Swimming laps is repetitive, which to some people means boredom. But there are lots of things you can do to add interest and variety to your workouts.
If you ask former swimmers why they gave up on the sport, chances are you’ll hear something about the tediousness of working out in solitude, staring at the black line. It’s true that swimming doesn’t offer the distraction of changing scenery or the satisfaction of seeing a distant destination grow closer, but lap swim doesn’t have to be monotonous.
Here are a few ideas to keep the boredom at bay.
Add some intervals. Changing up the pace will make you a stronger swimmer as well as adding variety to your training. The combination of hard efforts and recovery periods (for example, a series of 100-meter sprints followed by 30 seconds of rest) will help you build endurance and allow you to push yourself harder without getting overly fatigued.
Change up your strokes. Throw some backstroke, butterfly or breaststroke laps in with your freestyle laps. Do an individual medley if you know all the strokes. If you don’t, pick at least one other stroke to mix in occasionally to add variety and work different muscles. If you don’t know any other strokes, learning a new one will add interest in itself.
Focus on technique. Be conscious of your movements and focus on improving them. Try thinking about lengthening your stroke for a few laps and then turn your attention to breathing. If you’re not comfortable breathing to both sides, try breathing bilaterally for a few laps. (It’s a very important skill to develop because it’s hard to maintain a symmetrical stroke with good body roll to both sides if you’re only breathing to one side.) Swim a few laps with a kickboard, a pool buoy or hand paddles to further isolate certain aspects of your technique.
List to music. Get a waterproof MP3 player and make a playlist for the length of your workout. It beats singing songs to yourself in your head! Match the tempo of the music to your planned workout: start out slow as you warm up, and then pick up the pace.
Count your strokes. The best swimmers are very efficient; they cover the length of the pool more quickly because they travel further with each stroke. Count the number of strokes you take in a lap, and work on decreasing that number.
Find company. Bring a buddy to the pool or join a swim club. It can be helpful to get someone else’s feedback, and swimming together will make the whole endeavour seem less solitary. (Having a training buddy also helps make you feel more accountable, so you’re less likely to skip a workout.)
Let your mind wander. Use the time to think about whatever ideas get crowded out by the typical daily whirlwind of work, family and life in general. Solve the world’s problems. Meditate if you are so inclined, or just relax and enjoy the “me time.” Appreciate the fact that your phone is not demanding your attention.
What’s your favourite trick for keeping your swim workouts interesting?