I know lots of swimmers... it comes from spending lots of time in bodies of water that are swimmable.... you get chatting, you make new friends, you compare notes. Mostly the swimmers I know just love to swim but there are a few who, having discovered the open water, find it hard to swim any significant distance in a pool without getting bored. I get it.. well, I sort of get it. If your pool swim is just a plod up and down, one stroke, one speed, no targets or plans then I suppose it could get a bit dull after a while...
Having swum over 20k in the last week alone, mostly in a pool, I can honestly say none of it was boring. Sure there aren't any fish to look out for, no weeds to swim through, no salty water to get your taste buds tingling, no starlings murmuring overhead, no trees to sight, no swans to avoid....but that's not to say that pool swims can't be fun, engaging and whatever you want them to be! So... if it can be of help... here are some of my tips for keeping it interesting and motivating and ensuring that it doesn't feel like treacle .... even when it is busy and smelly!
Have a plan - for each session, whether it be to 'just swim', to swim 5k, to check your Critical Swim Speed (CSS), to do a particular set or programme ... whatever your plan, if you have one you're more likely to be keen to achieve it or even surpass it! BUT.... be prepared to modify the plan if the conditions just aren't right... if it's too busy or you're still feeling the effects of last night's Fish & Chips!
Mix it up - use different strokes! try changing strokes every 100m... it'll put your body in a different position every 4 lengths (3 in a 33m pool or 2 if you're lucky enough to swim in a 50m pool), help you avoid RSI and keep your brain engaged as you count the 100s off
Change lanes - or at least change your speed in the same lane.... do a 10m sprint.... it's great practice for when you're in an OW event and you want to get away from that annoying swimmer who has been drafting you for the last km and keeps tapping your toes, or for your sprint finish, when you're going to sail past the swimmer in front of you. Changing lanes means you get to chat to different people, challenge yourself to swim a bit faster to keep up with the traffic, or take the opportunity to swim a little slower using your weakest stroke. Try using a tempo trainer to swim at a given pace.
Do some intervals - counting 30 x 50m with an eye on the pace clock is a great workout for the brain as well as the body! Or try a pyramid 25m/50m/100m/200m/400m/200m/100m/50m/25m
Be mindful - Live in the swimmy moment you're in.... a bit like a moving meditation... feel the water around you, above you, moving as you swim through it. What does it feel like? Is it comforting to be surrounded by it? What can you hear? What does it sound like? Is it smooth? Is it cold? What's with the warm patches? Are you breathing calmly, are you struggling to get in the rhythm? close your eyes, drift away (but be careful not to bump into the wall!)
Check your technique - How far are you rotating? Where's your head? How's your catch feeling? What's happening with your breathing? Can you reach a little further? What part of your hand is hitting the water first?
Do some relevant drills - and help to keep your technique spot on (a concert pianist doesn't stop practicing their scales). Count your strokes and see if you can reduce your stroke number per length. When was the last time you practiced your sculling? Tread water!
Practice your Open Water Skills - Sighting, deep water starts, bilateral breathing, drafting (make sure you ask the person you're drafting if it's ok... it feels a bit weird otherwise!), turning without touching the wall
Add some toys - use a kick board or a pull buoy to mix up your drills. If you're allowed to use them in your pool, add some fins or paddles.
Let your mind wander - plan your day, your shopping/to-do list, find a solution to that issue at work that's been bugging you all week, draft that difficult conversation you need to have with a colleague. Before you know it you'll have swum the next km/mile without even realizing it and you'll have a plan for the rest of your day!
Listen to music - there are some pretty good waterproof players out there (not something I would advocate but it works for some!)
Be sociable - stop and talk to other swimmers... If it's busy and you're trying to swim intervals, it's easier if other swimmers know what you're doing ... mostly they'll be happy to help (although there is sometimes 'the one' who will just carry on with their plan irrespective of yours!). Join a club... they do lots of social stuff out of the water as well as in it....
Of course, some days are easier than others but pool swimming will be as interesting or as dull as you make it. We can't all swim in open water all the time and a pool session can be a really important addition to your swim training and progress, whatever your goals. Just like a runner might run on a treadmill or a cyclist might go to a spin class or workout on a turbo trainer on an icy day. Pool swimming can be your friend if you put in some time and imagination to make it worth your while!
Swimming photos courtesy of Jo Turchet Photography
Swimmer - well, hopefully you recognize me!