You wake up early and head to the pool, intent on cranking out 3,000 yards for the day. In a 25-yard pool, that's 60 laps and 120 lengths, and it can mean over an hour going back in fourth in the same box, 25 yards by 8 feet.
Unlike running, cycling or even open water swimming, where the scenery changes and the pursuit of the destination keeps you occupied, swimming laps doesn't have the built-in entertainment. If boredom is overwhelming, you better have some ideas to keep your mind occupied as you chip away at the yardage.
Not sure how to fight the monotony of lap swimming? Here are some ideas:
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Intervals give your swim workouts a purpose, plus it breaks up the repetitiveness of just going to the pool and pumping out lap after lap.
An example of an interval workout comes from Gale Bernhardt's article on Fast 25s:
Repeat the following set two to three times:
Not only will this particular interval make you a faster swimmer, but it will keep you entertained as well.
Technology is great. Now, we can somehow have electronic devices submerged underwater with us. And it doesn't ruin them!
There are numerous pool-friendly MP3 players on the market, as well as other products that can waterproof your iPod shuffle.
This allows for us to actually hear the professionals sing, rather than listening to us humming to ourselves underwater during our workouts.
Quick tip: Athletes sometime get sucked into the rhythm that's bouncing around in their brain, which means the music you're listening to can affect your speed in the pool, for better or worse. Keep that in mind.
More: Workout Playlists: Music to Pump Up Your Workout
If you've ever had a coach or a seasoned swimmer look at your stroke, you may have received some advice on things to keep in mind going forward.
An ongoing lap swim is the perfect time to obsess over these details. You have nothing else to do.
Focus on that steadier kick. Or reaching to maximum length. Or making sure you're not shortening your stroke. Perfect practice makes perfect.
If you're extremely comfortable breathing to the right every other stroke, spend the next two laps breathing to the left. Or even better, try bilateral breathing for 100 yards—you may develop enough comfort to do it indefinitely (which is a good thing).
Being a versatile breather keeps your stroke balanced—and it allows you to mix up your swim.
The fewer strokes it takes you to get across the pool, the better. As Kevin Koskella wrote, "The world's best swimmers are faster than you because they travel further with each stroke, not because they are moving their arms faster."
Spend the time counting your strokes and working to chip away at that number. It will make you a more efficient swimmer, and do a great job of passing the time.
More: Why Count Strokes?
A watch is considered a must-have for any level of runner, and swimmers are starting to feel similar love for high-tech gadgets.
While waterproof GPS watches are gaining steam, a less-expensive lap counter does the trick too. SportCount has one that slips on your index finger, and keeps track of your overall time, the number of laps you've done and the time for each lap. All you have to do is remember to press the button with your thumb after each lap.
When you do that, the counter tells you what you finished that lap in before going back to the rolling clock. Having these numbers handy is a great way to keep track of your workout in real time and strategize on the go.
If you don't have any gadgets, keeping track of laps is often as simple as repeating the number over and over to yourself as you swim it. That at least keeps your brain from zoning out too much.
Sometimes, a change of scenery can do the trick. If you've gotten used to the 25-yard pool in your neighborhood, seek out an Olympic-sized pool and do your next long workout there.
Nothing will fight boredom better than mixing in the butterfly, backstroke or breaststroke to your workout.
Put a 200-yard IM into the middle of your workout. Or if you don't know all the strokes, learn the backstroke and substitute in a lap amidst all your freestyle laps. As Koskella writes, "learning proper backstroke and mixing it in to your workouts can help your freestyle hip rotation...if you're only going to learn one other stroke besides freestyle, backstroke should be it."
More: 4 Lessons From a Swim Clinic
Sometimes, you can learn a lot by watching the person in the lane next to you.
If your neighbor is consistently faster than you, watch a little bit while you swim and try to figure out why. What's he doing that you're not? Is his stroke longer? Where does he end in stroke? Is he kicking differently than you?
Watching your fellow swimmers out the corner of your eye is much more interesting than staring at the blue line at the bottom of the pool—plus you might learn something from your peers.
For many of us, swimming laps is a break in an otherwise crazy day chasing around kids, putting in a full day of work and juggling all of life's responsibilities. So you're bored. So what? Let your mind drift off and appreciate the alone time. There's not enough of it in this world.
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