By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, January 11, 2017
You did it! You survived holiday training!
The long sets. The early mornings. The endless freestyle repeats. The constant looking at the clock wondering about your chances of survival. That feeling like you’re about to puke in the pool but you still somehow manage to hang onto your ill-advised pre-practice breakfast burrito. You’ve done it.
Now, the hard part begins.
“What hard part?” you ask. “Why is there a hard part? I just did the hard part. The hard part is over! RIGHT?!”
Not quite. See, holiday training isn’t just to see how many yards you can crank out in two hours, or how fast you can swim in practice for hours on end. Now is the time for implementation — to take those holiday practices and transition that improvement to the rest of the swim season. Now is the time to look forward at those springtime shave and taper championship meets, and use those holiday practice improvements.
Here are 5 things every swimmer must do after ending holiday training…
1. Make a list of “what worked” during holiday training.
Sit down and make a list about what went well over holiday training. Maybe you conquered that back-to-breast IM turn. Maybe you had a good mindset when you woke up each morning. Maybe you used a quote to motivate you, or began a new tradition of motivating your lane mates with little words of encouragement throughout the workout. Maybe you conquered a particularly hard 400 IM set. Holiday training doesn’t mean you should stop all those good things and accomplishments and mindsets. You need to continue those throughout the season. Make a list of what you accomplished and what worked.
2. Make a list of what didn’t work.
Similar to the “what worked” list, make a list of “what didn’t work.” Maybe there were some mornings you couldn’t find motivation. Maybe you got injured. Maybe you fought with a lane mate. Maybe you couldn’t make a certain interval. Swimming is about improvement. Without documenting those opportunities for improvement, you’re not maximizing your fullest potential. So, make a list. Make a list of what didn’t work and where you didn’t quite succeed over holiday training…
3. Don’t take five days off.
The first thing many swimmers (including myself) want to do after holiday training? Take fourteen days off and lay on the couch in a semi-conscious state of permanent non-swimming bliss. Which is exactly what you shouldn’t do. Not now, at least. That semi-conscious state can exist once you retire from competitive swimming. That state will always be there, waiting. But not now. When you finish holiday training, it’s like you’re sledding down the mountain of holiday training improvement; suddenly you take four days off and your sledding momentum stops. You need to keep going. Sure, take two days off, max. But no more.
Sleep is vital for recovery. After holiday training, every swimmer needs sleep. Schedule it. Make sure you get it. Find that routine now, and make sure your post-holiday routine includes sleep and recovery. If you couldn’t quite catch up on sleep due to early mornings or travel or holiday family obligations, now’s the time to make sure you get sleep. You’ll need to recover as much as you can in order to maximize the value from holiday training.
5. Begin a training journal.
For some reason, when swimmers start “holiday training” it’s as though the playoffs have begun: Swimmers are mentally in-tune with training, ready for challenges, and diving in (pun intended). But as soon as school starts, or as soon as holiday training is over, distractions take over. One way to keep that holiday training focus going is to begin a training journal. It could be as simple as using a yellow legal pad and a pencil, documenting your thoughts and feelings in practice. Or it could be as complex as logging your practices, how you performed. Either way, the act of self-documentation forces you to keep focus on yourself, your actions, your training. It’s a way to step back and be mindful about feelings and actions throughout practice. Heading into the ultra-intense championship season, a journal keeps you feeling positive, lets you share worries (even if you’re sharing them with a piece of paper) and documenting what’s happening.
Congratulations, swimmers. Holiday training is over.
Now the hard part begins: Making that holiday training matter.
Just keep swimming…