How to make the most of pool training

Find swim training dull and repetitive? It doesn't have to be. You just need to change your mindset, says Joe Beer

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Running and biking through the open air, flying along without a care in the world. Isn’t it joyous? The same can’t always be said for swimming.

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Beyond what can be perceived as monotonous laps in a chlorinated pool, water is 784 times denser than air, so slicing through it isn’t a simple option.   Fail to put in the time working on technique and the outcome will be a little something like this: work, work too hard, lose stroke technique, work even harder, retire to the changing rooms early because of frustration.  

So what can be done? Firstly, unless you’re an ex-child swim prodigy or natural uber-fish triathlete, it’ll take severe effort to propel yourself to the front of the pack. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t happen.   Instead, temper your ambitions with the time you have available. Try and refine what you have by working on major stroke defects, and work on strengthening your upper-body strength and stamina.  

When it comes to racing, the least you should aim for is to a) not fear the swim and b) exit T1 feeling that you’ve set yourself up for a stronger bike and run.  

Remember: your swim will rarely define the whole race – unless you DNF at the first hurdle, that is.  

Training the mind

To make the most of your aquatic talents, it’s also vital to get your head in the right place. You can be confident that every session need not be an hour in length. Short, regular sessions are better than one long session every blue moon.  

Swimming needs a pool and opening times don’t always fit in with the rest of your life, but staying in contact with the pool is vital for your confidence in the water – even a small session gives you some contact with the water. And it is all about that feel for the water.  

When you arrive at the pool be sure to get in the moment. Throw out all the garbage bouncing around your head – problems at work, what you’ve got to remember to do on the way home. It’s you and the water, nothing else matters.   Focus on making the session count, and don’t hang around chatting at the end of the pool. You should be swimming, thinking about the swimming you’ve just done or preparing for the lengths you’re intending to swim.  

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Finally, remember that everyone hits a speed bump at some point. Not everyone can break five minutes for 400 metres in the pool, just as not everyone can run a mile under five minutes. Interestingly, both the 400m-swim and mile-run world records are close – are your respective PBs close? If you hit a ceiling, stay positive about swim training and try to enjoy it. And don’t expect to keep getting quicker forever.