Over the course of my swimming career, there were always times during the season that I wanted to take a break. The temptation was always there, year after, especially during the holidays. Particularly in college, when a swimmer is home during break, and there are LOTS of things to do, it is very easy to push your training aside, and take a hiatus from swim training.
However, from personal experience and coaching observation, I have learned there can be no greater mistake during one's season to take an extended break from the water. Here are the top four reasons why-
1) Swimming is an adaptation-by this, I mean that swimming as a sport is unnatural. You use muscles in a specific way each time you swim-that way is very difficult to replicate on land. Some studies have shown that 1 week out of water for a seasoned swimmer can take as much of 4 weeks to regain the fitness that was lost during that break. So as a swimmer on holiday break, you must ask yourself: is 1 week of relaxation worth 4 weeks of pain?
2) Injury-for many college swimmers, after holiday break means a brief return to campus, followed by a week long training trip. On these trips (to typically warm, beautiful places), most swimmers will train 4+ hours a day. Needless to say, this volume of training puts A LOT of strain on your body. Coming into training trip out of shape many times can lead to injuries that could have easily been avoided if the athlete trained seriously during their time away from school. Going from no training to 4+ hours is never a good idea, and typically does little to no benefit for the athlete.
3) Illness-going off of reason #2, when a swimmer breaks down their bodies due to a combination of training volume and coming back to their team without training, it is very easy for the swimmer to fall ill once they return back from their training trip. Flu, colds, and viruses are always lurking, and a broken down body is a perfect opportunity for one of these illnesses to attack and have a pretty negative effect on the athlete's season.
4) Improvement-this reason is probably most important, but most overlooked. With all of the work put in between the start of a season (September) and the holidays, why wouldn't you want to continue to improve? Honing your skills, increasing your fitness, and getting FASTER should always be at the forefront of motivation for a swimmer. By taking time away from the pool, you are taking a step back with your training, but by training seriously with a club team during break, you are IMPROVING yourself, your racing skills, and your chances of reaching your goals.
This year is the first year Excel is offering winter break training for college swimmers. Our practices are geared towards the competitive college swimmer home for break who is looking to train with other collegiate swimmers and not just train to maintain, but train to improve. Anyone interested in joining our practices should email firstname.lastname@example.org!