The age group swimming plateau is an experience that just about every swimmer will encounter over the course of their swim career. That certainly doesn’t make it any easier to deal with when it inevitably happens.
Whether you are in a small slump, a year-long funk, there are plenty of things that you can do and should remember. Not only are plateaus common, but they are avoidable.
The biggest pointer I would recommend is for swimmers to take a look at their process instead of their results. Here’s what I mean: swimmers will typically view how they performed in competition and use that as a basis to determine that they are plateauing.
While understandable, it’s not entirely fair.
If you really want to see if you are plateauing look at your process. Are you going to more workouts? Are you doing more meters at race pace? Are you doing better in the kitchen? Are you making sleep more of a priority?
These are the things you should be looking at in your determination of whether or not you are plateauing. Performances in competition rely on a wide variety of things, some of which you don’t control. Don’t allow a race that lasts a minute or two indict your entire training cycle or season.
Look at your process first.
Okay, with that out of the way, there are some simple things you can do to help bust yourself out of a rut, where things feel stale and you just want to shake things up.
Here are some of my favorite ways to bust through an age group swimming plateau:
Diversify your swimming. Sure, you aren’t dropping time in your best event, but that doesn’t mean other distances and strokes won’t see some serious improvement if you give them some TLC. More often than not removing the pressure of “This is my best event so I have to go a best time or else!” and moving our focus to other events frees us up to eventually perform better in our favored races. It’s another reason to train your “off” strokes. Stroke variety is the spice of life, man.
You aren’t recovering enough. You can only train as hard as you are recovering. If you are perpetually sleep deprived, eating garbage, and not managing the stress of daily life you are going to consistently walk onto the pool deck with half a tank. Improving requires being at your best, so take the same focus and commitment to your recovery as you do your training: sleep like a champion, eat like champ, and stay on top of your schedule.
Change up your environment. Believe it or not, habits and motivation are highly influenced by your environment. Switch lanes at practice. Start from the shallow end instead of the deep end. Breathe to your weak side. Train with faster swimmers. Subtle changes in the environment can have profound effects on your swimming. You don’t need to quit your team or change coaches to get a taste of newness in the pool and head-butt your way through that pesky plateau.