January: Join a master swim team, a health club and/or your local pool. You still have time to do it. No excuses!
February: Fitness challenges. Friends.
During the month of February, there are a few events related to get in shape and fit:
The Winter fitness challenge which just involves a 30 minutes swim in the pool of your choice with no specific rules and with the use of any equipment allowed. If you are new to swimming I would really recommend this one, just to assess your current fitness level. The swim needs to be done between February 15 and 28th and comes with an invaluable resource for the new swimmer: the 6 weeks training plan.
The one hour e postal which involves one hour of swimming in a short course pool of your choice, to be swum between January 1st and February 28th. This event is certainly more competitive as there is a national ranking and there is no use of equipment allowed. However if you are an intermediate and/or advanced swimmer and are used to swimming laps, this is the one to assess your current fitness level.
Remember you cannot assess your improvement if you do not know what your current level of fitness is. Recognizing your improvements, however small or big they are, is your best motivator to keep going in the right direction. As I mentioned in a previous article, in addition to knowing how far you can swim in a half hour or a full hour, you need to know your pace. What is the time you can hold per 100 or per 50 for at least 10 or 12 50s or 100s. This is a key element to be able to manage your workouts.
March: Manage your workouts. Make it a habit. Master your technique
March is the time you need to grit your teeth and stay with the program. The motivation of the new year resolutions has weaned down by now and it is time to reassess your training plan. Either you have not been realistic and set up your expectations way too high, or you have gone at it way too strongly and your body as well as your mental state are breaking down. Time to manage your workouts and readjust your goals if needed. Remember your goals needs to be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
If you are with a Masters swim team, maybe cutting one workout a week is all you need to not feel overwhelmed.
If you are training on your own, make friends with one of the other regulars at the pool and keep each other accountable. If you have access to the USMS resources, follow some of the workouts posted and/or follow the 6 weeks training plan offered with the fitness challenge. Be smart with designing your own workouts to make it fun and challenging.
My general advice is:
Do not do the same thing everyday but do repeat some set on a regular basis to check your improvements (Is it getting easier on the same sendoff? Am I going faster?) Celebrate your improvements! Do include slow and fast swims, some kicking, some different strokes.
Work on your technique: there are a lot of videos of different drills on the internet but not all of them are good and address your own weaknesses. My philosophy is “Drills are good if you can transfer the benefit of the drill into your swimming. Do not do drills, just to do drills.” If you learn a drill, know what part of your swimming it should help and ask yourself: Do I have that problem? If yes, do it, and right after, swim the whole stroke while consciously thinking about that part of the swimming. Personally, I love to do “thinking swimming”, especially when warming up and/or doing some technique set in any stroke. What I mean by “thinking swimming” is while swimming the complete stroke, I consciously think on one and only one single part of my stroke I need to improve on such as: Where do my hands enter? How is my catch? Am I in alignment and stable or do I wiggle? How is my kick? Am I on top of the water? If you are a complete novice swimmer and do not have a coach, take a swim lesson at your local pool. Your instructor should be able to let you know what to focus on and in what order. In the December issue of Aqua-Master, I touched on that subject in “Freestyle: Find your balance in the water”.
April: Association Meet in Corvallis on April 20 to 22th, 2018
April is the month of our annual Oregon Masters Swimming Championship meet. It is one of the most fun meets with a lot of relays, and where you will represent and help your local swim team. Everybody is contributing, no matter what your fitness level is. This should be one of your goals of the season if you want to truly experience the spirit and support of Masters swimming. In addition to the swim meet, this is the opportunity to really meet and get to better know some of your teammates from your local and far away Oregon team.
For novice, intermediate and advanced swimmers, the Association meet should be part of your SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound).