Off-season do's and don'ts

by James Nock — in


As we approach the end of this season, I've been asked by a few swimmers "should I carry on training through Summer whilst the club's closed". It's a question that comes up every year so I thought it might be useful to scribble something down for you.

I can see the logic that goes through a swimmer's mind (or their parent's)… if they carry on training whilst the club is closed then they'll be 'super fit' and have a 'head-start' when they go back in September. It's reasonable logic, it really is. This year has been a strange year, we've had huge chunks of time out of the pool and been on slightly reduced training since we came back so many people would think that they're behind and that Summer would be a great time to "catch up".

But here's the reality of what happens, despite me giving out the same advice every year. Those who train hard through Summer will almost certainly be the ones who get ill as the weather gets colder towards the end of October/beginning of November. They spend a week or two off and then have "catching up" to do when they return. They just about catch up and then we break for Christmas. It's far from an ideal plan.

If you don't take time to recover during the off-season you will almost certainly be forced to take time to recover later in the year. I've had swimmers try and prove that theory wrong a few times and it hasn't happened once.

Right now, keeping immune systems strong should be everyone's primary goal in my opinion. We love swimming, we want to go fast, and we are going fast… many of the swimmers at my club are ranked within the top 50 in Britain, and on multiple events too. This really is not bad at all considering we only have have ~80 competitive swimmers in total.

"But I heard Swimmer X in Club Y is going to do A, B, and C during the summer"

So? Let them if they want to. Olympic swimmers will be having some time out but perhaps Swimmer X knows more than they and their coaches do. Or maybe they don't.

"Okay, but I really want to do SOMETHING, I'll be bored otherwise"

That's fair enough. You're in luck because there are a few things I'd really like you to work on during Summer…

  1. RMAP. We're going to be going back to that in September and it's been a while, so please print off the attached sheets, watch the videos and get back on it. It's not difficult but it will greatly improve your mobility and give you a 'head-start' in September whilst not having to actually work all that hard. Once you're confident that you know it all (and your parent is too), it's easy stuff to do with some music on or with the TV on in the background and will only take you like 15-20 mins at most. Try and do this at least 3-4 days per week.
  2. Hydrate. This might sound like an "obvious" one but it's amazing how many people replace water with ice-cream when the weather is hot. Water will hydrate you, frozen cream mixed with sugar and/or chocolate will not.
  3. Eat sensibly. You don't have to go training in the evenings for a few weeks, don't spend your evenings eating crisps instead, you know that's a bad idea. The same applies to chocolate, cakes and fizzy drinks too (in case you were wondering) 🙄.
  4. Sleep properly. I don't just mean get lots of sleep, I mean stay in a sensible, regular pattern, especially for the two to three weeks leading up to the return to swimming and school. Every year some swimmers decide that sleeping from 2am until 2pm is a "good plan" and they struggle badly for the first few weeks of term/season. Don't be that person, I'll have no sympathy whatsoever and I doubt your school teachers or college lecturers will either.
  5. Be smart about what activities you engage in and who you do them with. You really don't want to return to swimming with an injury if you can help it and the summer 'break' needs to be used for 'rest and recovery'.
  6. The swimming at Tokyo 2020 starts on Saturday 24th July, go watch it. Be sure to watch the interviews with swimmers too, hear how they win gracefully or deal with an under-performance. They're skills that you need and who better to learn them from than the guys at the top!?
  7. If you're still bored, go and have a look at the World Records for your favourite event(s). Who is the world record holder? What's their time? Can you find the race on YouTube? If so, watch it, it's good to stay interested in your end goal.

"Can I swim though, like, just a little bit?"

I have absolutely no issue with you having a dip in a pool if you want to, but I mean a dip. Perhaps a bit of sculling and some gentle swimming but please no A3's, don't even think about it. Let your body recover, you might even grow a little taller!

"Do we know what's going on next season yet, when are we racing again?"

Truthfully, I don't know for sure, a lot rides on how summer goes and what restrictions are in place when we return. I'm very hopeful that we'll be back racing by late October though, a decision has not been made about Winter Counties yet but I'm quite sure that they will not be going ahead in 2021.

I really hope that the above helps. I'm conscious that it might sound a bit ranty, I'm just a bit passionate about getting the off-season right and know that I have very little control over it which is a bit scary for any coach! Have a great Summer break guys. 😀

P.S. if I missed a question that I really should have covered please let me know and I'll update this post, thanks.

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