By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, November 29, 2017
As any competitive swimmer knows, the season has its ebbs and flows, its peaks and valleys. The September and October months are “getting in shape” season — a time of extra dryland, technique drills, and aerobic sets. February and March is “speed season” — a time of starts and turns, sprints and quickness drills, refinement and honing.
So what “season” is December and January?
December is a time of challenges and long sets, pushing one’s limits and setting new ones. It is a time of colder weather, of course, and with that cold weather, “cold weather challenges.” Colds. Coughs. Cradling space heaters (kidding, don’t do that).
To help with the transition from “getting in-shape” season to “pain season,” I’ve compiled a handy list of Things Every Swimmer Needs in December. Perhaps this could serve a dual purpose as a holiday wish list. Perhaps not. Either way, any one of these items would surely make “pain season” morph into a season of “jolly happy warm easy swim times.”
Here they are.
1. “The Swimmer’s Survival Pack For Chlorinated, Scale-y, Dried-out Skin.”
Included in this pack are basic necessities during any cold-weather month of the competitive season: First, moisturizer. To this day, after lap-swimming, I take out my manly coconut-scented moisturizer and masculinely lather up. Smelling like a coconut may not necessarily be work-appropriate, but I stopped caring when I turned twelve and my chlorinated swimmer’s skin resembled an alligator. (If your skin actually resembles an alligator, you should probably see a doctor and/or NASA.)
The rest of the Skin Survival Pack items are basics, like a fuzzy parka, a beanie to keep your ears warm, and some heavy-duty socks.
2. An extra alarm clock.
December: A time of darkness. Metaphorically, sometimes, and literally, all the time. It can be incredibly difficult to rise out of bed before the birds in complete darkness and trudge towards a cold 70-degree pool where an onslaught of freestyle and butterfly sets await. Thus, every swimmer needs an extra alarm clock stashed somewhere in the house, something that is hammer-proof and hidden from a swinging arm seeking the snooze button.
3. An ability to make the pool warmer five degrees (for warm-ups only).
Every swimmer needs this magical ability. Though I’m told this ability “doesn’t exist,” check your local retailers anyway.
4. That thing in Men In Black that zaps one’s memory of any and all distance sets.
5. A positive attitude.
We’re all sick and tired of hearing about the benefits of having a “positive attitude.” (See what I did there?) Seriously, having a positive attitude is the only thing you *actually* need this winter. A positive attitude will make the pool feel warmer, make those distance sets feel shorter, and make one’s overall enjoyment of this great privilege called swimming feel even more privilege-y. What is a “positive attitude,” exactly? It means flipping every single “I’m tired” or “I don’t want to” comment into, “I choose to swim in my free time, so I should make the best of it.” It means cheering for your teammates as much as you want them to cheer for you. (And if you don’t want them to cheer for you, cheer for them anyway.) It means taking a few moments to appreciate this sport and remember what you love about it even during those occasional moments when you may not totally and completely love it. And it means being polite and supportive to your teammates, and yes, your coaches, too.
6. And if that positive attitude is missing, a panic room with a stocked refrigerator of peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches is always good.
Just in case.
Follow Mike on Twitter @MicGustafson.