2/10/16

Maintaining motivation to train - swimming



As I was swimming the other day, I started to think about the many, many years that I have changed out of warm clothes and into a swimsuit, cap and goggles, only to jump into a cold pool, to swim back and forth for thousands of yards at a time.
Even after starting competitive swimming at the age of 10, I feel so lucky that I still love to swim. However, I can't say that over the past 23 years, it has always been easy to drive myself to a pool, get excited to go from perfectly dry to soaking wet and stay committed to a swim workout.
Of course, when there is a coach on deck and your teammates are working hard, you don't make excuses, you just do the work. 

But the pool is still my happy place. I love the way my body feels when it is non-weight bearing and the fact that I can get a great cardio and muscular workout in the water.  

Now that I am in my 10th year of endurance training and racing (and 23rd/24th year of being a competitive athlete - wow, that is a LONG time, thank you body!), I want to share some of the motivational strategies that I have used over the years to keep me training consistently in the pool.

PRE WORKOUT

~1999-2000 - YMCA Swim team (Dolphins)

I like to have a focus for my workouts. While there is always a warm-up, pre-set and main set, I like having a specific focus for what I want to achieve during the workout. I've learned that it's not good to go into a workout with high expectations with specific paces or time goals because a well-executed workout requires adjusting as you go. You can feel horrible before and have an awesome workout or feel absolutely fresh and amazing and struggle to finish. Although sometimes I do look forward to a specific set and the effort required, I find it beneficial to focus on a skill or mental tactic as these are two very important things to make for quality workouts (and you can bring trained skills and mental tactics to race day).
To help me understand a workout, I always write it down on a piece of paper before the workout. This allows me to walk myself through the entire workout AND to adjust the workout if needed based on time constraints (ex. do I have enough time for 3 rounds of the main set or only 2 rounds?). 
If I really need help, music and a good motivational quote help, especially if I am months away from a key race.
And above all, I always remind myself how great it feels when the workout is over.

DURING THE WORKOUT

2004 - Senior year
It's very easy to lose focus during a workout and to find yourself just going through the motions. Depending on the time of the season, it's hard to mentally see yourself on race day and put yourself into race-day scenarios. Therefore, with every workout, I focus on staying present.
Whereas nature is a great distraction when running or cycling, it's very easy to zone out and lose focus when swimming alongside a black line. Although I have to admit that swimming is very therapeutic when you can zone out and move through the water, when it comes to swim training, it's important to be engaged and attentive to the task/workout, at hand. 
Being present is WAY harder than it sounds because it is so easy to think about what I need to accomplish for the day (in the case of an early morning workout) or what I still I have on my to-do list or to think about something that has nothing to do with working out but is on my mind. Although it can be motivating to zone-off and think about inspiring moments in life, I find it really important to be present so that I take full advantage of my time working out and execute to my full ability.
Having said this, there are some workouts when the workout purpose is to zone out, to have fun and to not be engaged. I really appreciate the workouts when there is less structure and more freedom because when it comes to training, being mentally engaged in specific training can take fitness to another level but it can also be exhausting to be "on" all the time. 

POST WORKOUT

~1996-1997, Dolphins Swim practice (post workout playtime)
It shouldn't be a surprise that I thank my body after every workout. I try to not rush away from a workout only to return to a busy life but instead, I try to give myself a few extra minutes post-workout to reflect. It's easy to overlook great workouts and to ignore what didn't go well and hope for better next time. Whether it's walking after a run, spinning easy after a bike or floating in the pool (or taking a little extra time in the shower), I factor in this extra time into my busy day as I feel it's important to slow down after the hard work is over and to think about what the body allows me to do each day.
I remember some of my favorite memories as a competitive swimmer and they were in the locker room, with my fellow female swimmers, after swim practice. Now as a triathlete,, my favorite part of racing is sharing the race day experience with Karel and other athletes, after the race is over.
I feel that workouts should be just like race day in that no matter how good or bad the workout, it's worth talking about and reflecting.
Some workouts are not fun but you have to do them anyways and some workouts are exciting and fun.
A variety of easy, hard, bad and good workouts are part of being an athlete.
You can't choose easy all the time and expect to get better.

Although it sounds silly, as hard as the body has to work when it exercises or trains, I find that one opportunity, when you are fully devoted to your body working out, is so needed on a daily basis.  

Next time you go into a workout, give yourself a focus/purpose for the workout, stay present and reflect. 

Thank your body. 

Be happy. 

The next time you struggle to get yourself in the pool, remind yourself how great it feels to be an athlete.

And swimming is the best sport ever! :)


2003 - College swim meet (Transylvania University)