It’s that time of year again where you’re probably celebrating some good race results, whether that’s a good Age Group position, your first M Dot, a personal best time or simply getting to the end of the race in one piece!
Use this post season time to reflect on your performance this season. This should include looking at where improvements have been made and considering what you feel you need to build on for next season, both in terms of athletic performance, technical performance and mindset. A huge part of reflection is looking at where you have come from and rewarding yourself for that success.
Honesty with yourself is the best starting point of self assessment. Did you look after yourself well? Did you optimise your training, over train or slack off? What areas of your training were strong, what areas have been neglected? Areas such as nutrition, mindset and strength, conditioning and flexibility can be considered here. Also, it’s worth looking at your performance network, inclusive of coaches, community, physios, massage therapists etc. Could this add value next year?
If you’re a triathlete, chances are you’re thinking of going longer, perhaps from Sprint to Olympic Distance next season. Pure open water swimmers, you might be planning your holiday to an exotic open water swim location.
When planning your goals for next season you should be realistic with yourself. Can you really play Super Dad, hold down a stressful full time job, train 20+ hours a week for an Ironman and not get divorced in the process?
When you’ve established what race/s are realistic, enter them in good time and start setting your medium term goals. We’ve all heard of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based) but do you actually set goals with this in mind?
Ultimately you want to swim a set distance faster, so your SMART goal could be to achieve a 5 second reduction in CSS time in three months, from 1:40 to 1:35 / 100m for example. Test this with a regular monthly Critical Swim Speed Test (CSS Test) to measure your improvement in threshold speed (a fine predictor of race day swim split performance). Or if numbers aren’t really your thing, a simple distance time trial would do the trick such as 400/750/1500m to measure your improvement in performance. Setting these little tests act as a motivator in themselves, as you have shorter term achievements which keep you engaged in your training to help you achieve your longer term goal.
So you’ve entered your race, now what improvements do you need to make in the next 12 months to achieve your goals? It’s probably a combination of small things that will unlock your future potential, so let’s not just focus on ‘technique’ over the winter, let’s make improvements in your three keys: technique, fitness (endurance/threshold/speed) and OW skills simultaneously and consistently.
If you are swimming three times a week we suggest you hit this sort of routine:
1x Technique orientated session
1x Endurance biased session with longer steady paced swim sets
1x Quality session working on your threshold speed
Each of those sessions will contain a little of the 3 elements technique/fitness/open water skills, but the amount of each will vary between the sessions. For a little extra help with this you might want to follow our training plans, suitable year round not just for the few weeks leading up to your A race.
Now obviously if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere swimming in the open water this time of year might be more of a challenge, so include your key open water skills such as drafting and sighting in your Club swims or buddy up for your individual swim sets to keep those skills rehearsed. There’s no use tuning up your technique and fitness only to let the opportunity to swim on a faster swimmers’ feet drift away or zig-zag your way to the end of the course swimming further than you have to.
You have the luxury of time now to reflect, assess, plan and improve. Follow these tips and come race season you’ll be the most prepared you have ever been, deliver your best and have a really RAPID race.
Hope that helps!
Ali : )