Mandeville Dolphins Swimming Club
Train to Win
Many swimmers feel they are experiencing a problem that most other swimmers do not - yet nothing could be further from the truth!
It may be very helpful to know a big secret - that a substantial number of swimmers go through the very same problems, all over the world - and they quite often experience these over and over again, sometimes even for years.
A frequent problem for all swimmers is hitting a plateau which often leads to many swimmers becoming demotivated and leaving the sport.
What is a plateau in swimming?
A plateau occurs when you stall out on progress despite continuing to do “all of the right things,” usually including eating right, exercising properly, getting adequate rest, etc.
It is the moment when you stop making progress. Stop seeing results. Stop improving your times, even with split seconds.
You feel frustrated. Doubtful. You feel you are stuck.
Swimmers are happier when they make progress. When they work hard for something and don’t see progress, they get unhappy.
If you’re hitting a plateau, you’ve probably done an excellent job of training your body up to this point. It’s not challenged anymore. But don’t give up.
So, how can swimmers break through a swimming plateau?
Here are some tips:
1. Acknowledge that you have hit a plateau and that it is a frequent problem for
Instead of fighting against the reality in which you find yourself, acknowledge that you have hit a plateau. It is a huge positive mental step forward. Why?
a. Once you accept that you’ve hit a plateau, you’re ready to fix it!
b. You will be able to focus on and invest your energy in a more positive way which will help you move through the plateau with greater ease.
c. Now take that positive energy. Harness it. You’re going to need it soon!
If you also acknowledge and realise that hitting a plateau is a frequent problem for all swimmers, it will help you deal with your reality better. You are not alone and swimmers who managed to push through the plateau have proven time and time again that you can also get through this temporary phase in your swimming career and then achieve greatness again.
2. Change your believe system
The main reason why a swimmer experiences a dry spell of Personal Bests (PB), assuming their strokes are technically correct, is simply due to the huge influence of subconscious belief. Negative beliefs cause the same negative result to recur, repeatedly (e.g. being stuck on the same time for ages / regularly losing to the same competitor / training great but slow times in the big meets etc), and this has caused many swimmers to give up the sport altogether in frustration.
A negative belief starts out as a simple negative thought, which is dwelled upon for some time. This repeated thought creates a new belief or ‘program’ within the subconscious for the body to follow.
The best way to overcome a negative belief in swimming is to stop it occurring in the first place! This means to never, ever dwell upon negative results. Sure, scan the bad swims for whatever information you may need to learn from them, but then, let them go, and move on - and this means, do not think about those swims again. As soon as you extract what you need to learn from that result, it becomes ancient swimming history. Finished, erased, gone forever - that result is now worthless and should never be given a thought again.
Extract the positive - then move on! It’s not a bad swim that decides your success or failure, it’s your reaction to that swim. So how do YOU react?
Do you examine it, learn from it, change your strategy and move forward (to ultimately succeed) - or do you wallow in misery and dwell on all the things you did wrong? This is the question you will face after every bad race, and your answer to it is very important to your future swims, meets and performances. Another fantastic way is to think how your favourite international swimmer would react in this situation - and the question is not difficult. They learn and move on, only to ultimately succeed later on.
3. Take a break
Sometimes the best thing that you can do for your body is to let it rest and recover. It might need physical rest from the pool, time to recover from pushing so hard.
Or it might need mental rest.
Does it still bring you joy? Do you look forward to your workout every day? While not every workout has to be exciting, you should enjoy getting in the water at least a few times a week.
If you feel like it is a chore to go to the pool, maybe you need to take a break. Let your body (and you) remember how much you love to swim. After a day or two you might be dying to get back in the water!
4. Assess your technique
One reason that you may have stopped making progress is your technique. Remember when Tiger Woods was suddenly bad at golf a few years ago? He was the reigning world champion and his coach told him to change his swing. So, he did. And he stopped placing in tournaments.
But then out of nowhere he started winning them all.
A slight change in technique may make the difference from good to best, but it takes courage. Patience. Faith. Perseverance. Even if you are confident in your swimming technique, it’s never a bad idea to have someone else look at it.
Ask your coach to watch your strokes and see if there’s anything that you can tweak to cut those few extra seconds off each lap.
5. Change your diet
Diet is a large part of any exercise regime. Have you been slacking off at the dinner table? Having too many fries or burgers?
There’s nothing wrong with a little junk food occasionally. But science has a pretty good idea of what the ideal swimmer’s diet is and it doesn’t include MacDonald’s.
First, make sure you are getting the right ratio and kind of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your diet. Although you need all three, there are healthy and unhealthy types in each category.
In general, processed foods are less healthy while fresh, unpackaged fresh foods tend to be more nutritional. It also helps to plan meals in advance so that you aren’t stuck with something unhealthy at the last minute.
6. Increased land training
Land workouts such as weight-training or running can also make an enormous difference in lap times.
Although swimming is a great workout, there’s no substitute for land training to increase muscle mass, coordination, and endurance.
On top of how much it can contribute to your fitness, it’s so much fun! It’s a wonderful way to quantify your success. Even just doing a couple of land training sessions a week can have an enormous impact on your swimming endurance and power.
It might just be the boost you need to push you over the hump.
7. Go for an open water swim
Yes, you love the pool. It’s safe, warm, clean, and there are LANE LINES so no one bothers you.
Swimming in a new environment refines new muscles when your body must compete with waves and currents. Not to mention that the pool can get boring.
Swimming outside helps you escape your comfort zone and the beautiful, shifting scenery should make your routine a little less monotonous.
Plus, you’ll probably end up swimming faster outside than you would be doing laps in the pool. And you won’t even notice because of everything else around you!
8. Have fun
Try not to think of the pool as somewhere you go just to work out.
Find interesting and fun thoughts to keep track of lengths. Focus on your technique.
Visualise yourself winning the next big event with each stroke.
While having fun in the pool isn’t enough to break the plateau, it may be enough to motivate you to work even harder. And if you work hard, you will be able to cut time off your laps in no time.
Swimming isn’t just a means to an end. It’s a lifestyle, a way of escaping the world. Even when you get through this, there will always be another hump. But that’s life!
Be proud that you powered through this plateau and when another one comes along, you’ll be ready for it!
Do you have any tips that worked for you when you hit a plateau? We’d love to hear about your experiences! Share your comments and tips with us?
US Master Swimming
Liezel van Rooyen