By: Kris Goodrich
Certified USMS Level 1-3 Coach, Certified ASCA Level 1-2, BS Kinesiology
Getting Ready to Swim
Even though it’s been a little over thirty days since most pools in the country shut down, it feels like it has been months. The smell of chorine, the solitude of the water, the effort of a two-hour pool workout, the camaraderie of lane mates are all missing in our daily lives. Replacing them in our workout regimen are biking, hiking, running, and dry-land exercises which are keeping us in shape, but will we be ready for pool season when it opens back up? With many states starting to open on a limited basis and the hope of pools coming soon, how do we prepare to get back in the water?
Swim Workouts versus Quarantine Workouts
Unless you are a distance swimmer who thrives on the set of 5 x 1000, swimmers rarely do a workout for an hour without stopping at the wall. Swim workouts are designed around intervals, or rest breaks, and we train most of the season like that. Take us out of the pool and we are at a loss in how to design a workout. A lot of swimmers dusted off their bikes for the first time in years and are working their way up to longer workouts with higher mileage. Running and walking shoes came out of closets and daily long hikes, walks and runs to alleviate boredom and get out of the house are part of the new workout routine. While staying active during isolation is great, your method of training may play a large part in how ready you are to swim when you get back in the pool. When you are planning your cardio workout, are you keeping that in mind? What are your favorite swim events? Do you swim the 50 Freestyle or the 1650? Is your workout structured just like your swim in the pool or is it continuous? If it is, what are some options for changing it?
Interval training is any type of activity, whether swimming, biking, or running, that involves a series of higher intensity periods interspersed with either rest periods or lower intensity periods. Most swimming workouts are interval training and they can be designed to be aerobic (using oxygen) or anerobic (fueled by energy sources within your muscles). If you swim with a coach or even find a workout online, most workouts are designed for a specific purpose whether it be aerobic, mid-distance freestyle, or sprint IM. Without too much planning, there are several easy options to make your land workout an interval workout, much more beneficial, and get you ready to get back in the pool.
The word Fartlek is Swedish for speed play and if you like to train like this it can feel like you are playing! During any type of exercise, you go fast for as long as you want, then slow down to recover, and repeat. If you are out on a bike you could set a goal to ride fast to the end of the block, then recover for a block, and repeat. If your goal is to ride your bike for five miles, you can do this as much or as little during the workout as you want.
This workout is a little like playing but with more structure. You set your time periods for fast and easy and how many times during the workout you want to do them. For example:
Four times through: 10s Fast 10s Easy, 20s Fast 20s Easy, 30s Fast 30s Easy
The above set would take eight minutes to complete. You can modify it by going through more times, decreasing the rest, or adding on another time (40s Fast 40s Easy) as your fitness improves.
Swim Interval Based Training
Many of us have swam so many 50s we know our swim times and intervals without much thought. If you would normally do a set of 20 x 50 on the :55, try doing a cardio workout on the same interval. Increase your intensity for the same time as you would normally swim, and keep the rest or recovery period the same as well. You may find it quite challenging at first! If twenty is too many, you can start out with five or ten. Another option would be to increase the recovery period until your training improves.
Although biking, running and walking seem to be the most popular alternatives to swimming there are other great options to increase your intensity and add variety. If you have access to a jump rope, any of these interval training ideas can be done with a jump rope. No jump rope? Jumping jacks and their many variations will get your heart rate up as well. Based on your mobility and physical limitations, burpees and mountain climbers are dry-land exercises that need no equipment and can be done anywhere – even when you are out for a walk!
Things to consider
If you are thinking about adding one of these interval training components to your workout, make sure you have properly warmed up before increasing intensity. Think of it as your ‘main set’ after finishing the warm-up set. Also, remember that your heart rate is higher on land than in the water so monitor your intensity or perceived exertion as you continue your workout. If you are trying to mimic your 100 Freestyle, how do you feel during a hard set of 100s? Active recovery will keep your blood flowing and oxygen returning to all your muscles. Don’t forget to warm-down at the end of each workout with a period of slower intensity. Stopping and standing after periods of intense exercise can sometimes lead to dizziness so use caution if you are prone to experience this.
No matter what we do that first day in the water will be both frustrating and exhilarating. Our feel for the water and time we spent training over previous months will be lost. Hopefully, we can maintain our cardiovascular fitness, heal any lingering injuries, grow in our social friendships and best of all gain a new appreciation for the sport we all love.