SWIMMING CONDITIONING DURING LOCKDOWN
Written for IISA GB
Swim training through a National Lockdown is difficult, pools are closed and unless you are fortunate to live close to some open water, swimming is impossible - but that does not mean you cannot train. Our body is designed to work as an integrated unit, one of the issues we face as swimmers is that we do not always train and develop a total-body functional fitness.
Sport at all levels has changed, Strength and Conditioning (S & C) is a fundamental aspect of progress. Introducing strength training and conditioning into your normal training program will help enhance your swimming and prevent injuries. Now is the perfect time to work on areas that, when we are able to swim, we will neglect. Dryland training can be used to develop strength, balance, coordination and range of movement (flexibility) and a base fitness that we can transfer into the water...when we are allowed to swim again!
“Be general in your foundations so you can be specific in your goals”, Ross Edgley, 2018.
We are not able to currently work on our sport specific skills (swimming) but, regardless of your swimming background, journey or ultimate goal, you are able to develop your base fitness (your foundation) - the fitter you are, the stronger your foundation is to develop and build a swimming machine.
There are 6 key stages (don’t worry - some are simple!) I recommend you integrate to your weekly plan to develop a strong foundation.
1) Movement Quality Training 2) Flexibility and Mobility 3) Strength and Power 4) Injury Reduction and Rehabilitation 5) Metabolic Conditioning 6) Recovery and Regeneration Nick Grantham, 2015.
The stages are simple to incorporate into a weekly plan and do not necessarily require any equipment (although I would highly recommend a resistance band).
Movement Quality Training focuses on developing coordinated skillful movements that provide the platform for all exercise - you need your body to function as a whole, just like when you swim.
Flexibility and Mobility will develop your Range of Movement (ROM). This area is one of the most forgotten aspects in all sports, especially for cold water swimming. Personally, this is my number 1 area to develop through lockdown. With all sports, you are programmed to stretch and
complete your flexibility work straight after the session, while the body is still warm. With cold water swimming, the body is not warm! Your number one goal after a swim is to warm up, you should also never stretch a cold muscle. Now is the perfect opportunity to develop your flexibility and mobility. There are a host of fantastic resources available online to support this. It can also provide an excellent mindfulness activity to end the day.
“Limits in functional flexibility can significantly impair the ability to move efficiently” Gambette, 2007.
Strength and Power would normally use a range of methods to develop the elements of strength, however, with gyms closed and access to equipment limited, now is the time to focus on strength endurance and reactive strength.
Injury Reduction and Rehabilitation - this is the stage that requires some personalisation. As we age, we all develop differently and have different physical demands. However, within the sport of swimming there are common injuries: ‘swimmer’s shoulder, ‘breaststroker's knee’ and lower back pain are the most common problem areas with the sport. Injuries ruin motivation - it is important you incorporate some injury reduction exercises into your program.
Metabolic Conditioning is developing the ability to tolerate workloads and produce effort for a desired length of time. This aspect is often undervalued within our sport - developing a strong foundation of general fitness (work capacity) means how hard you can work and recover from it. This is simple to train while not being able to swim; go for a walk, a jog, climb the stairs, skip or cycle. Aim to gradually increase the volume you complete - this is known as progressive overload.
Recovery and Regeneration is a simple stage!
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change” Charles Darwin.
Recovery and regeneration can also fuel your immune system. A fully functional immune system will allow you to train more over time and fight over illness. In order for your body to progress it must have a period of time to rest. Do not fall into the trap of ‘overtraining’ while in lockdown. It is easy to do, especially if you are working from home, but use this time to find balance. Your body will need the time to rest to allow time for training-based adaptations to take place.
In my professional opinion, a pandemic is not the time to feel pressure about swimming goals, use the time to focus on your foundation fitness, develop weaknesses and find other physical interests that will support your progress when we are allowed back in the water.