This is part 4 of a 5-part series written by MySwimPro Ambassador Siphiwe Baleka:
- Part 1 – Data-Driven Training with Siphiwe Baleka
- Part 2 – The Fear of the 200 I.M.
- Part 3 – Race Pace Training for the 100 Freestyle
- Part 4 – Swimming for Mental Health
I have never been one to go to the pool and swim laps just for the fun of it. As a competitive swimmer since the age of 8, I have always gone to the pool as a means to an end – to prepare for competition, to make a qualifying time, make my contribution to the team, establish a new personal record, or set some other kind of record.
“I never went to the pool just to have fun.”
Fun was a by-product of performing well. Winning a race was fun. Going to a national championship was fun. Breaking a record was fun. Reading about myself in the newspaper was fun. Swim practice was what I had to do to get to those things.
Now, at 47 years old, for the first time in my life, I have no immediate goal. I am on an indefinite sabbatical from competition, which means that I don’t have to go to practice. This has caused me something of a dilemma.
“There are days when I simply don’t want to go.”
In the past, this would have no effect on me. I went to practice whether I wanted to or not because I was committed. There was always some competition and to perform well, I needed to go to practice. Period. There was never any debate.
Recently, however, there has been a debate. I have started to tell myself, “I don’t have to go to practice. I’m not training for anything….” And then I would agonize about it for twenty minutes. Whenever I chose not to go to practice, I would always feel worse the next day. I either felt guilty or physically I didn’t feel “normal.”
“I realized that not going to practice wasn’t helping me, either. So, this past month, I decided to have “Swimming for Mental Health” days.”
On these days, I would go to the pool and swim without any performance goals. I would not worry about counting laps or repeat times or anything. All I would do was swim at whatever pace I enjoyed for as long as I enjoyed it. This, I reasoned, was the best thing I could do. I would still maintain some fitness and my feel for the water without adding any pressure.
“In addition, I would start to be more present while swimming, enjoying the sensation of pulling and moving through the water.”
Related: Mindful Swimming: How to Reduce Anxiety
On September 4th, I went to the pool and started a “Pool Workout” in MySwimPro on my Apple Watch and just started swimming.
I put on my snorkel so I wouldn’t have to worry about breathing and just put my head down and breath. Knowing that MySwimPro was recording everything, I just swam.
“I allowed my mind to wander or to just enjoy the swimming sensations. When I felt like stopping, I stopped. When I looked at my watch, I was surprised to see that I had swum 1,000 yards!”
I did some easy backstroke and breaststroke, then put on my paddles and buoy and swam some more. Finally, at the end, I swam with some fins. Just like that I had swum 2,600 yards and enjoyed it! Not bad for “not wanting to go.”
Related: How to Make a Comeback in Swimming – 5 Steps
A week later I took another “Swimming For Mental Health” day. I didn’t swim as far – only 1,450 yards – but I was able to swim long and smooth and just work the kinks out. It felt good.
My total yardage for September dropped significantly, but I still managed to maintain my fitness.
“Going to the pool helped me feel better. And that is good for my mental health.”
I still did race pace training in September and October and my next blog will show my results. I hope that if you are feeling a little burned out by training too much, that you try what I did and switch up your swimming. Leave a comment if you are experiencing this and would like to share your story!
Join our Missouri-based ambassador, Siphiwe Baleka, on his journey to to become the fastest 50-year old in the world. Follow along every week for this 5-part series, and find out what happens when you swim with a data-driven training plan with MySwimPro.
We are proud to welcome Siphiwe as a MySwimPro Ambassador. He has transformed his life through swimming and is passionate about helping others achieve their fitness goals. His story has been featured in Men’s Health, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports , The Atlantic , The Huffington Post, Guideposts, CNN, BBC, NPR and countless other national and international media.
- 257 Workouts
- 225 Hours
- 600 Kilometers
Changing Lanes: The Siphiwe Baleka Story from Todd Kapostasy on Vimeo.
Want to start training like Siphiwe? Save 20% on a MySwimPro app membership with his code: SIPHIWE20.