Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Zen of Swimming

I had a nice 1-mile swim yesterday (1600m) at my school's pool. I'll admit it--sometimes I'm afraid of the school's pool. There are often students in it who don't know how to swim or don't understand the concept of lanes. Eek! But, if I get there early enough, the pool is incredibly peaceful.

One of my roommates used to come with me to swim, but she stopped a few months ago, citing too much schoolwork as the reason. She recently confessed to me that the real reason is she finds swimming boring!

I couldn't believe it! I was relaying this information to a colleague in my Arts & Entertainment Law class last night, and she confessed that she too finds swimming boring!

She said the back-and-forth-and-back-and-forth of it is mind-numbing, and you can't hear anything except your own breathing and the splash of the water.

Funnily enough, those are the things I love the most. I love the zen of swimming.

If you too find swimming boring, here are my tips to make swimming an enjoyable, relaxing activity:

  • Have Goals. Some might argue that having goals takes away the relaxing aspect of swimming, but it enhances it for me. Doing anything aimlessly stresses me out more than it relaxes me. I'm not suggesting you should have strict distance and time goals that you refuse to budge from, but I am suggesting that you decide the distance you're going to swim beforehand and have an idea of the time in which you'd like to finish it. Swim with a purpose.
  • Alternate between Focii. I find the times that I'm most bored (or ready to quit) are when I've been counting strokes in my head for the last 20 minutes and am starting to notice that my strokes are sagging and getting fatigued. When I switch then to focusing on my kicking or on my core, I gain a little power back. Sometimes I'm not actually as fatigued as I think I am; I'm just focusing on each minute detail so much that I'm worrying about everything.
  • Breathe with a Rhythm. If you're a seasoned swimmer, you probably already do this. I, personally, inhale on every third stroke and exhale in short bursts on the other two strokes; it keeps a rhythm for me. It not only keeps a rhythm for my breath but also for my heart, my strokes, my legs, and my mind. I find I have a much more peaceful experience when my body hits a rhythm because it starts swimming on autopilot and I can allow my mind to wander a bit.
  • Feel Powerful. Swimming really gives you a chance to feel all of your muscles working at the same time--think about that instead of making your grocery list or worrying about work. I find that I finish swims feeling much more rejuvenated when I spent the swim thinking about swimming instead of thinking about work and other stressors. Don't just think about your form, either; think about how powerful you are! Give yourself a pep talk and remind yourself that you're strong and capable.

What do you do to fight off boredom in the pool? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Well, I'm just about done with my morning green tea, so I think it's time for a run! Check out my awesome coffee cup this morning:

This is my last run before my race on Sunday. I'm running in the Radiant Systems Sprint for Cancer 5K in honor of my mom. It's my first race! I'm so excited! I'm not quite up to racing pace yet, but I hope the adrenaline on race day will give me an extra push.

Hope you all have an awesome Thursday!


  1. Great post... I struggle so so much with boredom while swimming (but I consider it a small victory that I AM bored, because at least I'm not panicking about drowning any more!) I'm trying the goal-setting thing with a swimming program instead of just randomly going to the pool with no plans. Hoping it will help. If nothing else it will at least make me feel like I'm doing something useful to make progress :)

    Do you do one kind of stroke the whole time like freestyle, or do you mix them up? I have this theory that learning more strokes will make me less bored, too.

    It's funny that I can run for hours and not get bored in the slightest, but 30 mins in the pool makes me so anxious to be done.

  2. Who said swimming is boring? Hehe! I love swimming and just like what you stated there, there are a lot of ways to make it a fun activity. :) For me, it’s more fun compared to going to the gym. When swimming, you don’t sweat, but you can keep your body in good shape! In fact, when you’re in the water, you exert twice as much effort as you would have on land. Even a few laps around the pool can already help improve your fitness and be a full body workout. For instance, swimming backstroke for 30min. will help you burn up to 300 calories. With swimming, I can burn fat and at the same time, I can splash around and have fun with my kids.