If the motivation for maintaining consistent swim training is a challenge, you’re not alone. Many swimmers, triathletes (and even surfers) find it a real challenge to maintain consistent, purposeful swim training, whether at the pool or when circumstances force them indoors.
Maybe it’s the call of the open water, the discomfort of using certain equipment, or simply the boredom of doing the same routine in the same positions in the same room every day.
Whatever the reasons, it’s important for athletes to be creative and stay motivated to maintain quality training even when they’re stuck indoors.
While quality indoor swim training is a proven effective way of improving performance, unfocused training can ultimately be boring, hinder performance and even increase the odds of injury.
With that in mind, here are a few ways to beat the boredom and stay motivated indoors.
What to Do When Indoor Swim Training Gets Boring
Before we dive into the specifics (no pun intended), it’s important to understand how the indoor environment can impact your training.
While the positives of indoor training include convenience, time efficiency, power metrics, and safety, there can be a few downsides.
For one, your workout environment plays a big role in how effective your training will be.
Things like location, size of the room, cleanliness of the equipment, and even equipment selection really matter. When you’re in an environment that doesn’t have what you need, it’s harder to stay motivated.
The people around you can impact your levels of motivation, too. It typically helps to train with a friend or to be accountable to a coach.
Busy or crowded gym environments can also add to the challenge of working out in a way that’s safe and convenient.
These environmental factors don’t have to be obstacles to a good workout, however.
In fact, you can actually use the environment to your advantage in order to create truly effective indoor training that keeps you coming back for more.
1. Create a pre-workout routine and use it to trick your brain
There will inevitably come a time when the effort needed to do the workout will conflict with the body’s low energy levels.
When you find yourself thinking, “I really don’t want to do this today,” one way to overcome this thought is by starting your pre-training routine anyway.
A pre-workout routine, such as making yourself a shake or snack, reviewing your performance stats from your last session, or simply putting on your workout clothes and filling up your water bottle will trigger motivation.
It’s about consistency.
Or, as Chris Hague says in his Swim ReBoot, it’s about doing something.
“I first focused on what I could do and built from there,” he says. Instead of making large commitments, we started slowly.
Once you have your gear on and you start the process, the brain wants to finish what it started, which can help you feel motivated, even during the slowest or most exhausting days.
So a plan is absolutely essential. Psychologically speaking, having a regular routine (plan) is good for motivation.
2. Choose clothing and equipment that are comfortable
Another thing your brain dislikes is discomfort; it’s wired to seek pleasurable activities.
For people who get a lot of joy out of swim training, it can be easy to become “addicted” to it, which can sometimes be enough of a motivator to work through the most dreary sessions.
But not every athlete will treat an at-home training session as a pleasurable activity.
If you’re more comfortable training in the water, or with a coach, or using specific techniques or equipment, finding yourself in an uncomfortable environment will be the opposite of addicting — you’ll have to force yourself to do it.
In some situations, your discomfort may be to things you can’t always control, like temperature.
As pro-cyclist Sonya Looney says, “Sure, you can do ‘hot cycling,’ but that will make you miserable.”
Her advice? Find ways to make yourself more comfortable in your environment. This might mean using a high-power fan to cool down for better temperature control, for example, or using specific training equipment that fits your workout style.
“Initially I tried a few different kinds of trainers, but they were all hard to use,” she adds, “Every two minutes, I had to glance at the clock to see how long I had been riding. It didn’t take long before I wanted give up.”
For Sonya, finding the right equipment that helped keep her body in more comfortable positions was critical to staying motivated to train indoors.
When you feel comfortable in your environment, you’ll be more motivated to stay in it and train.
3. Use technology to track progress and set goals
When routine and comfort aren’t enough, the next thing you can do is use technology to help get you through a workout.
This doesn’t necessarily mean distracting yourself while you’re on the treadmill by watching TV, however. In fact, distractions can reduce your workout performance and increase the chances of injury.
But there are other ways to use tech to boost motivation.
If you’re using the Vasa SwimErg, for example, you can use the PM3 Power Meter with ANT+ and BT Wireless Connectivity to record and analyze the metrics and use it for biofeedback.
In fact, Coach Eric Neilsen often recommends using biofeedback (specifically, the Watts on the Power Meter and audible cues) to help indicate when muscular fatigue sets in and note especially if that fatigue negatively affects your stroke technique and ability to sustain pulling power.
When you’re measuring your results, you’re more focused on accomplishing a goal rather than simply getting through a workout.
4. Train with a Coach or Another Athlete
Working with an expert coach like Eric Neilsen has helped Chris Hague with his motivation to overhaul his swim training after moving from sunny California to wintery Canada.
Coach Neilsen gave him a set of workouts that were easy to manage while still improving his performance.
As Chris puts it, “I love Coach Eric’s quick 10-20 minute SwimErg workouts before indoor bike trainer rides because they are so manageable. Even though they are short, they are still making me faster both on the SwimErg and in the water.”
Using a coach or personal trainer, whether at the gym or at home, can also be a great strategy for beating boredom. They will provide key technical elements to work on, push you further, and instill confidence that you can do it on your own, too.
Remote Swim Coaching
Fortunately, the right coach doesn’t always need to be physically present in order to help you stay motivated. Remote coaching is another way that swimmers can ensure that performance remains high.
Coaches usually hold their trainees accountable when there’s a missed practice, or by providing different workouts that keep the momentum going without pressuring the athlete.
If you find yourself consistently dreading indoor training, a remote swim coach would be an excellent way to get more from each workout while avoiding staleness and boredom.
Alternatively, partner with other athletes as a way to stay motivated. Training with a friend or your spouse usually makes it more fun and time flies by. Five-time Ironman age-group World Champion, Lisbeth Kenyon, a busy professional and mother of 3, acknowledges the value of maintaining consistency and training with others, including her husband Todd Kenyon.
Leverage your “pain cave” at home or meet at the gym. Swimmers can partner up and do swim-specific and dryland strength training, while triathletes might do swim-bike brick workouts together. Try the 30-20-10 workout for variety and challenge.
One study found that social interaction (competition or cooperation) between athletes was one of the best motivating factors for sticking with a workout compared to those who exercised by themselves.
So if you’re really wanting to maximize your effort without being bored, bring someone else along on the journey with you.
While indoor swim training is designed to provide a fast, efficient way for swimmers to do quality training when they can’t get to the water, boredom can derail the best of intentions.
That’s why it’s important to find ways to beat boredom during training sessions.
Pay attention to the workout environment. Make sure there are adequate space and the right equipment that supports your training needs (if both of those things are an issue, consider using something like the SpaceSaver SwimErg).
Find a routine and stick with it, and don’t be afraid to add other people, like a coach or another athlete, to that mix. Technology can help you stick with your program, especially when you track and measure your progress.
Set yourself up to be comfortable in whatever environment you’re in. Choose the right workout clothes, use a fan to keep you cooler, and have water and a hand towel in hand. Reducing discomfort in your workout area will let you focus on doing the real work of training…and that may not always be comfortable, but it will pay dividends!