• Freestyle 4 Smile

The Art of Resilience

"Your body can withstand almost anything, it is your mind you must convince."

What is Resilience?

When faced with adversity in life, how does a person cope or adapt? How is it that some people bounce back from difficult events quicker than others? How can individuals achieve what many would label impossible? Psychologists have long studied these questions and come up with a label we hear very often, resilience.

The American Psychological Association (2019) define resilience as the process of adapting in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threat or significant sources of stress.

In my previous blog, I highlighted the importance of self-reflection and with this weeks training, I had time to do just that whilst swimming up and down for hours. When I first started Freestyle 4 Smile back in 2013, I wanted to swim around the Isle of Wight but I can say quite confidently that I was not ready, I did not have the resilience I felt I needed.

I liken resilience to an onion, it is built up of layers which are developed when we experience adversity. Without adversity, how do we learn to adapt and bounce back? It is a complete learning curve. I am thankful for the adversity in my life, the surgeries I have overcome and the mental battles I have defeated between 2013 and 2019. These very experiences have built the layers which I felt I required for the Isle of Wight swim. In other words, my mind is now convinced.

Building resilience takes time, effort, commitment, and focus. It will certainly not happen overnight. However, it is a powerful skill that can enable us to achieve the physically unthinkable. In the swimming scene, this is demonstrated by recent achievements such as Ross Edgley's Great British Swim and Sarah Thomas's quadruple channel crossing, just a year after battling cancer.

Bringing Resilience into Training

Over the week my body was feeling pretty battered. However, I managed to get a combination of both land and swim training in. The general process of my training involves:

  • Swimming 3-4 times a week with current distances varying between 6000-10,000m.

  • An hour of high intensity interval training (HIIT), followed by 20-30 minutes of abdominal circuits 2x a week. This is my idea of an 'active rest day' and it is done in between swims. I usually vary HIIT exercises between the stair climber, treadmill or a mixture of the two.

With both swimming and land training, I don't do things by halves, I always have to go all out, I want to make every session worthwhile!

Pushing it...

Having transitioned from bodybuilding back to swimming, I have went from spending the best part of 14+ hours a week weightlifting to pretty much 0. Therefore, when I get to go into the gym (even though it is cardio), I really appreciate having just a little break from the water. Personally, I find going up and down for hours on end can be pretty tedious and mentally draining. In addition, land training gives me the opportunity to really push it when it comes to intensity, it provides a huge rush of endorphins and I always finish the session wanting to do it all over again!

Back to the water...

Here are some of the training sets I have completed over the week (13th - 19th January), feel free to give them a try.

1) 8500m

450m warm up, 20x50m, 10x100m, 4x200m, 1x2000m, 4x200m, 10x100m, 20x50m, 450m warm down

2) 8000m

500m warm up, 70x100m off 1:45 (I averaged 1:43), 500m warm down

3) 7000m

Alternating 1000m full stroke / pull

Rest Rules

Less than 200m = 10s rest

200-400m = 20s rest

1000m + = 30s rest

Unless I am eating, I will never rest longer than 30 seconds.

Leaving with a Smile...

Honestly, as mentioned earlier within this blog, I found the distance over the last week pretty tedious which wasn't helped by feeling pretty rough. However, I ploughed on and with the wise words of Dory in my head "Just keep swimming", I did exactly that. I understand that the physical capabilities of the distance is rarely the difficult part. Instead, it is all about convincing your mind.

The great thing about the training week being a little more difficult mentally is that I felt a greater sense of accomplishment for putting my resilience into practice. It paid off and I finished the week smiling. Overcoming difficulty often provides us with the most rewarding feeling, something I learnt during my cleft journey.

Next week's blog will be a busy one, not only is there a few big swims but I have started back at University and have my Birthday to celebrate on the 25th of January, so till then...


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