It’s been a few months but Max Litchfield is smiling again. And swimming!
After shining at last year’s World Championships, the 23-year-old from Sheffield has struggled with a shoulder injury and was forced to pull out of the Commonwealths in April.
The Sky Sports Scholar opens up on his recent battles in the gym, on two wheels and why he’s finally excited about jumping into the pool again….
The 2017/2018 season has been full of obstacles but through determination, motivation and support of all my family, friends and coaching and support staff, we are finally coming out the other side!
A slap tear in my shoulder set me back throughout the winter and there has been plenty of sweat, blood and tears required to get where I am today.
Through Christmas the watt bike was my best friend, spending hundreds of hours pushing my body to the limit on land as I could not do so in the pool.
Along with a couple of hours of rehab a day and you pretty much had my schedule down to a tee.
Working through those periods was very difficult. It was so hard to see the end of the tunnel when progress was slow and I couldn’t do what I love to do.
I knew I could do it – it was just a matter of hard work, time and being sensible. Those three points would be key further down the line.
Four months on from not being able to swim and I am now back doing 60-kilometre weeks and basically swimming at full pelt again.
Like anything in life and particularly in sport, you always have to work hard. But when you cannot swim you have to find other ways of making physiological gains.
That for me was the watt bike and something I actually think will turn out to be a big gain for me. Time is crucial. Injuries take time to heal and you cannot rush them and that’s where the sensibility comes in.
Between myself, physios and the coaches we have devised a plan that builds volume and intensity steadily in and out the pool. There are no big spikes in load, no crazy swim-sets, just sensible periodic planning to make sure we can be in peak condition when we need to be.
The outcome of all this hard work is a new and improved me! We are back to a place where I can swim as normal and basically train as I usually would.
However, from this process I have improved my technique, leg strength and my mental toughness. All of these will help me massively as we move towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
All this work has paid dividends too as I have recently been selected for my third European Championships.
This year they are in Glasgow with a new format, where all different sports come together and have their championships at the same time.
This is really thrilling for me and I am hugely excited for the season ahead and getting back to racing the best in the world once more.