It’s not something I was planning. Other than having a vague idea in my mind for the last 2 years that I wanted to try to swim more, I had no specific plan for making that happen. I had had specific swimming schedules associated with rotating training regimes, but I had rarely managed to swim more than 3 times a week. But it was nagging at me that I wanted to make better use of my wonderful swimming pool. Then, for some reason, on the last day of January I thought, “Why don’t I just try to swim 10 minutes every day next week?” Narrowing down the “required” time commitment, plus making a specific goal that sounded feasible, made it seem possible.
And so I began on that first Sunday of February. I usually take Sundays off from exercise. My body has always benefitted from having at least one day of a week to really rest. Sometimes I need two. But with it only being a 10 minute goal, when I know I can swim up to 35 minutes without stopping, made it sound like a stroll in the park. Learning to swim in my Fastlane current generator has really helped me to learn to relax while I swim, too, so it didn’t have to be any more strenuous than I wanted it to be.
I didn’t drop any of my running or biking routines, although in that first week they were still very moderate. I am just beginning to increase my running miles to prepare for a late spring half-marathon. Not only did I not want to lose the gains in those areas, but I wondered how much a little swim after either of these activities would help my muscles loosen up.
When I got done with that week, I was pleased with how easy it had been to do. I know it helps immensely that the swimming pool is in my backyard, heated, and covered with a tent to protect me from winds and weather. I think it would be much harder to do this away from home, unless I was in the habit of going to the gym every day for other exercise. But since getting my pool, with already having our spin bikes, as well as running predominantly barefoot and outdoors, we have not renewed our gym membership. Even when we had it, it just took so much more effort to get there, than to get the same activities done at home. That might be just us. It is also my experience that I can adjust to what is available and manageable with my circumstances. Like when I had several small children at home and the best regular option was a video routine with kids on all sides of me.
My point is that I have proven once again that just working on establishing a habit, even if the length of time planned is only a week, is beneficial to overall progress. We all have habits of one sort or another anyway. Why not take some charge over developing habits that we really want?
I found I was ready to consider continuing the 10 minute a day swim for the rest of the month. I had broken through the mental barriers of not wanting to have to get wet every day (not that I mind being wet, I just seem to have a preference to not initially get wet), and the need to deal with complications of getting my hair dry and somewhat presentable more often. It’s not like I do anything magazine worthy with my hair every day, or any day, but more swimming would mean I had to take care of it more often.
The basic routine for the first two weeks was that I did my “other” exercise, then I swam. On a couple days of the week, the other exercise was light enough that I swam 20-35 minutes. About one day a week, all I did was a longer swim. For the third week, I added a small triathlon one relatively warm day, beginning with a 10 minute swim, which isn’t much short of the 11-12 minutes of swimming that I have done for my sprint triathlons the last few years.
By the beginning of the fourth week, I was getting a bit tired. That is probably mostly because I had increased my running mileage almost 30% the third week, AND gone dancing for two hours on the third Saturday night… but I still went for my Sunday swim. And it wasn’t hard at all once I got started. In fact, I can tell that my swimming has improved from just this small daily goal. That makes me happy. I have even been able to increase the speed of the current generator a couple of notches.
As I am part way into the fourth week of this self-imposed, but low key, challenge, I am evaluating how I will use both the new habits and swimming endurance base. I don’t want to cut back too drastically, but I do think I need to go back to Sundays as a rest day. I think I will find swimming 5 days a week a better long term fit. This will let me do my triathlon brick training more effectively. One day a week, I want to do the bike-run brick workout without dealing with swimming. I am also thinking that changing the short swims to 15 minutes will be a nice step.
Who knows? As the weather warms up, I may be inspired to at least swim 5 minutes a day on my “off days,” but I think I will make sure I rest one full day from any significant physical exertion. I am also thinking of ways I can use this 10 minutes a day concept in other areas where I want to establish better habits or overcome mental barriers. I know there are only so many 10 minute segments in a day, but it might be kind of fun to take an hour and break it down into 6 challenges. Kind of like my own scheduling obstacle course.