By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, September 10, 2018
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have taken some time off from swimming a.k.a. 5 months. I went personal best in all my events before I took off 5 months. Now I have started up swimming with club again 3 weeks ago and during practice I am not getting the times I want. What if I will never be good as I was? I'm going to college next year and I am swimming. What if the coach thinks I'm a one-hit wonder and never get those times again? I have all these goals and I am just scared I wouldn't reach them. I am really regretting taking a break now.
Hey Worried Swimmer,
Five months isn’t a lifetime, but in competitive swimming, that is a rather long break. Five months is enough time to fall out-of-shape… and then some.
It’ll take quite a while to get back where you were before. You should know that or have expected that.
But listen, Worried Swimmer: Don’t go down some slippery slope of negative thinking, either. You took time off and made that decision. Your career isn’t over. Don’t get too upset about it. And I wouldn’t worry so much.
Long breaks can be refreshing. Long breaks can help mend all those practice battle scars. Long breaks can help rejuvenate a lost love for this sport. You made a decision to take a long break. Embrace it, don’t regret it.
However, long breaks can also be challenging. When you come back to the sport, you’re out-of-shape. Sometimes, that’s frustrating. The trick is to realize that you made a decision to take a long break, and realize that the road back will be a lot longer than three weeks. (Honestly, if everyone could get completely back in-shape in three weeks, I think everyone would take five months off every year.)
Though it may be difficult to do, worry less about what your coaches will think. The only thing that matters is what you think — your attitude, and your approach to the sport. If you have the right approach, your times will return. In the meantime, you can set an example for your teammates, you can be a leader, you can have a positive attitude, and you can grow as an athlete and person. There are so many things you can do that aren’t times-centric. Embrace those things.
The more you question the past, the less energy you have to look forward and move on. You took a long break. Five months off. Know that it will take several months to get back in-shape and approach the times you used to swim. You’ll get there. It will take time. You’ll enjoy the process more if you stop worrying about the destination and enjoy the journey there.
Lastly — if you are going to swim in college next year, my advice is to take five weeks off. I wouldn’t take five months off before you jump into NCAA training. You want to keep that muscle memory you’ve been building throughout your career, and you don’t want to be injured in the first few weeks on your NCAA team.
I hope this helps.