Friday, June 10, 2011

Survival tactics for the "continuous swim"

Triathletes all face the "continuous swim" on the training calendar. It's the equivalent of the LSD (long slow distance) run, but without the scenery. Some of my training mates find these long swims, well...boring, but I love them.

I find it's all about using some tricks to entertain myself.  It requires lowering my entertainment threshold very very low and then lower still.

I highly recommend a waterproof iPod or MP3 player.  The good ones can be pricey, but it's worth it.  I have been happy with the iPod Shuffle that goes through an aftermarket waterproofing process from H2O Friendly (about $150) paired with Surge waterproof earbuds that I got separately. I tuck the whole contraption under my swim cap to keep things contained.

Then into the water, start the timer, and go!  These are the kinds of mental tricks I incorporate:
  1. I tell myself I will be swimming essentially forever (even if it's just 25 minutes!) so I'd better settle in for the long haul.  Then I'm not focusing on finishing, I'm focused on swimming.
  2. When I want to look at my watch, I wait until the end of a song or wait two more laps.  Then I'm more likely to discover I am further along than I thought.
  3. I select a part of my stroke to focus on and change that focus every few laps.  I might think of an aggressive hand entry, higher elbows, longer glide, catch-up swim style, 2-beat kick, further reach, stronger pull, one goggle in the water when I breath, or super relaxed recovery arm. You're essentially doing modified drill work - hey, two birds here!!
  4. I'll break from my patterns and habits.
    • Since I tend to stroke first with one arm after pushing off the wall, I'll start with the other arm instead (woo-hoo! so fun!).
    • Cross my feet in the glide off the wall
    • change my breathing pattern from my standard bi-lateral every three.
    • "jazz hands" on my pull to change up the feel
    • catch my thumbs on my hips (yes, this is a source of entertainment for me.)
    • fingertip drag
    • close my eyes for a few strokes
  5.  If I get really desperate, I think of non-swimming things like groceries, blog entries, or work.  This entry was conceived during today's 40 minute swim.
The funny thing is I can hardly sit through a movie anymore, I find most of them boring.  But ask me to swim for an hour and suddenly catching my thumbs on my hips is incredibly FUN!

(Footnote: the tricks are far less effective if the stroke technique needs significant work. you should be able to swim conservatively with little effort and feel like you could go forever...if not for the boredom!  If you are not there, I highly suggest seeking help.)