Most in the athletic world know about cycle training. Bob Bowerman, the legendary track coach at University of Oregon, put it quite succinctly, “Stress, recover, improve.”
That goes for the physical side of the game. Work your buns off, recover and you will improve. Nearly all swimming coaches use some sort of cycle in their preparation for every season. There are yearly and quadrennial cycles as well, for Olympic preparation.
We have been having the following conversation with our team lately about cycles; it has been about the emotional cycles that come during a training block.
At the beginning of a new season/training block everyone is excited. Each swimmer is propelled either by their recent success or what may have been a shortfall and now they have renewed enthusiasm for the next chapter.
As the new phase/block/season begins everyone is enthused. Perhaps test sets are used to measure progress. Even dry land components can be used to stimulate forward thinking and motion.
Then what we call “the dog days” set in. We are removed from the beginning sufficiently to have lost the impetus of the new energy and we are still far enough away from the shave meet to get really excited or dialed in.
What to do?
Everyone will be enthused as the big meet gets closer. Some sort of travel meet or local Junior Olympic meet will get everyone’s attention. Workout attendance will rise again and match the beginning of the season levels.
But these “dog days” are the critical ones. Mohammed Ali said, “The fight is won far from the witnesses.”
Everyone is there on race day. The quality of the race is determined by the effort extended toward your goal during the “dog days…the period of time when no one is “keeping track” of what you are doing.
Coaches and athletes everywhere are working diligently to keep spirits high and attendance high and energy input high during these critical periods of time. We tell our team that if you want something, then give it to others and you will get it in return…maybe not from those to whom you give it, but from some other source/resource.
So, it is incumbent on all of us, coaches, athletes and parents, to support each other during the “dog days” - the days when there are no witnesses.