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Sometimes I have no choice. A friend is waiting for me at the pool, so I can’t hit snooze and skip that swim workout I promised them I would do. Or I have a triathlon on the calendar, and each workout gives me the fitness necessary to have a great race. But when race season ends, and that friend is out of town, my motivation tends to hit the road too!
Staying motivated will typically look different from person to person, but there are usually a few key ingredients.
I have literally pulled into the YMCA parking lot, realized that I left my iPod Shuffle at home, and turned the car around, abandoning that days’ workout. I’ve also been tempted to skip a swim because I don’t have a specific workout planned. These are essential ingredients for my motivation soup! Music makes workouts feel less like, well, work. And a detailed workout has the components that help me attain my goal, even if it’s as simple as “Swim 1 mile x 3 this week”.
Here are a few of the workouts that motivate me, named after some of the songs that get me in the pool on days when I would rather go to brunch! You’ll need: A pull buoy, a kick board, a Waterproofed iPod Shuffle, and access to a 25 meter pool.
1. Shut Up & Swim
Inspired by Walk the Moon – Shut Up & Dance
This is my go to mile workout when swimming a mile straight is mind numbing. Make sure the warm-ups are just that. If you swim all out from the first lap, you won’t have as much speed left for those last few sets. The idea is to swim the last set of 300 and 200 faster than the previous 300 and 200. Total distance is 1 mile.
300 easy swim, 200 pull, 100 kick
300 swim and 20 second rest
200 swim and 20 second rest
100 fast and 20 second rest
300 faster and 20 second rest
200 faster and 20 second rest
100 easy swim
2. Going to the River
Inspired by Ella Henderson – Ghost (Dave Aude Remix)
Pull out this workout when you need a challenge, or feel stuck in a fitness rut. Embrace the temporary discomfort of the 50s, and future you will be thankful when you’re stronger and faster! Take your time with the Catch-up drill: Keep one arm in the forward position until the other arm completes the pull and reaches the forward position. Once the arm that was pulling completes the pull and reaches the forward position, then it is the other arm’s turn. So if you start with the right arm, it pulls and recovers while the left arm is still and in front of you, ready to pull again. Total distance is 1800 meters.
300 easy swim, 100 kick, 200 pull, 100 catch-up drill
10 x 50s on 1 minute (Your goal is to leave the wall at the top of the minute. For example, if you swim your 50 meters in 55 seconds, you’ll have a 5 second rest before starting the next 50.)
2 x 200 pull and 20 second rest
200 easy swim
3. Kick the Dust Up
Inspired by Luke Bryan – Kick The Dust Up
You can make this an aerobic workout by swimming and pulling at a sustainable pace that doesn’t force you to take extra rest at the wall. This workout includes more kicking than usual, which makes it ideal for runners or athletes who want some cross-training for leg strength. Kicking allows you to focus on strengthening the legs, hips and core.
TIP: To isolate your lower body when using the kickboard, keep your arms in front of you and relatively quiet. Total distance is 1800 meters.
300 easy swim, 300 kick, 300 easy pull
200 swim and 20 second rest
200 kick and 20 second rest
200 pull and 20 second rest
100 swim and 10 second rest
100 kick and 10 second rest
100 easy pull
4. Lose My Breath
Inspired by Destiny’s Child – Lose My Breath
Take the boredom out of staring at a black lane line with this 2000 meter aerobic workout. You can maximize the distance that your pull and glide can propel you with the DPS drill by counting how many strokes you take from one end of the pool to the other. The goal is to take as few strokes as possible! And increase your VO2 capacity by breathing every 3 to 4 strokes. I use the pull buoy for this drill so I can really focus on being efficient.
TIP: For these drills, the goal is NOT to hold your breath. So begin exhaling a few seconds after you put your face back in the water. Just exhale in a slower, steady manner when you know you won’t be breathing every stroke. Total distance is 2000 meters.
200 easy swim, 200 easy pull, 200 kick
8 x 75 DPS with 60 seconds rest between sets
8 x 50 descending and 60 seconds rest
8 x 25 pull, breathing every 3 to 4 strokes, and 30 seconds rest
2 x 100 fast with 10 seconds rest in between each
5. Born for This
Inspired by Paramore – Born for This
Anyone who wants to reinforce proper stroke mechanics will enjoy this workout! This workout is especially helpful for those of us with a running background who swim like we run – with a high cadence and quick turnover, which is great for a road race, but inefficient in the pool. Slow down your inner runner with drills that will help you move faster in the water by focusing on efficiency, like the Right-Left drill: Swim freestyle using just the right arm for 25m, and just the left arm for the next 25m. Keep your non-swimming arm by your side, or out in front of you.
TIP for the Fingertip Drill: As you begin to lift each arm out of the water, drag your fingertips across the surface towards your head. This is great practice for having high elbows when you swim freestyle! Total distance is 1900 meters.
300 easy swim
8 x 75 as 25 FTip drag, 25 swim and 25 FTip drag, and 20 seconds rest
3 x 50 as Rt-Lt drill and 20 seconds rest
300 pull and 30 seconds rest
3 x 50 as catch-up drill and 20 seconds rest
100 easy swim
Eventually my training partners are back in town and pumped about the next big race. I can still keep up with them because I haven’t lost any fitness in the down time, thanks to a solid set of swim workouts and my Waterproofed iPod Shuffle full of tunes!
Note: Please be sure to tailor your fitness routine to your own individual health, and your goals. Seek professional medical advice if you have any questions regarding what is appropriate for you prior to participating in any exercise program.