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Pre-season swimming – time to prepare for the season

When do you do pre-season swimming?

Pre-season swimming or training takes places between 1 May to September every year when the official swimming season opens during the KZN Junior championships.

Pre season training - KZN Jnr champs 2015

Opening address 2015 KZN Junior champs (Click to read)

The swim calendar starts with 2 short-course swim meets (Seals Pietermaritzburg) in June, followed by the Prestige gala in July and Age group galas up to August.

The 2016 KZN Junior championship is scheduled for 23-25 September.

KZN Aquatics adjusted age groups for this championship to 13 & Under in 2015.  The goal is to allow Coach Graham Hill and fellow coaches an opportunity to spot young talent to be selected for Project 2022.

Project 2022 is a comprehensive program placing the most talented 13 – 14-year-old swimmers in training for the 2022 Commonwealth games.

Minimum age is 13-years-old.  Monica is, therefore, too young to be selected. She also does not swim KZN Junior times, which is the minimum requirement. (We mention this as some fans asked.)

What do you focus on during pre-season swimming?

During pre-season swimming we focus on three elements:

  1.  Basic fitness and core strength after the resting period.
  2.  Stroke correction – i.e. do what we do better and smooth out any stroke-related issues.
  3.  Set goals:  Review the results from the Swimming South Africa database and set new goals for the season with a plan to achieve these goals.

How do you decide what your focus should be during pre-season swimming?

Monica did not have a good SSA Level 1 champs.  Her times were 3 seconds off her personal bests throughout the swim meet.  (Regardless of the gold, silver and bronze medals which we are immensely proud of.)

We allow Monica to enjoy her swim holiday as she calls it during April (the swim box is closed, no training, not even talking about swimming).  In May, we sit down and we do a review of the previous year’s results. During this review, we watch her 200 IM videos. Monica asked if we could work more on Breaststroke and Butterfly as she aims to improve her stroke and times in these events.

Yes, dear subscribers, we do have a very mature and wise 9-year-old swimmer. Her level of commitment is above average for her age.  She is also fully aware of her strengths and weaknesses.  We love the level of maturity she displays even though, at the best of times, she is just a kid.

Based on the discussion we all agreed on a to-do list of stroke correction points which needs attention and set off to the pool on 1 May to start our preparation for the 2016/2017 season.

Pre-season swimming achievement:


The above video was taken during a fun Saturday session at the pool with Monica’s friend.  As everybody knows, Monica still battles at the best of times with asthma.

We have been working towards increasing her lung capacity over a 3-year period.  At the pool on the day, we were all trying to see how far we could swim underwater without stopping to breathe.  What a surprise!  25-meter underwater without taking a single breath.

This is progress at its best.

One can clearly see how she starts with a breaststroke start but then change her mind and do dolphin kicking the rest of the way as it is faster.

Now that we know she can swim 25-meter without taking a breath we can focus more on underwater work at starts and turns.

Just some fun with awesome results!

Good swimming turns|importance of fast turns?

Good swimming turns

good swimming turns

Good swimming turns can make the difference between podium/medal or a fourth place.  We take a look at the importance of training to do great turns during swim meets.

During our last swim meet, our young swimmer was off normal race pace with approximately 7-10 seconds.  We were not upset about this as firstly, the swim meet was just an age group gala and secondly, we know that in any training program, there are highs and lows.  We monitor training times and saw the slower times since November 2015 after a peak in September/October 2015, which were important months as KZN Junior championships and our own club gala takes place during these months.

The highs and lows of swimming

Every low in a program is normally followed by a high.  Coaches use these biorhythms to plan the athlete’s program in order to peak during important events.  In our current training program, we are building up towards Swimming South Africa Level 1 championships which are held from 1-3 April 2016.

On this point, as a swim mom, I just need to side with the coaches for a while.  We are friendly with swim moms from all clubs.  At swim meets, I always have a friendly chat with the other moms and many times I hear some dissatisfaction about their swimmers’ times.

Firstly, one cannot expect a swimmer, especially young swimmers, to knock seconds off their times at every swim meet.  Secondly, many of these swim moms do not know about the natural highs and lows in training and the sport.  Please discuss the point in your swimmer’s training with your coach – you will most likely see they are not worried at all.  Reason being, that they know after every “low” there will be a high and that high will easily knock 2 seconds off a swimmer’s time especially after tapering for a particular event.

The ideal situation is to sit patiently and wait for the swimmer to progress through the training program and to trust the coach, the program, and your swimmer.

Making or breaking the race with a fast turn

Times aside, during these lows where we know the best times will not be clocked, we focus on something else in the races – swimming correctly.  I.e. we check the starts, the swimming turns, and the stroke.

Good swimming turns can make the world of difference.  On Sunday, Monica swam the 200-meter breaststroke.  Her seeded time was 3:44 and she completed the race in 3:58.  Confirming the point I made earlier about the low we currently face in her swimming times.

Nevertheless, this race was stroke-for-stroke with another swimmer in lane 6 (Mica was swimming in lane 5).  4 x 50 lengths in a long course pool.  Prior to the race, I instructed Monica to swim correctly, to take her time with the turns and underwater work.  At the third and last turn, she executed a very strong underwater dolphin kick, one pull and then surfaced at approximately 5-6 meters.  The last 50-meters ended in a touch for third place and 2 hundredths of a second difference between the two swimmers.

If this swim meet was a major event, it would have been the difference between podium and a medal versus fourth place.

We video Monica’s races as we do show these videos to her after the events.  We also have to video the events to show it to the Coach that provides us with the training programs. (We live 600 km from this coach so a lot is done remotely).  You can clearly see the effect of that last turn as the swimmer in lane 6 was half a body length ahead of Monica and just by turning in an effective way, Monica made up time and distance which most likely lead to touching before the swimmer in lane 6.