By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, June 19, 2017
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I will be missing three full weeks of practice right before a big competition (it starts exactly 4 days after I return). I have only been swimming competitively for a year, and I have improved a lot. However, I am worried that during these three weeks away from practice, I will get extremely out of shape and fall behind. I will have access to a pool and possibly a gym, but I don’t think I’ll be able to maintain the same intensity that there is at swim practice with my coach and friends to motivate me and compete with.
Do you have any tips or suggestions?
If you had to be away from your swim team for three full weeks, it's actually much better these three weeks are happening at the end of your training season rather than in the middle. Training without teammates is hard enough; training at full-intensity without teammates would be a nightmare. So that's the silver lining.
But you need to make a plan for these upcoming three weeks. You didn't just bust your butt for an entire year of training to lose all those valuable training gains. While you can't mimic — exactly — your current training atmosphere, with a little creativity and some self-discipline, you can come pretty darn close.
(And make sure no matter you do, never ever train without the supervision of a lifeguard.)
First, have your swim coach email you every single workout the day beforehand. That way, you'll be able to plan ahead and follow your coach’s season training plan. I'm not quite sure where you're going, or what you're doing, but regardless, it would be very helpful if you could follow your current team’s workout as closely as possible.
Second, set a daily schedule. Know when you'll swim each day. Set your own “practice schedule.” Get self-disciplined. Wherever you're going — if you're on vacation, for example —you will be pulled in many different directions. I suggest maintaining that early-morning swim practice schedule. If you can wake up and swim for an hour and a half at least every morning five days a week, and mimic your team schedule, you should be in good shape for your big upcoming championship swim meet.
Lastly, motivation will be the hardest part of being away from your team. Think about how you get self-motivated. Every summer is different. Some swimmers watch old Olympic swim races. Other swimmers set aside time to visualize upcoming races. Find whatever way you can stay motivated during those three weeks just as you would if you were racing your teammates during taper practices. This will be the hardest part. But it's very important. The last thing that you want to do is not be mentally ready.
So, don't be too worried. This is definitely doable. Mimic your swim team’s workouts by having a swim coach email you upcoming practices, set aside the same time each day in the morning to train somewhere, and find ways to self-motivate, such as watching old swimming races online or visualizing upcoming races.
The last thing you want to do is not put all that great training to good use your upcoming meet. You owe it to yourself to have a little bit of self-discipline for these next few weeks. It will be difficult, but can be done.