5 Ways to Power Through Your Swimming Plateau

Swimming Plateau

By Annie Grevers

TUCSON – Plateau. The dreaded landscape you’re bound to traverse during your swimming road trip. The point where your times are just not dropping month after month and sometimes season after season. We can either ride this portion of our career out or choose a new route. But before making your decision, here are 5 ways to get push through a swimming plateau:

1) Celebrate Little Victories

You dropped .01 in the 500 free? That’s worth celebrating. You helped your teammate have one of the best practices of their life? That’s worth celebrating. You had a bad swim, but did not let it ruin your meet? That’s worth celebrating. Swimming without appreciation for the hard work is misery. If you’re thinking, but a best time is not good enough, think again. I learned being discontent with a best time is one way to drain the joy out of our sport. Maybe you are coming back from an injury and you’re frustrated at how much strength you have lost. Start anew with everything, including expectations. One way to re-injure your self or jump on the fast track to burnout is to expect to be immediately on top of your game after a long break.

2) Find the Fun

Why did you start swimming? USA Swimming took a poll of why kids stay in swimming. The result? It’s fun. Sure, a few kids said they swim to stay in shape and win races, but the fun of it keeps most kids interested. What’s gotten in the way of swimming being fun? Getting your state cut or beating your current rival was probably not your incentive to take that initial plunge into the pool. The feeling of weightlessness is fun. The power you feel entering the water after a momentous dive is fun. The day you made a tiny tweak to a stroke and it made a huge difference. That was fun. Keep looking for the fun. Even if it means staying after practice to float on your back and feel the support of that friendly water we sometimes misconceive as a liquid enemy.

3) Take a break

Yes, you read that correctly. A break can mean a day, a week, a month or a year. We’ve all been in a mental rut. Sometimes we only deepen the rut by spending time with our thoughts underwater and thinking of all the reasons we hate swimming on that particular day. This unhealthy perspective can be remedied by stepping away from the underwater solitude for a while. Like a Magic Eye image (‘90s analogy, I know), sometimes we need to step away from our sport to see the beauty in it.

4) Ask for Coaching

The worst thing to do when you’re stumped and frustrated by swimming is try to swim by feel, and seek no outside input. Ask your coach to watch a specific part of your stroke that feels quirky. They love that! Your coaches have a lot of swimmers to watch, so it’s helpful to them if you pinpoint what you’re wanting critiqued. This will also communicate to your coach that you value his or her opinion and want to persevere through this drought of best times.

5) Patience

We grow at different rates. We age up at inopportune times. We get sick right before our big meets. All of these factors can be unwelcome guests when they interrupt the steady drops we came to know and love. Growing or falling ill can leave you in a funk. Did I ever actually know how to swim this stroke? Things get out of whack fast and it takes coaching, focus, and patience to turn your stroke back into something you recognize. If you streamline your thoughts productively while putting in the yards, your strokes can blossom into something stronger and more efficient than anything you had before this testing plateau. These stagnant periods in your swimming career will ultimately make you appreciate your impending success more than you ever would have. To quote A League of Their Own, “If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

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Alice Mayger
7 years ago

Thanks for this article I have on many occasions suggested the break/rest to get the mind right for some and for others a body break. I will past this onto some of my swimmers so that the can see that I am not the only one who thinks a rest/break is at times needed