I’ve been swimming to get my cardio and to strengthen and stretch.
I used to swim laps for exercise in college and grad school, and I got back to it in the last few years as a way to work on my back and get in better shape. When I started swimming laps again, I gave myself a goal of swimming continuously for a certain number of minutes.
I worked up to 20 minutes. In the beginning, it was a good enough goal. It kept me swimming through the time when a single lap would wind me and I’d have to swim a lap, then rest for a bit, then do it all again. Eventually, swimming for a set time just got boring.
Swimming laps to reach a particular time goal turned into a clock-watching exercise. I was counting down until it was over.
Am I done yet? Nope. Am I done yet? Nope. Am I done now? Argh, no.
Distance, not Time
I asked a friend what she swims, and she gave me a distance instead of a time. I knew I wanted to increase my effort, and setting a distance goal seemed like a great way to reset my mindset. Instead of counting down the seconds, I could instead count up the laps, feeling an increasing sense of accomplishment rather than waiting to be dismissed.
When swimming for distance, if I want to get it done more quickly, I have to increase my effort. There’s an incentive to try rather than coast.
This simple goal shift reinvigorated my practice – I extended the time I’m in the pool and increased the fun. Now if only I could count laps without losing track…(I am currently refusing the purchase an electronic lap timer watch or ring. Right now I count by moving a flip flop around like the hour hand on a clock.)
Part II: Expand the Concept of Distance Beyond a Single Workout
I was thrilled to see the Pool Challenge at my Fitness Center. They provided three options for swimming or running between February and the end of 2015.
- Swim to Lansing: 64 miles
- Swim the length of the Huron River: 93.5 miles or 3366 laps
- Swim the distance of the Port Huron to Mackinac race: 235 miles.
I did the math, and the Huron River is within reach. I know committing to swim the length of the Huron River will get me to the pool more often, and I’ll feel better and be happier with myself as a result.
Although I never swam competitively, the urge is in my genes. Family legend has it that grandmother tried out for the Olympic team in her youth, which would have been in the late 1920s or early 1930s. I hope that story is true. I imagine her in one of those modest old-time swimsuits, tweaking tradition as a female athlete. I never met her, and this is one of many stories I would have loved to hear from her.