Training can be hard. It’s sometimes monotonous. It often starts early in the morning, when it’s cold, dark and icy. Training, however, serves a purpose. It helps us perform better in races and complete challenging swims. If you want to swim well, you have to train.
But just looking at the end result isn’t always motivation enough to do the training. It helps to have a few tricks, or hacks, both to get you started and to keep you going, so here are seven for you to try. Please let us know if you can think of others.
1. Agree to meet someone
Having a commitment to a friend or a group of fellow swimmers is an instant motivation boost to turn up.
2. Tell yourself you can back off or take it easy if it gets too hard
Cut yourself a little slack in advance. The thought of hard work is often worse than actually doing it and therefore stops you from starting. If you tell yourself you’ll just do the first half, it’s easier to get going. Once you’ve started, you often find it isn’t as hard as you feared it would be.
3. Start easy
Start swimming sessions slowly and concentrate on staying relaxed and maintaining good technique. You should find that after a while you start swimming faster, almost without trying. On the other hand, if you start too fast, you will almost certainly end up struggling.
4. Watch the clock
I don’t mean counting down the minutes until the session ends, but using the clock to measure and track your progress. Use it to break down the session into smaller, more manageable chunks. Don’t think about the 1500m you have to swim, just focus on the next 100m and set yourself a target for that.
5. Find focus points
Choose a technique focal point to work on during your swim – ideally something that a coach has suggested you work on – and keep focused as you get tired. If you need ideas, try holding your core tight, imagining your hands entering the water on train rails shooting out from your shoulders or blowing bubbles when your face is in the water.
6. Use positive self-talk
If you find it hard to think positive thoughts, imagine someone else is commentating on your swim and saying how strong you’re looking. Imagine them describing you swimming with perfect technique and rhythm. Pretend you’re the person the coach has asked to do a demo.
7. Accept that sometimes it will be hard
As you get tired you may find yourself coming up with reasons why it feels hard: you didn’t sleep so well last night, you didn’t leave long enough after eating before swimming, you haven’t recovered properly from that weight training session you did two weeks ago… That’s normal, especially on long endurance swims. Remind yourself that you are training both your mind and your body. Those negative thoughts are a sign that you’re working hard. Accept them and recognise how coping with them now will help you when they surface during your swim challenge.