On the Emergency Workout

It was a difficult week. I swam five days, and three of those I swam the emergency workout.

The emergency workout is for days when you are at the end of your rope, when you have lost the rope, when the rope is on fire. It doesn’t do all of the things a workout should do: there is no warm-up, no drills, no stroke work, no cool-down. It has two key qualities: it is efficient, and it requires no thought.

It can be shoehorned into a day when you don’t have time to swim but you also don’t have time to be insane.

My emergency workout is simple: 36 x 100 yards on 1:40. It takes 60 minutes. I follow the pace clock: leave on the 60, on the 40, on the 20. I know I will do that cycle twelve times, but I don’t even have to count to twelve: when I’ve swum for 60 minutes, I stop.

All hail the analog pace clock!
The analog pace clock. I leave when the red second hand is on the 60, the 40, the 20. If the black minute hand is on the 10 when I start, I swim until it’s on the 10 again. That’s all there is to it.

The emergency workout requires nothing of me but that I swim.

Other workouts focus on particular skills, strokes, techniques; they build endurance or speed. This workout does none of that. It has one purpose, and it has never failed me: no matter how bad things seem when I start, they seem better when I am finished.

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