FEATURES,  View from the Water

Mindful swimming: six fun things to try while swimming to keep you focused on the moment

Swim down and meet the fish

With swimming, it’s easy to get wrapped up in performance measures (how far did I swim, how many hours did I do this week and so on?) and lose sight of the simple joy of being in the water. So sometimes, when you swim, it’s good to remind yourself how special it is to be in the water. Here are a few fun things you can do to remind yourself how lucky we are to be able to swim.

1. Sigh, and feel the water straighten out your kinks and curves

If you spend a large part of your day hunched over a computer or driving it can make your back curved and your mood tense. Water is brilliant for alleviating this. Try this next time you swim. As soon as you hit the water, stretch into a long underwater glide and sigh. Sighing starts a gentle relaxation process that should continue throughout your swim. At the same time, allow the pressure and buoyancy of the water to straighten out your back and stretch your shoulders. If you’re anything like me, there’s a good chance you will literally hear (and feel) your vertebrae clicking as you reverse the hours of slumping. It’s simple, but it’s the perfect way to set you up for a good swim.

2. Dive down and feel the temperature change

This is only possible in certain bodies of water and I would only recommend it if there is good visibility, but isn’t it fun to dive down a couple of metres and feel how the water temperature drops, and then enjoy warming up again as you come to the surface? It’s best done without a wetsuit. Experiencing and noticing the temperature changes keeps you in the moment.

3. Swim alongside a friend

Unless you’re a breaststroke swimmer, it’s tricky to talk to your friends while swimming, unlike cycling or running, but that doesn’t mean you need to swim alone. It’s beautifully satisfying to swim alongside a friend, especially in an open water setting where you don’t have to worry about turns. It’s especially good if you can synchronise the timing of your strokes and breathing. Who needs to talk anyway?

4. Lie on your back and watch the clouds

Watching the clouds while lying on your back on solid ground is pleasant enough, but when you do it from the water it’s a surprisingly different experience. It can even be a little disorientating and sometimes makes you feel dizzy, perhaps because of mismatched movement between the water and the clouds. Anyway, give it a go. It’s especially good after a long hard swim.

5. Swim underwater

In open water, as long as it’s clear, dive down among the fish or take a closer look at the plants, while moving effortlessly through three dimensions. In the pool, stretch into a long streamline position with your hands clasped above your head and your arms pressed to your shoulders. Then use dolphin kicks to drive through the water using full body movement. It feels good to use a different set of muscles to the ones you normally use for front crawl. It’s just a shame we can’t hold our breath like dolphins.

6. Sprint

Even if you’re a committed long distance swimmer, you can still enjoy the sensation and the afterglow of an all-out sprint. It doesn’t have to be in a race. Just let rip anytime you feel like it and throw everything in to it. And I mean, everything. The best distance is about 10 to 15 metres. Anything more than about 50 metres is too far for this. You don’t want to worry about pacing or what you’re doing next. Just concentrate on the moment and squeezing every ounce of power from your body. (Of course, only do this if you are in good health and injury free.)

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.