Focus: Counting Sucks!

Marc Evans once asked me during a private swim session if I could actually do a drill and count how many strokes I do. It was a strange question, but very relevant as the task was very simple, which was to do 3 one arm-left arm strokes, then 3 one arm-right arm strokes, and then stroke both arms together for about 6 strokes (3+3).
I thought it to be a funny question, but then I jumped into the pool and did what he asked, although I did lose concentration a few times and stroked more or less than the instructions.
I asked him why he asked me, and apparently there are beginners who have not either not practiced enough, or even have the ability to focus on a particular drill. He was pleased that I could do it most of the time, but apparently enough people go through his swim session who cannot.
I think about this conversation a lot when I jump in the pool. It’s hard to do long distance in a 50 meter pool, and even harder in a 25 meter pool, simply because counting is tough, and doubly tough in a 25m pool.
This last Wednesday, we do our monthly 30 minute swim as a measure of fitness and also for stamina building. Sometimes I absolutely hate it, because I need to count. In order to do that, I have to really have razor sharp focus and I still screw it up. For 30 minutes, you can swim over 15 laps (or 30 lengths) and if you’re not used to it, it’s really tough to count the laps without phasing out somewhere in the middle and then you wonder, “wait was that lap 9 or lap 10?” Once you get there, you’re dead. You’ll never get back on count.
Swimming 30 minutes is definitely great mental training. It trains your brain to maintain power and stroke rate for a long period of time, but it also trains your focus for counting.
To make things easier, I switch workouts for 50 meter pools versus 25 meters. If I jump into the YMCA or Spectrum Club pool, I pick a workout with more 25/50/100 meter intervals. The most I’ll do is 200 m intervals. Beyond 200, I start wigging out because on a 25 m pool, you have DOUBLE the counting. And that really sucks. To do 250/300/400 m intervals multiple times is way too hard. I also try to do more speed sets, which tend to be shorter anyways but still stresses the muscles in a big way.