Lost in thought: The benefits of mindless swimming

I often lose track of time. It happens for various reasons — watching Law & Order marathons, reading, grading papers, writing — but mostly I notice it during my long workouts. These are the days when running, biking and swimming is about distance and easy effort, not about pace and timing. At some point, the workout becomes hard (because a long workout, by definition, is a hard workout) and I pull out the positive self-talk, but it’s much kinder and less urgent than the internal pep talks I give myself during interval or hill work.

Getting lost in my thoughts isn’t wholly a bad a thing on the run or the bike. But I find my mind wanders most when on long swims. And that can be troublesome. See, I tend to lose count when I’m swimming and haven’t gotten into the habit of using the lap button on my watch to count. (Plus, the lap numbers are kinda small on my watch, and my poor eyesight only gets worse when straining through foggy goggles.) On today’s 1600 meter long swim I tried a new technique. I would think of 16 things I was grateful for and ponder them on each of my 16 laps.

That lasted for half a lap. Seriously. Not because I couldn’t think of 16 things to be grateful for, but because I got distracted. As I rotated in the water I caught glimpses of other swimmers:

Hey that guy’s got really good form in the lane next to me. Wow, that woman is fast. OK, I’ve got the guy doing a doggy-paddle/breaststroke combo in the far lane beat. Is that a dude wearing a pink speedo?

At the pool wall, I glanced down to the other end:

Is that someone standing there? Do they want to get in my lane? Do they see I’m doing a circle swim so they can get in or will they want to split the lane?

And then there’s the internal dialogue that’s just a big bag of weird:

What should I have for lunch? What did I buy at the grocery store yesterday again? I need to change the sheets on my bed. Remember what a jerk my ex-boyfriend was about me learning to swim? Hey, remember when I needed fins before I even thought of getting in the water? Where are my fins now? I should buy myself some flowers.

Wait a minute! Was that Lap 8 or Lap 9? Shoot!

My arms started to ache, but just as the pain from the distance and a week of solid training settled in, the 1,600 meters were completed. And it amazed me how fast the time went by. And to be honest, I was grateful for the opportunity to get lost in my thoughts, no matter how nonlinear they were, during my morning swim. To me, it was a sign of comfort in the water, a growing familiarity with the long course pool and an acceptance that sometimes to move fast, we have to get a bit lost in the distance.

Don’t forget, today is the last day to leave a comment on the pampering post to be entered into the random drawing for some great swag from Gilden Tree body products!

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