Shatter Your Swimming Plateau

Shatter Your Swimming Plateau

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!

10 Simple Ways to Break a Swimming Slump

10. Relax

meditation relaxation beach waterside
tiverylucky image via Freedigitalphotos.net

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!
Think about why you started swimming in the first place. The joy, the freedom, the sensation of water rushing along your body. Now take that positive energy. Harness it. You’re going to need it soon!

9. Take a Break

thinking considering questioning
Cuteimage 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.
Or it might need mental rest.
Does it still bring you joy? Do you look forward to your workout every day? While not every workout has to be exciting, you should enjoy getting in the water at least a few times a week.
If you feel like it is a chore to go to the pool, maybe you need to take a break.  Let your body (and you) remember how much you love to swim. After a day or two you might be dying to get back in the water!
If you feel happier on land, dreading that swim set or pool workout, it may be time to try running, biking or another form of exercise as a substitute. After all, life’s short and you should be doing what makes you happy!

8. Swim with Friends

swimming friends
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.

7. Assess Your Technique

Image source

One reason that you may have stopped making progress is your technique. Remember when Tiger Woods was suddenly bad at golf a few years ago?
He was the reigning world champion and his coach told him to change his swing. So he did. And he stopped placing in tournaments.
But then out of nowhere he started winning them all.
A slight change in technique may make the difference from good to best, but it takes courage. Patience. Faith. Perseverance. Even if you are confident in your swimming technique, it’s never a bad idea to have someone else take a look at it.
Find a coach, a swim buddy, or even video tape yourself swimming. Have a second pair of eyes watch your strokes and see if there’s anything that you can tweak to cut those few extra seconds off of each lap.

6. Try New Drills and Workouts

swimming coach
By LCpl Michael Guinto [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Often a plateau comes when your body has gotten so good at your routines that it’s no longer a challenge.
You’re stuck in your comfort zone and you aren’t pushing yourself anymore.
It can be hard to change a workout that’s so deeply entrenched in your everyday routine. But unless you break out of your comfort zone, you won’t swim any faster.
The great thing about swimming is that there are LOTS and LOTS of workouts that you can find online. It’s a very popular sport and past-time so trainers, swimmers, and coaches usually have different routines, workouts, and sets on their websites. All you have to do is look!
Not knowing any other routine is no longer a good excuse! Just Google it! You might be amazed at what a new swim routine will do for your lap times. Making a slight adjustment causes different muscles to be exercised, increasing overall strength.
This website is a great resource for lots of different swim workouts.  But really, if you explore online a little bit you should be able to find lots that fit your individual needs. Don’t be afraid to try something new.  It can make a huge difference!

5. Use Swim Gear

fins swimming gear

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!

4. Change Your Diet

salmon healthy food meal

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.

3. Increase Land Workouts


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.

2. Go For a Swim in Open Water

open water swimming lake
Jennifer C. image via Flickr

Yes, you love the pool. I get it. It’s safe, warm, clean, and there are LANE LINES so no one bothers you.
Would you be surprised if I told you that swimming in open water such as an ocean, lake, or reservoir can take your swim workouts to the next level?
Swimming in a new environment refines new muscles when your body has to compete with waves and currents.
Not to mention that the pool can get boring.
Swimming outside helps you escape your comfort zone and the beautiful, shifting scenery should make your routine a little less monotonous.
Plus, you’ll probably end up swimming faster outside than you would doing laps in the pool. And you won’t even notice because of everything else around you!

1. Have Fun

water polo
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 Slider 2

Or listen to music while you swim. You won’t even notice the laps going by as you jam out to your favorite songs or listen to audio books!
While having fun in the pool isn’t enough to break the plateau, it may be enough to motivate you to work even harder. And if you work hard, you will be able to cut time off your laps in no time.

Now What?

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!

Your Thoughts

Do you have any tips that worked for you when you hit a plateau? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

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