A Swim of 68 Miles Starts With a Single Stroke
"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success. - Pablo Picasso
I stepped away from bodybuilding to undergo my last surgery and focus on my next goal, the Smile of Wight, a distance of 68 miles. It had been a while since I had been swimming properly and having started training for this swim in November, I quickly realised my range of motion was pretty shocking from the years I had spent in the gym. I put down the weights and followed the plan set by my coach Andrew Gowland who had supported me through endurance swims in prior years.
My first swim in the pool was a 1 hour non-stop swim, let's call it the benchmark swim! The maximum distance in November was 5000m and I can remember the stiffness and ache in my lats, it was frustrating. My massage therapist Charlotte Lattin spent the first couple of weeks putting me back together whilst my body adjusted to a completely different sport and type of training.
December quickly approached and the distance increased, the minimum distance sat around 4500m with the furthest being 6500m. Reality began to hit me, I realised to undertake such a challenge, these distances become the norm. Swimming for 2+ hours at a time must become second nature and I was ready. However, I may have got a little carried away.
As I became more familiar with being in the pool, my confidence grew and I ended up completing 40% of the months programme within a week. That's right, I went swimming consecutively for 7 days covering just over 30,000m. Unfortunately, this was too much too soon for my body and I ended up with a rotator cuff injury. However, I had definitely learnt my lesson and was ready to start January with a more sensible approach!
Starting January Strong
The distances in the January training programme are distances I have never been used to swimming in a pool. Personally, I find it hard to remain focused and concentrated for that length of time without being in the sea. With that being said, I understand it must be done to achieve my goal on September the 3rd.
Since the 2nd of January I have completed the following swims - give them a try!
1) 7500m choice
500m Warm up, 1000m Full x3, 1000m Pull x3 (Alternate), 500m Warm down
300m Warm up, 4x25m, 4x50m, 4x100m, 4x200m, 4x400m, 4x800m, 4x400m, 4x200m, 4x100m, 4x50m, 4x25m, 300 Cool down
400m Warm up, 60x100m off 1:45, 400m Cool down
500m Warm up, 1000m Full x3, 1000m Pull x2 (Alternate), 500m Cool down
450m Warm up, 20x50m, 10x100m, 4x200m, 1x2000m, 4x200m, 10x100m, 20x50m, 450m Cool down
Personal Best - Reaching 10,000m
I had never completed a 10,000m swim in a pool before, I prefer being in the elements, I love getting chucked around by waves and getting attacked by rogue seaweed. In contrast, I hate the cold, with a face full of metal, it isn't the most pleasant experience. Therefore, I am patiently waiting for the sea to warm up before I join the fish again. To complete 10k in 2:58:47 in the pool was a big milestone, one that has boosted my confidence. I can remember the struggles of November and this was a relatively easy swim.
How do you fuel your swimming?!
However, I am still trying to get a hold on my swimming nutrition, I have never really enjoyed guzzling down gels but does anyone? Instead, I jumped out of the pool 1:45:00 into the swim to munch on a Jam sandwich and then ate a Banana about 20 minutes later. Despite this, I found myself in the 8500m mark absolutely ravenous and it began clouding my focus and impacting my stroke. I don't know about you, but when I am hungry, I can't really get in my zone which is such an important thing in endurance sports.
From that moment on, I had no food left in my inventory that was my swimming bag. I had underestimated how much food I needed and with 1500m left, I felt every length, boy it dragged. With every mistake is a lesson to be learned, this lesson - bring more food! I knew training for the Smile of Wight would be filled with a tonne of learning curves and one will definitely be how to optimise nutrition in these long-distance sets. I am confident that come the big day, I will understand what I respond best to and in what quantity.
The Importance of Self-Reflection
Although I have mentioned a mixture of positives and negatives in this blog, I think it is important to reflect on the experiences we encounter. After all, without reflection, how can we truly improve ourselves. Yes, I may have gained an injury and massively underestimated my feeding but I have come on a significant way since November. I used to struggle swimming 5000m and now it's a breeze. My range of motion has improved and my stroke is much more efficient.
Whatever your goal or direction in life, take time to remember how far you've come. With the correct mindset, we are capable of taking on the world and whatever is has in store for us.
Take the negatives and turn them into opportunities to improve.
Focus on the positives, between point A and B, how far have you come? Write them down, celebrate your achievements and milestones!
All donations toward this swim go to funding free cleft surgery and care in the developing world with Smile Train. - https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/smileofwight