If you are anything like me, time in the pool isn’t just about swimming but it’s also about time to myself, time I often spend thinking. Sometimes I think about my day, sometimes I think about work, but most of the time my mind just wanders. This is mostly true in long distance training swims, when the workout is about the distance and not so much the pace. I do however, on occasion try and think about what I am doing on my more serious workouts, and that has kept me more attune to what I am doing or trying to do. That being said, here are a few things to think about next time you find yourself in the pool for a long time and want to avoid getting more and more bored with every lap.
1. The Black Line is Your Friend
Everyone knows that part of the reason why the black line at the bottom of the pool exists is not just to separate the lanes, but also so that you have something to stare at to ensure your head stays down. But, we all know that not all swimmers do this and it’s a shame, because looking up or forward changes your body position so that your lower half sinks and makes you less buoyant. Granted it’s sometimes hard to tell if you are in fact looking straight down, ask a coach or a fellow swimmer to observe, or as a rule of thumb, remember that the waterline should be about mid-cap on the top of your head is low enough, and when you rotate to breathe, one goggle is still submerged.
2. Where’s Your Hand?
Knowing where your hands are and how they interact with the water can help create a self awareness that will allow you to make adjustments, especially as practice goes on and you get tired. Really try and observe your hands: Where do you lock into your catch on the water? What’s the pattern of your pull? Knowing these kinds of things about your stroke will help you recognize that feeling of swimming “right”, when you are most efficient so that you can swim this way as often as possible.
3. Count Your Kicks
I know it sounds elementary BUT, count your kicks! Know how many kicks typically gets you from one side of the pool to the other. This is especially true when you’re racing, because knowing the average kicks it takes you to do a certain stroke at ‘X’ pace is the surest way to get across the pool during a race without panicking that you are going to miss your timing off the wall. Counting kicks can also make you a better, more efficient swimmer. Ask yourself: Are you a better swimmer with more or less kicks? This can help determine what works best for you.
4. Count Your Strokes
Along the same lines as counting your kicks, counting your strokes provides a good idea of where you are in the pool during practice compared to your racing. If you are practicing at race pace and you know you take 23 strokes a length, but today you’re hitting 26, think about holding onto more water, and maybe slowing the arms down a little. If you usually are at 15 and today it’s only taking 13 strokes to cross the pool, see if you can figure what’s different about what you are doing today. Are you going slower? Are you going faster? Are you taking more kicks off the wall than usual? Are you holding onto water better? Knowing what you are doing in practice is a good way towards swimming at your best.
5. What’s Your Time?
While I am sure most of us hate the clock from time to time, the clock is a very useful tool. Use it and use it wisely. Know your times – on everything – your usual warm-up pace, your interval pace, your sprint pace, etc. Knowing the pace of your “easy” pace will give you a baseline to work with. You might feel like crap during a workout BUT executing a better time than usual on “easy” laps. This may tell you that you are improving despite how your body feels, or that you need to slow down to embrace the warm-up pace you’re accustomed to.
Occasionally a coach will ask you to do something that sounds ridiculous. Maybe you’ll spend twenty minutes swimming in circles without touching the wall – whatever it is, sometimes asking what the point of a crazy notion is, is a good idea because there’s typically ALWAYS a reason behind it. Knowing what you should be looking to accomplish during practice is part of the point. But don’t ask questions during the set – always after.
Listen to what your coach tells other athletes. Think about your own stroke, and whether you are doing what your coach is asking someone else to do. This one requires a lot of control: if Coach tells Swimmer A he needs to stop reaching so far on his freestyle and you take the advice, you may not be getting from it what Swimmer A would (if he turned his brain on and listened). Maybe your freestyle arms are already right. The point of eavesdropping is trying to gain pointers to compare your own technique to, and see where you might be able to improve. But remember to consult with your coach before making any significant changes!
What do you think about when you swim?Image Source: albello.com by