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How Young Swimmers Build Habits in the Winter

01/20/2016, 5:00am PST
By Kelvin Cech

 

It’s mid-January. In the lower mainland there’s more water falling from the sky than there is in the pools dotting the outdoor landscape. Further north, the only outdoor water to be found is encased in three inches of rock solid ice. 

So, swimming outdoors isn’t a reality just yet.

What about inside? Well, the problem for most youth swimmers is a big one, and it’s constantly getting in the way.

School. In the summer, most serious swimmers flock to different clubs or associations to work on their craft during the day. Well, most indoor pools are dominated by swimming lessons after school, so it’s hard for all but the most dedicated of swimmers to find pool time. Then, there’s the reality of other sports, like soccer and hockey. 

Man, there’s a lot of hurdles to cross if you want to swim during the winter. 

Which makes it the perfect time to build habits.

1. Mental Strength

The mark of every great athlete is the work they put in when no one is looking. Getting up at 5:30am for an hour in the pool before school is a necessary task if you want to stay sharp. 

But it’s not for everybody. For those dedicated enough to make it work, however, the hours before the sun comes up in the winter are distraction-free. The mind is fresh and un-bogged by the action of the day. 

In the dawn hours, all a swimmer needs to concern themselves with is the careful perfection of each stroke.

2. Pushing the Boundaries

The body and mind will always return to a place of comfort. Let’s take, for instance, the butterfly stroke. Performing this difficult action multiple times will create muscle memory, but to truly imprint the stroke on the body, swimmers need to push their limits in terms of speed and technique. 

Why? Because everything is more difficult when someone else is racing in the next lane. Because if you make practice more difficult, then the body will have an easier time focussing on performance when it counts. 

How do you push the boundaries?

  • Swim faster. 
  • Spend more time underwater. 
  • Spend more time in the gym. 
  • Eat better.
  • Expect more from yourself.

3. Aiming for Perfect Repetition

The first two areas mean nothing to habit-building if you’re not in the pool working on your form for hours on end. Our mental strength allows to perform repetitions. We push the boundaries in our repetitions to make those reps even stronger in the longrun. 

And even still, all those reps mean little if they’re not being performed to the best of an athlete’s ability. Anything less is a waste of time. 

Is it hard to be perfect all the time? Damn right, but it’s the process that counts. Working as hard as possible in the attempt at perfection is what build habits in the mind. The body will remember the action, but the mind needs to be taught how important it is to perform that action. 

That’s why coaches demand performance over and over again. Once they’ve seen proper form once, it’s their responsibility to ask for it again. 

And again. And again. 

Until performance becomes habit. Even if it’s cold outside. 

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