Will you die if you enter meets outside of the ones selected by the coaching program? Probably not. That means you might go into the next week of training already tired and unable to perform at your best. Possibly so. Will you be at a meet without a coach to help guide you? Yes. Will you potentially get 0 feedback on your swim?
Most likely. Will you be straying from the overarching training program, specifically designed so you perform at your best when it counts? 100%. By doing this, are you putting yourself at risk of overtraining, mental fatigue and injury? Potentially. How? At the start of the season, your coach sits down to plan how they will ensure that you ‘peak’ right when they need to. They have a lot of things to consider. Here are a few of them. 1. How many weeks is it to the big meet?
2. What attributes does my swimmer need to perform?
3. How long will this swimmer need to meet these requirements? 4. How many training cycles will I need? 5. When will we peak our training volumes? 6. When will we need to deload?
7. When will I look to test my swimmers on these attributes? I.e. what competitions do I need to attend
8. How much time off swimming will they need to avoid mental fatigue? Once they have the answers to all these questions and have put all the pieces together, they will have a training plan specifically designed to ensure that the swimmer can perform at their best when it counts. This program is based on the plan being followed, and deviation from the plan can have significant knock-on effects. How? Well, here’s just one scenario. Say you had a big week of training and entered a meet outside the competition plan.
You skip your Saturday session to ensure you are ready for the swim meet.
You have entered a few events, but nothing crazy. You warm up for event 1, mentally prepare yourself for the swim, race, cool down and wait for the next one. You repeat the process. You continue this process for the entire competition. By the end of the day, you are naturally wrecked. You might have gotten a PB or 2, but you most likely swam over your PB. You justify it as race practice, but without your coach to see how the swims went, you get 0 feedback and take nothing meaningful from the swims you didn’t PB in. By the end of the day, you're too tired to do anything else and miss out on socialising with your friends and family. You come in for Monday's training and feel slow and tired. You struggle to get the most out of the session, but that’s okay. Everyone is a bit sluggish on Monday morning. You go to school/ work or uni and return for your afternoon quality session. You still feel the weekend's effects, and you’re off pace that night. This might continue for another couple of sessions, depending on how big the meeting was. Meanwhile, your friend didn’t compete on the weekend. They had a hard session on Saturday and not only achieved the goal of the session but also got some significant feedback to work on from the coach. Because they weren’t hanging around at the pool for the whole day, they got to go home straight after training, have a good breakfast, and spend the day with friends and family. They come in on Monday morning, nail the session, and kick butt all day. They then returned that night and hit all their pace work while working on some feedback from the Saturday session you missed. Not only has your friend been able to come in and kick the start of the week's ass, but they have recovered from the previous week and got away from swimming for the weekend and feel fresh and ready for the start of the week. Oh, and a week later, you come down with a cold that takes you out of the water for a week. Are you starting to understand the significance of following the plan yet? Or are you thinking this would never happen to me? If so, I wouldn’t blame you because I also believed it couldn’t happen to me when I was younger, but guess what it did. Not only did it happen to me, but I ended up tearing my MCL the week after the competition, which I wasn’t meant to do. Instead of the 1 week of sickness in the scenario above, I had 12 weeks of no breaststroke kick, 16 weeks before the National Open Short Course Championships. So take it from me, follow the plan, and only enter the meets the coaching team targets.