…. or trying to at least…!
I didn’t come to triathlon through a swimming background, far from it. Memories of pool swimming were of standing, shivering by the side of a pool in my black swim costume age, feet cold and clammy and dirty plasters stuck to the bottom of the floor. I had an ear operation as a kid which meant months of having to wear earplugs and a swim cap at our school swim lessons, meaning I couldn’t hear a word anyone said. This led to at least two horribly awkward situations…
1) Coming out of the changing rooms and almost getting into the pool before a teacher ran over to me and told me I still had my knickers on under my swimming costume (anyone else know of the knicker trick?!) She had tried to get my attention as I walked past but obviously I couldn’t hear her….
2) Having a lifeguard jump in and get me, shouting all the time, when I was standing in the wrong part of the pool and couldn’t hear him telling me to move…
Summer holiday swimming involved splashing around if the water was warm enough – although I lived on a boat in the Carribbean and various other hot places for a year, I definitely didn’t swim enough! The best ‘swim’ was in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, but no actual swimming took place, just holding onto a buoy and surfing up and down the waves.
So – background complete. I am not a swimmer.
But this pesky little thing called triathlon meant I had to get in the pool, and I had to learn how to swim. Swimming lengths is borrrrrring and especially as most of my swimming is in 20m pools, that’s a lot of lengths. It took a few months but I gradually managed to work out ways to beat the boredom and keep on swimming. It paid off as now I’m good enough that I can actually enjoy it! So here goes…
1) Break it up
No swim instructors (or v few) would recommend consistently getting into the pool and swimming long distances without stopping, length after length after length. If you have a problem in your technique, this won’t help solve it and will just deeper engrain that problem. It’s also horrendously boring.
So break it up! Find a training programme online (I use these ones – they are easy to stick to with just two floats (a kick board and a pull/pool buoy) and try out the exercises involved. Or try sprints – 100m as fast as you can and 30 seconds to catch your breath at the end before you’re off again. 30 seconds is a good rest period between intervals / drills.
Today I did….
Easy warmup: 2 lengths front crawl, 1 length breast stroke, 2 lengths front crawl (that’s 100m in total).
Sprints: 100m (5 lengths) all out. I gave myself 2min 30 to do the sprint AND to rest and I managed my fastest ever 100m – 1 min 46 seconds. After the 2 min 30 was up, I started again with the easy warm-up 100m. I repeated that twice – and that’s 500m swum.
Kicking: 320m (it’s annoying having a 20m pool when plans are designed for 25m pools!) – alternating 20m relatively easy and 20m all out. I took 30 seconds of rest every 4 lengths.
Cool-down: 2 lengths (40m of breast stroke).
A total of 860m in 25 minutes and no boredom! Due to mixing it up.
2) Listen to your body
It’s the only sport where you can really, fully, focus on your body. Running and cycling – you have to have some concentration on your surroundings, the road / trail surface, other road users, pedestrians, buildings, corners …… Plus it’s quite nice to admire the view if you’re on a beautiful trail!
There is none of that in swimming – it is just the black line at the bottom of the pool, the tiles at the side and your breath gasping for air. So I really focus on the feeling in all my muscles, working my way down my body. Head position, elbows high, the pull on my shoulders, my thighs burning as I kick as hard as I can, my feet floppy and streamlined in the water. I concentrate on the muscles, feeling them ache and knowing that’s making me stronger. In breast stroke, I can feel my inner thigh muscles working as I kick out. In butterfly it’s the core I really focus on.
3) Listen to music???
Some people swear by this but it’s not for me. I haven’t tried it but just don’t think I’d like it at all. I accept that’s a bit strange seeing as I hate running without headphones, but I really do like the still solitude of the pool and listening to how my body feels.
4) Do NOT give yourself a treat for when you get out of the pool
My reason for this is just that then my mind would give up much sooner so that I can get out of the pool and get that treat!!
Hope that’s been of some help 🙂
Ps Juneathon Day 20 – 1 swim, 1 45 min lower body strength session.