Author Archives: Jen Schumacher

The Art of Feeding

 If you’re new to open water swimming or haven’t logged swim distances that more closely resemble something a runner might do, the term feeding may be unfamiliar. Like other marine creatures that spend significant time in the water, long distance open water swimmers also must feed, or briefly stop to take in food and/or drink for swims lasting more than one hour. The purpose of feeding in an open water swim is to hydrate and fuel the body for sustained swimming. It also carries significant mental benefits, as feedings are often looked forward to in extremely long swims, as a treat, as a sign of progress, and as a way to interact with others. We’ll take a look at the following four aspects of feedings: Quantity (Calories and Volume), Frequency, Temperature, and Delivery.

            Quantity. The amount that should be consumed is determined by the duration and intensity of the swim. A 150-lb man burns an average of 400 calories per hour swimming moderate freestyle, and up to 700 calories per hour swimming vigorous freestyle (these numbers will be higher in colder water). The intensity should be determined by percentage of max heart rate, rather than speed. Adjust that rate based on your weight and intensity, and multiply by projected hours of your swim. This is how much you will burn, not how much you must consume. The body already stores enough glycogen (sugars, which equals energy) to promote roughly 2 hours of activity (this is why marathon runners describe “hitting the wall” at approximately that time). This doesn’t mean swim 2 hours then begin feeding (completely depleting is extremely difficult to come back from), it simply means you’ve got about 800-2000 stored calories (for a 150-lb man), so can consume less than your burn rate, depending on the duration of the event. Additionally, the lower the intensity, the more fat will be burned, which will spare stored carbohydrates, so you can get away with even less. Fluid loss must also be considered, with a recommended intake of 16-24 fluid ounces per hour for moderate water temperatures (70-80F). Less is required in cooler water and more is necessary in warmer water. With so many variables, testing and retesting in practice is essential to determine what YOUR body needs.

            Frequency. How often you feed will be determined by your preferences and the structure of the swim. If you can feed quickly (10 seconds or less), more frequent feeds (every 15-20 minutes) are preferable for high performance. Many marathon swimmers feed every 30 minutes, which helps keep track of the hours. Rarely would you want to swim more than an hour without a feed, even in the beginning. Hitting that wall is just not worth it.

Delivery. A kayaker or escort boat is great on long swims to pass off feed bottles, perhaps with opened gel packs attached with a rubber band to the outside of the bottle for extra calories if needed. Some swimmers may wish to take in solids on very long swims. All items passed to the swimmer should be tied to a very long rope, so the swimmer can quickly consume the food/drink, drop the container, and continue swimming immediately. Extra care must be taken with gel packs to ensure no trash is left behind. On unsupported training swims, gel packs can be placed in the swimsuit, but this will not help with fluid loss. Place feed bottles on the shore or in a floating feed station at a buoy and loop back often.

Temperature. Finally, the temperature of the fluid can be important. In cold and/or long swims, a warmed drink is often preferred. Be careful not to make the drink hot, as the mouth becomes sensitive after prolonged cold-water exposure. For warmer swims, iced drinks are ideal to help regulate body temperature.

Just like every other skill, feedings must be practiced early and often. Become comfortable with what and how you will eat and drink, and have back-up options in case your stomach becomes upset or you grow tired of an item. Training is a great time to determine what feeding strategy works best for you, and tinker with other minor aspects of feeding, such as electrolytes, caffeine, and flavors.

 

Bon Appétit!

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

 

COMMENTS

Open Water: Do I Have To Cool Down?

In a follow up to the previous post on Tuesday, Warm Up, this post is all about cooling down after races. Although getting back in the cold open water is most likely the last thing you want to do after finishing an open water race and being practically dry, your body’s overloaded supply of lactic acid doesn’t care what you want. If you have any hopes of getting back to your normal workout routine in the next two days without too much unnecessary discomfort, you must cool down.

The last thing you likely did in your open water race was a sprint finish, and then probably some running if it was a land exit. For most of us, this is the most difficult part of the race, and our bodies are already revolting when we turn on the legs and increase the turnover. This is big time lactic acid production mode for our bodies. Lactic acid is what causes that burning and aching in our muscles. Putting our bodies through the ringer leads to soreness and tightness in the muscles for the next one to three days, and may even contribute to waking up the next day feeling like you’ve been run over by a truck.

