I was checking out my Strava stats yesterday evening, and I noticed something. In the past 8-10 weeks, I have swum more than I did for the entirety of 2018. That might sound impressive, but I only did 3 hours of swimming in 2018, so it wasn’t an insurmountable challenge! Why did I swim so little last year? Easy! I hated swimming.
That’s not an exaggeration. The very act of going to the swimming pool used to get me super stressed, and as a result, I didn’t go. When I did go, I got bored almost instantly, which resulted in me bailing after about 20 mins and declaring the whole palaver a waste of time. Yet now, I actively go swimming twice a week, I am even considering a monthly swimming membership to my local pool! What’s more, I am contemplating upgrading my Garmin to a multi-sport version which includes swimming metrics. I don’t know who is more shocked in this turnaround, my family or me!
If you really want to like swimming, but haven’t quite got there, these are the five changes I made that helped to make swimming a far more enjoyable experience. I hope they help for you too!
1. The pool you swim in makes a BIG difference
I have a confession to make, I get lane rage, BAD. I think my tendency towards rage is one of the reasons I never used to swim, it was just so frustrating. In all other triathlon sports you can easily avoid people when you’re training, it is a little trickier when you’re confined to the timetable of your local pool but it’s not impossible. (Caveat: I am fortunate that I live in an area where there are lots of pools so I am able to be picky, I understand that for some people, this is not possible).
If you, like me, suffer from lane-rage, it is worth hunting around for your ideal pool. Don’t limit your search to leisure centres and gyms, lots of private schools have pools, and outside of school hours, these are often open to the public to use and a lot quieter than the local leisure centre. Personally, I really hate swimming at my local leisure centre. There is nothing wrong with the pool itself, in fact it has been recently renovated so it is beautiful, but the lanes are too wide and as a result there is a lot of confusion as to how to swim in them. Further to this, the timetable is so limited outside of work hours, the sessions are heaving. I personally swim in a public school pool during the week and I often have a lane to myself and can zone out and complete my programme to my hearts content.
2. Have a plan
Not going to lie, swimming in a pool is boring. On the the very scientific Helen’s Indoor Triathlon Exercise scale, it falls above the dreadmill, but below turboing (thanks Zwift!). Swimming in an outdoor pool is a slightly more interesting experience, but there is no getting around that doing lap after lap of essentially a 25m bath is dull. Swim, turn, repeat ad nauseum. I’m getting bored just writing about it.
Boredom was the biggest reasons why I never managed to swim for more than about 20 minutes at a time (not exactly great value for money, I know). About 20 minutes in, I would lose count of my laps and start dreaming about whatever I was planning on eating afterwards. In these situations, I need a plan. There are loads of plans online, and I really recommend the ones on 220 Triathlon. I find that having a plan, and breaking up the session into different intervals helps to keep me motivated. It’s a lot easier (for me at least) to maintain my motivation during a 6x250m rather than a 1500m slog, even though the distance is the same. I tend to print my plan out and put it in a document wallet to keep it dry poolside. Yes, I look like a bit of a wannabe when I wander out to pool side with my kickboard float, bottle of water and plan but hey ho, you can’t win them all.
3. Get some coaching
My swimming initially came on leaps and bounds when I signed up for Adult Swimming Lessons age 25. Since then, I have taken up opportunities to get coached whilst on holiday at Club La Santa, and I have gone to a couple of SwimFit sessions at my local leisure centre too. Having someone watch me swim and give me feedback on my particular foibles (aka my disobedient right arm) has helped give me more confidence in the water. I would urge anyone who is unsure in the water to sign up for swimming lessons, or check out their local Tri Club or SwimFit classes for more tailored coaching. You won’t regret it.
4. Don’t wear jeans
Anyone that has tried to put jeans on still-slightly-wet legs after swimming will understand this. Don’t try it, invest in some lovely snuggly joggers and reap the benefits in the changing rooms after swimming.
5. Invest in a decent swimming hat
This is more aimed at the ladies rather than the gents, but I have found that buying a decent swimming hat, designed for people with Long Hair has been a godsend. I have a Speedo one (other brands are available), and if I get the fit right, I don’t have to wash my hair afterwards as it is pretty much still dry. A quick blast with the hairdryer on the ends, and I am good to go. Even if my hair does get wet, I find that having a swimming hat stops my hair from getting quite so damaged by the chlorine. Chlorine tends to make my hair very frizzy, so this also benefits other people, as my hair is less likely to try and kill them with static.
Those are my tips. I hope at least one of them is helpful and I have motivated you to “take the plunge” and go swimming. It’s alright, I’ll see myself out.