Homepage photo by Jeff Glaspy
Story and video by Jonathan Cain of SwimLabs
When I was a kid, my favorite sport was swimming, and I especially loved it in the summer. I think that there were a couple reasons for this- not only was the pride of the neighborhood at stake, but practice was really fun. At times we worked really hard, but mostly, our coaches were focused on getting us to fall in love with swimming.
It definitely worked. As I got older, I continued swimming competitively, and swimming became more and more about the quest to get even faster, and less about having fun at the pool. Swimming is just like anything in life- all work and no play makes it really easy to catch a case of the doldrums, which left unchecked can lead to “burnout,” making it difficult to continue training at a high level.
If you have been following a triathlon training plan all year, holding off these doldrums is something you should consider. When the heat of August hits, and you feel like you are hitting a wall in your swim that you just can’t break through, it’s easy to start dreading that next practice. If it gets really bad, you might even put it off, placing your goals in jeopardy.
Luckily, it’s not that difficult to hold off the doldrums—at least in the water. You simply need to inject a little fun into your workouts. There are a lot of different ways to do this while simultaneously continuing to train at a high level. Here are my top- five:
1. Inject a little flavor into your workout: While it’s easiest to train by going to the pool and swimming a set distance, it’s not really the best way to train. It’s much better to utilize “sets” as you swim so you can work on different things as you practice. Swim sets allow you to fine tune every aspect of both your fitness and your swimming technique. What’s more, there are endless ways to break up the monotony of your workout. One of my personal favorite sets is to swim 50×50’s on 50 second intervals. Be creative! It will make your swim workouts much more interesting.
2. Try a different stroke: When you are a triathlete, it’s important to spend the majority of your time swimming freestyle. That doesn’t mean that you can’t try other strokes. In fact, learning to swim in other ways can actually increase your understanding and ability to swim freestyle. For example, the arm movement of butterfly is functionally the same as Freestyle, but because both arms move simultaneously, it’s easier to refine your technique. The next time you go to the pool, try swimming a 200 IM- 50 yards or meters each of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle. Don’t focus on trying to have the “perfect stroke” but rather on what lessons each of these strokes can teach you about how your body moves best through the water.
3. Find an open water practice: Swimming down the same narrow lane back and forth can get a little old after awhile. What’s more, swimming in a pool doesn’t really prepare you for swimming in open water, which can be a daunting task to the uninitiated. During the summer, there is an easy fix for this- most areas have a swim beach, or a lake where you can practice open water swimming. Some areas even have triathlon “practice” where you can work on swimming different distances with a coach present. It’s a great way to get some valuable experience, and better scenery, all at the same time.
4. Get your stroke analyzed: One of the hardest things about swimming is that you can’t really tell for sure what your stroke looks like, and if it is as efficient and powerful as it should be. At SwimLabs Swim Schools, we will record your stroke and do real time, side-by-side analysis with some of the best swimmers in the world. This can really help give you a new lease on life in the pool, because you will know exactly what it is that you should be working on.
5. Have some fun in the water: I don’t think I can make an argument that going down a water slide will in any way improve your stroke. Doing a cannonball when you get into the pool won’t either, but the fun you have might just give you the perfect frame of mind to push through those doldrums when you need it the most.
No matter why you chose to compete in triathlons, at the end of the day, the most important thing is to enjoy what you do. The next time you find yourself dreading that your next swim session, shake it up a little bit and have some fun! You might be surprised at how quickly you find yourself refreshed and ready to conquer the water.
SwimLabs Swim Schools are state of the art swimming facilities outfitted with video analysis and Endless Pools for a truly unique underwater experience. At SwimLabs, recreational and competitive swimmers can swim in a unique environment that provides them with the knowledge to learn, experience to continually improve, and the passion to enjoy a lifetime of healthy activity and competition. They currently operate locations in California, Colorado, Illinois and Virginia.