Cooling down – along with nutrition (immediate refueling) and a few other things – plays a major role in how long it takes your body to return to a normal state of being. If you have another race that day or the next, cooling down should not be an option. Get in for a minimum of 20 minutes. If you don’t compete again, but need to get back to training, and know you’ll get far more out of training if you feel somewhat decent, strongly consider cooling down in the water. Even if you are taking the next week off, cooling down will at least help your body feel less achy.

Swimming for about 20 minutes as close to the end of the race is ideal. If you’re waiting around for the awards ceremony, this is an easy way to kill some time. If you have to rush off, try to get in a pool as soon as you can. If there is absolutely no way you can return to the water, at the bare minimum, do some dynamic stretching (arm swings), a few low intensity reps with your Dryland Cord, and follow it up with easy static stretches. At the next opportunity you have, get in the water for an easy swim-down session.

Your body will thank you!

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Open Water: What Warm Up?

Two of the most overlooked aspects of performance – especially in open water swimming and triathlon – are warm up and cool down (Part 2 of this series). Too often, athletes spend all sorts of time setting up their transitions, making sure everything on their bike is perfect. Often they swing their arms and legs a bit, maybe even get in a brief jog, and then head to the line up for the swim, often expecting to begin with an all out sprint. It would be the equivalent of climbing out of bed in the morning and immediately going outside to attempt your best ever 100-meter dash! Most of us would never even think of doing such a thing, knowing poor performance and higher injury risk would be likely outcomes of such ill-advised behavior. But for some reason, we show up to swims and do just that.

As humans, we spend the vast majority of our time on land, on our feet. Even the best swimmers amongst us still allow their arms to swing restfully by their sides throughout the day. Our arms and core arguably need the most warming up before a swim, and they’re normally starting from zero. A run will increase body heat and blood flow to these areas, but those specific muscle groups have not been stretched and loaded.

Think back to some of your best workouts in the pool or ocean. Most triathletes and open water swimmers have an aptitude for endurance, so I’d bet some of your best times have come towards the ends of workouts, when you’re exhausted, fatigued, and have already beaten your arms up a fair amount. Few of us can perform at our best completely fresh. If you’ve done the training, don’t be afraid to put in some quality swimming before a race. (Just make sure your total swimming distance for the day is well below your normal daily yardage.)

Warming up on the race course has numerous benefits. You get to practice the turn angles, find what to sight, feel the currents and conditions, and generally get a leg up on all those competitors eyeing you strangely. Practice a moderate start (beach or in-water, whatever the race has in store for you), and then swim easy towards the first buoy. If it’s a reasonable distance, kick up the speed as you draw near, and do an 80% effort turn around the buoy, using the same angle you would want to if you were swimming the entire course. If feasible, get to the final buoy (if different than the first) and practice the last turn at 85-90% effort. After that turn, keep the intensity up for 20 strokes while figuring out what landmark you will use to sight the best line to the finish. Swim the rest in easy.

The downside to warming up at the course is the potential for getting chilled before the race. Here’s where you need to know your body. If you’re in a wetsuit, you have more leeway with the weather. If the water and air temperatures are reasonable for your body and the sun is out, throw on a parka, jog up and down the beach, and do a few arm swings. Try not to leave more than 10 minutes between finishing your warm up and lining up for the race. If the weather is not conducive to a course warm up, there are other methods. It is not unreasonable to go to your local pool, or a pool near the race, and get in 500-1000 yards of quality swimming. Practice sighting, dolphin dives and a few other open water pool drills. If you cannot find a conventional lap swimming pool, a Stationary Cords works great.

If all else fails and you cannot swim before the race without risking mild hypothermia, always pack Dryland Cords in your race bag. Get in a jog on the beach to warm up, and then do some double-arm pullbacks and freestyle pulls to get the arms warmed up. Still make time to scope out the conditions from the shore, and determine your sight landmarks and turn angles.

Then get in there and race!

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Cross Training for Swimming

Cross training for swimming is a delicate balance. As any triathlete can tell you, too much running and cycling can decrease ankle flexibility (not great for your kick) and increase muscle mass in the legs to the point of changing body position in the water. The key with cross training is to do enough to reap the benefits without hindering your swimming performance.

Target the purpose of your cross training – what you are trying to gain? Take an honest look at your swimming and decide what, if any, of the following areas need improvement.

