By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Maybe you just took a three-week vacation. Maybe you haven’t swam — haven’t even touched a kick board — since the end of high school swimming. Maybe you have had such a case of chlorinated burn-out that you’ve stayed away from the pool for months. And now, suddenly in a few short days, you have a weekend-long swim meet coming up… and you’re very, very out-of-shape.
Many swimmers have been there before: A summertime swim meet is fast approaching, and you’re signed up, but man oh man, you’re so out-of-shape that a 100-meter butterfly could very well end you up in the emergency room:
“What’s wrong with this person?”
“Ma’am, this person just swam a 200-meter butterfly and is incredibly out-of-shape.”
(Squints eyes.) “There may be nothing we can do.”
So, what’s the best strategy for these kinds of swim meets? If you absolutely must compete at an upcoming swim meet, but you’re incredibly out-of-shape?
Pick the easiest event schedule possible.
Here’s a handy little humorous guide, swimmers: The Best Events to Swim When You’re Really, Really Out-Of-Shape….
5. 100-meter breaststroke.
The sprint breaststroke won’t send you to the nearest doctor’s office, and more importantly, isn’t as physically taxing as, say, the 400 IM. It’s painful, sure (what swimming event isn’t painful?) but has a few pull-outs and some glides. And if you’re lucky enough to be a natural born breaststroker, you may even pull out a half-decent time, even if you aren’t in the best shape possible. (Warning: If you do pull out a decent time while being out-of-shape, your in-shape teammates will despise you.)
4. 100-meter freestyle.
Swimmers have so much freestyle muscle memory built in their shoulders, if you must swim an event without being in-shape, you might as well go for the 100 free. Most swimmers can jump in and crank out a 100 freestyle. You might not win this event (or any event, really) if you’re out of shape, but sign up for this one instead of the 100 freestyle’s bigger, badder older sibling, the 200 freestyle (where you definitely will throw up your breakfast).
3. 200-meter backstroke.
Picking any 200-meter event is riskier territory, especially if you’re not particularly ready for it. However, unlike the sprint, a 200 backstroke involves a little more pacing and longer distance per stroke. With the backstroke, you can kick off the walls and slow down your stroke tempo (and maybe even negative split your race). Pick this event if you absolutely have to swim a 200 distance, as it’s more accomplishable than the other strokes.
2. 400-meter freestyle.
What?! I know. I’m not quite sure why, but the 400-meter freestyle just seems easier when you’ve been away from the pool. Maybe you’re more mentally refreshed and it doesn’t eat at your soul the way it would had you just finished 10 days of double workouts. You can slow down the stroke tempo, find a rhythm, and hold on.
1. Any 50 whatsoever.
The obvious choice. The splash-and-dash. You only have to reach the other wall. You can do it. If you’ve got an upcoming meet and you absolutely have to swim, choose a 50. Any 50. I know swimmers who have had best times in 50s without touching the water for weeks. You may not have the same experience, but a 50 breaststroke is the practical sign-up option if your swim suit hasn’t been worn in months.
And with luck, fortitude, and dedication, you’ll make it to that other wall, breathing heavy, heart rate too high, sweating, panting, with a time you actually beat when you were 10-years-old, and think, “Yup. I am really, really out of shape.”