Learn To Love The Pool (Really!)

Another solo swim workout? Here’s how to beat black-line boredom for good.

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Another solo swim workout? Here’s how to beat black-line boredom for good.

Make your swim multitask. How often do you dream of getting away from it all, to a place where 10 e-mails aren’t pinging at you every second? Well, think of the pool as a meditation retreat, says Shane Alton Eversfield, author of Zendurance and master coach for Total Immersion Swim. With swimming, you get a meditative environment and a workout at the same time, he says. And you don’t even have to get on a (packed, delayed, stuffy) plane.

Switch your focus from execution to discovery. Don’t just bang out your prescribed workout. Instead, look at the workout as an experiment, says Debi Bernardes, founder of U Can Do It Coaching in King George, Va. Test a different head position or play with your catch.

Stop thinking about the big picture. “Sometimes the end goal can seem so huge or daunting that it puts you off,” says distance swimmer Oliver Wilkinson, who broke the record for the fastest swim around Manhattan (in 5:44:02) last September. “You have to break it into little pieces; know what you’re achieving on that month, that day and that session itself.” When you’re in there, don’t get ahead of yourself. Just swim the set you’re in.

Learn fly. And backstroke and breaststroke. You’re not just switching it up to keep yourself humble. “Learning all four strokes has applications in making progress in freestyle,” says Chris Colburn, Ph.D., head coach of the Academy Bullets Masters in Aurora, Ill. People who can use all strokes, he says, are often the ones who have the most resilience in open water.

Make short and long sets different. “For shorter repeats, try to concentrate on what the set is all about,” says Colburn, who’s also on the U.S. Masters Swimming (USMS) Coaches Committee. “For longer repeats, try to maintain a rhythm. If you’re having a hard time with that, try singing a song in your head with the beat you want to maintain.” Or better yet, listen to actual music!

Rethink your distance. One of the best ways to avoid boredom, says Scott Bay, head coach of Team Blu Frog Masters and coaches chair of USMS? “Stop swimming those crazy long sets! If you’ve done 27 marathons, ride 300 miles a week and have a resting pulse rate of 42, why are you trying to go 6000 yards in the pool? You’re already in aerobic shape.” Focus on quality swims rather than long swims.

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