 

Endurance. A smartly placed run or bike in your training program can enhance  aerobic capacity, and these gains translate into swimming endurance. Such transfers are not as specific as a long training swim would be, but sometimes it is nice to switch it up, and other times you just don’t have time or access to get to the water. If the intended benefits are aerobic, make sure you keep the pace aerobic. A good measure is to make sure you can easily hold a conversation throughout the effort. While pushing harder may be a better workout, the gains you’ll be making will be more specific to biking and running, while aerobic gains can more easily translate to swimming. Careful not to bike or run so much that you get lead legs or stiff ankles. Other great activities are rowing, cross-country skiing, and paddling.

 

Flexibility. If you commonly find your body stiff and tight at the beginning of swim practice, working on your flexibility may be helpful. If you’re stretching before swimming, stick to dynamic stretches like arm circles and swings. Static stretches should be reserved for after workouts when the body is warm, if at all (many swimmers have loose shoulder joints so caution should be taken when performing shoulder stretches). Yoga is a great activity that provides both strengthening and flexibility across a wide variety of muscle groups.

 

Strength. Strengthening swimming muscles can only help swimming if it is specific to the speed of the movement you’re making in the water. So if you’re performing lat pulldowns, do so at your stroke rate. Bring a Tempo Trainer to keep you on target. If the gym isn’t your thing, grab a Dryland Cord. Since bulkier bodies are more difficult to move through the water, the goal is not to increase muscle mass, but to increase strength and muscular endurance. High reps (12-15) with low weight (or the cord) are useful 2-3 times per week. Keep in mind that all bodies are different – monitor any changes to your body composition and body position in the water when beginning a new weight training program to avoid swimming setbacks and maximize gains.

 

Stability. Regardless of your dryland goals, every swimmer can benefit from maintaining shoulder health. Even if you’ve never had shoulder problem, a few simple exercises can keep you out of trouble. Swimming involves considerable internal rotation of the shoulder and pulling in the front (a.k.a. rolling the shoulders forward). Counter this with external rotation and back and deltoid exercises. Grab your Dryland Cord for the external rotation, rows, and front, middle, and rear deltoid exercises. If you have a core routine, add in reverse crunches to strengthen your back as well.

Happy cross training!

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Fear in Open Water

           Have you ever lined up at the start of an open water race or triathlon only to find your heart rate skyrocketing beyond what you normally feel in a workout? Or perhaps you’ve had that sweaty palms, tight-chested, stomach-filled-with-butterflies feeling? These are feelings of anxiety and can come naturally during open water swimming; however, the feelings can also be managed to help performance rather than hinder it.

In order to channel the anxiety to enhance performance, you first have to find out what factors cause the fear. It could be the chaotic race start or the vast, deep open water. Perhaps it is the fear of not knowing what creatures you are about to share the water with.  It could even be the idea of swimming nonstop with no wall to rest on.

Then, decide if this fear is controllable. If in the past, you’ve found yourself worrying about not having sufficient training, then great, now is your chance to do it differently this time! Create a training plan that gives you the confidence to stand at the line on race day and know that you will finish strong. If you typically get the butterflies from pack swimming at the start and turns, these are also skills you can practice before the race. Grab a few buddies and practice some Open Water Skills .

As baseball’s great Mickey Rivers stated, “Ain’t no use worrying about things you control, because if you’ve got control over them, ain’t no use worrying. Ain’t no use worrying about things you can’t control, because if you can’t control them, ain’t no use worrying.” So essentially, if you have control over the source of the fear – or control over training for the fear – then the greatest strides you can take towards managing that fear are preparing for it.

If you don’t have control over the source of the fear, such as deep water or large fish, then ask yourself if the potential risk outweighs the benefits. Does the extremely slim chance of a large fish encounter outweigh your love of open water? Answer that question on the beach before you get in and never look back. If you do begin to think about that while you’re swimming, have a focus strategy – something else you can quickly think about such as your stroke, a song you like or your to-do list that day. Of course, you can control the amount of risk you are taking by choosing not to swim at dawn or dusk, and avoiding seal hangouts.

Finally, when it comes to race day, remember that some anxiety is a good thing. The butterflies tell you that you are ready to race. They’re there because you care. It isn’t about getting rid of the butterflies; it’s about getting them to fly in formation.

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Hold the Salt!

One of the most noticeable differences between pool and ocean swimming is the presence of salt water. For some, high salt concentrations can even be a deterrent to open water swimming. Fear not, here are some tips on what to expect when swimming in water with a high concentration in salt and some tools to mediating salt’s effects.

