The start of 2022 brings with it the tantalising prospect of a packed aquatics calendar for athletes, coaches and fans alike.
But the first days in January are also a time when some people begin to act on their own list of New Year's resolutions, drawn up for the year ahead.
We spoke to British Swimming Performance Lifestyle Advisor Josh Rudd to find out why the decision to make resolutions on 1st January is down to personal choice, how best to stay organised when things get busy - and why our athletes can benefit from activities away from the pool in the midst of a huge year of competitions...
Are goals or resolutions important to set heading into a new year - or is it down to personal preference?
Josh Rudd (JR): Given the environment we work in, goal-setting is a common feature throughout the year so I wouldn't necessarily advocate for setting New Year's resolutions to athletes. However, it can provide a good reset for some goals or the opportunity to start something new.
I always suggest setting 'start not stop resolutions' - focus on doing something new or that they want to start. For example, start walking to the pool more, start learning a language etc. If we reinforce with positives, we’re more likely to stick to them!
2022 is a packed year for our athletes. What advice do you give to swimmers when they are looking ahead to particularly busy periods in their season?
JR: Plan early. It's something I would always advocate for, not just athletes, but looking ahead isn't necessarily a bad thing at specific times. As you mentioned, it's going to be a busy year with competitions including the World Championships, Commonwealth Games and finally the European Championships for our senior swimmers. That's three big occasions to make an impact.
Making sure everything else in your life is well-managed will be so important during these periods. It may sound simple, but using your phone calendar or a good old fashioned diary can really help to organise the next few months. I'd also suggest for anyone in education to consider their exams as early as possible to avoid any clashes.
It's really important to check the timetable and have conversations early so it doesn't come as a surprise to both you and your school/university/college.
How important is it to have other interests and hobbies away from the pool - and what positive impacts can they have on their physical and mental health?
JR: I am a big believer in maintaining hobbies alongside swimming. We often know in life more generally, those without other interests or hobbies can tend to struggle finding outlets to decompress after the stress of a busy day.
Exercise and team sports can often be viewed as a means of mental and physical decompression for most, however athletes live and breathe exercise so may not get the same outcome. Our Personal Development Award applications that athletes can access have this year seen an increase in golf lessons, language courses and a variety of other interests unrelated to swimming that support athletes' overall physical or mental health.
Is there any specific performance lifestyle advice you give to athletes at the start of a new calendar year?
JR: I always say to enjoy the break over Christmas. Spending time with loved ones and family is so important especially after the year we’ve all been through and the busy racing calendar in 2022. Be kind to yourself, take some quality downtime to switch off and reconnect outside of the pool. It’ll inevitably make you a better swimmer for the year ahead.
Josh, have you got any New Year's resolutions that you're planning for 2022?
JR: I really got into golf this time last year and said I’d start it back up. Then lockdown meant I couldn’t play at all, but I’ve spent most of the year playing (poorly!) so will definitely keep that up into 2022.
As I said, lots of the swimmers have also started playing in the past year too, so organising a British Swimming Golf Day sounds like fun!
I’m also moving in the New Year to be closer to family, so spending more time with them is a plan for me moving forward. I’d also like to get out and see more swimming competitions, so I'm really looking forward to some of the meets this upcoming year.