Want to know how to train better, get injured less and perform better in training and races? Want to know the magic elixir that can help you achieve all of this? It’s called ‘fun’. Add it to any swim, get the dosage right, and you will be astounded at the results. Sounds a bit simple? I am totally serious about adding fun to your swimming.
The essentials of swim technique, ﬁtness and open water skills are important; however, getting caught up in these three foundations can leave little room for the F-word! It can leave your swimming feeling a little, er, dry.
You may recognise the symptoms of not having enough fun. It may be an undefined loss of your swimming mojo, a difficulty in getting out of bed in the morning to swim, a feeling that you’re working hard but getting nowhere and a sense that the old adage of ‘just add water’ isn’t enough anymore.
Here’s six ways to put the fun back into your swimming.
1. Make friends
Swimmers tend to be an extremely social bunch. The South London Swimming Club meet every Sunday morning at Tooting Bec Lido. They may swim a mile, they may swim a width – but you can be sure there will be new faces, cake and laughter. And in New Zealand, the COWs group hit the water in Christchurch, come rain or shine. The swim may be chilly, but the banter and chips afterwards warm everyone up. And everywhere in between, swim groups are meeting up to share the experience of swimming outdoors. If you’re not already part of a swimming group or club, join one. If you are, don’t be the person who rushes home or to work as soon as the swimming is done. Even if it’s just five minutes, share the banter and make sure to welcome newcomers.
2. Tune out
If you are annoyed, frustrated or simply want some peace and quiet, the water is a chance to ‘reset’ and preserve your sanity in our busy world. Next time you hit the water, take a moment to focus on the moment when the water envelops you and takes the weight off both your feet and your mind. Remember to feel grateful and, if the mood takes, let out a shout of joy when you surface.
3. Do something different
In the sessions I coach, I don’t just have people swimming endless lengths and doing pointless drills. We swim half lengths, do duck dives, practise drafting and huddle up for group pictures. Nearly everything you do in water helps you become a better, more confident and more competent swimmer, even it seems a bit ridiculous. Have a laugh and get on with it. Or how about having a go at a different aquatic discipline such as synchronised swimming or water polo?
4. Make a game out of it
Kids aren’t the only ones who can play games. Try mixed ability relays or predict-your-time races. Make these more challenging by doing them as drills or with bands around your legs or something where you’re not familiar with the speed you normally swim. Play mind games with your stroke count: what’s the least and most number of strokes you can take on a length and keep the time within a five second band? You are limited only by your imagination.
5. Solve a problem
Our brain waves change when swimming. Fact. It’s often referred to as a ‘Zen-like state’. Just like when meditating, answers to problems simply appear in your mind. Got a problem you can’t solve? Go swimming! Didn’t ﬁnd the answer you were looking for? Go swimming again! Can you think of a better, or more fun, way to solve problems?
6. Eat cake
Cake tastes better after swimming. Why? No idea. But it does. There is a really fun way to test this theory: eat some cake; go swimming for an hour; eat some more cake. Now, which tasted better?