Starting a new workout plan in any sport is tough. Swimming in particular hosts its own set of unique challenges. The goal of this post is to get you in the water (or at least more regularly) without ending up injured or suffering from excessive muscle soreness!
Related: 10 Reasons Why You Need To Try Swimming
Not only is injury and muscle soreness painful, but it can sideline you from future workouts for days or weeks on end, defeating the entire purpose of starting any swimming plan in the first place.
Fortunately, if you educate yourself prior to taking on a new swim regimen, you can avoid many of the most common mistakes swimmers make when diving in!
Related: How To Set SMART Goals
1) Doing Too Much Too Soon
It’s easy to get overly ambitious and bite off more than you can chew early on. Taking on too much too soon can be a recipe for disaster. You may think to yourself: “I used to swim 7,000 yards a day when I was 16, so half of that should be no problem!”. Do you remember what you felt like after those workouts? When’s the last time you did a swim that long? Or any swim for that matter?
“Soft tissue adaptation takes time and you can’t make your body adhere to your schedule,” explains Laura Bergman, a personal trainer at Fast Track Therapy in Merrifield, Virginia. “Starting your own training with plenty of time before your goal event gives you room to progress slowly, and allows time for a safe rate of adaptation.”
Even if you’re not planning on competing, practicing patience and slowly building into your workout plan is key to success. Coaches advise not to increase training volume by more than 10-20% per week.
That means if you currently swim 2x/week for 40 minutes each session. Next week, shoot for increasing your training from 40 minutes to 50 minutes or adding a third day to your weekly schedule. Don’t do both. Either increase frequency or increase training volume. Doing both within a short time frame is asking for failure!
Bonus Tip: Take Rest Days, As You Need Them!
2) No Consistency
Consistent action creates consistent results. I often see swimmers fail to reach their full potential, not as a result of their work ethic, but because they’re just not consistently in the water. Swimming regularly develops your illusive feel of the water. It’s difficult to explain the sensation of connectedness to the water, but training on a consistent basis can be a tipping point to becoming more efficient and seeing improved results in the pool.
3) Not Listening To Your Body
Tweaks or pinches are messages your body is sending you that something is wrong. There’s definitely a difference between discomfort and pain, and it’s essential to be aware of the difference between the two.
Some level of soreness and discomfort is going to happen no matter what. Most of the time, you’ll be able to recover from this in a day or two. If you ignore what seems to be extreme pain, then you’re more likely to end up with a full-blow injury. This type of scenario can derail you from pursuing your goals for weeks or months.
4) Poor Technique
Water is nearly 800x more dense than air, and requires an entirely different set of technical skills than any other land-based sport. For this reason, any flaw in form is magnified exponentially in the water.
Honing in on your technique is the best way to reach your potential and make the most of your time in the water. Improving your technique regularly can drastically improve your overall swimming efficiency, speed and confidence in the water.
Related: Why Technique Is So Important To Swimming Fast
5) Bad Equipment
Luckily swimming doesn’t require any fancy equipment like other sports, but there are some basics that can make a huge difference in training.
Suit: Most pools (I hope) require you to wear some type of swimsuit. For training purposes you should be wearing something skin tight. If you’re a guy, that could be a jammer or brief, and if you’re a girl, that could be a full body, racing suit, or two-piece. Minimizing drag is the key to swimming efficiently. Make sure your suit isn’t slowing you down!
Goggles: If you like to see where you’re going, you should invest in a pair of goggles. Beyond just seeing the bottom, wearing goggles allows you to focus on correcting head position, breathing, and your overall awareness in the water.
Cap: If you’re hair is long enough to get in front of your eyes, it’s time to wear a cap. At the top level, all swimmers wear caps because of the consistency in feel it provides and protection to your hair against the water’s chlorine.
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Related: 10 Steps to Swimming Smarter Freestyle