Coming Back from a Break

For most swimmers it is officially summer. And by summer I mean a couple weeks of almost guilt-free respite where we are able to catch up with friends, sleep in, and slowly peel off the smell of chlorine from our hair and body. While for some athletes the break will be short and sweet before hopping in the pool again next month, for others it will be a long, drawn-out break extending many months.

Here are 5 tips for getting back into the water after a long break out of the water:

1. Take it Day by Day.

Typically when we jump back into the pool after a long break the expectation is that we swim a few hundred metres, shake the cobwebs loose, and then we are back! This is rarely the case. Depending on what we were up to during the break – i.e. did we stay in shape – the bounce back can be slow going.

In this spirit you should forget comparing yourself to where you were, or rather how far you are from where you were, and focus on the day to day process of being an athlete again, and what that entails.

2. Train for volume before training for effort.

Consistently training to failure when you are out of shape is the quickest way to wear yourself completely out. This can be the hardest thing in the world for an athlete to do; to take their foot off of the intensity pedal when they first get back into the pool. They want to swim fast, and they want to swim fast now.

Over those first few weeks focus on completing your workouts with good technique, and then begin to ramp up the intensity.

3. Build good habits from the get-go.

One of the nice things about taking a long break from swimming is that when you come back you are given a veritable clean slate. Use this fresh start as an opportunity to build good habits into your swimming from day one.

4. Be Patient.

Those first few weeks (and months if it’s been a really long break) can be trying not only physically, but mentally. You’ll wonder to yourself if you will ever swim as fast as you once did. That the pain of training is so much worse this time around. Or that you don’t have the same confidence and mental toughness that you had before. It will come back; your feel for the water, the physical endurance, just not all at once like we imagine it should.

5. Track & celebrate your progress.

Measuring and recording your workouts not only gives you a record of what you are doing, it brings together the points mentioned above as well; it allows you incrementally adjust volume, both in-session and over the course of a week.

It also provides you a place to see how you are keeping on with your new habits, and also displays your “small wins” in front of you to give you that reassuring kick to the derriere that you are on the right track.