In this guest blog post, MySwimPro community member Ann Browett shares how she got back into swimming after her home country of New Zealand lifted its COVID-19 lockdown. At the time this blog was published, New Zealand was in Phase 1 of reopening and most businesses were back to normal operations, while the country’s borders remained closed.
What’s it like getting back in the pool after a prolonged forced lockout from our favorite place? Interesting, different, nice, exciting, fun, exhilarating and exhausting.
The emotions of the lockdown changed my daily activities, behavior and patterns somewhat and I was, at times, discombobulated by what I (and my family) was experiencing. There was an underlying level of anxiety and uncertainty, with all the unknown and unprecedented things going on.
Missing the Pool
About 4 weeks into lockdown, I started to really miss swimming in the pool and the sea. We were at the height of our summer and swimming events when the pandemic hit and shut everything down.
Being part of the MySwimPro global community on social media really helped me stay positive. When the World Swim Gala was held, I got up at 5:45am to join in! It was so motivating to listen to Rowdy and Kaitlin and such fun to be part of a world first event!
Related: How to Lose Weight Swimming
I was getting tired of all the walking around the local area. As I am lucky enough to have a pool in our backyard, I was inspired to do some pool stuff. My pool is 16 meters long, so I had to be a bit creative to keep up the enthusiasm! But then, coming into our autumn, with its cooler and not so sunny days, the pool became a less inviting option so I stopped.
I swapped some of my walking for cycling, knowing that keeping aerobically fit is good too. I had my daughter’s purple cruising bike with some gears. I would have looked better wearing a flowing skirt with a flower in my hair rather than my bike shorts and helmet! It worked well enough and I was riding about 15km each time, which, as it turned out, was on the days I would normally have gone to the pool.
Phase 3: Back to the Sea
At level 3 of the lockdown, I was able to get back to some sea swimming with my daughter. We were able to drive about 10 minutes to one of our favorite city beaches where the water temperature was still suitable for a wetsuit. Swimming in the sea is a special and very enjoyable treat for me. We swam 2-3 times a week, and depending on the conditions did anywhere from 1 to 3.5 kilometers.
Phase 2: Triumphant Return to the Pool
Then along came level 2 of the lockdown, and our pool opened. Time to get back to another normal, and to see like-minded people (all from a distance of course) and start pool training!
It was a bit of a shock really. Even though I had been able to do some sea swimming, the pool is such a different environment. Buoyancy for one! No longer did I have the sea and wetsuit to support me and smooth the waters. I felt like I was dragging myself through those first few 50-meter laps. I was definitely not as fit as I thought was following my sea swim efforts and my cycling. Distance training does nothing for speed, but does build endurance!
How I Structure My Training
I remember Rowdy saying at the gala, that for every day you do not swim, it takes about half a day to get your feel for the water back. So if you’re out of the water for 2 weeks it will take 1 week to get back, and for 3 months off it’ll take 6 weeks.
I was out of the water for about 4 weeks, so I planned to ease back into my training over the course of 2 weeks.
Focusing on Technique
I decided that working on technique was a good start. I use the technique videos in the MySwimPro app a lot to look at the different drills that help with my form. For example I do drill sets that work on my stroke such as the zipper and catch-up drills. They make you think about what your arm is doing, elbow height, stroke recovery, hand entry and exit.
Other drill sets looked at rotation and breathing, such as the single arm freestyle drill. Rotation during freestyle and backstroke makes you more streamlined as you move through the water. The video on this is most helpful and shows you how to engage first the hips then the shoulders while keeping your head still, except when you need to breathe of course!
Related: How to Get Back in Swimming Shape
My favorite drill, by far, is silent swimming. When I first came across the silent swimming drill in the MySwimPro workouts, I was a bit skeptical. But it has turned out to be one of the best swimming tips for me. It takes time to understand why and how you should do this, but once you do, there’s no going back.
At the end of my sessions, I incorporate silent swimming along with an “elevensies” catch-up drill; this is when the hands are held at 11 and 1 o’clock, while stroking each arm separately. You really have to slow your pace down to get the benefit of both silent swimming and catchup; to feel the water, listen to how it moves over your head, your hands, your body, notice your breathing and what your arms are doing. It makes you aware of everything your body needs to do to swim!
When I started swimming again, I was surprised to discover how much strength I had lost in my arms and shoulders. My legs were fine due to all the walking and cycling I did during lockdown, but neglecting upper body work was definitely a disadvantage. So I have now added some dryland training into my schedule. I have also introduced paddles into my swims, but am careful not to over use them.
Using fins is always fun, too. It’s a good workout and when needed, helps me focus on a drill while not struggling to keep moving forward. Putting them on after not wearing them for 8+ weeks was really weird! I didn’t feel like I had them under control initially, however that feeling has passed as I enter my 3rd week of pool training.
Related: 8 Benefits of Swimming with Fins
After a few weeks back in the water, I have my feel of the water back and my swimming muscle memory is returning. Next I plan to work on building speed, strength and endurance again. The one thing I do know about getting back into the water after an extended period away is that there is nothing like swimming to get and keep you fit. Good thing I love it!
Have you been able to get back in the pool? What are the pandemic restrictions like where you live? Share in the comments!