The following recommendations apply during extreme weather conditions for outdoor programs:
Rain has little effect on swimmers unless it is accompanied by thunder, lightning and/or wind, although it does make it more difficult to hear the coach. If there is electrical activity, the session should be cancelled. Where possible, a classroom lecture should be made available during inclement weather. However, if the rain is not accompanied by wind, lightning and thunder then the session can proceed. Breaststroke is the most appropriate stroke to practice in rain. Fins are also a valued training aid in rainy conditions to counteract the effect of turbulence.
Cold is not conductive to listening and learning. If it is necessary to use a cold environment it is advisable for swimmers to practice frequent repetitions of skills on land. Coaches should develop cold weather practice routines that encourages continuous movement to keep swimmers warm, for example coaches should avoid long-winded descriptions and discussions with swimmers standing stills.
Coaches should be aware of the danger signs of hypothermia (shivering, blush lips, ‘goose pimples’). Swimmers showing event the early signs of hypothermia should be removed from the water and all efforts made to gradually warm them, including:
- removal of wet swimming costumes;
- covering the body (particularly the head) with warm, dry clothing – ideally natural fabrics like wool;
- removal of the swimmer from the environment (ie if cold and windy outside look for indoor or sheltered training facilities).
In windy conditions coaches should ensure that swimmer do not expose their bodies to the weather. This is a good time to practice kicking against the wind and swimming with the wind. Diving into the wind is not advisable for safety reasons.
If the facility has backstroke flags and markings, backstroke is the best activity to practice in windy conditions. Butterfly is the least desirable activity in windy conditions, as a large percentage of the body is exposed to the wind each stroke. It is advisable to use fins in windy conditions.
Coaches must ensure that all swimmers use sunblock (30 Plus SPF, applied at least 30 minutes prior to outdoor activity) of adequate strength and if possible, wear a sun protection suit. All swimmers should also be encouraged to bring their own water bottles and drink regularly throughout each session. Care should be taken to ensure that each swimmer has their own drink bottle with their name written on it, the bottle is kept clean and they never share drink bottles with other group members.
The coach should set a good example by also having a drink bottle and drinking from it regularly.
During extreme weather conditions, it is advisable to have extra teaching support. If there is a problem with pool length and depth visibility, the practice session can either be redirected to the shallow end for turning practice or cancelled until conditions are acceptable. The coach must always have a back-up plan to cope with any adverse weather conditions.
Wet weather lesson plans can include the following:
- running – light jogging and relaxed easy paced running;
- skipping rope – light easy skipping, with some vigorous skipping thrown in at intervals;
- stretch cords – smooth easy and rhythmic to start with then hold race rhythm and rating as intervals;
- basketball/football/tennis ball – group games and ball games must be controlled and well supervised!
- showers to get warm then stretch;
- spa and stretch (if available);
- jump starts practice (ie practicing starts by jumping into a sand pit or soft grassed area);
- medicine ball or ‘physio ball’ routines;
- circuit training with body weight exercises;
- breathing and yoga-style relaxations exercises;
- reaction games;group-building games.
Swimmers learn best when the sun is not a distraction and water temperature is between 26 and 32 degrees Celsuius, depending on the season. An outdoor pools is great for group training but climatic conditions, such as heavy rain, storms, wind or a scorching sun, can make for a difficult environment.
It is advisable to vary the training environment to enable swimmers to experience different conditions. An indoor center provides reference points, such as beams running parallel to the pool which help the swimmer to travel in a straight line when swimming backstroke. However, in an outdoor pool swimmers can project their vision to a landmark, such as a tree, a light pole or the block at the end of their lane.
An indoor pool is great for learning, because weather conditions are controlled. As long as water quality, water temperature and air temperature are ideal, an indoor pool is the perfect learning environment, especially for young swimmers, children.
Some outdoor pools are cold and have short seasons of operation. In this situation, classes need to be short and sharp, with minimum talk and more action.