A note from Badger Parent Advocate, Mike Conaton:
Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. As our kids start a new long course season, it could be a good time to think about switching things up a bit. What can your kids do differently this season that will help them stay interested in swimming, motivate them and ultimately help them improve? What can parents do to enable them?
I have not attached an article as reference this week because there were so many of them on this subject. It didn’t matter if it was an article on running, triathlons, weight training, and of course swimming, each article professed the benefits of variety. And for really quite simple reasons – to combat against boredom and keep the athlete fresh and challenged. The benefits of cross training different muscle groups is also often cited.
The suggestion for shaking things up in this missive is with respect to a much more global and long term outlook. The Badger coaches work hard on adding variety to swimming sets every day to not only mix things up but to obviously work on different strokes, distances and aerobic/anaerobic requirements. Your swimmers naturally get a good mix of workouts in the pool. But with respect to the long term, I do believe the kids can benefit from a general awareness for variety and gradual change from season to season.
We are getting to a point with our older kids for example, where we are consciously starting to think about additions and changes to different regimens. They’ve been swimming a long time and their bodies have changed. Many of the options out there are natural progressions and fortunately offered by college programs, including more weight training, diet education and specialized swimming workouts. Looking back in time, while we didn’t necessarily consciously try to change things up, that is exactly what happened, mostly as a result of the Badger coaches’ direction.
The biggest area of change is in the increasing frequency of pool training time. Maybe you’ll move from 3 days to 4 days a week this summer. Maybe 4 to 5. And maybe you’ll even start doubles this summer. Maybe to ease into doubles you’ll swim with your summer club in the morning and Badger at night. There is no set schedule for any of this and is mostly suggested by the coaches. There is no question there is a high correlation between practicing more and swimming faster, especially at younger ages.
Sometimes a swimmer will step up and say they are ready for more commitment… They want to do doubles. The swimming parent begins to be tested more and more as the time commitment increases. We are directly involved in this decision to increase practice time if for no other reason than the practical aspects of logistics. It’s a huge commitment as we all know and our kids are lucky that we are so supportive. We always had to balance this with the schedules of our other kids and the times offered, as I’m sure others have had to do. We do the best we can. (Remember swimming parents are awesome!)
Once the kids hit high school they were in programs that included more and more things that kept them excited. They liked going to travel meets (especially in Florida). They loved dry land training. No surprise here as all these kids are great athletes in general and might have even played (or are still playing) other sports, so cross training that involved running and other coordination was always a favorite.
Even consciously addressing your diet is a great way to change up routine and help the kids. Especially as they get older and train more, calorie intake (and proper calorie intake) becomes more and more important. Maybe make sure they come home from morning workout and actually sit down and eat eggs and oatmeal instead of grabbing a power bar on the way to the life guarding job. And make it a priority. You could be surprised how well these young bodies respond to getting the right fuel. And never forget…drink water, water, water!
Protein and diet supplements came at the end of high school and weight training never really did occur for us. I know some kids dabble in weights but parents PLEASE make sure it is supervised. It will really not be worth it if the kids get hurt. This is one reason why many suggest you wait until the kids get to a college supervised program.
The point is there are many different regimens out there to stage and build upon. Doing so gradually I think is better to mix things up and build upon a general upward trajectory. Keep it simple and just pick one change or addition each season and commit to it religiously (i.e. “this is my first summer of doubles; this is the summer of P2Life; this is the summer of underwaters; this is the summer of 5 mile runs twice a week…sit ups and pushups….”; etc.) There’s a temptation to try to do all this stuff ASAP, but frankly until the body matures, a lot of it might not help anyway and can lead to overdoing it too early…and maybe even injury or burnout. Gradual improvement with quantum leaps along the way, in my opinion, makes for a much longer and happier swimming career. As always, consult your coaches for guidance and the ultimate decision path.