I truly believe the worst part of my day is the moment I hit the water, and the three minutes immediately following. Still, I swim six days a week. Swimming is a strength for me, it’s something I’ve done my whole life. It’s the only sport in the triathlon where I’m not really trying to improve, so much as maintain. Yet I still have to spend as much or more time in the water – just to maintain some semblance of the swimmer I once was – each week than I am able to spend running. Lately, swimming that much has been a chore. I swim alone most mornings because all the teams are away at meets or on break. I write sets for myself while I’m swinging my arms on the side of the pool dreading that first splash. I believe it doesn’t really matter what you do in the water, as long as you get in the yardage and do it frequently, so I try to make things interesting for myself.
The first part is terrible. The water is cold, my whole body feels tight, it hurts just to take the first few strokes, but then I get warmed up and it’s like no other feeling. Weightlessness, the feel of the water sliding over me…
I love swimming. If I don’t swim, the rest of my day just doesn’t fit together right. And, while the water is always cold, I don’t always have to swim alone. There’s a tri club that meets once a week with some fast guys, and sometimes the swim team at U of Chicago lets me jump in with them. There’s something awesome about swim practice. I love the conversations where you have an entire interval to think of your three second response for the person in the lane next to you. I love having someone to push you so hard your legs go numb, and the high fives we give each other after an awesome set.
My advice to other triathletes? Swim more, and swim with other people. Don’t be the guy or girl that refuses to train with other people because your coach gave you a specific workout. And if you’re stuck swimming alone, like I have been lately, just remember, the sooner you get in, the sooner that moment will be over.