Meet season is finally upon us. After 2 years of no or very limited meet options, it is very exciting news for the competitive swimmer. As everybody might be a little rusted, it is time to “oil the machine” and go back at it. Although the fitness swimmer may not have any intention of competing, sharpening and oiling the machine, getting some speed, setting up goals and even tapering are all tools benefiting the competitive as well as the fitness swimmer.
First: set up goals. Are you preparing yourself for the 50 free or the 1500 free? The 400 IM? Or just for your first race, trying to set up a time? Your goal might be to swim all the strokes and distances either in a race or in the comfort of your own pool during practice. For the competitive swimmer, remember you have not competed for two years, so your last performances might not be the best reference to set your new goals. All of us have aged by 2 years and most of us have not been as diligent with workouts due to the closings of the pools. For the fitness swimmers, you should have some goals related to technique and improvements (strokes, distance, time).
Second: start practicing some speed. If you never try to go fast at practice, you will never go fast in a meet. Some of us, especially the fitness and long-distance swimmers, like to go at a comfortable speed for mileage. The more distance, the better it is. If you recognize yourself in that category, try to include a speed workout once a week in your workout regimen. On the other hand, if you only do speed workouts, include a longer set once a week to build your endurance and not crash on the last 25 of your 100 race. How do we get some speed? Speed means fast kicking to put you on top of the water, and applying more pressure at the end of your stroke to increase your tempo. Work on both (kick and tempo) and do not be afraid to get out of breath. Make sure you increase your send-off and give yourself enough rest. Low mileage is OK on those days. For the fitness swimmers, getting out of breath and increasing your speed will fire your fast twitch muscles and improve your fitness level much quicker.
Third: practice turns, underwater and dives. The fifth stroke, or the underwater streamline dolphin kicks, need to be practiced again. During Covid, most of us have probably been lazy about turns and certainly have not been diving at all. This is where we will notice that those meet skills are rusted and need to be tuned up again. Don’t forget to review the rules of competition, so you do not get disqualified. For the fitness swimmers, practicing some underwaters will improve your breath control and stamina in general.
Fourth: taper for the big meets. Taper simply means, take some rest before the meet. For some, it is very hard to do, thinking “I need to go to the pool to practice because I have a meet coming up”. A week before a big meet, it is too late to learn and practice a new skill. Coming to a meet well rested will benefit you more. Enjoy the rest. For fitness swimmers, taking periodically a week off to go on vacation or experience a different sport is essential for remaining a swimmer for life.
Fifth: do not stress, have fun. Your first meet back might not completely be as expected. Learn from it and make the adjustments. Mostly enjoy it, reconnect with all your swimming friends, and have fun. It just set the benchmark for improvements and further goals. For fitness swimmers, not stressing around water will make swimming way more enjoyable, and don’t be afraid to be a kid again and play in the water. Have fun.
When you will read this, our first meet in Oregon City will have taken place. I hope you enjoyed it, and you learned what you need to work on for your next swim meet, hopefully our Association championships in Molalla. From then on, you will have more and more practices, and you will be on your way to having a fantastic championship meet at Nationals in San Antonio.