We are fast approaching that time of year when many Masters swimmers will be competing in their main focus meets, whether that is state championships, zones or perhaps even short course nationals. Most experienced competitors know that this time of year means that they get to enter the "taper" phase of training and adjust their workouts to achieve peak performance.
It is not only very important at this time to adjust what we do in the water, but it is equally as important to adjust what we are doing in our dryland cross-training. For me, the number one rule for dryland at this time of year is do nothing new, nothing you are not already doing and nothing you are not accustomed to. As you swim less and begin feeling rested, it is tempting to use all of your extra energy in creative ways. Don't. To quote a leading sage of Masters swimming, Ande Rasmussen, "Don't do stupid stuff. If anything begins with ‘Hey, watch this!" it's probably a very bad idea."
What you can do to begin resting your body is to lower the resistance and number of repetitions in your exercises, but, at the same time, slightly accelerate the motion to keep the nervous system stimulated. This is not the time to reach your failure point, but the time to end your dryland session feeling powerful and energized. This is also the one time where it does make sense to adjust your routines to become more swimming specific, i.e. focusing on those exercises that more closely mimic swimming motions.
When do you stop dryland altogether before the big meet? This is very individualized, but most coaches agree men generally need more rest than women, especially men who are more heavily muscled. Personally, I do nothing too strenuous for at least three weeks before my main focus meet and my last light lift is about 10 days out. However, I know some very successful swimmers that like to lift fairly heavily very close to the meet. Remember, you're in this for the long haul and each season is a learning experience. Record what you're doing, see how well you swim and how good you feel and adjust accordingly for next season.