Once, during a training session in the pool, I met a long-distance swimmer, who was just finishing his training session: “how many kilometres-a-day do you swim?”, I asked and he replied: “about 18”.
I was literally astounded by what he said and began to think: 18 km? In the pool? More or less 360 laps of an Olympic-size pool or 720 of a 25-metre pool. I wonder what he thinks about all the time while he stares at the black line on the bottom of the pool, I asked myself. After a few minutes feeling dismayed, I began to think about what goes through my head while I am swimming and whether I actually focused on that blue line while I am training.
I think swimming is a bit like meditating. At the beginning of my training session, I start to focus on the bottom of the pool, stroke after stroke, studying my shadow or the water my body slowly but constantly pushes during. I begin to sense the lack of gravity, a feeling of floating and lightness and, indeed, of staring at that black line. But that reassuring mark showing me the way ahead also serves as a starting point as I become lost in my thoughts as I swim up and down the pool. The contrast in colour compared to the water in the pool hypnotises me, distracts me and really does let me empty my head of all my thoughts that are dissolved in the chlorine.
If they asked me what I was thinking about while I swim, I would have to replay that I do not really know. When I begin my set, program or 400 meter reps, I focus on the distance I have to swim and the sheer effort involved, but after a short while I inevitably lose myself in the pool and drift off into another world.
Never ask a swimmer what they think about while they are swimming, because they will not know what to say, they will not be able to list their thoughts one by one, but they will certainly be able to stay one thing with certainty: that they leave all their worries outside the pool before they start training.