  1. The warmer the climate, the saltier the water. Warmer, dryer air temperatures cause seawater to evaporate at a higher rate, leaving salt behind and increasing ocean salinity. Areas that receive more freshwater rainfall will have a lower level of salinity. So if you live in an area that is warm, dry, and receives little rainfall, expect a much saltier ocean than cooler, damper climates. Saltiness can change as the seasons change within the same region as well.
  2. Bring water to rinse. Fill an empty milk gallon with warm water to rinse off with after your swim. You’ll feel refreshed, free of salt and sand, and not to mention, a bit warmer!
  3. Chaffing woes. Generally, the higher the salt content of the water, the more chaffing becomes an issue. Bring Vaseline, Body Glide, or any other anti-chaffing product and apply liberally at hot spots: typically under the arms, around the neck, and anywhere the edges of your suit move on your skin.
  4. Mouthwash please! If you’re planning a much longer swim (2 hours or more) you may wish to bring mouthwash to avoid what marathon swimmers often refer to as “salt mouth.” After a prolonged period of time in salt water, the tongue and mouth become wrinkled and can be painful. Swishing around a bit of mouthwash can provide temporary relief from salt mouth.
  5. Hold the salt! If you are taking a sport drink with you, choose one that does not contain much sodium. Depending on the length and intensity of your workout, you still may need potassium and calories, but you’ll consume plenty of sodium while you swim, whether you intend to or not!
  6. Enjoy the buoyancy. Although swimming in salt water can present a few discomforts, the buoyancy the salt water offers relative to fresh water can outweigh these negatives. Similar to wearing a pull buoy, swimming in the ocean can feel like you’re flying across the surface of the water.

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Honing Your Open Water Skills in a Pool

Open water swimming is almost an entirely different sport than pool swimming. Not only can you make contact with other swimmers, but open water is much more susceptible to the elements. You can have large fluctuations in water temperature, surface chop from wind, unpredictable wildlife, and strong currents that can dramatically effect how long you are in the water. Naturally, open water requires a different skill set than pool swimming, which must be practiced regularly.

However, even the best open water swimmers in the world do much of their training in a pool. Pools offer objective feedback, interval training, and a controlled environment where coaches can have a greater impact on performance. Also, depending on where you live, you may not have easy access to open water. Introducing drills and sets that target open water skills can make pool workouts more specific and enjoyable.

  1. Dolphin Dives: Beach starts and finishes in ocean races require the ability to quickly dolphin under or with waves. Using the waves properly will let you shoot forward and often gain an edge on competitors. In the shallow end of the pool, dive down with your arms out in front, touch the bottom with your hands then feet, and explode off the bottom at a 45-degree angle (jump forwards and towards the surface).

Example set: 8x50s on 1:00 dolphin dive the first and last 12.5yds, sprint the middle 25

  1. Sighting: Sighting is an essential skill in any open water swim. Practice keeping your head as low as possible while still being able to spot your destination, then rotating your head to either side for a breath as you finish the sighting stroke. Place 3 orange cones at different positions on the other side of the pool and alternate sighting between the three. Tarzan drill (swimming with your head up) is also a great way to strengthen the neck and back muscles required for effective sighting.

Example set: 3x [4x25s + 4x50s] where the 25s are Tarzan drill on :35, 50s sight all 3 cones on first 25, fast on second 25, on 1:00

  1. Pace Line: With a group of swimmers, do several long swims where everyone leaves 2-3 seconds apart and the leader rotates each 100. The leader can drop off at the 100 and hop on the end of the train, or for a more challenging set, the person in the caboose can sprint alongside the train to take over the lead when it’s their turn.

Example set: 4x400s on 6:00 alternating leaders in pace line

  1. Pack Swimming: Swim 3-4 swimmers wide in a single lane to simulate the contact of pack swimming. If you’re on the outside, get on the middle swimmer’s hip – that’s where you’ll get the greatest draft. If you’re in the middle, try to drop them.

Example set: 16x25s pack swimming on :40, taking turns in different positions

  1. Stroke Rate: A high stroke rate is preferred in open water, especially in rough water, where surface chop and currents would laugh at an extended arm attempting to glide. The <a href=” http://www.finisinc.com/equipment/electronics/tempo-trainer-pro.html”>Tempo Trainer Pro</a> is a great tool for increasing stroke rate. Figure out what tempo you comfortably swim at in strokes per minute (spm), and increase from there.

