Swimming on the Go: Training While Traveling

You've just started feeling good in the pool again, and as fate would have it you look at the calendar and see you are soon heading out of town. Oh no!

The timing is bad. You don't want to lose the recent gains you have made in the pool. But every time you travel (except to races), that's exactly what seems to happen. It doesn't have to, however. Here are seven tips to help you stay in swim shape on the road.

  1. Plan ahead: Usually you'll know where you're going and for how long, so if you do a little research beforehand into pool locations, schedules, fees and nearby master's programs that you might be able to join, you'll be better prepared upon arrival.

  2. Expand your open-water skills: Find out whether your destination has open-water swimming possibilities. Make sure you check into water-safety conditions including weather, waves and boat traffic. Also, check the water temperatures, because you may need to pack your wetsuit.

  3. Carry on: Always pack your swimsuit, cap and goggles in your carry-on luggage to prevent them from going astray. Plus, on long layovers you may be able to sneak in a swim.

  4. Pack a tether cord: This is a training tool for when you find out the Olympic-sized pool you read about in the hotel promo material is really a kidney-shaped, lukewarm, oversized bathtub. A tether cord is a thick bungee cord with one end that attaches to a fixed object at the end of the pool and a harness on the other end that you attach to yourself.

    This provides resistance and stretches as you apply more force to the water but keeps you swimming in generally the same spot. Keep in mind that although this is great exercise and will definitely keep you in swim shape, the other hotel guests may find your behaviour odd and your family may not want to associate themselves with you for the rest of the trip.

  5. Break out the stretch cords: On those occasions when you cannot find a suitable place to swim, your best option will be to break out the stretch cords. Stretch cords are made of surgical tubing and provide dry-land resistance to work your muscles in swim-specific ways. Fasten the cords to a doorknob in your hotel room and practice repetitions through the range of motion of your swim stroke. Remember to focus on your technique, including high elbows, and mix it up with single-arm and double-arm drills.

  6. Make the most of the 10-meter, kidney-shaped hotel pool: When there is no pace clock or the size of the pool is just too small, make it a technical set by focusing on drills. Try this drill set:

      10 sets of:

    • Single-arm swim with right arm at your side. Swim back easy
    • Single-arm swim with left arm at your side. Swim back easy
    • Sculling on back. Swim back easy
    • Kicking on your side with right arm extended. Swim back easy
    • Kicking on your side with left arm extended. Swim back easy
    • Underwater freestyle. Swim back easy

    In a small pool this will give you almost a 2,000-yard main set, and if the pool is deep enough you can start with some vertical kicking as a great warm-up.

  7. Blasts in a small pool: Small pools are great for short bursts of fast swimming. Try to blast off the wall and get as many powerful strokes in as possible. It may only be six or eight, but there is still a good benefit that will accrue from this.

    Limit your streamline off the wall to conserve the space you have and pull as much water as possible with each strong stroke. Keep your head low but feel yourself lifting out of the water with each stroke. Swim one direction with the blast and swim easy back the other direction. You can add 20-blast repeats to the drill set above to get a great workout.

If you are planning on taking a vacation and wish to simply relax and not even think about training, then by all means do so. But if you want to maintain your fitness and maybe even see some gains, keep active with these swim-traveling tips and you'll feel great when you get back into your routine at home.


Thank you to Jessica Kirkwood for her contribution to this piece. Paul Regensburg is an Olympic, Pan-Am Games and Ironman coach and team manager. Visit www.lifesport.ca or contact Paul for more information or coaching inquiries.

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