Dryland and calisthenics used to be my favorite part of swim practice when I swam. Now, they are my favorite part of practice to coach. As an assistant age group coach, I do not frequently write my own workouts—I usually follow those that our program coordinator has written. However, during the twenty minutes of dryland at the beginning of practice each day, I have free reign. If you asked, about half of my swimmers would tell you, “Coach Colin’s dryland is HARD! We NEVER do ANYTHING fun!” The other half would tell you that they never want another coach to do their out-of-the-water portion of practice. I do take dryland seriously. It is twenty minutes of time to work on balance, flexibility, and strengthening the core. But I really strive to implement at least two days a week of something different—something fun and out of the ordinary.
These days are “game” days. However, that being said—I do not play games where they get to totally goof off and forgo working out. My go-to “game” is trivia. I will either write down a set of questions on a piece of paper, or pull up random tidbits on my phone. I will break the group of usually 20-something kids into a few teams, with captains, and then I have the captains come up and tell me the answer after consulting with their teammates. For wrong answers, I have all the groups that answered incorrectly do a 30-60 second set of a moderately challenging exercise. For the groups that answered correctly, I still have them do an exercise, but only 5-10 reps of a very easy exercise.
My current favorite way to spice up dryland and make it more fun is “Dryland-OPOLY!”
I take one of the large (2×3 foot) whiteboards that the team has and draw out a perimeter of squares. Then I fill each square with an exercise, a “go to jail,” “jail,” or a “GO” (all very similar to real Monopoly). There are no individual pieces—I and the swimmers keep track of what square we are on and they play as a group—everyone does the same exercise. Then, once we actually get started, the way the game works is as follows: I let a swimmer roll (and I will pick a different swimmer each roll), and whatever number shows on the dice is the number of squares they move. It is ALSO the number of repetitions that the group performs of the exercise they land on. Every time they pass GO, I give them 30 seconds to talk amongst themselves, then I have someone roll again. Jail, and Go to Jail spaces all act the same—the person who was rolling that turn gets penalized with a plank for two rounds/rolls. There are a variety of ways that one can tweak the game or adjust the game, the most immediate of which I have found to be playing with a many-sided dice. I currently play with a 20-sided dice and think that offers a quick turnaround time so that the kids get their 30 second talk break more often, but it often means that they do a lot more reps than a normal 6-sided dice.
Outside of games, I just try and stay involved with the kids. They do get rowdy occasionally and some days are worse than others when it comes to the actual quality of the exercises being performed, but secondary to making sure we have a safe and welcoming environment and that both my head coach and the kids’ parents are happy, my goal is a fun and productive dryland that get’s my 8-12 year-old age-groupers moving and excited to be at practice and getting in the pool.
Thanks to Colin Abbey for contributing!
Coach at ATAC (Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club) in Tallahassee, FL | Passionate photographer