Time off from training is always going to happen at some point, it could be due to injury or just that life simply got in the way. The amount of time away from it varies from person to person and the circumstances why. But how can you deal with this, especially with getting back in the water after not swimming for such a significant length of time?

Use it or lose it?

If you follow me on my social media channels you’ll know I’ve royally thrown my toys out of the pram twice about swimming. I got back in the water and for some reason thought I’d miraculously reconnect with the lake and be able to glide off like before. I was wrong. *shakes finger* oh, so wrong. I really struggled. It wasn’t just my swim technique that had gone out the window, but my cold water acclimatisation I’d worked on had vanished, and to top it all off, I forgot to pack half of the post swim essentials! This didn’t even happen just once, this was for two swimming sessions!

Could I have lost everything I’d worked so incredibly hard for? It all felt very anti climatic because I’d been so excited to swim again, to then absolutely hate it… and I LOVE swimming.

All that work has gone – or has it?

You can probably see why I got myself in a bundle. All that hard work before lockdown, then no proper training. How can anyone work to build something if you can’t dedicate time to it?

The first swim isn’t worth mentioning. It was so cold I couldn’t get my face in as the ice cream head was causing such pain across my eyebrows, I couldn’t stand it for long. Most people would say, just do breaststroke, but I suck at breaststroke. I can only really do an efficient front crawl and for a good amount of time, but breaststroke because I’m not good at it, I use too much energy when I shouldn’t need to (it’s something I’m going to be working on).

On the second swim, I did get going at about 50m in and was able to do front crawl, but only in patches as the cold was too hard on my face – even with vaseline! But I pushed on realising that perhaps had it have been warmer I possibly would have been able to swim, so the fundamental parts are still there, it was my frozen face that was the issue. I’ll be honest, I don’t know what has happened to all that cold water acclimatisation I did, heck, I even did ice swimming which was clearly lower than 12 degrees!

Accepting and moving on

Wallowing in self pity about what I’ve lost in swim ability isn’t going to help anyone, especially me. I can only accept the way it is, and work hard to get what I’ve lost back. So what next?

Take it back to basics

Pretend like you’re new to swimming, if you’re doing open water like many are, go in without pressure on yourself. You’re just getting that general swim feeling back. Don’t track your distance. Literally go in and remind yourself WHY you love to swim. Exercise and training isn’t anything without appreciation to the activity.

Wrap up warm

If like me you’ve struggled getting back in the chilly water, it’s fine, don’t worry. If you could do it before and this time is tough, you’ll get it back, but it is worse to go in and hate it rather than layer up and enjoy it. I’d suggest a wetsuit but then adding a rashvest over your swimwear under your wetsuit, followed by gloves and shoes. Being cold is not fun if you’re not used to it

Get in the pool

I know we have a little bit longer before pools open, but when you can go, go! Whilst I love open water swimming, I’ve actually missed swim drills. I cannot believe I just said that, but seriously, doing the drills and bashing out the lengths is great for swim confidence. It’s warmer, and it’s pretty straight forward. You’re building that lost base back up. Remembering how to swim well before you go into open water

Follow a training plan

This is an easy one because it is what I’m doing now. I’ve picked up a back to basics style swim training plan which I will start working my way through, but right now I’m trying to remind myself why I love to swim and enjoy the experience first.

Swimming will return

I know it can feel daunting getting back in the water after so much time off, and with this, I’m specifically meaning open water swimming, but I assure you (and I’m assuring myself here), that it will come back. All that training and previous work that was a habit to us, will once again become part of our routine, it’s just a case of going easy on ourselves and build back up gradually.