Example set: 500 + 400 + 300 + 200 + 100 on 1:30 (or other comfortable) base. Set Tempo Trainer Pro  2spm higher than your comfortable tempo for the 500. 2spm higher for the 400. 2 higher for 300, and so forth.

  1. Deck Ups: The reason the sprint up the beach at the end of a race hurts so much isn’t because you’re not a good runner; it’s because the rapid transition from horizontal to vertical causes a significant heart rate spike. Get used to this in the pool by sprinting 50s and immediately upon finishing, climbing out of the water and standing straight up. No hunching over!

Example set: 12x50s on :50, every 4th 50 recovery, all others sprint + deck up

Extra challenge: Add in 8 squat jumps on deck in between the fast 50s

Finally, the next time you’re stuck in an overly crowded lane at the pool, smile and remember it’s great open water training!

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Utilizing the Hydro Hip: A Core Workout

One of the most important components of great freestyle is core strength. A developed core maintains proper body position in the water, keeps us stable, and allows us to use rotation to increase the power of each stroke. For open water swimmers and triathletes, the core is even more relevant, as a strong core will prevent you from being jostled around by waves and competitors, keeping you grounded and stable in the water.

There are some good drills that teach the importance of hip rotation, but there is really no better way to feel proper hip rotation than using the FINIS Hydro Hip. The Hydro Hip’s blades, positioned on either side of your hips or waist, increase resistance as you rotate through the water. In order to rotate without hitting your hands on the blades, you’ll have to lead rotation with the hips, and rotate more powerfully and quickly than you’re perhaps used to. Using the Hydro Hip creates an intense workout for your core, and is best used for short distances. The Hydro Hip takes some getting used to, and it can be difficult while you have it on, but you’ll notice a drastic improvement in your rotation and timing when you take it off.

A great way to get the most out of your Hydro Hip is repeat 100s on an easy interval. Wear the Hydro Hip on the odd 100s and focus on ‘popping’ the hips side to side, like a downhill skier on moguls. Do the even 100s without the Hydro Hip at a slightly higher level of intensity. Notice how much earlier you drive your hips and focus on the increased power this adds to your stroke.

The Hydro Hip is also great for backstroke; the same principles apply. You can also get creative and adjust the blades so both rest on your stomach, facing the bottom of the pool or slightly outwards. Freestyle with the Hydro Hip set up in this manner forces you to initiate hip rotation quickly and forcefully. The same can be done for backstroke, with the blades resting on your back, facing the bottom of the pool.

Regardless of how you use your Hydro Hip, it offers an intense core workout and will increase the power and efficiency of your stroke.

 

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

Polar Bear Dip: Open Water For The Winter

Swimmers are a different breed when it comes to New Year’s Day. Sure they go out and enjoy themselves the night before, doing all the things they claim they’ll never do again, but for some, New Year’s Day brings with it a special challenge: the Polar Bear Dip.

Polar Bear Dips (also known as Polar Bear Plunges or Swims) are events where people gather to enter a body of open water, despite frigid temperatures. Polar Bear Swimmers exist all over the world – some perhaps even in your own swim club – and hundreds of events will be held on January 1st. The event is not relegated to extreme open water swimmers. Most are pool swimmers who venture out into the open water only in the summer and on New Year’s Day, and may not go any further than a couple hundred meters. Some may not even be swimmers at all and just go in to shake off their hangover. And of course, there are those who never stopped swimming in the open water after the summer and may be up for a much more challenging distance while the others cheer them on from their warm parkas on shore. Ask any local open water swimmer where to go if you are interested in this unique challenge.

Before you go, there are a few important things to keep in mind for your Polar Bear Dip:

