Off-season swimming training

By G. John Mullen of SwimmingScience.net and CenterofOptimalRestoration.com, Creator of Swimmer's Shoulder System, Swimming World correspondent

SANTA CLARA, California, August 14. OFF-SEASON swimming training is often not discussed in the swimming community. Unfortunately, this is a valuable period where various improvements are possible. Moreover, some people need something to fill the extra 2 – 6 hour void left by not swimming.

Too often overworked swimmers will lounge around, play World of War Craft and eat McGriddles until the break is over, feeling like a blob the next time they hit the pool. I remember during my off-season days,I'd run around the house with the soccer ball as instructed by my parents and older sibling. This chaotic routine distracted me from torturing my dog and family.

Whether you've chowing on McGriddles, playing video games, or injuring family members, the off-season is an opportunity for improvement; luckily there are many avenues for improvement. For a successful off-season, consider theses areas for improvement and you'll find the transition to the pool much easier:

1. Fix your Body: Grueling swim seasons leave many swimmers physically, emotionally, and psychologically scarred. The off-season is the perfect opportunity to improve any of these realms.

Solution: If you have a bum shoulder, find help some help (Swimmer's Shoulder System), don't sit around hoping the problem will solve itself. Ignoring an injury does not fix your body, get some help and prepare your body for the next season!

2. Get your Mind Right: If you are psychologically exhausted, take a break from the sport, people, and community involved in swimming. The mind plays a large role in swimming success, so be mentally prepared for the upcoming season is a prerequisite for a successful season.

Solution: If you are getting scared at the blocks, consider some Mental Toughness Training or seeing a sports psychologist.

3. Maintain Feel: I know what you're thinking, getting back to the pool is the last thing you want to think about. In swimming, the principle of specificity applies making all other forms of training inferior to swimming. This is due to the high neural involvement in the sport as proper training develops motor program during the season. Unfortunately, all this hard work vanishes quickly without a little maintenance work in the pool. This is why everyone feels drastically different in the water after a few days from this chlorination station. Therefore, if you're not busy getting mentally or physically healthy, do some maintenance work in the pool or ocean. Performing maintenance work is important, even if it doesn't feel like you're doing much. Always remember, the best type of training for swimming success is swimming! Don't lose all the hard work you put in during summer.

Solution: Swim for fifteen minutes three times a week for the ideal off-season swimming training.

4. Improve Weak Links: Every swimmer has weak links. Too often swimmers do not have the prerequisite tools of out of the water to properly manipulate their stroke in the water. This makes it essential to find these weak links and set a plan for improvement. Too often swimmers and coaches leave swimming biomechanical errors to incompetence or lack of feel, but often times the swimmer doesn't have the length, strength, or timing of the muscle to do the desired task.

Solution: Find a rehabilitative specialist to improve these weak links. Make sure not to neglect the weak link, as this is likely your breaking point during races!

5. Improve Body Composition: Drag is the biggest inhibitor of swimming speed. The larger the person, the more drag potential you'll have in the water. For this reason elite swimmers are typically lean creatures. The off-season is a great time to start any new food habits to improve your body composition for swimming success. Get your food habits on track during the off-season, the easiest time to make these adjustments, not weeks into treacherous training. This does not suggest under eating as many college programs have reported under nutrition in female swimmers, instead having a balanced diet to fuel your body for swimming is essential for success.

Solution: Find an expert in nutrition and adjust dietary habits to set up a healthy plan for body composition improvements and a successful off-season swimming training period.

6. Improve Athleticism: Biomechanics are tough in swimming. This is why many coaches make a nice side business providing excessive swim lessons. However, barking orders on the pool deck at swimmers who don't know how to coordinate their body is like shoving the block through the circle peg! Therefore, improving athleticism, motor control, and coordination is essential on land to help the swimmer learn how to move their body in the water. If a swimmer knows how to control their body on land, it is likely they can manipulate their strokes in the water, correcting any stroke deviations in the pool and increasing swimming success.

Solution: Don't waste your money on lessons when you don't have the tools for improvement in the water, learn how to use your body out of the water by improving athleticism and make quicker stroke corrections in the water. Find a strength and conditioning specialist to formulate a well-balanced dry-land program, focusing on learning a variety of movements and control through these various motions.

7. Increase Relative Strength: Contrary to other sports, the strongest athlete (absolute strength) doesn't win. However, the strongest athlete for their body size (relative strength) is helpful for success. Being strong on land has not been correlated with swimming success, but being able to maximize force production while minimizing drag is essential for swimming success. For example, throw a World's Strongest Men athlete in the pool and it is likely their sink like a rock. Therefore, improving one's relative strength is important for swimming success.

Solution: Find a strength and conditioning specialist who understands the difference between absolute and relative strength and work on improving strength per size.

Summary
Once again, being fresh for the upcoming season is the primary goal of any off-season. However, if you're mentally and physically ready for the next season, try tips 2-7 for a successful off-season.

G. John Mullen is the owner of of the Center of Optimal Restoration and creator of Swimming Science. He received his doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California. G. John has been featured in Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, and the International Society of Swim Coaches Journal.

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