How do you keep yourself going in your chosen exercise?
I’ve recently taken up swimming laps after a long hiatus. I’m talking years. I grew up going to a school swimming club in summer, from primary school right through high school. It was family thing. As an adult I’ve found that every now and again I go back to it.
In the last few years I’ve had some medical conditions that mean I’ve had very little energy. Last Christmas is the first time in a long time that I can remember feeling able to do any exercise that is more than walking my dog. I tried a few thing over time, but overdoing it meant I crashed for a few weeks afterwards, or got sick. So swimming seemed a nice starting point. Exercise for the whole body. Good cardio. Some resistance. I decided to simply go and swim for half an hour, rather than say how many laps. 30 minutes, twice a week.
The first few times, I managed 20 laps. Gasping for breath at each end. I felt like anyone within cooee could hear me take each breath. But I did it. I stopped at each end. A few weeks in I did 24 laps, and then 30. I’ve stayed there and been completely happy with it. It takes about 45 minutes now.
I get asked about swimming laps – isn’t it boring, all I see is a black line (or actually blue in the pool I go to) etc. But I don’t find it boring. And here’s why. I talk to myself a LOT. And have discovered little challenges and ways of celebrating that gives me a focus and keeps me in the pool.
I count laps. Sometimes it’s like a mantra. Sometimes I do laps in sets of two, or sets of four. And I keep track of progress, and celebrate “inside”. At 2 laps, I’m one-fifteenth of the way there. At 3 laps, I’m one-tenth of the way!! So much progress with one lap. Then there’s Lap 5 (one sixth), lap 6 (one fifth), lap 9 (three tenths) and lap 10 (one third woo hoo!). You get the idea. Almost every lap denotes a fraction. If I only felt I’d achieved something or a level of satisfaction at lap 30, it would be like only enjoying a holiday when I got home – instead of every day. Every lap deserves acknowledgment!
I also give myself a focus that’s a challenge. Think about arms this lap. Technique. Pull harder. Focus on kicking this lap. Stop that weird extra kick when you breathe. Put in effort this lap. Only take 15 seconds between laps. Focus on breathing out all the air in my lungs BEFORE I have to turn my head, so I only have to breathe in. Three laps freestyle without stopping and I can do a lap breaststroke. That’s a reward for me – breaststroke means I breathe every stroke, and arms don’t go above the water, so it’s less tiring. I get a chance to recover a bit, but I’m still moving.
Like many activities in life, swimming 30 laps means I need to start, swim stroke by stroke, lap by lap to get to the end. It can’t be done by skipping anything. If I feel like stopping, I start the next lap, as the likelihood is I’ll swim it rather than turn around and get out. But I also remind myself that I COULD have gotten out, and didn’t. YAY!
So there’s many things that run through my head whilst swimming. But not in an urgent way. Even with all of this, I find swimming quite meditative. It’s rhythmic. It’s mindful. It relaxes my body and mind, and actually soothes my soul. Yes, it’s the process of swimming the laps, not simply the final count that’s the reason I go back for more.
So… how do you keep yourself going in your chosen exercise?