  1. Never go alone. If you don’t live near an organized event, do NOT attempt this by yourself. Gather at least one or two other swimmers to go with you, and have at least one person on shore to help you when you exit the water. Hypothermia is a real concern, so certain steps must be taken to be safe. If you and your swimming partner(s) are not the same speed, a <a href=” http://www.finisinc.com/equipment/technical-products/resistance-training/swim-parachute-8-inch.html”>swimming parachute</a> is a great way to level the playing field.
  2. Get in slowly. If possible, slowly ease into the water. Start with your feet first, then wade in up to your knees, then hips, splashing water on your chest and face. This will help lessen the initial shock. When you start swimming, you may want to keep your head up for a few strokes. It WILL be uncomfortable until your heart rate and core temperature increase.
  3. Know the signs of hypothermia. Stop swimming BEFORE you become hypothermic. If your core feels cold, that is a big sign. Other signs include difficulty talking, thinking, and making small motor movements, such as touching your thumb to each of your fingers. If you or your swimming partner cannot do this simple test, it’s time to get out. Set a course that is along the shore (as opposed to straight out) so you can exit immediately if necessary.
  4. Get warm quickly. Once you are out of the water, warm up right away. Don’t hang out and chat with your damp suit on. Get your suit off and get into warm clothes. An empty milk gallon is a great way to get a warm ‘shower’ before you change. Bring warm slippers, mittens, a hat, and several layers.
  5. Be aware of the after drop. While you were swimming, your body decreased blood circulation from your extremities to your core, as a survival mechanism to protect your vital organs. Now that you are out, this cold blood will begin to circulate to those areas, creating what is known as the after drop. Even though you think you may be out of the woods after you change, you are still at risk of hypothermia. Make sure you are in warm clothes before the after drop occurs, preferably with a warm drink to also warm up your insides!
  6. Have a DD. Yes, you may need a designated driver for this. If you do become hypothermic, operating a three thousand pound death machine is not in your best interest, or the best interest of those around you. Plus, having that person out of the water while you swim is another sound safety measure, and they can help you dress and re-warm (when you get out, you will likely have what is known as “The Claw,” or the inability to move your fingers from a frightening position).

If you are a seasoned open water swimmer and swim year-round, you may be looking to do a bit more than just a dip. I like to swim loops on New Year’s Day, so I can swim longer, yet still interact with all the other crazies going for the dip. If there is a buoy or rock or some other landmark, swim there and back for one loop, exit the water, and jog the same distance. Repeat as necessary to get your desired distance.

Remember, safety and fun are the name of the game for Polar Bear Dips. Happy Holidays!

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS

A Holiday Swim Challenge – Motivation to Get to the Pool

For many swimmers and triathletes, the holiday season is one of the most difficult times to keep up with pool swimming. Most of us are bombarded with family gatherings, a hectic work schedule, and frantic shopping trips. The frigid outside air temperature and gloomy weather only add to our temptation to stay in bed in the mornings, or to skip the pool and come straight home after work. However, with all of the stressors of the season – positive though they may be – I argue this is possibly the most important time to get in the water.

There is something incredibly calming and restorative about finishing a grueling pool workout, especially on those days when there were many reasons not to show up at all. The satisfaction gained from grinding out a workout when you felt the worst can propel you through the toughest of days. It’s funny in that I never regret swimming a workout, but rather I find myself frequently regretting not getting to the pool.

Telling yourself to go swim is not always enough. Sometimes we need a looming challenge. Something that simply by being there makes us get in the water.

So here is the challenge of the holiday season: At some point in December, find a pool and complete the insanity that is the workout below.

Right now the workout below my look senseless. If it doesn’t, adapt it and make it harder; it’s intended to be punishing. What is the furthest you can push yourself while still making your interval? Right now, before you do anything else, decide what day and time you will do this challenge. Commit to it in writing and sign your name. Between now and then, make sure you get in the pool so you’re ready when that day comes. This will (hopefully) keep you in the water this month.

The Set:

100 fast + 100 easy

2x100s fast + 100 easy

3x100s fast + 100 easy

4x100s fast + 100 easy

5x100s fast + 100 easy

Take this pattern up until you cannot make it anymore. Set the fast 100s interval at the tightest interval you can reasonably make**. The easy 100s are on 2:00, or any interval where you can get a minimum of 30 seconds rest. You’ll need it. If you do this right, it will take you to your limit. Be honest. Make the interval challenging yet attainable. Go up the ladder until you miss an interval. Find your edge.

Remember, if you accept this challenge, it is a choice. If you’re miserable during The Set, or during your practices leading up to The Set, try to focus on why you’re motivated to do this. Perhaps you’re looking to find where that limit lies for you. Maybe you love challenges. It could be simply a way to keep you in the water through the holidays. Whatever your reason, keep that in mind and go back to it when things get tough.

After you complete The Set, I would love to hear from you and hear how it went. Please write me via either of the websites below, or comment on this blog post.

Happy Holidays!

Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com

COMMENTS