This is part 4 of a 5-part series written by MySwimPro Ambassador Siphiwe Baleka: 

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.

Take 20% off MySwimPro Premium with my code SIPHIWE20

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! 

ABOUT SIPHIWE:

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 HealthSports IllustratedFox Sports , The Atlantic , The Huffington PostGuidepostsCNNBBCNPR and countless other national and international media.

MySwimPro Stats:

  • 257 Workouts
  • 225 Hours
  • 600 Kilometers

Changing Lanes: The Siphiwe Baleka Story from Todd Kapostasy on Vimeo.

Want to start training like Siphiwe? Download the MySwimPro app and start your free 7-day trial of MySwimPro Premium! Take 20% off with his code: SIPHIWE20.

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