Staying Fit in August

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Photo Courtesy: CrossFit Fever

By Will Manion, Swimming World College Intern

It is just about that time of year again! It’s a swimmer’s only true off season, though it only lasts a few short weeks. With USA Swimming offering a multitude of taper meets wrapping up in late July and early August, competitive swimmers find themselves without a strict training regimen for about a month before returning to club and collegiate swimming programs. While physiological responses to training take weeks to years to establish, the effects of detraining become apparent within days, and exponentially increase over the initial couple weeks. While I have never strictly swam the entire month of August, I incorporate different activities into my travel and days at home to ensure I am still maintaining an active lifestyle.

No Swimming Pool, No Problem!

Depending on your location during the month of August, finding pool availability can be somewhat difficult. Further, many swimmers use this time to make a trip or vacation, isolating themselves from swimming options. If you’ve ever tried to do a workout in a 15-meter hotel pool, you understand my frustration! At the very least, it is important to stay active. While swimming daily is not a must, you can slow detraining by expending energy utilizing cross training or other recreational activities.

Local Recreational Opportunities

For those staying near home during the month in August, look into intramural sports offered by your personal gym or other local fitness centers. I have picked up volleyball the past two summers in an effort to mix up my physical activity. On top of that, I enjoy maintaining an active lifestyle by attending events with nature-oriented organizations. Many outdoor shops offer guided kayak tours, hiking trips, and backpacking opportunities. Taking advantage of something that encourages physical activity during the month of August will keep you in better shape than lounging around.

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Photo Courtesy: Local Fitness

William and Mary Head Swimming Coach, Matt Crispino details his recommendations for the month of August:

“During a break, I have two hopes for our swimmers. First, I hope they can continue strength training. Though a break from the pool is great, fewer people crave a break from the weight room. Assuming you stopped or cut back your strength training during taper, the mid-August break is a good time to get back into the weight room. Following a program set by your strength coach, put in some solid lifting to prepare you for the Fall. Second, stay active. Get your heart rate up everyday! Choosing to spend the month of August in a sedentary state will not set you up for success. Any type of recreational fitness activity is a great way to offset some of the training losses incurred during the break. There are too many possibilities to list.”

Caloric Intake

For most swimmers, this is a non-variable during peak training. I can eat just about as much as I want when I’m in training mode. However, when physical activity backs off, so does your metabolism. Staying in shape is just as important from a physical activity standpoint as it is nutritionally. A quick internet search will unveil calorie calculators that can help you determine how much energy you are expending throughout the day and how your diet should accommodate that expenditure.

Returning to Swimming: The Right Way

After spending some time off, you will know within just a few days of reestablishing your training how your body fared over the past month. You may find yourself overly sore or the water might feel entirely different. If you did continue to exercise in one form or another, you will be able to return to a higher training level sooner than the person who napped away the month of August.

Swimming, which relies so heavily on cardiovascular function, can certainly be benefited by activities that work the heart into beating faster. Don’t get me wrong: returning to the sport will result in some shakiness as your body tries to reinstate the ever important muscle memory swimmers have built up over years, if not over a decade, of training. However, participation in an intramural sport will keep your cardiovascular system healthy.

Jul 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Kelsi Worrell , Katie Meili , Natalie Coughlin and Allison Schmitt of the United States celebrate after winning the women's swimming 4x100m medley final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

Returning to Swimming: the Wrong Way

It’s hard to compare the feeling of taking time off from swimming, completely detraining, and then returning to the pool for your first warm up. The swim cap plastered to your head feels weird, the pool looks as if it must be twice as long as it really is, and you feel as if you are sinking with every additional stroke. Taking off time from the sport and all other physical activities is the worst thing you can do leading into your collegiate, club, or high school season.

The amount of training required to get you feeling good and fast in the water again will take weeks. This can be particularly stressful for both the athlete and coach. Collegiate swimmers have lofty obligations outside of the pool. The pressure of preforming in the classroom is constant. Lacking an adequate training base and then jumping into a swim season results in a sore and overtired lifestyle outside of the pool. Academics can certainly suffer if you are not physically prepared for the demands of your coaches, team, and practice.

The Goal:

Enjoy the break from the pool, but remember the importance of staying in shape. Look for opportunities to maintain physical activity while enjoying yourself. Try something new and exciting! This way, the start of your swimming season will be productive and enjoyable. Coach Crispino nicely sums up how his ideal athlete would prepare for the swim season, “the beauty of swimming is this — if you work hard, work correctly, and work consistently, the sport is cumulative. The work you did last year and two years ago will help you swim fast this season. And the work you did this summer, if you play your cards right, will help you even further down the road.”