Athletes from youth levels to top professionals are in uncharted waters these days due to the coronavirus pandemic.
All have faced challenges being creative with revised training methods.
The biggest challenge may belong to swimmers.
Athletes in most other sports can get to some sort of facility or simply go outside to get in their work. Simply put, for swimmers to swim, they need water and right now, pools, for the most part, simply aren’t available.
“From what I’ve heard, no one has access to a 25-yard pool to train in,” said Cameron Kelley, a former Cedar Rapids Washington standout who just completed his junior year at Minnesota. “The only bodies of water that can be used are personal backyard pools or natural bodies of waters like lakes or rivers.
“I haven’t had access to a pool in over a month. My weekly yardage for distance swam has gone from 60,000 to zero.”
Without pools, swimmers and coaches alike have had to be even more creative. In a sport where grueling training sessions are the norm, the “new normal” is more magnified in the swimming community.
Kelley is finishing up his school year virtually from his family’s home in Cedar Rapids. His father, Bobby, is the girls’ swim coach at Linn-Mar and an assistant with the Coe women’s program. He said the only people allowed in pools right now at Linn-Mar and Coe are those who need to check chemicals and perform required daily maintenance with the pool’s filter.
In an effort to get in some water training, Kelley purchased a wet suit and plans to do some open-water swimming in area rivers and lakes once the water temperature allows.
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“As for swimming in lakes and rivers, I know that many are looking forward to these open-water swimming opportunities,” Bobby Kelley said. “Once the weather improves, I suspect many will begin open-water swimming.”
But even open-water swimming has its limitations.
“Open-water swimming is completely different from pool swimming,” Cameron Kelley said. “Pool swimming is almost entirely dependent on explosiveness and how long you can maintain 100 percent.
“Open-water swimming is about being able to swim forever without stopping. A typical training session in a pool involves a lot of starting and stopping with short distances and maximum effort. Open-water training is about getting in and going while adjusting your effort level across whatever distance you are doing.”
University of Iowa junior Kelsey Drake also is leaning toward some open-water training.
“I don’t have a wet suit but I have considered open-water swimming,” said the former Linn-Mar standout. “If things do not go back to normal for this summer, I will more than likely try to get out to a lake to get some swimming in.”
The challenges are just as great at the club level. With no facilities available, other lessons are being taught.
“It has been an exercise in perspective and creativity for sure,” said Megan Oesting, head coach for the Eastern Iowa Swimming Federation club team. “We think we need certain things to grow in our sport but this time has allowed me to think about what really makes a great swimmer and go for the level up in the areas that don’t necessarily require water to learn.”
Oesting, whose club has swimmers of all ages and skill levels, has kept club members engaged by sending out a daily curriculum via email that involves the technical learning of swimming, featuring a different video.
“(The swimmers) fill out the Google forms I send out and then I see their answers and every morning I make a video for them clarifying the previous day’s learning and introducing to learning of the day, so it’s actually very interactive,” she said. “Although I don’t think you can run a ‘dry’ swim team forever, we’ve taken advantage of this opportunity to really hone in on what makes us better and challenge ourselves to rise above the circumstances we’ve been given.
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“I’m not looking to weather the storm, I’m looking to use it to get better.”
Swimming is a sport known for its camaraderie. That aspect is missed just as much as time in the water.
“Swimming has also served to connect me with some of my best friends so being apart from the sport means being apart from those I feel closest to,” Cameron Kelley said. “The whole thing has made it clear that swimming and sports in general are a luxury. Being able to push yourself to the brink to strive for the top isn’t something that will be there forever so I’ve learned to appreciate it while it’s there.”
“Before this all happened, I always told myself after I am done swimming competitively that I would take a long break from swimming,” Drake said. “But after these weeks out of the water, I know I’ll be back in the pool shortly after I finish my swim career. After all this I’ve realized how much I have taken it for granted.
“I miss everything about it and I can’t wait to get back in the pool.”