We’ve all been there. The first week back. Or even the first month back. It’s torture. No matter how much we complain during the season for a break we all dread coming back. Not just because of the early morning practices and lack of sleep, but also because we know those first few times back in the water are going to be awful. It’s like you’ve never swam before. And it sucks. Your body is not used to such hard training and you just can’t seem to get that feel in the water that you had.
Your coach is not going to take it easy on you those first few practices back. If they did, you wouldn’t have a base to taper on for your championship meets. Although it may seem like your coach is asking for the impossible and has impossible expectations, they’re just doing their job in making sure you reach you end of season goals.
So if your coach isn’t going to make it easier for you, you need to make it as easy for yourself as possible. Now, you could always just not try in practice. But, in that case, why are you even bothering to swim? You’re not going to get any benefit from practices if you don’t try and you certainly aren’t going to reach your goals if you have no base to rely on. Instead, you need to set yourself up so that it’s as easy as possible to do your best every practice.
- Have a positive mindset. When you hear that tortuous set your coach has planned your first thought is not going be “YAY!!! I can’t wait to do 20x100s on 1:00.” You will probably be thinking something along the lines of “UGHHHHH. Why???? I knew I shouldn’t have come to practice today.” This is not a good mindset to have because you aren’t thinking about what you can do to make the best out of this set, you’re just thinking about how much it sucks and how badly it’s going to hurt. The more you think about the pain, the worse it will seem. Think about how it’s going to make you better, not how much it’s going to hurt.
- STRETCH. Yeah… That thing you say you will do to improve your non-existent flexibility but never get around to. Your muscles are going to be breaking down and building back up. They are going to be severely sore and you will be in no shape to try your best when it hurts to slowly lift your arms above your head. Stretching is going to help get rid of that soreness and will also improve your poor flexibility.
- Get a massage. More, specifically, a sports massage. It will help get rid of all that tightness and soreness that is building up. If you can’t get a massage, buy a foam roller or massage stick online. It’s an inexpensive way to relieve some soreness and tension. Plus, your teammates will love you if you let them borrow it.
- Stay in the water. While you are going to be tempted to take the little time you have off from swimming and not swim, that doesn’t turn out that great. It just makes it that much harder to get back in shape. Even just getting in once or twice a week while your off will help. You don’t have to do a hard set or anything, just some swimming to keep your fell of the water. Just doing an extended warm-up will suffice to help you keep your feel of the water.
- Shift your focus. Naturally, your focus in practice is along the lines of surviving. However, the beginning of the season is a perfect time to create new habits, especially technique wise. You haven’t swam for a while so any small bad technique habits aren’t nearly as ingrained so they’re much easier to fix now than any other time. While it may seem hard because you coach is already giving you impossible intervals, this is the best time to fix such habits. And plus you will be more positive as you will be able to finish a practice and say you accomplished your goal of taking three kicks of every wall or not overextending your arm before your hand enters.
Remember, it’s supposed to be hard. Practice should not be easy if you do it right. If it is you either missed something or your coach decided to have mercy on you and give you a recovery day. Sometimes you just have to smile through the pain.