COACH,  EXTRA,  January 2023,  View from the Water

Reflecting and planning: how to adapt your swim training in January

January is a difficult month to adopt and stick with new habits, says Simon Griffiths. Instead, use January to sharpen your metaphorical axe.

This year, our editorial team decided to theme our January issue around ‘Rest and Reflection’, a contrast to the ‘New Year, New You’ approach other magazines often take. This, I feel, sits more comfortably with the current state of the world. It’s also a better approach to life – and swimming – in general.

I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions anyway. First, I’m sceptical of people’s ability to change overnight (especially if they are short of sleep and hungover), and second, if you want to make a change, why wait for the first day of the year?

In fact, January is a difficult month to adopt and stick with new habits, especially for those of us in geographical areas where the month is cold, dark, damp and seemingly endless. Typically, it’s a busy time for work because of projects we’ve let slide over the break. Our publishing deadline comes around the same time every month which means all the work we usually do in a month gets crammed into three weeks. Diving straight into a new swimming training plan on top of everything else could well lead to unnecessary stress and burnout. It’s not a surprise that people have trouble sticking with New Year’s resolutions. It may be better to rest and take things easier on the physical side for a few weeks.

There’s a famous quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln where he says: “If I only had an hour to chop down a tree, I would spend the first 45 minutes sharpening my axe.” I’m not going to suggest that you spend nine months of the year planning what swimming training you

will do in the final three months, but it’s certainly a good idea to spend some time reflecting and planning – sharpening your metaphorical axe – and January is a good time to do it.

For one reason, swimming pools are often busy in January. Public session swimming can be an ordeal at the best of times, but it’s worse when the lanes are crowded with people who have resolved to go swimming every day. They don’t tend to last long and I once suggested starting your training on 1 February rather than 1 January as the pools are already much quieter then. However, a better reason is that it gives you a month to reflect on what you want to achieve in swimming over the following year.

It’s important to get past what you’re going to do and spend some time reflecting on why you’re going to do it. I don’t mean at the superficial level of, say, you’re going to train three times a week because you’re going to do a 10km swim in the summer. Keep digging deeper. Why do you want to do a 10km swim? Why do you like challenging yourself? Ask yourself how your goals align with your values, and whether the process you need to go through to achieve your goals is also congruent with your values. It’s worth the effort, and the wait. I’m convinced that spending time resting and reflecting will give you a much better chance of sticking to your plans and achieving your goals when you properly get started in February.

This article is from the January 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer. Click here to subscribe to the magazine

To see all the online content from the January 2023 issue of Outdoor Swimmer, visit the 'Rest & Reflection' page.

Outdoor Swimmer is the magazine for outdoor swimmers by outdoor swimmers. We write about fabulous wild swimming locations, amazing swim challenges, swim training advice and swimming gear reviews.