Returning to the Water

Swimmers doing a workout in a pool
June 16, 2020

Mike Ricci


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Take a moment to be grateful for the opportunity to swim again! Likely there are new restrictions that will alter your swim as you knew it, but try to embrace what you can do versus lamenting what you cannot do. Share your enthusiasm for getting wet again! 

Before you jump back in the water, to regain your pre-break swim fitness, know that you need two weeks for every week you were out of the water.  Sorry to be the one to deliver the hard facts!  And on that mark, here are six things to be aware of as you return to a regular swim routine.

1. Start back with a slow progression and focus on technique. Running uses the 10% rule, I am okay with 20% for swimming. That means increasing your swim volume by 20% each week.

2. When you return to the pool, try to forget any bad techniques, and relearn the correct movement patterns. This is a great time to have your stroke analyzed by a coach or via video analysis.

3. Be patient. You cannot rush fitness. It will take time for your body to adjust to swimming again if you have maintained run and bike fitness that is a bonus as your body knows how to process glycogen and dispel lactic acid. 

4. Quality. Start back with easy swimming, mixing in critical drills, to reinforce the proper form.    

  • Sculling: works on hand control and feel of the water.
  • Swim with fists: works on using the forearm not just the hands.
  • Catch up: one pull at a time allows you to work on the high elbow hinge/catch and finish the stroke
  • 6 kicks-1pull: works on Kick efficiency, rotation, and proper body alignment

5. Frequency: swim every other day for a few weeks for 20-30 minutes versus 1 hour, 3 times a week. This allows you to work on drills and form without fatigue.  

6. Hold off "testing" Give yourself 2 weeks of swimming before you test how fast you are. Get your feel for the water and then give the following set a go:

  •  5x100 on base interval. Whatever your base* interval was pre-shutdown, add 5sec/100 and give the set ago.
  • If you made all 5, well done! Wait a week and add 1x100 until you are up to 10x100 on your base + 5 seconds.
  • Next, you drop back to 5x100 on your base interval and follow the same progression.  
  • *What is my base: your base interval in swimming is the fastest send-off you can hold for a set of 10x 100. This is my goto set for endurance. 

There will be ups and downs and aches and pains after a long break, but embrace the sore arms and shoulders! Stay healthy and swim with a smile.   

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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