Someone asked us the other day, "how do I keep motivated for pool swimming?"
This was from a relatively recent convert to open water swimming whose experience to date mainly consists of inland water summer wetsuit swimming in the UK, so in temperatures ranging from around 14 to 20 degrees. Not wanting to continue outdoor swimming through the winter she turned to the pool to keep swimming. But, she doesn't like it and can't wait for the lakes to open again so she can swim outside.
There are plenty of things not to like about pools: the smell, the crowds, the need to turn every 25m, dirty changing rooms and an absence of the friendly inclusive atmosphere you often find at open water swimming venues. For some, the standard 28 to 30 degrees is just too warm, and 'lane rage' seems all too common with pools seemingly unable or unwilling to separate swimmers of different speeds and abilities.
On the other hand there are plenty of people that enjoy swimming both outside and in a pool. A like of one doesn't have to exclude the other. Sometimes it just takes a change of focus, so here are our suggestions to help you enjoy being a pool swimmer.
- Try not to think of pool swimming as an alternative to open water swimming or as a substitute – something to do only when time or conditions mean you can't swim outside. Instead treat it as a separate activity to be enjoyed for its own sake. Enjoy being in the water, in warm, usually calm conditions, and take advantage of the things pool swimming offers you rather than the outdoor swimming pleasures it denies you.
- Always go to the pool with an objective. Commit yourself to completing a certain distance or following a particular training set that ties in with your long term swimming goals. Even if your goal is just a loose interest in keeping vaguely fit for your next open water swim, your pool session will be more enjoyable if you have a plan.
- Take a watch with you or learn how to use the pace clock. Time your main set, the intervals within the set and even the individual lengths. Set yourself target times, both for today and future sessions. Learn the benefits of training at different speeds (we will have an article on this in the Apr/May 2013 issue) and learn how to properly pace your swimming.
- Join or swimming club and/or find other people to train with.
- Enter a masters swimming gala and see what you can do for 50m or 200m (in the UK you'll have to be an ASA member to do a gala. Temporary membership is available but it's usually easier to join through a club)
- Search the internet for training schedules and swimming videos. You can learn a lot but examine everything with a critical eye and ask if it's appropriate for your needs. We have some swimming sets on our website (see water slaves) or you could sign up for our free 12-week 'Swim a Mile' email course, which is designed for people training for their first open water mile. You could also try 'British Gas Swim Fit'.
- Book yourself into a swimming course to have your stroke analysed. Then use the pool to practise any drills specified. It's hard to practice a lot of drills in open water.
- Don't let 'Lane Rage' spoil your day. Talk to the other people sharing your lane. You may be surprised how accommodating people are once they understand what you're doing.
Finally, be grateful you still have somewhere to swim.