Coach Tip Tuesday: The Phenomenon of The Pool Swimming Time Slot
Earth spins seven more times, and thus it’s time again for Coach Tip Tuesday!
This week’s coach tip is actually a tip, but I first need to start off with the backstory of the observations that have lead me to giving out this tip:
When the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a world-wide pandemic and governments around the world started responding to that declaration, SO many things changed for all humans across the globe. (Of course, we know this.)
In the scope of endurance sports training, one of the most significant changes that happened was that swimming became virtually non-existent around the world. Public swimming pools closed, in some regions for a significant amount of time.
In the regions around the world where public pools have reopened (there are still plenty of places globally where they are not open), there has been a dramatic shift in how these pools are now operated. Based on the diverse group of athletes I currently work with (and I do coach athletes all around the world), I can tell you that a majority of public swimming pools are requiring reservations to swim and that they have imposed significant limitations on how many people can be in a swimming area at one time.
Among other things, athletes now have to sign up for swimming time slots (sometimes many weeks in advance due to the supply and demand of these time slots), they have a very specific and finite amount of time to be in the building/locker room/pool area, and they cannot share lanes with other humans.
Everything that I’ve described above has not only impacted how athletes are physically able to complete swimming workouts, but also in how they think about swimming workouts in general.
Before the aforementioned changes to pool swimming, I would write workouts, and athletes would go to the pool and complete them. The most significant things that could impact a pool swimming workout would be weather (since most facilities will close due to lightning in the area), chemical or pool maintenance issues, facility hours, and an athlete’s own personal time limitations in a given day based on their schedule. But for the most part, athletes would go to the pool, complete the workout I set for them, get out of the pool, and then carry on with their day.
But now that the landscape of pool swimming is so radically different, I’ve observed the following:
Athletes are very stressed and frustrated if they are unable to complete a planned swim workout in the allotted time (meaning that the distance/volume of the workout was too long for the time slot they had). If they perceive that they may not finish in time, they may combine elements of the swim, skip rest intervals, or otherwise change it to attempt to get the total planned distance in.
Athletes are struggling to get out of the pool if they do actually complete the planned swim workout before their time slot ends; they end up adding distance or time to the workout so they can “fill” the entire timeslot.
I have found this shift and the corresponding behavioral changes/mental shifts fascinating. The temporal boundaries of The Pool Swimming Time Slot have radically altered how athletes think about and approach pool swimming, and I’m honestly not sure that many of them are aware that this change has occurred for them. (So, that being said, raise your hand if you now realize that this phenomenon applies to you. :D )
These changes in athletes have caused me to change how I coach; for the athletes who are stressed by not finishing the entire planned workout, I do my very best to write a workout that can be completed within the time limitations that they have. And due to the second item on the list above (the fact that athletes don’t like having “spare” time in their time slot), I do strive to plan a “Goldilocks” workout that will take the exact amount of time they have, this way they don’t feel that stress to modify or do more.
All of this being said, here is my Coach Tip this Tuesday:
Treat your swims the same way you did before these protocols/policies were in place.
For example: If you have a swim on your training schedule that is planned to be a total of 2200 meters or yards and you finish it in the time you have, be happy with that and walk away. That’s what you would have done in Before Times, right? So why do differently now?
If you realize that you are unable to complete a planned workout in the allotted time, modify it the same way you would have modified it if you were bumping up against facility closing time in Before Times. (For instance, you could eliminate an interval or two from the Main Set, then go to the Cool-Down, and get out of the pool.) It’s TOTALLY okay if you don’t complete all of the workout. It doesn’t mean that you are “less than.” Think of it this way instead: You were so focused on executing a quality swim that you made a mindful choice to sacrifice a bit of the quantity.
What I’m aiming to do this week (as I am almost always aiming to do for all of you) is to help you increase your self-awareness. I want you to know the “why” behind what you’re doing. Often, this part of my job involves asking questions and pointing out things that athletes may not have considered or seen in themselves before.
Don’t let someone else’s rules dictate what or how you think about something. i.e. In the case of The Pool Swimming Time Slot, don’t let the temporal boundaries of this timeslot change your behaviors. It’s VERY OKAY if you are unable to finish the entire workout. It’s also VERY OKAY if you have extra time left in your slot when your workout is over. Just because you have XX:XX amount of time to be there doesn’t mean you have to be there for that ENTIRE time. It is entirely reasonable and okay for you to do what was planned on your schedule and just leave it at that.
Execute YOUR plan on YOUR terms as much as possible. Just because there are extra rules out there now doesn’t mean that we need to totally overhaul how we think about training. It just means we need to learn how to wisely work within these new guidelines.
And there you have it: The Phenomenon of The Pool Swimming Time Slot. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.