Walking onto the pool deck on the first day of practice felt almost like walking into a pool party. There weren’t any pink flamingo floats or beach balls, but music was playing and groups were scattered throughout the shady side of the deck, talking and laughing. A blanket of excitement and anticipation covered the pool deck, and the hot, breezeless air sent everyone scuttling for shade.
It had been a week since I’d seen the rest of my teammates, but it felt like months. I was ecstatic to see everyone at the pool! I couldn’t wait to dive into the water and start practicing again!
Year-round swimming is “year round,” but most teams take a week-long break in between the last taper meet of one season and the next regular meet.
We train to exhaustion daily. During taper it makes our bodies feel like we are on vacation. The beat down and soreness goes away. You feel light through the water. You feel fast. As fast as you’ve been all season.
At the beginning of each season, there are new goals and harder practices, since coaches want athletes back into shape as soon as possible.
However, I’d gotten in the water a few times over the break, and although I wasn’t expecting to feel like I could attend a five-day swim meet, I thought I’d make it through practice without too much trouble.
My teammates also confessed that they hadn’t been able to stay away from exercise. One girl had gone to Las Vegas and convinced her parents to walk everywhere; they ended up walking almost 10 miles a day! Another swimmer went to Canada and hiked every day of the break. I guess even a short break can’t keep athletes from training!
My teammates and I also compared goal sheets, including what swim meets we wanted to attend, what times we needed to get to those meets, what we were excited about and what we wanted to work on.
My goals are ambitious. In my favorite event, the 100 fly, the top female swimmers in the world can swim it in roughly 49 seconds. I currently have a 55.19 in the 100 fly, and I aim to get down to a 52 by the end of the season. This is a huge drop, especially for a race that lasts less than a minute!
My goals for the 100 back and free and 50 free are equally as hard: dropping close to four seconds in each event.
Therefore, this season is going to be extremely difficult. I’ll have to train, eat and sleep better than I did last year. I’ll also have to pay more attention to the little details in practice, such as how many underwater kicks I do after each flip turn, how often I breathe and getting my reaction speed to be lightning quick at the start. Luckily, my teammates have similar technique goals, so we’ll work together to help each other improve. Even though each race is individual, swimming is a team sport.
When I jumped in the water at that first practice, it felt as awkward as when I had just learned how to swim. I could tell that my arms were slipping through the water and that I wasn’t kicking enough, but I couldn’t tell where my body was in relation to the surface. Was I too high up? Was I sinking? I didn’t know.
Then there were the flip turns. I had to remember what to do the first few laps because it felt so unnatural! However, as warm-up progressed, it became easier to maneuver my body, and I realized that if I hadn’t swum over the break, I would have been toast.
The first practice was hard, even though it had minimum yardage and intervals. Despite feeling out of breath after a 25, I set breath-holding practice goals, such as always kicking six dolphin kicks off the wall and holding my breath into the flip turns. Although the first two weeks of practice are meant to be easy, I know that with the goals I have set for myself, I have no time to lose.
—By Becca Waterson