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3 Crucial Off-Season Swimmer's Habits

09/10/2014, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Stay on top of your game when you're not in the pool this winter.


Picture this: you're high atop a mountain as the wind blows through your ears and the snowy air fills your lungs.

It's November, and you're a long way from British Columbia’s uber-competitive summer swimming season. 

For swimmers who competed in the BCSSA Regional Championships a month ago and provincials in Kamloops the weekend of August 16th and 17th, however, a life in the water is not one so easily left behind. 

One important habit of athletes during the swimming off-season is to stay away from the pool for an extended length of time. Sometimes when we’re as far as possible away from the sport we love, our passion is re-ignited and we’re reminded of the rewards we receive from that sport.

As the sky turns grey and the leaves turn yellow, take some time away from the pool and adopt these other three offseason swimming habits.

Eating Properly

In just a half hour of strenuous lane swimming, an athlete can burn up to 500 calories. Calories are the fuel that gives our body energy and lets us cope with the cardiovascular demands of swimming. According to Mike Samuels at Livestrong, male swimmers need 20 calories per pound of body weight while female athletes need 17 to maintain their weight. 

“Good sources of carbs include rice, potatoes, beans, peas and lentils.” - Mike Samuels

Carbohydrates should make up half of each meal, with the other half being devoted to proteins, healthy fats and vegetables.


Like any sport, time away from competition gives athletes the opportunity to make adjustments. 

Any time we adjust a vigorous training schedule, we’re reminded of the reasons we adhere to a certain schedule.

For example, training in the afternoon is a reality for many swimmers in junior high or high school. Well, what about training in the mornings before school? A competitive athlete might not want to try this switch in the weeks leading up to a provincial swim meet, but the offseason is ideal because the consequences are inconsequential.  

While making improvements to a routine, the offseason is also the right time to try new equipment. If swimmers in the 1930’s didn’t make improvements in their attire, then we’d be watching Michael Phelps slog through the water in baggy garbage bag-style trunks instead of today’s high-tech, water repellant fabrics that let athletes cut through the water like a shark. 

Here’s what you should be testing this offseason:

  • Swimsuits (length, material, cut)

  • Goggles

  • Swim caps

  • Schedule

  • Pre-event meals

Goal setting 

Maintaining focus during the competitive swim season is crucial to performance. 

Setting goals is as well, but that should be done before (and after) that season is underway. 

Use the offseason to:

  • identify weaknesses (specific strokes, body composition, techniques)

  • identify strengths (what went well this season?)

  • reflect

  • re-dedicate

Reflecting on a season of ups and downs helps athletes dedicate themselves to the challenges of the season ahead. Setting specific goals will guide your offseason training, from nutrition to sleep habits to dryland training. 


Even if you’re standing on top of Blackcomb Peak in January, you’re probably never that far from your passion. 

We’re only as strong as we want to be, and we’re our own motivation. Some of our greatest gains in our sport can be made when we’re not in full-on compete mode. Maintaining or improving your eating habits and your training schedule as well as setting goals can have a lasting effect when you hop back in the water beneath the sun in the spring.

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