When I Workout

I went swimming today and swam 1000 metres, that’s one whole kilometre, in about 30 minutes.

Can I hear a “Whoop! Whoop!”

Most of it was done breast stroke, which has always been my preferred stroke, but I did squeeze out 200m of freestyle. The last 50 meters of which I seriously wondered if I looked like someone just learning to swim, I felt that uncoordinated!

But It was great! I didn’t cough or lose my breath. My “I don’t feel great” excuses are gone. Swimming requires vastly more breath control than land-based activities, and I didn’t miss a beat. And I didn’t take too many long rests. Granted, I wasn’t going light-speed or anything, But I am happy with the workout.

I also found myself taking note of a few things I do when I exercise that I’d like to share. It’s amazing to me just how much else is going on in the mind while the body is keeping busy!

When I workout, I often find myself:


Whether I feel on top of the world or not, when I am exercising, particularly when I run on a treadmill, I at least sound incredibly grumpy, even if I’m not feeling grumpy. It’s probably due to speaking in short sentences – after all, I’m exercising, so I’m breathing hard and working hard and a casual conversation isn’t really going to come easy.

But I am also grumpy when someone disrupts my flow. For example, today I was in lane 2 of an 8 lane Olympic pool, and this lane has been set up for lap swimmers. And yet it seems that the 10 kids at the pool, who have 5 open lanes to play in, always need to swim in front of me, across my path, under me or otherwise just ‘hang’ in my lane! Grr! I more than once told the kids to play in the rest of the pool and stay out of my lane!

If you seriously can’t live without swimming under the lane ropes, do it behind me, don’t force me to change my rhythm! Arg!


So, I’m swimming along and I suddenly hear “…26, 27, 28…”

I’ve been counting strokes. And I haven’t really noticed me doing it.

I count lots of stuff, and it might just be the fitness instructor training that leads me to do it, but often I count things that are happening rhythmically. Even raking or sweeping, or making my horse feeds up.

I don’t always do it consciously, and I don’t always do it accurately, and it’s not really a neurotic-type OCD tic, but it does happen quite often.

Funnily enough, when I’m trying to keep track of counting (strokes, laps, etc) I have to really concentrate or I just forget to do it.

When I did try to count strokes for a few laps to see if I am maintaining consistent stroke-length, I couldn’t get all the way to the end with an accurate count. “What was I on?” popped into my head heaps of times.

Another interesting counting observation: when counting laps, I started out with 1, 2, 3 … but liked 300, 400, 500 better – it seemed ‘better’ to count how many meters I had swum versus how many laps. As I was getting further into my laps, I started repeating “…700, 700, 700” with each stroke so I didn’t forget what I was on, so counting strokes was definitely out the window.


I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that I have a competitive streak. 🙂

I didn’t have anyone else swimming laps with me, and that’s probably good, because I really did have to take it at my own pace today, but at one point there were some girls lined up on the starting blocks and I pushed hard to get to the end and ‘jump’ when they jumped, as a kind of ‘racing start’ to an imaginary race. Yeah, I know, that’s weird, right?

I also like to glance over at others running on the treadmill and see if I can go as fast as they are, run further than they have, or up a bigger incline than they are. Or at the very least, run further in less time than my last run.

Hyper-sensitive body awareness

Of course, when we exercise, we’re paying attention to our bodies, but I wonder how many other people who are swimming think things like “Wow, this is really engaging my tricep muscles” or “If I don’t flex my foot here, my knee clicks” and then spends time finding the precise moment of foot flexion versus knee clicks. Or noticing how the water feels different passing over my fingers now that they have gone pruney.

This often leads to an internal dialogue of complaints. “My triceps are so weak!” “My left glute is not doing an equal amount of the load.” “I am going to be so sore tomorrow” and so on.

Of course, it’s not an unrelenting stream of negative information, and it’s not all good enough information to make me swim or run or lift better, but I do notice a little coach in there giving me feedback. ‘Pick up the foot, bend the knee’ is a common one I hear in my head when I run.

I think it’s interesting how much internal dialogue goes on when doing something that is fairly ‘automatic’ and repetitive, and therefore shouldn’t require a lot of extra input.

Are these strange habits mine alone, or do any of you out there have weird internal dialogues or exercise habits?


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