Without a focus, swimming can be a bit boring (though of course it can also be quite meditative and relaxing), so set yourself a challenge to stay motivated, committed to exercising or to push yourself a bit harder than usual. Take a look at some of our suggestions…
In this post, we’re collecting ideas to inspire you. We’ll add to it when we think of more, so come back again any time!
The following challenges are ideas to inspire you. It is up to you to assess your ability to safely complete any of the challenges as well as the suitability of the location you intend to swim. You should assess your own swimming competency as well as medical factors that may influence the safety of taking part. By choosing to do any of the following challenges, you assume responsibility for your safety at all times. It is up to you to work out a sensible training plan to achieve any of the challenges mentioned here, or ask a qualified instructor or coach to help you.
Sign up to a class
If you never learned how to swim properly, why not challenge yourself to finally learn? Lessons for adults are very different from children’s classes and you have the opportunity to talk through any worries with an instructor. There are many swim schools and private instructors offering group classes or one to one lessons. Once you can swim properly, a whole world of adventure opens up!
Try a different aquatic discipline
If you are a strong swimmer and getting fed up of endless lengths, try one of the other main aquatic disciplines.
Synchronised swimming is a fun, music-based activity that uses a lot of sculling skills and it is a serious muscle toner! You’ll learn routines with a group so there’s plenty of opportunity to socialise. Your instructor will give you synchro-specific training drills, which you can use outside of class in your regular swim sessions, giving you new and interesting things to do over your usual laps of the pool.
Springboard and Platform diving is an adrenaline rush as well as a gymnastic activity that tones your muscles and improves your agility and flexibility. There are plenty of classes for adults with no previous experience and many people take up the sport surprisingly late in life. You don’t have to leap from 10m boards if you don’t want to, there are always 1m springboards available!
Water Polo is a great fun team sport and many local clubs are keen to take on new members. You spend a lot of time treading water, which is good for base fitness and leg toning. Many clubs have groups that don’t want to compete seriously, they just play for fun, though there are also local and regional events for adults who do want the competitive element.
Try open water
Outdoor swimming has enjoyed a revival in recent years and many people now prefer it to pool swimming. It is a wonderful feeling to be swimming in natural lakes or rivers. In the Summer, water can be warm enough for just a swimsuit, though through colder months a wetsuit and neoprene gloves/socks/hoods can allow you to keep swimming all year round if you’re not the hardy type that will swim “in skins” no matter what temperature the water is. Swimming outdoors can feel really refreshing and many people find it has a positive impact on their mental health. There is a large community of open water enthusiasts to be found on social media, so by getting outdoors, you may find a new tribe to hang with. There are of course additional risk factors to swimming outdoors, so make sure you do your research be aware of the dangers and swim with an experienced, competent outdoor swimmer or coach.
Do a 5k
The 5k may be an entry-level distance for runners, but 5k in the water is a substantial swim! 5k in a standard 25m pool is 200 lengths and you can build good fitness on this distance. The annual Swimathon is a sponsored swim raising money for charity and you can swim 5k on your own or put together a team to cover the distance between yourselves.
Variations on a 5k theme
If you have done a 5k before, why not add to the challenge and do 5k using a stroke you don’t normally do? 5k butterfly would be quite a challenge! Or do a 5k on each of the four competitive strokes
Do a 10k
10km is the swimming “marathon distance” at the Olympic Games and is usually swum in open water. You can do a 10k in the pool or as part of an organised open water event, there are many available to sign up to. 10k equates to 400 lengths of a standard 25m pool.
1000k in a year
This is a popular challenge for gym-goers who use the cardio equipment to rack up 1000k over a number of sessions in one year but if you are an experienced 5k or 10k swimmer, this may interest you. To break it down, 1000k would involve swimming 5k 200 times in the year (or 5k 3-4 times a week every week for the year)
Swim the Channel
Swimming the English Channel is a classic challenge, which has been completed by many people since Matthew Webb’s historical achievement in 1875. The Channel is 22 miles between the closest points of Dover and Calais though people who do it actually cover many more miles because of the current. If you want to add yourself to the list of people who have swum the Channel, the best way is to do it with an official organiser. It isn’t cheap but they provide experienced boat cover for the trip and a structured training plan. It is essential to have this level of support when you are swimming in one of the World’s busiest shipping channels. To attempt it alone or with a mate in a kayak is reckless, an unnecessary burden on the volunteer coastguard service and possibly illegal. Strong swimmers have struggled, often failed and occasionally died in the gruelling conditions. If swimming the actual Channel does not appeal to you, there is an annual pool-based equivalent challenge run by Aspire (a spinal injury charity) where you log your swims over a number of weeks until you have achieved a cumulative 22 miles.
Lido Bucket List
The UK has a rich heritage of outdoor pools, many of which have been restored to their original designs. The oldest Lido in the country (as of January 2021) is the Lymington Seawater Bath. It is 100m long and was built in the 1830s. Each lido has unique architecture and interesting history and many swimmers like to experience a visit to as many of them as they can find. It’s a great excuse for a touring holiday!
Try a Triathlon
A triathlon is a competitive event where you swim, cycle and run. There are shorter distance events for people who either want to give it a try or who prefer a sprint and there are longer distance events for those that prefer an endurance challenge. You can take part on your own or as part of a team. Within a team, you can each choose to do just one of the three disciplines. Triathlon events vary from serious competitive events to fun, family-friendly ones. There are events available for people with disabilities too. There may be a few hundred people taking part in each event and there’s no embarrassment to coming last as everyone recognises it as a personal challenge. Unless you are an elite competitor, it isn’t about beating other people it’s about beating your own personal best. Everyone gets a medal for taking part.
Beyond a triathlon
If you’ve got a few triathlons under your belt, you may be interested in going for some of the more extreme or alternative-discipline events. There are triathlons that switch out swimming for kayaking and there are multi-ironman distances on offer.
A swim a day
If you struggle with motivation, then setting yourself a daily swim challenge could appeal to you. It doesn’t matter how far or fast you swim, or how long you spend doing it. It’s more of a blogging/diary/social media challenge and you can find new and exciting places to visit.
Take on the Olympics
If sprinting is your thing, why not have a look at some the historical results of the Olympic Games. Compared to today’s results, the swim times of athletes from long ago are surprisingly achievable. Choose your preferred distance and see where you’d come in the results table!
Earn the badges you never got as a kid
Many people start swimming as an adult or return to swimming as an adult having had a bad experience of childhood lessons. You may find it therapeutic to try and earn the badges you found difficult to achieve back then and gain closure on the past. Ask a teacher at your local pool for details of the badge criteria and either have a go yourself (if it is safe to do so) or book on to some lessons where the teacher can officially award you with your badge and certificate!