February 19, 2018
Just like I have never been a great runner, I have never been too good at swimming either.
I mean I learned to run like everyone else did as a kid, and I was happy enough splashing around in my local pool and at the seaside…but as I progressed into adulthood it became clear I was more of a breaststroke up and down the pool rather than a dynamic open water crawler.
I’ve always liked swimming…but if truth be known I have never quite LOVED it.
In 2006 I took some adult lessons to learn how to swim front crawl in advance of the London Triathlon, and I saw improvements both in my technique and my enjoyment of the sport…I even had a hilarious experience of testing my wetsuit in the sea on a hot day in Brighton with a friend…I ended up looking like a beached whale after tripping on some pebbles and not being able to get up due to laughter.
Shortly after that race though, my swimming went back to the occasional trip to the pool with lackluster lane swimming…even when the epic London Aquatics center opened across the road to me, therefore becoming my local pool…I still couldn’t find the motivation or effort required to swim properly…until recently that is.
Because last month I became an ambassador for the 2018 Swimathon…thinking that swimming would be a wonderful crosstraining addition to my London Marathon training and all of a sudden I have a new found love and respect for the sport….seriously the change in my confidence and ability is shocking…and I have put it down to one simple thing.
I have started approaching my swimming just how I approach my running.
I just didn’t think to before and maybe you haven’t either…so here are my top 10 tips ways to swim like a runner.
1.Set yourself a goal
I saw improvements with my swimming when I had my Triathlon to train for, but I haven’t done a swimming event since, hence the slight lack of motivation and focus. I am training for the 2500meter option of this years Swimathon, which is going to be challenging…and likely to take me well over two hours. I always say if I don’t have a race in the diary I don’t train, and the same applies for swimming…choosing a goal which is scary forces you to up your game and not just try to wing it.
2.Buy yourself some new kit
Luckily we were kitted out with new swimsuits and goggles from Zoggs, but I know there is nothing worse than having to dig out your faded and out of shape cozy…so treat yourself. New flip flops, new swim cap, new fluffy towel, new swim bag…whatever is going to encourage you to get to the pool.
3.Have a plan for each session
Just swimming lengths without a plan is a bit like just popping out and plodding the streets aimlessly….it leads to boredom and little to no improvement. There are loads of good training plans online, and technique drills to give a go. My 3 go to sessions are 30-minute swim as far as you can go, 1000 meters as fast as you can go, and 1 hour swim as consistently as I can. Knowing what I am attempting to do helps me get mentally prepared for the session, and to see improvements week on week.
4. Track your progress
I think this has been one of the most powerful motivators for me. I treated myself to an apple watch for Xmas and didn’t know it had a swim function. Being able to track my progress in the pool means I don’t have to remember how many laps I have done, but more importantly than that, I can review my stats from my phone once home and dry. For example, on the 23rd Jan it took me 41.32 to cover 1000 meters, and a week later I did it in 36.37…come on that’s exciting right?
5. Think Logistics
Swimming can be a bit of a faff for us women. It involves packing and unpacking, changing into a costume is a space hardly big enough to even just stand in…then there is the showering and making yourself look respectable. I schedule my swim sessions at the beginning of the week to fit in with the rest of my training, work and social commitments. I mainly swim first thing or last thing…although morning swims seem to suit me better. During this period of intense training I am letting slip any desire to look a certain way…woolly hats, no makeup and google marks are my go to look at the moment and I have made peace with that. Having a swimming bag with all your kit helps…you just have to change your towel and costume each time, I have 3 on rotation so that I don’t use that as an excuse.
6.Get some coaching
This was absolutely the game changer for me. At the launch of this years programme with all of the other swimathon ambassadors, we were treated to coaching from Olympic swimmers Keri Anne Payne and Duncan Goodhue. Keri ran through a theory based session about body positioning and then in the pool got us breathing right. In the space of one 20 minute session, I went from being able to swim one 50 meter length front crawl to being able to swim 10 without stopping. I am now up to 1000 meters of front crawl swimming….this is as big a shock to me as it might be you…the improvement has been phenomenal, with just a tiny bit of good coaching.
6. Think about your fuelling
I am still working on this one. Today when I went for a swim at 4.30 in the afternoon I struggled with energy as it had been a long time since lunch. I really struggled. I also struggle with fatigue towards the end of my long swims, just like I would when half marathon or marathon training. Next week I will take a sports drink or gel to the pool with me, to see if I can move my swimming up to the 80-minute mark. Don’t forget you can get dehydrated in the pool too, it might be harder to spot as the water disguises your heat and sweat.
7. Share your progress.
Just like in running I am motivated by sharing my journey. This is great for ensuring you don’t skip training sessions and for seeing and celebrating your progress. I am in a facebook group with the other ambassadors where we share how we are getting on and I have a Too Fat to Run FB training group too (if you are doing swimathon this year feel free to join)
8. Accept the good and the bad
Not all swims are good. Some will be boring and hard. Some will have you wondering why you are even bothering. Some will involve idiots who get in your way, or pools being closed for events shifting you to the training pool…some will be so busy you barely manage 15 minutes before getting out. Accept the rough with the smooth and learn from each situation.
9. Don’t compare
It is really difficult not to compare yourself to other athletes, whether running or swimming…and is the downside of accountability groups. We are each on our own journey. Have your own plan and stay in your own lane (see what I did there?)
10. Put in the effort
I often complain that I am a crap runner and that my speed never improves, but that is often because my training is inconsistent or I don’t put in the effort. Whether your focus is distance, speed or consistency…quit the excuses and execute your plans to your best ability. Today I really didn’t fancy going for a swim and I didn’t have much time either…but my 30 minute/700 meter swim was just enough for me to feel like I am still on track. I will save the two more intense swims for later this week
Swimming is a great addition to marathon training and a great sport in it’s own right…why not give it a go and sign up to one of the Swimathon Challenges for this year? 2500 meters with me, or maybe the 400-meter option…there are distances for every ability.
Enter Swimathon 2018 and join Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie to raise as much money as possible for two causes close to the nation’s hearts. Swimathon 2018 will take place Friday, April 27 – Sunday, April 29, with distances from 400m to 5k, there is a Swimathon challenge for you. Choose to take part in an organised Swimathon session or take part at a time and place which works for you with MySwimathon.