What is a swim holiday?
Our age group swimmer turned 9-years-old in March 2016 just before the Swimming South Africa Level 1 championships. She started to swim at the age of 6 and she called her forced rest periods swim holiday. Needless to say, the term stuck and coaches’ forced rest periods will forever be known in our household as a swim holiday.
Forced rest and its importance to swimmers.
One of Monica’s swim friends broke a toe in January 2016, just before the Provincial and Regional championships which took place at the end of March this year. At first, she did not rest but it lead to complications and her medical professional recommended a period of 2 weeks’ rest in order for the bone to heal. She was devastated after all the hard work she put in year-round, just to be booked off before the most important swimming event on the swim calendar.
My advice to her mom was not to stress too much, as one should never underestimate the power of rest. The principle of swim training includes the idea that you actually train when your body is resting. Our swim calendar allows 2 weeks rest during the festive season in December, with training starting in January every year. We also have a period of forced rest or as Monica calls it swim holiday, at the end of the swim season meaning the 4 week period in April, after SSA Levels championship is used to rest with no swim training allowed.
Swim training during the 4 weeks of rest means lots of play and fun – some swim families use this period to take their annual break and they go on holiday. We are not so lucky to be able to do just that, so Monica entertains herself quite a bit with some creative street surfing and loads of play dates with friends.
Why do age group swimmers need periods of rest?
We have a great appreciation and respect for the commitment of our own age group swimmer and her friends. Just like everything else kids at a young age do, this commitment have to be managed. It is a standing joke when the kids walk around at swim meets with T-shirts stating: Swim, Eat, Sleep, Repeat, but there could be serious consequences if not enough opportunity for recovery and rest is given to the young swimmer.
Let’s take a look at some of the consequences:
- Injuries – none of us want our young swimmers to develop injuries. Research has shown that children under the age of 14, experience muscular imbalances. Forced training over a long period of time, could lead to some injuries which are hard to recover from.
- Stress – Ask any swim parent what their daily schedule is like. Early morning swimming, drop kids at school after swimming (if they do not swim at the school), rush off to work, pick kids up after school, lunch, homework or other extramural activities such as music and other sport. That is quite a busy schedule for young swimmers. Couple that with swim meets every other week-end and you might end up with a stressed child. Taking what we call a swim holiday , is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.
- Peaking at the right time: The road to success in swimming is a long road. Swimmers that do not take extended breaks might find themselves peaking too early in their swimming career. FINA World championships, Commonwealth and Olympics all have a minimum age restriction of 14-years. So what is the rush? Rather let your swimmer take some breaks, enjoy being a child and go back to the pool in the new swimming season taking off where they left after the last championship.
Whether you call it forced rest, or like us a swim holiday, the importance of rest in age group swimmers should not be underestimated.