By Emily Sampl//Contributor | Monday, December 31, 2018
The holidays are upon us, and competitive swimmers have several reasons to celebrate. The holidays signal a break from school, homework and studying, allow more time to spend with family and friends, and hopefully, the holiday season includes a lot of delicious food.
However, there’s something else that comes with the holiday break that not all swimmers look forward to—holiday training. Whether it’s an age group team, a Division I college program or an elite post-grad team, most swim teams tend to have some form of “holiday training” during the winter months with sights set on the championship meet just a couple of months away.
How does holiday training differ from the rest of the season, and how can swimmers best prepare themselves to tackle it? Braden Holloway, head coach of the North Carolina State swim team, and former open water standout Christine Jennings offer their thoughts on holiday training.
An opportunity to train more, to train differently, and to train together
With school out of session, the holidays are an excellent time to provide athletes with more and better opportunities to train. Without the distractions of school and classes and other pool scheduling conflicts, swimmers may be able to fit in additional or longer training sessions and swim at different times or with different people than they might during the school year.
“The time away from school allows us to alter start times of workouts, mix up our long course and short course training, and most importantly, it allows us to create more opportunities to train as a team in certain cases,” Holloway said.
The extra time spent with teammates doesn’t just benefit swimmers from a training standpoint, but also socially, as holiday training or training trips are also great opportunities for team bonding.
Stepping up the yardage and intensity, stepping outside the comfort zone
Some programs may shift their focus to higher volume or higher intensity training over the holiday break. For other teams, like Holloway’s squad at NC State, the holidays are a time to continue building on and reinforcing the same training habits that were established at the beginning of the season.
“We don't believe in ramping up the intensity. We already run a high intensity program,” he said. “The added time or a few added workouts adds enough as it is, so if we added more intensity, we would produce a harmful workload on the athletes.”
Whether or not there’s a significant increase in yardage or intensity during this time, holiday training is a great time to continue focusing on proper technique, trying new things and stepping outside your comfort zone.
“It really is just like a training bump, a push forward; a place and time where you can push yourself to a new limit and accomplish something new,” added Jennings.
Positive Attitude + Recovery = Better Performance
Holiday training can be a grind, both mentally and physically, for even the most accomplished swimmers. Maintaining a positive attitude, along with proper nutrition and recovery time, will go a long way in ensuring peak performance during difficult training periods.
“Nutrition and rest always play a crucial role; recovery is extremely important, and timing your meals before and after practice can have a big impact on your performance,” said Jennings. “I would highly recommend talking to a nutritionist to discuss what’s best for your body. Yoga can be very good for recovery to keep yourself moving and refocus as well.”
With a positive attitude, a well-fueled body and a few training goals, the sky is the limit this holiday season.