A quick reminder this week about the value of "starting blocks". And those words are in quotes on purpose. By starting blocks we mean any event that puts you in a slightly more competitive situation than a regular training situation.
An intrasquad meet, a team time trial, an alumni meet, a recreation league sponsored open water swim, a local "Tri" that is really nothing more than a development type of competition all are examples of a slightly more competitive situation than a normal workout setting. Any of these formats will more accurately simulate the process you will go through in prepping for and actually racing in competitive situations than a workout. It is also a good way to mix up the emphasis.
We took our team this weekend to an "Invitational" meet. There were six teams invited and most of the usual events were offered. The swims rolled one upon another fairly quickly which meant the swimmers had short rest periods with little loosen down time. What is great about these meets is that while times count (Colorado scoreboard, fully sanctioned and officiated etc.) the emphasis is on doing your swims correctly. Each swimmer has a chance to practice the mental and physical approach all the while knowing that the times may not be the best.
Our team is going to one of two big meets in a month; the deciding factor is the qualifying times they have. Each meet will be a "shave and taper" meet. There is only one way to truly prep for such a competition; namely, getting up on the blocks and racing, specifically racing someone you do not ordinarily swim against every day in training.
So, we encourage you, regardless of your own particular level of competition, to seek out a local meet or racing opportunity, sign up and then go and see what happens. You wouldn't enter a course of study at school that had only one final exam, would you? These lower level racing opportunities are akin to weekly "pop" quizzes or mid terms.
Even if your response to this is that "I don't really do this to compete" we encourage you to give it a try. You may find that it opens your eyes a little or re-kindles a greater level of awareness about the value you place on your training.
Let us know how it goes!