Motivation Monday: What I think about when I think about swimming

I have discovered the No. 1 factor that motivates me to hit the pool and swim: Injury that prevents me from participating in my other favorite activities. I’m itching to get to the pool right now, but it’s mostly because, well, I can’t run or ski after ACL reconstruction surgery on Jan. 28.

It’s a similar cycle every time—I hurt myself and get doctor’s orders not to run or ski; I come crawling back to swimming, the “sport of last resort;” swimming treats me well, giving me a great total-body workout and a much-needed endorphin fix; it helps me get strong enough to do my other activities; and then I heartlessly ditch it for easier, sexier sports.

I’ve been feeling kinda bad about this, so I’ve decided to list a few of the things that *keep* me swimming once it’s part of my daily routine. When I think about swimming:

I think about the Bay Bridge, and what a powerful feeling it was to swim beside it during my first 1-mile Bay Bridge Challenge in 2008—the first open-water swim of my adult life (a feeling that will only be magnified by swimming the whole 4.4 miles across the bay during the the Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim on June 12!).

I think about swimming in the Gulf of Mexico while visiting my parents in the Tampa area.

I think about how strong (if itchy!) I felt finishing the Daiquiri Deck Tropical Splash Open Water 5K in Siesta Key in October.

I think about sunbathing in Barcelona, seeing a buoy far offshore, and deciding to swim out to it. The water was so clear, I could see straight to the bottom, even at depths of 10 or more feet, which was both terrifying and thrilling.

I think about drinking a glass of sangria after swimming to the buoy and back, and about how I can’t remember being so relaxed.

I think about swimming along another beautiful Mediterranean beach a week later, close to where our friends Sarah and Phil live in Toulon, France. The first thing I noticed, besides the beauty of the beach itself, was the fact that I wasn’t the only idiot putting on a cap and goggles at the shoreline—there were half a dozen other people jumping in for a serious swim! Sarah and Phil told me some elderly residents start every day by swimming around the buoys a few times—without wetsuits in the winter.

It was the same crystal-clear Mediterranean water as Barcelona, and had the same incredible, Mediterranean buoyancy (with that much salt in the water, you actually have to *try* to sink)! Back onshore, Steve, my friends and I shared a delicious lunch composed of goodies from the outdoor market downtown—tiny, bright-red strawberries; figs the size of your fist; and several varieties of local olives.

Olives nicely echoed the saltiness of the Mediterranean.

Steve and I would linger at the beach long after our friends headed back home, finally straggling back as the sun was setting. Every night we were there, they greeted us with freshly chilled glasses of local rosé.

I’m a realist, and I know hoofing it to a D.C. public pool in the middle of the winter bears little resemblance to any of the experiences above. But jumping in at Wilson or Takoma is what lets me swim to my heart’s content when I spot a buoy far off a beautiful shoreline, or when I hear about a cool open-water swim. And if I try hard enough, once I’ve gotten into the groove of a good swim, I can almost convince myself I’m back in those wonderful, peaceful places (A little mental imagery goes a long way!).

Do you rely on mental imagery to get motivated? How so?


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5 responses to “Motivation Monday: What I think about when I think about swimming

  1. katekirk

    Very thought-provoking, since I also swim less for the love of it than for the need of it…after being a competitive swimmer for 15 years. Maybe that is why – running is much harder for me and therefore it feels like more of an accomplishment to do. And running in cold weather is bracing and wonderful, unlike swimming where I have to bundle my chlorine-scented head into a bunch of clothes so I don’t freeze. Still, when I go to the pool, I jump in and do it…not much trouble getting started, unlike the guy I saw this weekend who skulked around the deck in his goggles for 45 minutes before getting in, doing a few laps and leaving. WEIRD.

  2. Liz

    Great post Amy! I love the pictures and stories behind them.
    I use mental imagery on the treadmill to picture being outside on a beautiful run.

  3. this post made me sigh, and sigh again…all these beautiful pictures, and we are stuck in pools with lumps of snow outside. but what a great motivational tool! when’s our next swim date? I can swim a whole 1000 yards now! 🙂

  4. You have re-motivated me to give the swimming another shot!
    I always imagine tree-lined trails as I run on the treadmill. It works, at least for a little while!

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