At the end of your career, it makes sense to step away from the pool for a bit. If you come back too quickly you might find yourself with your toes curled over the edge staring at the water for a good 10-15 minutes. You might build up the courage to jump back in with no expectations and swim a 25 just get out, like I did, or maybe you’ll just hit the hot tub.
Eighteen months out of the water.
Finally got back in.
Did a terrible 25 freestyle.
Got out furious.
It’s important to understand when and why you should come back to the sport in a casual or less casual way, otherwise, you might end up doing exactly what I did. Question is, how do you know when the right time is?
The short and easy answer is you won’t really know until you hit the water. As I’m sure you noticed from my introduction it’s a difficult thing to figure out, but you definitely don't want to, or need to, come back too soon. If you’re anything like me, when you finished up your time with the sport, you wanted to get as far away from it as you possibly could for the next who knows how long and maybe never swim again. That’s completely normal. Swimming is a brutal sport both mentally and physically, so no need to rush your return at all.
Eighteen months away wasn’t enough for me, so I stepped away again. After a few more months of heavy lifting, bulking and getting to the point where tying my shoes was tough I figured I’d give it another shot. The tips listed below are a little snippet of what has gotten me to the point where I truly enjoy swimming 6-7 days a week again.
Tips for getting back into it:
1) Go into your first month with zero expectations.
When I say zero expectations I really mean it. Swimmers are incredibly analytical and data-driven by nature. This typically leads to an obsession with that LED counting thing at the end of the pool we like to call a clock. “I used to crank 1:05s like it was nothing,” and, “I once did 4 800s on 9:00 and wasn’t even out of breath,” are some typical getting back into it phrases. Stay away from those.
2) Surround yourself with other people.
Swimming alone is beyond tough. Join a gym/pool that consistently has other people around to hold you accountable even though the reality is most of them don’t even know you’re there. One thing we tend not to realize is that we’re accustomed to being surrounded by a team, coaches, trainers, parents, and then BAM you’re in a gym dungeon pool with no one around. Not very motivating.
3) Set a distance, not a workout.
Setting a distance you’d like to go and taking the clock/timing aspect out of the equation helps a ton. Focus on your stroke, your feel and getting back into the pieces of swimming you really enjoy.
4) Do whatever you want…
If you’re a post-collegiate swimmer this can be really important. You’ve swam your entire career under the instruction of multiple coaches and are hard-wired to look at a piece of paper and produce results. Not anymore. You want to do only breaststroke? Cool, do that. You wanna do dolphin dives for 45 minutes? Weird flex, but okay.
5) When you’re ready, consider masters.
Seems pretty odd putting this one right next to the “do whatever you want” section, but once you give Masters swimming a shot, you’ll understand. It’s completely different than what you’ve been exposed to thus far in your career I'm sure. Accountability is a big deal.
Is today the day you take the plunge again?