Your Pre-Swim Check List
Do you ever feel daunted about your upcoming swim, wondering how it might all pan out? I do! Frequently as it happens.
It’d be a wonderful world if every swim we did was magical, but sometimes, that’s just not reality, and that’s ok.
That moment before you pull your goggles down and head off down the pool can be filled with a myriad of thoughts about what you might experience in the next half an hour or so:
How will you feel in the water? As smooth as the last session when everything felt just effortless, or even clunkier than the one before when you were ready to hang up your togs and never hit the pool again?!
Will you find your flow and hit your target times, or will you struggle to realise your rhythm and miss all your send-offs?
Will your breathing feel easy and autonomous, or will your feet feel like they’re dragging like an anchor?
One of the beautiful things about swimming is that it provides a brilliant escape from the stresses of everyday life. If you’re a fastidious thinker (like me!), it’s worth recognising when you are at the point of starting to over-think your impending swim session, and in that moment, realise that you’ve actually been distracted from your true concerns! Not a bad place to be, I’m sure you’ll agree?
That rose-tinted thought aside though, it’d be nice to have some control over how you might feel when you hit the water, so here’s what I do immediately before I start and in my first few laps - I hope it helps you too:
1. Trunks, bathers, costume, cozzie, togs - call them what you will - for me, I ensure my bathers are nicely tight (“toight like a tiger”🐯 for you Austin Powers fans 😂) as it feels just so much more streamlined when I hit the water.
2. I’ll use a little “no tears” baby shampoo in my goggles, rinse and swill it out well with some pool water to ensure that my goggles don’t fog immediately (a pet hate of mine!) and I’ll check the fitting of these too.
3. I’ll then hop onto the edge of the pool, scan up and down the lane to pick the best spot to merge into the ‘freeway’ of the public session and with a quick leap of faith, I’m in and it’s started!
First few laps:
1. Lungs - I breathe deeply and exhale smoothly, reminding myself that even if I’ve set off a bit quick for a continuous 2km swim or the start of a 10 x 400 Red Mist set, my breathing and heart rate should be a lot easier/lower than what it likely is at any given point, so I dial the effort back another 10% and even this is still often not enough. I focus on the sound of the bubbles in the water and immerse myself in the joy of all terrestrial sounds having been eclipsed. I’m at peace.
2. Ears - not for listening, but for pressing: as I take my first few breaths I’ll roll my head with my hips and shoulders and actively press my ear into the shoulder of the leading arm. Sometimes this is not totally practical, but just the visualisation has me avoiding adding any unnecessary lift and allows me to focus on keeping one eye in the water and one eye out as I breathe. I look at the lane ropes whizzing by, nothing else matters.
3. Toes - personally, I can feel in an instant how well my swim is going to go through how I feel in my toes (of all places!). If I can feel the rhythmical swoosh of my toes brushing past each other, not kicking too deep nor too frantically, just balanced in a nice 2-beat kicking rhythm with little effort and minimal drag, I know I’m going to be ok. When I don’t feel this straight away, that’s where I place all my focus to get this to the best point I can for that particular session. I do this by actively feeling my big toes momentarily clipping each other on the down beat as well as the up.
And that’s about it!
I’d love to hear about your own pre-swimming routine and what you focus on in those first few laps. We are a funny breed us swimmers with our routines and rituals but knowing that we all have our quirks and idiosyncrasies is what makes this such a great community to be part of. Thank you for allowing me to share with you mine.
Until next time,
I've been very lucky to have swum in some amazing open water swimming spots all around the world over the years. Given that I started out in open water swimming as a skinny 16yr old triathlete petrified of swimming outdoors, this has literally changed my life. The spot above is Cala D'Or on the southern tip of Mallorca, Spain and definitely a favourite spot of mine (for obvious reasons), but, to be honest, any time I'm in the open water I'm free, happy and feel like I'm as close to flying as I'll ever get!
Finally, here are 15 of the most spectacular places to swim in the world as listed in Timeout magazine - I can't say that I've swum in any of these spots, but maybe you have?
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