The small but very enjoyable highlight of my day this time of year is having a warm cuppa, in bed, before I rise and shine. Sometimes it is at 5am, sometimes it is at 6am when I like to indulge in this yummy, must-have treat. You see I definitely will choose caffeine before sleep anytime (though, sadly, today it wasn’t so much the caffeine that shook me awake, rather the final result of the US election and the undesirable on tv accepting said position. However, as they say: never discuss politics, sex, or religion on long rides!). As a triathlete, where early mornings are optimal training slots, my love of caffeine-fuelled duvet time probably isn’t a good idea. I should be up, and at the pool – but I’m not. So, I think I may need to find my swim mojo again!
Not being a natural swimmer—I blame my parents—I don’t have this youthful alacrity for swimming. I don’t have memories of squad swimming 5 days a week with a coach I loved at a ridiculous hour of the morning, or changing room antics with my friends that made me smile throughout the day. No. Swimming, to me, is all a bit dull and monotonous; unless, of course, there is crystal blue water, tropical fish and/or dolphins, sunshine and bikinis.
However, I do have a few tips that I find can make it a bit more fun for even me!
FIND A NICE GROUP OF PEOPLE TO SWIM WITH
You know how the saying goes, “misery loves company”? Well here it directly applies. I swim with the lovely peeps from RGActive every Thursday night 9pm at Hampton Outdoor Pool. I can promise you there are more of me, the non-lover of the swim, than there are those part amphibian swimmers, not mentioning any names (coughJohn). We are a mixed group of abilities getting anywhere between 1k-3k done in the hour. Much more fun in a structured group than un-inspiringly just ploughing up and down a lane on your own. I actually look forward to my Thursday night swims, a bit like sale shopping; I never want to go and deal with the crowds and hassle, but when I do, and eventually hunt down lots of lovely things, I am very happy I went.
USE ALL THE TOYS YOU CAN FIND
Different swim toys help with different parts of the swim stroke. A pull buoy, for example, can help keep your legs afloat. It allows more rotation in your core which benefits you properly working on the front end of your stroke without worrying about sinking. Paddles help you enter the water correctly, build strength in your shoulders or they can just help you get to then end faster. Not to mention all these toys do add a bit of variety and fun to a session. If I could use them all at the same time I probably would!
GET A GOOD COACH
Nothing beats a pair of good eyes poolside. Investing in a swim coach is the quickest way to improve your swimming. They can see the little mistakes or big mistakes we make in technique and can give you drills along with an explanation on how to avoid or correct them. They can also structure a session so it becomes more fun, if that’s possible? An hour does go by quite quickly when there is organisation and a focus to your training. On top of this, they can throw in some open water drills so that your swimming, even though it is in a pool, can be a bit more specific to triathlon.
DON’T BE JUST A TRIATHLETE AND LEARN ALL THE STROKES
Even though we, as triathletes, only tend to swim front crawl there are several other strokes within swimming; breaststroke, back and butterfly. I find the breaststroke is just a good all around stroke to know. I call it my “get out of jail” stroke, because if I ever need to stop for goggles, being bumped, or getting an elbow in my ribs, this stroke allows me slow down and re-group myself. The backstroke and butterfly, however, aren’t used in a triathlon—I imagine several hundred people trying to swim a kilometre or two without being able to see where they are going would be as messy as Trump’s performances in any of the presidential debates. But, all of the muscles you develop learning these strokes in training can help to make your front crawl even better. Developing a feel for the water is ultimately how we can become faster amphibian-like swimmers.
Swimming, I know, is such an all-round sport for fitness, health, mental focus—benefits seem to be endless. It is one of the few sports we can all do despite advancing years. Especially when open water season starts, it is a chance to enjoy being outdoors away from all the rushing around we seem to do in our daily lives. It also gives you a chance to squeeze into this black rubber suit that kind of resembles a big Spanx uni-tard that will always make you swim faster and never drown!
So: where has my swimming mojo gone? Nowhere: I never had it in the first place. But, as I love triathlon, I should make more effort with my swimming and so herein lies the problem. Getting my hair wet—I’m not a big fan; early mornings on cold winter days—I’m not a big fan; but I love all the adorable swim costumes, toys, floats and like-minded people that make a pool session. I won’t necessarily forgo my cheeky morning cuppa, but I will definitely be getting my ass back into the pool and finding that missing mojo… I promise!