Day 38 of the Great Big Marathon Swim Adventure: A week of getting up at 5:30 – plus nutrition, training plans and the thing about sprints

This is close to what my daily smoothie breakfast looks like, err, sometimes...just imagine about three glasses of that in a big Nalgene bottle. (CC Image:  Zoelizabeth via Wikimedia Commons)
This is close to what my daily smoothie breakfast looks like, err, sometimes…just imagine about three glasses of that in a big Nalgene bottle. (CC Image: Zoelizabeth via Wikimedia Commons)

Tomorrow, Friday, will mark the first week of getting up at 5:30 am, driving 45 minutes to the pool, then getting a subway to work every morning.

The initial euphoria has worn off, as was to be expected. That has advantages, too: Getting up at 5:30 still is a challenge, but my body clock woke me just before the alarm today and I actually felt like I’d finished sleeping (instead of interrupting my sleep).

It is simple, really: the single biggest benefit of hitting the pool first thing is the fact that I make sure I get my swim in for the day. Boom. The important other benefits I have already written about – they are ongoing of course …and they are the main reason why I intend to keep doing this.

With the new routine locking in, I can focus on the next items: nutrition and an actual training plan for instance. Whilst I will avoid any strict plans, simply because that would remove much of the pleasure and feeling of freedom I get from swimming, I need a modicum of a training schedule to improve my times and endurance. After all, the goal is to swim a 5k Open Water race in a few months and a 10k race next year (2016). So far, I have just lurked around a few websites and forums (instead of doing actual research), and they confirmed to me that I should add some sprints to the mix.

So on two days this week, I played with sets of sprints. This morning, I warmed up for 300meters, then swam a straight 2k in 33:06 minutes, then added some mixed kick drills. With that under my belt, I put on the paddles, grabbed the pull buoy and with both equipped did a set of 12x50ms. On average I swam the 50m in 40secs, then took a breather of about 10secs, then hit the water again. I tried to increase the stroke rhythm, which is challenging with paddles, but it felt good (as in painful thus effective). I hope this will help me build strength and increase my “cruising” speed over longer distances.

Overall, I swam 3300m – 131 laps – in 54:30 minutes with a SWOLF of 33 (against my usual 35, for what it’s worth). And I burned 867kcals apparently – though the pasta I had for lunch more than made up for that I fear.

Speaking of nutrition: I am drinking a lot less tea and coffee with the new routine, and boy do I love my liquid breakfasts! Lunch is usually quite healthy, too. But man I need to pay more attention to what else I eat throughout the day, and stay away from the snacks after dinner in particular.

Getting back into swimming

After a month and a half of mayhem and crazy hours at work, I finally got to go back into the water today. I knew it was going to be a minor revelation. But I did not know it was going to be the one I ended up having.

The moment I pushed off the wall was nothing like at a normal practice. Usually that split second I push off, the world just goes quiet. If you swim regularly, I am sure you know that glorious feeling. Not today. I felt like a puppy scrambling across a slippery floor with paws too big for his little body for the first laps. Like an insect that was trapped in honey for too long and suddenly breaks free, flying madly into the air, somersaulting with exuberance and the new thrill of unencumbered freedom. So though it was not like a normal swim, it still was absolutely bloody glorious. Just different. I slithered and pawed through the water. Then my body clicked back into its element. Like, you know, a fish to water. It is hard to describe without going all pathetic or kitschy.

On one level, I really feel more at home in the water than on land. The reason it felt different at first today probably was not just because of several weeks without swimming. I suspect the lower back pain I suffer from had something to do with the feeling of release. You see, the many hours commuting in now cold weather, the very tough work challenges (though exciting and ultimately very successful) of the last month, coupled with a lack of sleep and exercise, not just swimming, had really taken its toll.

Anyway, I swam a moderate k, just then and there. No stretching or warm ups. Took me exactly 17 minutes according to my Garmin Swim, which all things considered isn’t bad.
Then some drills, kicking and a bit of back stroke. All up just a very mellow 1400 meters, but enough to feel born again and incredibly keen to get back into the water.

7 reasons why I love swimming (and why you should, too)

1. No gear required
Who doesn’t prefer their exercise pure and simple?  Grab a bunch of bathers and a pair of goggles, and you are good to go. (Maybe add a towel.) Sure, you will eventually look at swimming caps and paddles and pull buoys and fins and even swimming fabrics – plus lots of other stuff. But as long as you have your swimwear and goggles, there is nothing else you absolutely need. I always carry these items in a small plastic bag with me – unlike footballs, tennis rackets or runners’ shoes, they easily go into every shoulder bag or office case that I have.

2. It is the perfect workout, no matter what age
That is all there is to it. The water carries you, your aching joints, your lousy posture, your body just as it is. I can’t think of any other sport that is so good at toning, stretching and relaxing your body. Irrespective of how old you are.

3. De-stress!
You push off the wall and world goes silent. Swimming is meditative and beautiful. It is an amazing anti-depressant. It is….ah now I want to head to the pool!

4. No smell of sweat
You will not finish the work-out feeling hot and exhausted, and smelling the part. As any swimmer will tell you, the smell of chlorine can be better than any perfume.

5. No classism or showing off
If you are busy ploughing through the water – or simply luxuriating in happy, slow lap swims –, you are not worried about what brand or colour goggles the person in the next lane is wearing. Unlike other sports, swimming is at heart egalitarian. Even on the competitive side of swimming (which is only a tiny part of the sport), at the end of the day it is not about what brand your bathers are.

6. No gender bias
You can swim with your hubby / wife or a mixed group of friends. And guys: unless you are Michael Phelps, there will always be a female swimmer who is faster.

7. You can do it all year round and almost everywhere
Pools are everywhere, and then there’s the natural bodies of water. The variety is part of the attraction as much as the routine of your favourite water hole. I have swum in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific, Indian and (haphazardly) in the Dead Sea. In countless lakes and more pools. But I love my regular spots the most. Mine is not quite as spectacular as the one Brent Pearson took a picture of below. (CC Image)