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:  


Day 127 of the Great Big Marathon 10k Swimming Adventure

Felt really grubby on Sunday night after not being in the pool for four days and had everything ready in the car to get going first thing today. That said, I almost did not get up at 5am this morning. Really had to force myself to a “heroic moment” of sorts just getting out of bed. And then still felt very cold and tired all the way to the pool.

After a longer warm-up, I was back at home in the water though. And loving it.

(CC Image by Hopscotchbaby via DeviantArt)
(CC Image by Hopscotchbaby via DeviantArt)

No regrets.

Training summary today: 1:23:24 of swimming, 4700 meters, 188 lengths at an overall average of 1:42/100m, SWOLF of 34, and burned 1300 kCal

  • 300m warm-up at 1:38/100m free
  • 1550m free at 1:37/100m cruisy but not dithering
  • 1350m free at 1:38/100m cruisy
  • 100m kickdrills with pullbuoy as kickboard
  • 100m kickdrills on the back
  • 350m back with pullbuoy (nice and relaxed, 2:02/100m)
  • 100m back in 1:58 (still quite relaxed)
  • 4 sets of 100m individual medley (butterfly/back/breast/free at 25m each), at a time of 1:41 (fastest) to 1:54 (slowest) per 100m
  • 450m cool down (slow free, with some shenanigans to relax)

Pool was very full today, fuller than I have seen it any morning since I started my 6am-stints. Maybe it is because it is spring, and the sun rises a lot earlier? Or because there has been a bit of swimming in the mainstream mass media? Anyway. No real complaints here: Had half a lane to myself. Mind you, I had to wait with butterfly till the large breast stroker had left (even with freestyle I hugged the lane rope). But at least no cowboys jumped in my way. And the little butterfly I get in is not really a big deal anyway.

Day 88 of the Great Big 10k Marathon Swimming Adventure: Clocking 5k daily, losing weight – and avoiding bugs

Been swimming pretty much a daily 5k during the week since my last update, though typically again one day some appointment or other will botch my plans to make it to the pool every morning during the working week. But you know what? Four times a week is fine at the moment. So far this week I have clocked up almost 20 kilometres – the watch says 19,675m.

(CC Image by Justin Grandfield)
(CC Image by Justin Grandfield)

Wednesday’s workout is typical, so I will use that to illustrate where I am at:

  • A total of 5000m at an average of 1:43/100m (SWOLF of 35)
  • A warm-up of 200m free in 2:57 (that’s a tasty 1:28/100m; wish I could keep that up!)
  • 7x50m sprints at 1:15 to 1:20 per 100m (have I mentioned how much I hate sprint sets)
  • 2050m (accidentally swam an extra 50m this morning) free at 1:42/100m in 34:40 (relaxed and casually cruising today)
  • 500m backstroke with pullbuoy in 9:54
  • 200m mixed kicking drills: 25m front/25m back, rinse and repeat, with the kickboard
  • 300m free with pullbuoy and paddles at 1:41/100m
  • 300m free with just pullbuoy at 1:37/100m (felt great; I love powering down the lane this way)
  • 1000m free at 1:42/100m in 17:01 (casual again, not pushing myself at all)
  • 100m cool down breaststroke/dolphin kicks

So I try and get 5k in every time I hit the pool in the morning; that way I figure I get myself tuned to the distance (and longer distances later); however, I am not really getting really much faster at this stage. Just more comfortable of longer distances.  I am thinking I might need to revisit training plans and/or look at (stroke/technique) coaching.

Yesterday – Thursday – I mucked around a bit, swimming shorter sets toward the end and “only” clocking in 4650 meters. I figure that is par for the course, though. To avoid slacking around, today, last day before the weekend break from the daily swim, I swam 5050meters:

  • 200m warm up free in 3:09, could still feel my muscles in the shoulders from yesterday
  • 3,000m at 1:39/100m average, 49:26 all up – felt strong and cruised comfortably. No sprint at the end, not pushing hard.
  • 350m back with pull buoy and paddles – really loving these back stroke sets after longer swims in free style. Also, I am just more comfortable with that style now than I have been for years
  • 200m back with pull buoy, no paddles in 4.09 – felt relaxing
  • 300m drills (kick board)
  • 500m free with paddles and p-buoy in 9:46 (!) – but that is because I was doing bilateral breathing sets and focussed on my stroke technique
  • 500m free, no paddles but p-buoy in 8:59 (!) – just one gear above doggy paddle; also doing mostly bilateral breathing

Health-wise, this swimming adventure so far has proven an inoculation of sorts against the colds and tummy bugs that have affected a lot of people around me. It might be the combination of exercise, better nutrition, or perhaps also the psychological beneftis of the daily 1.5 hour meditation the swim offers. Who knows. Certainly my immune system is stronger than it has been. Mind you, I can feel a sniffle coming on… the temp was back to -6 degrees centigrade when I left the house at 5:10 am this morning. Brrr.

Speaking of nutrition: Since I burn between 1,200 and 1,500 kCal every time I swim (according to my trusty Garmin Swim watch), and then have my liquid breakfast at 8am, aim to eat nothing after 8pm (that 12-hour-window-rule), and try to avoid anything sweet or alcoholic on normal days, I have not only burned more calories but also improved my eating habits, reducing sugar and other stuff too. Consequently, I have so far lost more than 10 pounds of weight whilst also putting on a wee bit of muscle. I do need to catch up on sleep some more, but all things considered, the health aspects of the Great Big 10k Swimming Adventure are fantastic.