The 16 Week Rule

by Stephanie on March 4, 2011 · 0 comments

in Sports & Fitness

Over the course of my 13 years as a competitive swimmer I had one fantastic coach.  No, the other coaches weren’t bad… I only had one coach.  And he was great.  I learned a lot from him over the years; lessons in hard work and sportsmanship that extend far beyond the pool.

Girl’s high school swimming is a fall sport meaning we start in August before school does and the culmination of the season, the State meet, is in mid-November.  My coach also ran the summer swimming club team for ages 5-18.  Nearly every high school swimmer was on the club team.  It wasn’t a requirement.  It was just highly recommended. 

Why?

The 16 week rule.

The rule is that it takes 16 weeks to get your body in tip top competitive shape.

Now, here’s the problem.  The high school swimming season is only 13 weeks long.  Governing body rules stated no team could start training until mid-August.  That meant that if we did nothing before the HS season started, we wouldn’t be at our best for the biggest races of the year.  *Gasp!* 

Therein lies the importance of the summer club team.  By the time we started the high school season training we were already in pretty good shape because we’d been practicing regularly for over 2 months already.

Okay, yes, this was probably just a ploy by a great motivator to get his team to start working harder sooner.  I get that.  But I think the 16 week rule has merit.  It’s long enough to see great improvement in strength and speed and allow a solid taper, but short enough that you don’t burn out.  Most marathon training plans are right around 16 weeks long.  There’s got to be a reason!

Why do I bring this up now?  Partially because I’ve been reminiscing about my swimming days.  Partially because I dream about being as fit and competitive as I was in those days.

Mostly it’s because tomorrow is exactly 16 weeks from the Seattle half marathon. 

That means it’s time to STEP IT UP.  It’s time to start running 4-5x/week instead of three.  It’s time to focus on strength and core stability.  It’s time to add speed and hill work.  It’s time to refocus my efforts on losing weight so I will be lighter on my feet.  It’s time to start eating to fuel my body instead of just… eating.

I want to be proud of my performance in the half marathon.  I want it to be fun and exhilarating not painful and upsetting.  I want to be in tip top competitive shape. 

Thanks Coach, for still being able to kick my butt into gear 10 years later.

(pic from iwomensports)

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