Now that lockdown restrictions in England have eased many of us have either already been back in the water or are thinking of going for our first swim. Whilst it’s exciting to be swimming again, it’s tricky to know how to approach your first swim back, with events cancelled, training plans disrupted and worries about lost technique, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. But don’t worry – you won’t have forgotten how to swim! If you’re an experienced swimmer, those thousands of repetitions will have forged their way into your nervous system and you may find that your stroke hasn’t deteriorated much at all whereas the less experienced may need to take some time to re-establish their confidence, good stroke habits and re-develop their feel for the water.
As ever, it’s crucial to follow safe outdoor swimming and current Government guidelines, you can find the latest guidance here https://www.swimming.org/openwater/covid19-guidance-open-water-swimmers/
It’s tempting to rush back in and go all out to make up for lost time once you hit the water but your aim for your first swim should be simply to enjoy yourself! Don’t even think about missed training, cancelled events or lost technique, just remember how fantastic being in the water feels and allow yourself to relax, de-stress, have fun and just swim!
Once you’re swimming more regularly it’s important not to put pressure on yourself to ‘get back to where you were’ in terms of distance or speed too quickly. You may find it harder to stay relaxed, to maintain your stroke or you might find yourself swimming more slowly – this is normal and to be expected but take care to build back up gradually. Remember that even though swimming is low impact it’s still possible to overdo it and end up with an injury, particularly after a break. Start with swimming shorter distances than you were used to before lockdown so if you were swimming 60 minutes before, maybe start with some short 20-30min swims to remind your body what it feels like.
Use these shorter swims to scan through your stroke and see what feels good and what doesn’t. See if you can notice where you feel off balance or tense or where your movement isn’t so good and use some focal points from your ‘toolbox’ to help get back on track.
A great way to regain your feel for the water is to go right back to basics – begin by working on posture – check in with Torpedo, is your head relaxed? Core engaged? Feeling tall? Move on to Superman to re-establish your balance and then work through the more advanced efficiency, streamlining and breathing skills. You’ll soon find your stroke coming back together.
Most of all though, just enjoy the water. It’s been a tough time for everyone, for many of us being in the water is about so much more than swimming and above all else, we’re just very grateful to be back.