Welcome to my first English blog and my new blog series: #StayFit. I am going to tell you how I stayed fit the last period and also how I am going to become more fit within the next weeks. In Holland most swimmers can’t swim in the pool (exceptions for prof athletes from the National Federation) up until at least the 19th of May 2020. Some say (and actually do) jump in open water, but that is only an option with a wesuit. I am going to share my opinion how you can stay fit, become stronger and invest, without swimming for after this special situation. Every swimmer may take advantage of this blog series to make a big jump before we can actually jump in the swimming pools again. Read along to find out about the how and why and the possible advantages and disadvantages according to me.
StayFit without swimming – summary
The opportunities that I see
- Mental and physical recovery for next swimming season
- Invest in your points of improvement
- Become stronger with alternative sports
Situations I have to tackle
- Specific swimming endurance diminishes
- Reduced feeling on the water
- Too less attention to swimming muscles
Now I am going to explain every opportunity in more detail. In the next blogs of #StayFit you’ll hear how I train myself at the moment and therefore use all of the opportunities.
Every opportunity and obstacle explained
Opportunity 1: Mental and physical recovery for next swimming season
Opportunity 1 is the most important to me. Mental and physical recovery for the upcoming season, what do I mean with this? And why do I think this is so important? As a (pro) athlete you are almost 50 weeks a year fully commited to your sport. You work towards that one important race of the year or towards your personal goals. Almost everyday you say no to something (small) in life. Not hanging out with friends or going to bed late. Professional sports is a ‘lifestyle’ which requires a lot of sacrificing.
In Holland we have no official races until at least the 1st of September 2020. Right now, this gives us the time to mentally recover from everything you have given for your sport. You don’t have to wake up at 05.00AM to go to the swimming pool. You don’t have to go to bed at 10.00PM or earlier. Training twice a day for two hours is also less relevant. There are no races and therefore we aren’t ‘obligated’ to swim everyday: I say enjoy this feeling. We have the time to recover mentally. Give our body more rest. Recharge our battery and then when the first races are coming go for it with 200% effort.
Opportunity 2: Invest in your points of improvement
Everyone has his own points of improvement. Opportunity 2 focusses on this points. Everyone always has something to improve, no matter how good you are. I also have those points which I want to improve, only we don’t always have time for them during regular periods of training. I have decided for myself that now is the time to work on my points of improvement.
My most important point is making my legs stronger. As an openwaterwimmer your arms are the most important to push the water away. Although, there is one moment in the race where your legs are even more important: at the finish. To provide a maximum effort (and speed) when swimming towards the finish plate the work of your legs are essential. Because I don’t have to swim now, I have decided to make my legs stronger. And now I have plenty of time for that.
Opportunity 3: Become stronger with alternative sports
I have written a previous blogpost (in Dutch) where I am telling everyone that I am busy doing other sports. I am convinced this only makes me stronger. This is opportunity 3. Not only is it fun to do something else, it also motivates me very much. At every sport I am doing I have improved myself a lot. For exampe when I started running my average speed was almost 6 minutes a kilometre. Nowadays, I am doing 5 minuts a kilometre at an easy pace. This makes everything a little easier, also when training alone. Set new goals for yourself and keep going. The other sports I am doing right now are: running, cycling, skipping, high intensity interval training and extra strength training. I will highlight every one of these sport (and their advantages) in my upcoming blogs.
Obstacle 1: Specific swimming endurance diminishes
It is general knowlegde that the endurance of swimming isn’t the same used as in running or any other sports. When we are not swimming for a longer amount of time this definitely has effect on our swimming endurance. Don’t expect some super fast 100m-times the first time you’ll jump in the water again. We can tackle obstacle 1 by keeping our main endurance at a high level.
The fitter you are, the faster you can switch from one sport to another. I am going to try to keep my fittnes level as high as possible with my alternative sports. We use our aerobic system most of the time as an openwaterswimmer. This is also called the oxygen-rich energysystem. You know you are training in your oxygen-rich energsystem when your heartrate is rather low. When I am exercising I want to improve my areobic condition, that is the main base and that has to be at a good level to easily switch to swimming. The better my aerobic condition, the easier I switch back to swimming.
This means, my hearthrate during exercise is most of the time low, to improve my base fitness. In the next blogs I’ll tell you how you can improve this.
Obstacle 2: Reduced feeling in the water
Obstacle 2 is a tough one, but not impossible to tackle. Feeling in the water is a bit fague, but that is the feeling when you push water away. If you feel that you can push the water away easliy, than your feeling in the water is good. If you experience that you don’t catch any water, then your feeling in the water can be improved.
Without swimming it is hard to maintain this particular feeling. However, we can think for ourselves how it felt to push the water away. And my tool to get a hold on this feeling is to write this feeling down as notes. Read it before you jump in the water again. So, before I jump in I am definitely going to read all about it. Even if you think about swimming and your swimming stroke (visualisation), you tackle this obstacle.
You can also choose to jump in the openwater if it is allowed in your country. I didn’t choose for this, because it is too cold to swim without a wetsuit. A wetsuit also alters your swimming style. So for me, this is a time without swimming.
Obstacle 3: Too less attention to swimming muscles
The last one but not the least important: we have to pay attention to muscles particular for swimming. You can tackle obstacle 3 by training every muscle in your body. Swimming is a sports where you use a lot of muscles. A good core stability is important; the muscles in your back has to remain strong. Your arms and your legs as well. Don’t forget the flexibility we need for swimming and we have a whole package of things we have to focus on.
Every alternative sports has it’s own advantages for swimming, but also potential disadvantages. For instance, running causes stiff calves and ankles. Especially the ankles are important to us as swimmers. For kicking they have to stay flexible so I make sure they stay that way by stretching them a lot. It is important for us to keep track of those things.
Next week another blog
I have discussed all fo the opportunities and obstacles so that’s the end of this blog. Just like I said earlier: in the next blogs you’ll read how I train and how I reach my full potential with this. You can use this blog series to your own advantage and as a base for your own alternative trainings. This way you’ll only become stronger and more fit at the start of your next swimming race.
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