As September is here, the kids are back in school (at least virtually) and the pools in the tri-counties of the Portland area might finally reopen with some restrictions, it is time to reset the start button. If you have children at home and a full-time job, your schedule and routine are probably hectic. So first and foremost, choose quality over quantity. If you have all the time in the world because of COVID, but your time in the pool is now limited, choose quality over quantity.
Swimming remains one of the best sports around if you like to have a good workout in the least amount of time. It is also one of the safest sports around because your head is in chlorinated water and you are huffing and puffing in the water and not in the air.
What do I mean by Quality over Quantity?
- Most of the pools which are open, still have restrictions (number per lane, time in the pool, etc..) If you are limited to 30 minutes, 45 minutes, or an hour, do not plan a longer practice, or your usual practice before COVID, because you will be disappointed. Do not stress if your mileage is down, it is OK, work on quality (technique and intensity). Swimming allows me to make my heart rate go up and down very quickly, and it is probably what I missed the most when I tried other sports during the lockdown of the pools. I like to do sets where I am going, for example, one to three or four in intensity. For example, I will do sets of 4 X 100 or 4 X 50 going 1 to 4. The first 100, I only focus on a part of my technique I want to work on: one technical aspect, such as my left arm early vertical forearm before pulling, or the timing of my breath, or my horizontal position, or keeping my hands in alignment with my shoulders, or whatever you need to improve in your stroke. The second 100, I will try to swim at a moderate pace while keeping my technique. The third 100, I am going at a strong pace by pulling and kicking harder where I can feel I am getting higher on top of the water. The fourth one, I am increasing my tempo, my kick, my pull, and I am really huffing and puffing. I now need rest. I am not able to keep going. I now need a slow recovery swim where I start again with focusing on technique.
- Quality also means working all your muscle groups. Swimming is an excellent sport to fire up all your big muscles groups, all at the same time. It will work your arms. legs and core. Swimming all four strokes will tweak your muscles even more. Even if you are a long-distance freestyle swimmer, you will be amazed at how you can improve your swimming by incorporating a short butterfly, backstroke or breaststroke set in your routine. It will challenge your stamina, will work some different muscles, will make you practice different moves and may help you avoid some overuse injuries.
- Quality means balance in your workouts. COVID has unfortunately cancelled a lot of team practices and therefore access to coaches. Most swimmers must swim alone and design their own workouts. Before going to the pool, it is nice to have a plan, so you do not swim endlessly without any purpose. Most of your workouts must have a goal (endurance, speed, free, worst stroke, best stroke, kick, technique, hard sets, easy sets and of course some time for warm up and cool down). The USMS website has a workout library which might give you ideas for well-planned workouts. Do not forget to adjust it for your level of swimming, as well as for the time you have in the pool. Be creative, try to work all strokes and energy systems. The more variety in your workout, the more fun it will be; the more quality.
- Quality means good nutrition and hydration. Eat local and healthy food of good quality and be mindful of the quantity. Make sure you keep hydrated, especially before a workout. Think about at least 10 ounces of liquid per 100 pounds of your weight, two to four hours before practice, and bring your bottle with you to the pool. Take some sips between sets. It might help you avoid those pesky leg cramps!!
As you prepare your new fitness plan and routine, make sure you assess your current level of fitness. Do not assume it is the same as before. Swim a set of 50 or 100 at a moderate pace (one you can sustain). This will give you your basic speed and help you figure out your sendoff time. Make sure you tailor your workout based on those findings and the time you are allowed in the pool. Increase slowly and progressively. You will get back to your previous level of fitness and beyond, but you need to be patient. Now we are almost there, get organized: take your reservation at the pool and stay on top of it (know the guidelines for your pool or fitness center), bring your water bottle and your mask, make sure you have no COVID symptoms and head to the pool for a quality swim workout. Have fun and feel good about it.