Friday, May 02, 2014

Getting Your Swimming Mojo Back!

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Feeling a bit flat and struggling to get down the pool? This week on the SS blog we have a personal piece from SS Head Coach Paul Newsome on getting his (and your) mojo back:

Hi everyone,

May is a funny time here in Perth. The long summer triathlon and swimming season has finished with many swimmers feeling a bit flat and unmotivated as the days get shorter and the mornings colder. You might be in the northern hemisphere and entering into the summer but if despite that you too have lost your swimming motivation, this post is for you.

Since winning the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim last June I've been really struggling to train consistently. I missed swimming the Catalina Channel in October due to a serious back injury, ended up having surgery on it in December, got my stitches infected in January, had the wound re-open in February and then ran a series of events in the UK in March.
I've told the squads I'm going to shave off the beard
when I've got my swimming mojo back!

It feels like one thing after another, I've had zero consistency to my training and I'm totally craving routine and stability right now. In a nutshell, I need my swimming mojo back! Sound familiar?

Here's some thoughts and ideas I've used with myself and also the Swim Smooth squads in Perth to re-ignite our respective swimming fires over the last week or two. It's been going great - so why not try them yourself if you're feeling a bit flat?

Step 1. Get A Stake In The Ground

The first thing I did with the Perth squads was have everyone do a 400m and 200m CSS timetrial to work out their CSS pace. It's easy to get het-up about timetrials but don't think of this as anything more than a stake in the ground of where you are right now - no big deal.

Once you know your current CSS you can train accurately at the right intensity for your current fitness level to get you on an upwards path, which is very motivating. That's important to get right because if you try and hit your times from your peak of fitness last season, you'll struggle hugely and you will feel like quitting before you've really started.

For more information on performing the CSS test see:

Or our post from a few weeks ago:

I just performed the CSS test myself, my times for the 400m and 200m were 5:04 and 2:27 giving me a current CSS pace of 1:19 /100m. For me that's very slow (my CSS pace before Manhattan was around 1:10/100m) but that's OK, that's where I am right now and the only way is up!

2. Set Yourself A Mini Goal Or Two

If you've been out of the water for a while like me it's unlikely you're going to hit personal best shape after a month or two's training, so rather than setting yourself a big PB as a target, try something a little smaller.

Americans Down-Under: Squad swimmers and
training partners Kelby and John are keeping their
motivation high heading into the Perth winter.
My mini-goal is to get my CSS down to 1:15 /100m. And as a second mini-goal (rather a tough one!) I'm challenging myself to swim with ITU super-fish Richard Varga during the swim at the JB Trust Triathlon in July. Now that is a pretty big challenge but it feels very motivating and I'm not afraid if I can't quite match him off such little preparation - but I'm going to try!

My top tip here is to make your mini-goal(s) as motivating as possible, keep them just achievable but challenging. Make them too easy or too hard and you'll struggle for motivation but find the 'hard-but-doable' sweet-spot and your competitive juices will start flowing nicely!

3. Commit To Swimming 20, 35 or 50 Sessions

Nearly always the biggest challenge is simply starting your new routine. We think about doing it, then put it off to tomorrow and then the next day, and then it never happens. Procrastination is a dream killer!

The hardest thing of all is just starting, once you are underway it gets easier and easier. So the most important thing here is to train off the brain and just start!

What I suggest you do is pick a time period (for me the 10 weeks to the JB Trust Triathlon) and work out the number of sessions you're going to swim in that time. Then start counting them down. I picked 50 sessions and I'm already on number 4.

You might pick 20 or 35 sessions yourself depending on your level of swimming but make sure it's a definite number and start ticking them off! My bet is that as you get near the finish you'll feel sad that it's ending. That's not a problem of course, it's simply time to set some more mini goals and have another count-down.
But what to swim? You need one of our best-selling
Waterproof Training Plans. Each containing 35
focused training sessions to follow - perfect!

Prior to winning Manhattan I did a very similar thing: Coming off a solid block off training I had 10 weeks remaining until the race and I wanted to get 50 sessions in during this period. 5 sessions and around 36km per week might sound like a lot but not compared to my rivals who were swimming upwards of 65km per week (in fact 2nd place finisher Lochie Hinds was clocking over 120km per week!). But 5 sessions was all that I could fit in around my busy work and family commitments so I had to be realistic.

I tweeted every session through my @SwimSmoothPaul account and the act of ticking them off did amazing things for my mojo at the time. After the race we collated all 50 tweets here:

You might not choose to tweet every session yourself but why not publicly announce your mini goal? It could be to swim 9 minutes for 400m or getting out of the swim ahead of your main rival in your Ironman this summer. Post it on the Swim Smooth Facebook page or tweet to @swimsmooth with hashtag #swimsmoothmojo! If we get enough good ones we'll include them in the blog next week. :)

4. Keep A Record Sheet

Similar to the idea of tweeting your sessions, I've suggested our squad swimmers keep a record sheet of their swims:
Click To Open PDF Version

Try using this yourself. Not only does it feel good to record your sessions but recording 'one good thing you did' and 'one thing you could do better' is very motivating in its own right.

OK so there we have it, four great ways to re-discover your swimming mojo again. The most important thing? Turn the brain off and just start - not next week, not tomorrow but today!

Enjoy your swimming!


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