Day 171 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure: The importance of screwing up – and how to cure insomnia

Have you stuffed up today? It might be a good thing. 

But first things first: One of the many features of the Garmin Fenix 3 is that it tracks your activities (yep, just like all those other gadets, doo-hickies and bands do nowadays, including the ridiculously over-hyped Apple Watch to some extent). Anyway, I thought this was pretty useless, given two things:

a) I usually get up at 5am and fall into bed around 10pm anyway,

b) have calculated how many hours I slept the night before like a bad habit for about 20 years.

But you know what? I am actually finding this useful and I am definitely keeping better taps on my sleep patterns.

Since I have had a few days off, I have slept much longer hours – on average 8 to 9 hours a night – and better, too. Plus the odd nap, yay. I kind of knew that 6 to 7 hours a night is not enough given the crazy amount of stuff I need to get done every day. My beautiful wife often goes to sleep before me and gets up around 6am, and has done so for over a decade. But this sleep tracker has given useful numbers to the subjective experience and counting habit.

One crucial point to note here: Since I have embarked on the swimming adventure, I have not only gotten rid of my back pain but also my occasional instances of insomnia. Yes: regular swimming also cures insomnia, people. Of course, we all know that sleep (and rest) is vital to a good exercise regimen. As is nutrition, stretching (ahhh, those ham strings!) and the actual practice.

In theory.

(CC Image by Betty Nudler via Flickr)
I could think of worse spots for a bit of contemplation!  (CC Image by Betty Nudler via Flickr)

In practice, I screw all of that up on an irregular basis. And that is a good thing. Let me explain. Yes: Sometimes I will not sleep enough, I will eat and drink things I shouldn’t (but love and am grateful to God that he made them…looking at you, Bavarian beer), I often will work too much on too many things and get stressed and distracted, I will go to bed too late and will slack off in practice, not keeping to my intentions as planned. Let’s put it this way: I am fairly immune to pedantry or the sin of scrupulosity – maybe that’s why I am such a happy Catholic. But jokes aside, I do recognize the drive to perfection, as good as it is, is detrimental when it comes to exercise in general or swimming in particular. Here’s why:

  • Swimming is not a purpose in and of itself, but a means, a tool to keep you happy, healthy and sane. That includes Great Big Swimming Adventures!
  • Therefore, like meditation (or contemplative prayer as described here [or many more here] if you’re religious like me), it needs to fit your life like a comfortable pair of jeans. Not the other way around – beware of exercise narcissism as much as religious bigotry. (Side note: dear triathletes, given the amazing work load and gear required for this sport, you’re perhaps particularly at risk of the type of narcissism I am alluding to here. Not to mention the game of Golf or Football! Neither are an actual raison d’etre, gentlemen).
  • Recognising that we all are fallible and stuff up is the first step to actually both respecting yourself and trying to improve by making resolutions / setting goals and working towards them. Like a Great Big Marathon Swimming Adventure!

Ok, enough philosophising for today. I need to fire up the barbecue in a few minutes, as our neighbours are coming over for a little barbie/braaivleis/grillfest. I might even enjoy one of those brilliant beers or two.

We have been blessed with another perfect summer’s day today. So this morning I went to mass in our village church, did some errands and then rocked up at the outdoor pool a few minutes before it opened (that being 10am, as is quite common in Germany, unfortunately) and actually was the first to hit the water. When I left 1.5 hrs later, the place was chockers and a long line at the entrance. But I got to put in an uninterrupted session (apart from some friendly chats).

Here is the summary:


And the actual sets: