The plateau. We’ve all been there.
Whether it’s swimming, running, or dieting.
The moment when you stop making progress or stop seeing results.
You feel frustrated. Doubtful. Stuck.
If you’re hitting a plateau, you’ve probably done a great job of training your body up to this point. It’s not challenged anymore. But don’t give up.
You can break the cycle with just a few quick tips!
It’s all mental, and it happens to everyone at some point. The only thing you can do is recognize that something needs to change. Once you accept that you’ve hit a plateau, you’re ready to fix it!
tiverylucky image via Freedigitalphotos.net
Sometimes the best thing that you can do for your body is to let it rest and recover. It might need physical rest from the pool. Give it some time to recover from pushing so hard.
Cuteimage via Freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by Aly Levine
Sometimes swimming is boring. You’re in the water alone with your thoughts, lap after lap. Maybe all you need is some motivation and a change of pace.
Try bringing friends to the pool who are just as enthusiastic about swimming as you are.
Join a team or a club.
Surrounding yourself with others who value swimming and get excited at the pool will help you feel that way again. Happiness and excitement are contagious.
You will be joining a support network of people who share similar interests and struggles. Who knows, maybe some of them also feel like they’ve hit a plateau and you can discuss strategies to overcome it. They may be able to share techniques and tips that you haven’t thought of.
Another benefit of peer swim groups is the added motivation of competition, so if that’s something that motivates you then it might be beneficial to join a team.
If you’ve primarily just been swimming lap after lap, maybe it’s time to add some spice to your pool time!
Find a pair of fins, a kick-board, or hand paddles.
There are lots of tools that allow you to focus on toning specific parts of the body.
A kickboard, for instance, allows you to increase strength in your legs without having to worry about arm technique.
Hand paddles will fall off if you aren’t moving your hands through the water with proper technique, which forces you to closely examine your arm movements.
Using swim gear to focus your energy on specific muscles or techniques will break up the monotony of your usual workout, as well as helping to add a fresh spin to your swimming style.
Maybe you’ve been so worried about swimming two miles each day that you failed to notice that your arms were getting a little lazy. Breaking down each stroke with the help of some extra gear might be that extra kick you need to get right back on track!
Diet is a large part of any exercise regime. Have you been slacking off at the dinner table? Having too many fries or burgers? There’s nothing wrong with a little junk food once in a while. But science has a pretty good idea of what the ideal swimmer’s diet is and it doesn’t include Burger King.
First, make sure you are getting the right ratio and kind of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your diet. Although you need all three, there are healthy and unhealthy types in each category.
Carbohydrates should be whole-wheat or brown rice based, and processed foods should be avoided.
Proteins should be lean, high-quality meat (such as chicken, turkey, and fish), eggs, or beans.
Fats should come from foods such as avocados, nuts, and olive oil. Fats give the most energy per gram consumed, but unhealthy fats will slow you down.
In general, processed foods are less healthy while fresh, unpackaged foods tend to be more nutritional, so cooking for yourself will help control the nutrients that you are consuming.
It also helps to plan meals in advance so that you aren’t stuck with something unhealthy at the last minute.
Land workouts such as weight-training or running can also make a huge difference in lap times.
Although swimming is a great workout, there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned weight-lifting to increase muscle mass, coordination, and endurance.
Weight-lifting has been proven to be as beneficial to endurance athletes as to power athletes. It remodels your muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. Cool!
Why would you not want those benefits???
On top of how much it can contribute to your fitness, it’s so much fun! And it’s a great way to quantify your success, as you continually lift heavier and heavier weights.
Even just doing two weight-training sessions a week can have a huge impact on your swimming endurance and power.
It might just be the boost you need to push you over the hump.
Neon Tommy Photo via Flickr
Do you swim the same set every day?
Or maybe you change it up, but only have a few sets that you rotate through.
Or maybe you swim whatever you feel like, but you’re just sick of the water.
Try not to think of the pool as somewhere you go just to work out.
Join a water polo team, give swimming lessons, or learn how to dive. Try new activities to help you remember how wonderful it is to be able to move through the water when you swim. It’s amazing, really.
Swimming isn’t just a means to an end. It’s a lifestyle, a way of escaping the world. Even when you get through this, there will always be another hump. But that’s life!
Be proud that you powered through this plateau and when another one comes along, you’ll be ready for it!
Do you have any tips that worked for you when you hit a plateau? We’d love to hear about your experiences!