Over the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to improve my swimming endurance. At each triathlon, I usually would make it about 100m before I was gasping for air and switched to side stroke or breast stroke…for the rest of the race. Ugh. In previous years I tried to meet with a swim coach or follow regimented workouts that included drills and speedwork but it just didn’t work for me. So this time I made a plan for myself to swim twice a week and slowly build endurance. Instead of focusing on swimming quickly, I decided that the only rule I had to follow was that I wasn’t going to get to stop and take breaks. I started with 8 sets of 75m freestyle, 25m side stroke or breast stroke. That way I could focus on just swimming 75m before I got a short (active) rest and it allowed me to control the length of the rest more accurately. Each workout I increase the freestyle distance or number of sets. Recently I did 1200m total with 8 sets of 125m freestyle, 25m active rest. After the workout I was remember what all went on in my head during this swim and thought you guys might enjoy what 1200m feels like to me…
I put on my black and white swimsuit and, as always, feel like Shamu as I get in the pool. All I can think about at the start is how ridiculous I must look in my funny one-piece and bright pink swim cap. How on earth are you supposed to get ALL of your hair tucked in? I realized at the last tri that I’m about the only swimmer who doesn’t pull the swimcap down over their ears – mine is tucked behind my ears, haha. Time to get in the pool…of course all the lanes are taken but at least there’s only one person in each lane. I wait patiently for one of them to get back to my end of the pool so I can ask if they mind sharing a lane. Fortunately everyone at this pool is pretty nice. I jump in and always think it feels too cold even though it’s an indoor heated pool. I’m such a baby, lol. I start my watch (more on that later), push off the wall and start swimming. Everything is working and I feel like I’m flying. I’m practically Michael Phelps
After my first couple sets it starts to get more tiring. Why is swimming so hard? Am I keeping my head tucked in enough? Is my body straight or am I dragging my legs? Are my arms pulling hard enough? Am I even kicking my legs? Ugh. Just get to the next rest. I try to remember that not very long ago, I could barely even swim 50m at a time and 500m in the pool seemed daunting. It comforts me enough to get to the end of the set. I try to zone out and I hear Dory’s voice “just keep swimming”
I’ve past the half way point and there’s no way I’ll make it to the end of this workout. It’s too hard. Then I hear Bonnie’s voice in my head “you don’t get to quit just because it’s hard, it’s supposed to be hard. The fact that it’s hard is even more reason why you NEED to finish this workout”. So I keep pushing through a couple more sets.
Only a couple more sets left. I feel like I’m flailing around. But wasn’t I ready to quit after set #5? And here I am mid-way through set 7…ok well finish this set. Once 7’s done I can’t possibly quit on the last one. Normally I focus on keeping good form, staying controlled. This last set I just want to make it before my lungs explode or my muscles give out and I sink to the bottom of the pool like a rock. I speed as quickly as I can (I find out later that it wasn’t quick at all, lol) to get to the end of my 125m and am grateful to have finished the workout.
Was it hard? Yep, really hard. Was it fun? Um…I guess. The burning and tough parts were not fun while they were happening. But getting through them and realizing you can do more than you thought, that is fun. After a few more weeks my plan starts getting a little more aggressive. I’m hoping that by the end of this year I can swim a mile (1600m) without stopping at all. I know it will be hard but if I just focus on one workout at a time, I know I’ll get there.