Day 153 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swim Adventure: Slacking off and cultivating mental toughness

(CC Image via BK/Flickr)
(CC Image via BK/Flickr)

If you are anything like me, you will have days when you try and find an excuse for slacking off or leaving the pool/gym/track/bike early. It’s cold, it’s early, there is too much work on, too many appointments, too much travel, too little sleep. On and on.

Stuff that!

Part of this “Great Big Swim Adventure” is to tell the little demons to shut up. To develop and cultivate the mental toughness required for swimming well. And for anything else in life that is worthwhile. On the website Swimswam, Olivier Poirier-Leroy just posted what he sees as the 5 Habits of Mentally Tough Swimmers, including welcoming the hard stuff, keeping cool and not getting lost in what others are doing.

Check out the full list and points there, it is great. Well, at least in theory. What about the practice? Today was a case in point. Though I plan to swim between 4 and 5k every morning, I put in an underwhelming 3.5k.

  • 200m freestyle warmup in 3:13
  • 1000m free in 16:13
  • 150m free in 2:27 (then had to interrupt to change lanes)
  • 1000m free in 17:10 (slacking off again!)
  • 100m kick drills
  • 100m butterfly kick drills
  • 3x50m butterfly sets at about 55″ each, with a 20″ break in between (that was tough)
  • 200m freestyle with pullbuoy (working on intermittent breathing)
  • 250m free with pullbuoy and paddles (working on stroke)
  • 100m back and breast to cool down

Sure, I had to be at work even more early than usual, (I am drowning – get it? – in work, haha). But would another 500m really have made a difference? Of course not. I would still have been more than an hour early for work anyway. And yes, sure, I put in some butterfly sets that hurt. But I wimped out on those too, doing one less than I had planned.

So my three rules for cultivating mental toughness are along these lines:

  1. Set realistic goals and stick to them. If you ever When you drop the ball, pick it up again wherever you left it and carry on. For me, cracking the 1k in under 15 minutes was a major goal on this adventure so far. The 10k is the final one – and a realistic one too. I could just swim it right now, though badly. And I want to do it well.
  2. Take the long view. That includes not getting distracted by things that appear larger than they are just because they are close/nearby – like a looming appointment or chores. It also means being aware of why you are doing this in the first place and just how much you are getting out of this.
  3. Swim to live, don’t live to swim. Swimming is an admittedly awesome tool to help you be a more fully rounded person. Someone that is happy, healthy and sane. But that is its purpose. It is not a purpose in and of itself. I wish someone had explained that to some of the over-ambitious Moms and their “prodigy” swimmer kids when I was little. Thankfully, my parents never were that way; and I hope I am not like that with my own children.