity kick sets are one of the fastest ways to get in shape at the start of the season, as the majority of your muscle mass is in your legs. By focusing on conditioning your biggest muscles first, you’ll lay the groundwork for improved strength and endurance.
As Russell Mark of USA Swimming says, “Commit to working on underwaters early on. Make a new season “resolution” to get better at your kicks and doing a certain number off of every wall. It will pay off in the end.”
7. Write down ambitious goals
The start of the season is the perfect time to dream big. As you get back into the swing of things with your teammates and look forward to the exciting times ahead, you should take advantage of all the positive energy and build yourself some confidence heading into the season.
But it’s not enough to just daydream about your goals – you need to actually write them down. Put pen to paper so that you make a concrete commitment to yourself. This will boost your motivation and help you to persevere when times get tough later in the season. While your goals should be realistic, don’t be afraid to make them ambitious.
8. Track your progress
As mentioned previously, the beginning of the season is the best time to form new habits. One of these habits should be keeping track of your workouts so that you can track your progress and collect valuable information about your own swimming.
Recording your times is a great start, but it’s even better to collect additional information on other metrics like your stroke counts and rates. It’s incredibly useful to track this data so that you can compare where you were at the start of the season to where you are later on.