This week, Monday 12th April, marks the opening of indoor pools. You may have been, like so many, eagerly awaiting the return. The chances are, you will have been out of the water for 15 weeks, unless you’re a cold water open water/wild swimmer, but even then the cold weather will have been a constant limiter. In contrast, the pool provides an environment where you can swim, without any limiters other than yourself – you can swim safely for a set time, try different strokes and for many, it will be the environment where the vast majority of swim training as well as physiological conditioning, takes place for triathletes.
So, how do you approach the return to the pool? Well, you may want to start by ‘digging out’ your kit and checking the googles still seal; in fact find a spare pair, just in case! Next, think about the practical aspects of the swim session and make it realistic; everyone will have reduced their swim performance so think about it as a celebration to getting back in the pool, and giving those much needed legs a rest after cycling and running. Certainly for Tri and Run athletes we will be focusing on technique for the first session and progressing swim fitness, whilst re-establishing swim confidence. In fact, you may want to forget your GPS watch or look at the clock – forget about times and focus on the feel and re-engaging the water. After a gentle warm-up, don’t be afraid to take a break, whilst you maybe cycle or run fit, be patient with your swimming. Keep the goal for this first session realistic.
As the first swim session approaches, you can manage your anxiety or excitement with breathing techniques, using steady, long breaths whereby your exhalation is longer than the inhalation. Breathing rate is also key in the water and take time out to sink to the bottle and feel submerged in a controlled manner. Using imagery and self-talk is another way to control your feelings. Keep the positives in focus, again, this includes before entering the water but also whilst in the water – particularly for that all important first ‘push-of’ from the wall. Remind yourself why you swim, the enjoyment, the fulfillment of exercise in a weight-bearing environment and a great whole body workout that is perfect after that hard run. If you feel yourself becoming anxious whilst swimming, re-focus on specific positives – think of something else such as meeting up with a friend, a family member and situation, that cake you want to bake or that garden project; use anything to take your mind to stay in the comfortable.
So, Tri and Run’s top tips for a successful return to the pool are to set clear goals for the initial session(s) and draw on techniques to help you boost your swim confidence. From there, you can then build your swim conditioning.
To find out about our triathlon / swim training programmes and coaching, get in touch; firstname.lastname@example.org