I F*CKING HATE SWIMMING!
Its Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve just finished being on my feet at work for the past 8 hours. I was up at 4:30am to get ready and off to work for 6am in the city. At least I had a good sleep though. I got 6-7 hours of sleep, broken down into small manageable chunks of 2 hour intervals (sense the sarcasm) due to Lilly waking up 4 times in the night.
Its pouring down with rain and I’m walking to the Cook & Phillip Aquatics Centre, Hyde Park, where I have my midweek swim training session. When it rains, it buckets it down here. My feet are wet and this umbrella isn’t big enough for both myself and my rucksack. I’m tired, I’m wet, and I f*cking hate swimming. A swim seession is not something I want to be heading into right now.
Todays session is all about distance; 3500m should cut it – how exciting! That’s a total of 70 lengths of a 50m pool, back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth. So much time to think about anything and everything. What do you think about when swimming!? There are plenty of people in the pool. Are they enjoying themselves or do they dislike it too? I’m curious.
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously wouldn’t swim if I really hated it that much, but its not directly the swimming that I enjoy doing – Its what swimming allows me to do that I enjoy. Ironman, triathlon, keeping fit, becoming a stronger swimmer! Those are the things I like about swimming.
The purpose of this post is to give people the opportunity to think differently about why they are training. Whether its an Ironman, triathlon, marathon, 10km race, or losing 5lbs, this will definitely be relatable for some people. Being dedicated to something isn’t always easy, no matter how passionate you are about it. BUT, it is important that you continue to possess a positive mindset when you just feel like shit and you do not want to spend 60 minutes being uncomfortable flapping your arms and kicking your legs in a big bowl of chlorinated water. Perhaps there are people in the audience who just need to know that there are others who find it tough too. You’ve just got to keep banging the drum (as my Dad would say).
MY WEEKLY SWIM SCHEDULE
I’m not going to break it down into too much detail, but my weekly swim schedule comprises of 3×60 minute(or so) workouts:
Monday – Technique session
Wednesday – Distance
Friday – Distance/Technical
That’s three times per week doing something I dislike doing. Fun. Without fail, every time I’m walking through Hyde Park, I’m thinking about how much I don’t want to go swimming while counteracting this with the obsessive need to be better than my last event. I’m obviously not a professional triathlete, but I work with what I’ve got and I work hard with it.
Now, I’m not a negative person, so take what I’m saying with an understanding that I am well aware that I don’t have to train. Plus, I find it quite funny that I hate swimming. In fact, inspiration for this post came when Jordanna and I were chatting about our day and I happened to tell her that “I f*cking hate swimming” – we laughed and I decided to write about it. I know I hate it, but I want to compete in Ironman events and the like. What am I going to do? Complain about it and quit, or just shut up, find a solution and get on with it? I say shut up and get on with it.
WHY DO I SWIM SO OFTEN?
Firstly, my swim time in the 70.3 last year was 38 minutes. At the time I was pleased, I had never taken part in a competitive swim before and I was aware, based on my training, that it would take me around that time. However, quite some time has passed since then and I feel my technique has developed somewhat since November 2018, forcing me to feel that 38 minutes was a bit of a soft effort. Perhaps I’m being a bit critical there, but I want to do better this time around.
This brings me to my first reason. I swim because I want to be better. Better than last year, better than the guy swimming in the same lane as me, better than anyone in the race. Albeit I am well aware there are going to be people who are better swimmers than I am, I still want to perform. Perhaps I should consider getting myself a swim coach, or join a swim club? I’m sure this would help me improve, but I don’t want to commit to that just yet.
In the meantime, I always go in the ‘fast lane‘ at the pool regardless of who is in there. Now, I’m not slow by any means, but I’m also not the fastest in the water. However, by going in the fast lane, I’m surrounding myself with people that are potentially going to overtake me. Swimming with these people makes me swim faster and work harder so they don’t overtake me. If I swim three times per week, surely I’m going to develop strong enough to beat my time!!
If you haven’t heard of Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, then look it up. Basically, Gladwell suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve greatness. Although some have accused his work of being inaccurate, I believe we can all take something from the 10,000 hour rule, regardless. Its surely just basic math. Check out this funky case study;
‘Greg and Jordanna have never swam before in their lives. They cannot swim. If they jump in a pool of water, they will sink and drown. Both need to train to be able to swim 1.9km in 12 weeks time. To reach the target, Greg is going to swim three times per week for a total of 3 hours. Jordanna is going to swim once per week for a total of 1 hour. They are both going to conduct the same training programme, with Greg’s training obviously being scaled to accommodate the extra hours. Who will be faster on the day of the race?”
