Restart swim training

After a longer interruption, whether a voluntary break or involuntary due to closed swimming pools, it is not easy to start again. The hard-earned fitness is almost gone and the feeling for water seems to have completely disappeared.
But that will change quickly and with the right training you will be back to your previous level in no time!
Here are our best tips and three training plans for the restart.

Return to swim training

The first time in the water feels pretty strange, at least for me. Like I’ve never swum. No matter how motivated I am.

But from my years of experience as an active swimmer and swim coach, I know that it doesn’t take long for the feeling for the water and the performance to come back. You develop the capabilities you already had much faster than when you start a new sport. Because it is much easier for your body to adapt through these familiar stimuli.

Here are the best tips from my experience when it is time to get back into swimming training. We also provide you three training plans to make your return to swimming as easy and effective as possible.

Let your feeling guide you, not training zones

When you start swimming again you will probably be slower than the last time you were in the pool but with the right training you’ll progress quite quickly.

It’s common to set training zones and targets for intervals based on CSS or time trial results. When you start to train now with your „old“ zones and target speeds you’ll probably will swim too fast for your current fitness level. You either have to slow down during the set or won’t be able to complete it, stress your body too much or, even when it doesn’t feel that worse it’s not better, you miss the goal of the session.

Of course you could do a new CSS / Threshold Test, but first of all it is not very fun when you’re not in shape and second, because you will progress very quickly in the first couple of weeks you have to test vey often which doesn’t make a lot of sense as well.

Instead I would recommend to go by feel. You probably know how a Zone 3, 4 or 5 effort feels like, right? Let your feeling guide your effort while swimming. But keep in mind, that the first meters always feel easy, no matter what pace you swim at!

Check the pace watch

That might sound counterintuitive to what I just wrote about swimming based on perceived effort. But it’s not!

Usually the perceived effort increases over time, when we keep the tempo constant. But in a set of intervals or a continuous swim, we do not want to slow down. To „calibrate“ your feeling, I recommend to use a pace watch. Just check if the times for ever interval or 100m are the same, if you want to swim at a constant speed.

So it’s not about hitting a certain time, it’s just to avoid a drop-off in your tempo when the perceived effort increases. 

Concentrate on form, not drills

While the time off from swimming you will have lost some of your swimming fitness. But not your ability to swim!

Instead of starting like a beginner with endless drills, focus more on swimming with good form (start at an easy to moderate pace). I am not saying that drills are useless in general, but they are useless to develop swim specific endurance.

Assuming that you have limited time to train in the pool, use the time as effective as possible. In particular during segments of easy or endurance swimming, you can focus on one specific thing that you know is crucial for you to improve your technique. No matter on what level you are, concentrate on one (!) aspect of your stroke that you want to adjust. Remind yourself over and over again in a positive way to do this little adjustment while you swim. 

Incorporate specific drills in your warmup. I tend to do just one or two drills that target specifically the aspect of the stroke I am currently working on and /or that help me to develop a good feel for the water.

Do not overdo it

Getting back in the pool certainly brings some excitement and new motivation.

Nevertheless, you should start training rather conservatively. Even if you have been very active during the “break” in terms of running and cycling and your general fitness level is solid.

You won’t have any advantage when your swimming is back on point in six weeks time but your shoulder hurts.

Build back up to your swimming volume you were used to over some weeks and do not try to make up the „lost“ time.

Training Plans

Here are our training plans for the return to swim training.

All plans go over 4 weeks. After that we will support you here with new plans!

With the code ‘RESTART’ you get your plan for free!

Have fun in the pool and enjoy swimming!

Let us know how you are doing with the plan and how to get into the swimming training. Tag us with @noack.sportsupport and share your experiences. 

For questions or individual training plans we are always there for you!

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Josephine Noack
Josephine Noack
I'm the head coach of noack sport support and sports-scientist. As an athlete, I compete in cross-triathlon, normal short-distance triathlon, MTB-Marathon, road crits, and cyclocross during the winter.

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