Can’t swim right now? Try doing these things!

By Terry Heggy, U.S. Masters Swimming

Being denied access to water workouts feels like condemnation to the pit of despair. Yet whether it’s because of a public health crisis, an assignment on the International Space Station, injury rehab, or a soul-sucking business trip to a desolate location with no amenities, it is possible to survive these temporary hardships without losing the physical and mental fitness that defines us as swimmers.

Review Your Goals

The most important thing is to maintain your focus. Remember why you swim and what you want to achieve from swimming. Develop alternative plans to keep your vision intact.

  • Performance – If you were preparing to taper for a competition when the interruption occurred, simply adjust your target dates for swimming those races. Plan to compete in an alternate event that’s scheduled beyond the likely duration of this break. Write down your goals and why they matter, then post them where they’ll remind you that opportunities for achievement await your return.
  • Social – Stay in touch with your swimming friends, even if you can’t do it in person. Talk about swimming on the phone and through social media, and share your vision of the fun you’ll have when you’re back in the water together.
  • Internal – For many of us, the water itself is our refuge. Swimming provides a sensory experience that enables peace, stress relief, and healing. Stay in touch with water and be mindful of any opportunities to strengthen that connection. Savor your showers, take a walk down a riverside path and listen to it flow, sit on a shoreline and stare at the surf as you snack on a sandwich.

Visit USMS partner websites to take advantages of bargains on things you’ll need when your hiatus ends. Spend time each day watching swim videos, moving your arms through the motions of your strokes, or mentally listing the things you look forward to when you get back in the water. You may not be swimming at the moment, but you are always a swimmer!

Stick to Your Schedule

Good habits are powerful contributors to success, yet they are easy to lose during life’s disruptions. Keep a tight grip on your positive routines, even if you must alter them slightly.

  • Workout time – Hold to your normal daily timetable. This includes what time you wake up, when you eat, and when you work out. You may even find that time formerly spent in commuting is now available for additional training. Think about ways you can leverage those saved minutes as an advantage over your competition.
  • Workout philosophies – Swim workouts target flexibility, strength, endurance, sprint speed, and of course, technique. Substitute workouts must provide those same challenges. Regardless of the exercise itself, make sure you vary your intensity, intervals, and mental focus to ensure you cover all aspects of a well-rounded training program. Ask your coach for advice, and mix it up so it stays fun. Consider a combination of these alternative workouts:

These are great times to focus on eliminating weaknesses, too. More stretching or massage work can increase range of motion for extra streamline and speed. Reaction drills can increase your speed off the blocks. Race visualization and meditation can improve your ability to respond to the unexpected.

Adjust Your Fueling

If you are able to maintain your normal workout schedule, you may not need to modify your meals. But if your workout schedule is interrupted or diminished in any significant way, adjustments may be necessary.

Eat less. Eat lower-calorie foods (fruits, veggies, grains). Hey, as long as your routine is disrupted, why not try switching to a more plant-based diet? Prepare your entire meal before you eat a single bite, and repeat the mantra that what’s on your plate is purposefully selected to adequately fuel your current activity level at optimal health and power levels. Select foods you enjoy so that you’ll be satisfied without craving extra.

Onward with Optimism

We’re Masters Swimmers. We’re smart, strong, and durable, and we have the greatest support network on the planet. Sure, it’s no fun being sequestered from the thing we love the most, but the water will be there when this temporary disruption has passed. By staying positive, engaged, and active, we will be ready for that sublime splash back into swimming.

About the Author:

Terry “Speed” Heggy has been swimming for more than 50 years. He won his age group in the 10K Open Water Championship in 2006, competed in the National Championship Olympic Distance Triathlon in 2014, and qualified again for USAT Nationals in 2015. The 2019 Jack Buchannan Service Award winner is the head coach of Team Sopris Masters in Glenwood Springs, Colo., a USMS-certified Level 3 Masters coach, and an NASM Certified Personal Trainer.

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