Changing It Up: Cross-training in the Off-Season

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Photo Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports-USA TODAY Sports

By Danny Whirlow, Swimming World Intern.

The cheers eventually die down. Goggles are packed away, towels rolled up, and buses boarded for the long journey home. Now the off-season begins. You can wake up at a reasonable hour now and reflect on your successes and failures of the past season. However, due to the demanding physical requirements of our sport, training can’t simply be halted when the season ends. In order to ensure continued success, we all eventually return to the pool, lest our technique crumble and our muscles become weak. Optimizing off-season training is critical to stay fresh and strong.

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Photo Courtesy: USA Swimming

The off-season is the perfect time to work on the nitty-gritty elements of swimming to break down everything we do into its finest parts. However, such scrutiny when coupled with rigorous yardage can be taxing on the mind and the body. After all, the season ended only recently! To pile on more stress would be to place ourselves on a slippery slope toward injury and burnout. The off-season should be a time of enjoyment.

Without further ado, here are four activities that can liven up your off-season training.

1. Soccer

Photo Courtesy: N/A

Like swimming, soccer is a very physically demanding sport. Nevertheless, the focus falls on the lower body and core, giving the shoulders a break. Strengthening these muscle groups can help cultivate a stronger kick, and the constant running can help with stamina, aerobic conditioning and lung capacity.

Soccer also helps sharpen reflexes while controlling and tracking the ball. Honed reflexes allow you to snap off the block much faster at the start and explode of the wall at the turn. Soccer can also double as a solid team bonding exercise if you have teammates who play or are willing to try it.

2. Volleyball

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Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller

A full-body workout, volleyball is less intense than soccer in regards to stamina. However, the slower pace of play demands greater focus and understanding of your space. This can come in handy during the long races like the 1,000 and 1650. Sprinters can benefit too, since knowing the exact moment to flip can be the difference between first or second place.

Similar to soccer, the agility and reflexes that cross-training with volleyball requires lends itself to being explosive of starts and turns. Further, it is also an excellent team-bonding exercise.

3. Jiu-jitsu

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Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

A personal favorite, the art of grappling might not seem like an ideal choice. Some submissions are achieved when joints are bent in unnatural ways. You should stop if you feel an injury coming on. For those who wish to stick with it, when training jiu-jitsu, you must be calm and in control of your breath. This comes up in longer races and training sessions when you need to maintain your composure. Mental training can be just as beneficial as physical training. Another benefit is that your muscles get to move in a new ways, allowing them to be stretched out and strengthened. This results in improved flexibility.

4. Golf

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Photo Courtesy: Esteban Lagarde

The best part about cross-training with golf is that it requires little to no physical exertion. It’s mostly a mental sport. Golf provides the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the moment or to reflect on the past and future. This is especially important because when it comes to race, none of these thoughts should trouble your mind.

How do you like to train during the off-season? What unique activities or techniques do you utilize?

Another great article on cross-training for swimming:

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

7 comments

    • Bridget Fertal

      Danny Whirlow much appreciated 👍

  1. Scott McIntire

    Off season? What off season….

  2. José Antonio

    Welcome to injuries in those sports! I prefer to do gym or some other dry land exercises