Now, the case study can be heavily critiqued, but you get the gist. Greg will achieve a faster time. Back to reality, last year I was training 1 to 2 times per week in the pool at best. More often than not it was once. I was working a lot of hours and Jordanna was pregnant so I didn’t want to leave her on her own when she was still working full time too. I’m a firm believer that I want to progress and do well in triathlon alongside my other interests, but I need to balance this with providing Jordanna the opportunity for a rest from family life too. I swim three times per week because I know I need to spend time in the water to keep improving and better my time from last year, but I also need to give Jordanna some ‘me’ time.
Although this post is about how I f*cking hate swimming, I still enjoy the feeling of accomplishment once I’ve finished. I might be tired, I might want to relax after work, but when I get out of the pool after 3000m and an hour worth of swimming, it’s a great feeling. All pumped, knowing the session was a success. Saying that, not every session is successful. One or two of the sessions could be terrible because I feel slow, I haven’t eaten/drank enough during the day, I feel tired in the water, every day is different. I just try and make the most of how I feel at the time.
HOW DO I GET THROUGH THE SESSIONS WHEN I F*CKING HATE SWIMMING?
As I said, when I’m in the water I often feel like the session could be going better. My legs feel tired, I’m mentally drained from speaking to people all day at work, I didn’t eat enough earlier in the day. While I think about these things, I just remember why I’m doing it, and how good it will feel once I’ve finished. Come race day, I’ll compete, and it will be over in a flash. I just try and enjoy the whole process. If it was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing, right?
I also often just think about each length of the pool at a time; how’s my breathing? Can my pull be stronger? Is my kick efficient? All of these questions are running through my head. I’m also thinking about work, getting home to Jordanna and Lilly, what I’m going to make for dinner, is Lilly going to sleep well tonight, what event should I book next, why is that guy in my lane doing backstroke when the sign for the lane specifically says ‘FAST LANE – FREESTYLE ONLY’?
Training is kind of like my meditation. I think about whatever I think about when I’m in there. It doesn’t matter what it is. I’m doing the work, I just think about whatever pops into my head. When I get tired, I keep banging the drum and graft through it. I’m not going to stop and get out – that’s just out of the question.
Over the past year or two I’ve started to read more, particularly books that offer insight into mastering the mind, embracing the ups and downs in life, and appreciating life and working hard to achieve whatever it is you want. Reading helps me to relax. I used to hate it. But now I know I was just reading the wrong books. I would be disinterested and more often than not, I’d fall asleep while reading.
Books such as The Alchemist, The 4 Year Olympian, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, and David Goggins: Can’t Hurt Me have given me food for thought on how to get through training, while balancing work, family, and still working hard to achieve my goals. Through this, I have become more self-aware and I have been able to apply some elements of these books into my training. I believe that reading these books has helped me to overcome times during training where I have wanted to stop when it gets tough, and they have provided me with a vision of where I want to be in 2,3,4 years time, as opposed to what I’ll be doing next week.
If you take a read of David Goggins: Can’t Hurt Me he talks about how he has developed callus’ on his mind through years of battling through painful times in his life. Each battle has helped him become stronger and has enabled him to accomplish multiple achievements in the fitness world, alongside his completion of three Hell Weeks and overcoming an adverse upbringing. Perhaps reading his book, and others, could offer you an alternative perspective on things that might just inspire you to keep working hard? This certainly struck a chord with me and has been extremely influential in enabling me to see how I can alter my mindset towards training and competition.
Finally on this one, I’ve also adopted a long term thinking strategy. Having children, as I’m sure all parents can understand, seems to make life pass very quickly. Its been 7 months since Lilly was born and it only feels like a week ago. My point being, if you keep starting things and then stopping after a few weeks, or months, just because you’re tired, or it gets hard, then your whole life will have passed you by and you wont have achieved anything you really set out to achieve. I would 100% regret it if I was to quit running, or swimming, or cycling. You’ve just got to keep banging the drum. Its 100% worth it come that race day finish line feeling!
I f*cking hate swimming, but I’ll love the feeling of accomplishment once I cross the finish line in a couple of months time!
Never easy, always possible!