Blog

Everybody into the Pool

By Coach Ayesha Rollinson

Fall usually means one of two types of training cycles for multisport athletes in North America.  Some will continue to compete and focus on running or cycle cross. The second group may take time off and eventually start rebuilding their sport specific fitness.

Both groups should be using water workouts as part of their training and recovery.

For triathletes it is incredibly important to swim 12 months of the year.  Many elite swimmers never take time off out of the water. Losing your ‘feel’ (or proprioception) in the water happens more quickly in swimming than other sports so it is imperative that triathletes swim on a weekly basis.  I recommend that my athletes swim at least twice a week.  Swim workouts do not need to be hard or long during the fall season.  In fact, I would recommend quite the opposite.  The fall season is a great time to make technical changes to your stroke that you put off during the heavy training months. Investing time to get videotaped, either by a friend or coach, could ensure that you are putting your focus in the areas that will give you the biggest speed payback. If you train in a group setting, this is the time of year to drop down to a slower lane to reduce the pressure to swim fast.  This way you can concentrate on proper technique.  It is also the time of year to be the squeaky wheel and to ask your coach for help with your stroke.

For the athlete that chooses to do leg based races in the fall the pool should also be incorporated into their training plan as part of their recovery strategy.  Recovery is accelerated when it is active.  Blood is returned to the heart with the help of muscle contractions and by the chest’s ‘pumping’ action when breathing. Your veins are squeezed between your muscles when they contract and the blood is forced upwards towards the heart. The blood is prevented from returning due to gravity thanks to one-way valves in your veins.  Muscle movement results in a larger volume of circulating blood which means that more nutrients and oxygen are delivered to your tissues for repair.  Swimming and water running are two of the best types of recovery exercise because they increase muscle contraction and breathing rates without eccentrically loading leg muscles.  Eccentric exercises involve any exercise where a muscle is weight bearing in a lengthened position.  An example is the eccentric load on the hamstring when the foot strikes while running. The hamstring is in the lengthened position but it is bearing the weight of your body. Eccentric muscular-skeletal loading can further damage muscle tissue and delay recovery.  To best use swimming and water running as recovery strategies you should get to the pool within 24 hours of a hard leg workout.

The idea of heading to the pool to get wet may not be enticing when the weather starts throwing snow and rain at you.  Convince yourself to make the trip with the promise of a hot shower, a sauna or a steam bath after your session.  Bring a warm sweater, joggers and your warmest toque to snuggle into post practice.  However you motivate yourself to do it, get to the pool at this time of year. Your body will be the better for it.