Many of the people I coach cram their swimming into busy lives. In the water, they focus on building endurance, working on speed and maybe doing an occasional stroke technique lesson. And, often, they see their swimming performance plateau or decline. Common reasons for this include poor technique that gets worse over time, tightening of key muscles due to over-use, and injury.
Most swimmers also understand that you can improve your swimming technique and reduce your risk of injury through improving your core strength, mobility and flexibility. The resultant benefits of being able to keep your body more aligned and swimming more naturally are key to speed and endurance. But we struggle to include core strength and flexibility training into our weekly routines.
Right now, we can’t swim, but we can use the time to work on those things that are important for good swimming but rarely prioritised. Instead of seeing lockdown and being out of the water as a disaster for your swimming, think of it, if you can, as a gift that will make you a better swimmer in the long term.
There are four key elements you should be working on during this time that can be built into a weekly programme.
- Endurance – Keep this ticking over with whatever you can do to maintain cardio fitness. Run, walk, bike or skip.
- Core Strength – Watch an elite swimmer and you’ll see that their body moves as a coordinated unit. You will only be able to swim like this if you take time to deliberately target and strengthen your core. How you do that, is up to you. It could be through swim-specific core exercises, Pilates or Barre exercises.
- Flexibility and mobility – You don’t need me to remind you how import these are nor, probably, how much most swimmers neglect working on them. There has never been a better time to take up yoga. I recommend “Swim Yogis”. Yoga instructors who also swim are worth their weight in gold.
- Visualisation – Back to that moment in hospital. It’s been proven in a number of scientific studies, that the power of visualising an activity on a regular basis can improve physical performance. Doing this in a regular, structured way (thinking of feel, sight, sound and smell) in a variety of imaginative swim locations will definitely help with your return to the water.