Swimathon: Keeping Myself Motivated

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Do you know who I admire? Those people who can just swim length after length, for well over an hour, without feeling the need to deviate and do something else. I love swimming, really I do; I wouldn’t have signed up for Swimathon 2017 if I didn’t. But my gosh, I grow bored of lane swimming. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m an open water kind of girl…put me in the sea and I’ll keep myself swimming for hours. But put me in the pool and I won’t last longer than an hour.

And that is precisely why I need structured training sessions – I’m currently using one of the training plans on the Swimathon website for one of my swims each week. I work well when I have my swim broken down into sections and love having drills to do before my main set (in fact, drills are my favourite part of swimming which can probably be attributed to the fact that I’m a perfectionist)…plus following a session like this keeps me motivated and focussed when in a lane with others. For my other session each week I work with my coach who really keeps my technique in check and pushes me hard when I start coming up with excuses as to why I’m low on energy (you should hear some of my excuses…luckily she doesn’t listen to any of them and makes me do exactly what she wants me to do anyway).

So yes, I’m not one of those types who can swim up and down a lane for hours on end whilst enjoying every second. Instead I’m the type of swimmer who loses focus and grows irritable, I’m also not a graceful swimmer who makes the sport look beautiful and easy – I’m all limbs which is terrible when sharing a lane with other people, though great for reaching things in inconvenient places. But despite the struggles I have with staying focussed when in the pool, I can guarantee that after every swim I feel exhilarated and happy because a good swim really does make you feel better.

So what type of swimmer does that make me? A very normal one, actually (and also one who may have skipped a session this week…mais, c’est la vie).

 

Swimathon 2017

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After a few months of secrecy, I can finally announce that I am part of the #BlogSquad for Swimathon 2017. Swimathon is an event I really love to champion as I think it is so vital that people have the necessary skill set to be able to keep themselves as safe as possible when in or near water, and well…swimming is FUN. So I really am delighted to be on the blogsquad for the second year running.

My swimming technique has come on leaps and bounds since this time last year and I occasionally swim with my coach who keeps me on track. That being said, I still fatigue really quickly when I’m in the pool as I tend to go off too fast in my warm up (quelle surprise) leaving little energy left for when I get to my main set and drills. And, I still really struggle with getting my nutrition right for swimming. Aside from those minor problems which can all be worked on, training is going relatively well for me at the moment.

I took the autumn off from swimming whilst recovering from a busy summer of triathlon and wanting to focus more on getting out on my bike whilst the weather was still fine, and then rejoined my favourite pool in January of this year and have aimed for at least one, but sometimes two, swim sessions per week. I know that with Swimathon being only 7 weeks away I have to start getting serious about my training again so that will mean waking up at silly o’clock and being a bit more regimented with my routine…and of course, not letting silly excuses get in the way of me getting to the pool.

I’m actually looking forward to stepping up my training because I know that when I have a swim event to train for, I do put in the effort and I see improvement quite quickly. Also, my first triathlon of the year is in May so this works out really well in terms of getting me race fit.

The whole point of Swimathon is to get the nation swimming – there are pools all around the country involved in hosting Swimathon from 7th-9th April 2017, it is also a great way of raising a bit of money for a good cause by fundraising for Marie Curie simultaneously. I’ve decided to swim at the London Aquatics Centre on the Sunday of Swimathon weekend to complete my challenge so hopefully I will bump into a few of you there.

If you’re interested in taking part in Swimathon this year, visit the website to find your nearest participating pool and then just commit to it – you won’t regret it and it will give you a great spring goal to work towards!

 

 

#thetrilifereporter – month 2

This month has been tough. Really tough. March is always my busiest and most stressful time at work so thinking I could cram 5 sporting events over the course of 4 weekends plus training six days each week into a month that would ordinarily push me to my limits has, well, pushed me to my limits.

There have been moments where I have caught myself just staring at a blank wall, completely motionless because my mind and my body was just so ‘over it’. And there have been times where I really began to question whether I was cut out for sport at all. Then there are those ‘I don’t know how you do it’ comments from people you bump into on a daily basis and instead of breaking down with a bit of a tired sob, you just smile and say ‘because I love it’. And I do, honestly. I love swimming, I love cycling, I really love running, I’m just a bit worn out.

This month of training has brought my aches and pains back to life – I think when you train so much people just assume that your body copes with that level of intensity with ease and that you always feel great. Well, that’s definitely not the case. I’m fairly certain I have stress fractures or some kind of problem with my feet, I’ve had x-rays on them a few times now and each time the x-ray rather frustratingly comes back clear. The thing is my feet don’t hurt during exercise and I’m fairly certain it isn’t affecting my performance too much, but they do hurt afterwards when I’m trying to walk in everyday life. I also felt a bit of a twinge in my back in week 3 which immediately motivated me to restart the exercises my physio gave me last year. It’s amazing how in-tune you feel with your body when you push it to the limits each day.

The training I’ve been doing as part of thetrilife Masters Program has definitely had a positive impact on my racing this month though, and in particular on my result in this year’s Swimathon. I can safely say that without the swim sessions I would not have been able to perform anywhere near as well as I did. For the first time in my life I’m growing some bicep muscles too – or rather, I am on my right arm (the left side of my body always fails to develop muscle tone – no idea why, but I’m essentially lopsided). At the moment I wish I was running more as part of my training as that’s what I miss the most, but I have to say I am pleased with my performance in this month’s races. Admittedly I dropped out of race number 4, but that was due to take place the day after Swimathon which was an over-ambitious target in the first place, and soon became impossible when I forgot to carb-load and taper. So instead of viewing my DNS as a failure, I’m actually taking it as a small win as it’s not often that my over-achieving self makes good decisions like that.

I’m secretly hoping that as the weather begins to warm up things will start to feel easier. I am a firm believer in most things being mind over matter and I feel like at the moment I’m just clinging on, surviving, waiting for sunnier and warmer days to arrive. Once they’re here I’ll feel less weather-beaten on my beach runs, will enjoy cycling to work and will even be able to start swim training in the sea once summer well and truly sets in. There is so much to look forward to with the changing of the seasons.

So, lessons learnt for this month? Don’t ever contemplate booking 5 races into a month again – 1 would be preferable, 2 would be okay (at the moment I have one race booked each month for the rest of this year so I must resist temptation to book onto more). The world is not going to fall apart if you miss a training session or race, nor does that make you lazy. And start believing in your ability to be a good athlete – you’ve got all the tools, it’s just a case of using them properly.

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Swimathon: The End

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Well, after months of training the #BlogSquad has now completed the Sport Relief Swimathon 2016 challenge.

I didn’t really have a time in mind for my swim, all I wanted was to be able to swim it within the hour and enjoy myself. I’ve been in training for Swimathon since December but in February I started my triathlon training which meant my pool sessions changed to involve drills and all sorts of other fun things, rather than just thrashing out the distance. Because of this I really didn’t know how well I’d do as I have always considered myself a slow and mediocre pool swimmer. Well, after completing Swimathon I can say that I have a new found confidence in my swimming ability.

I arrived at Whitstable pool at 11.30am, signed up and collected my #TeamRedSwim hat. This was the first time I had been to Whitstable pool so I was quite unfamiliar with the changing area and didn’t even know what the pool would look like – I always like to be able to visualise a challenge before I complete it so this was a little daunting. Once I was changed and poolside I was raring to go, my body felt fuelled and well-rested and I just fancied a bit of a swim. Things were looking good. My husband was there to cheer me on and to take a few photographs, and he also ended up being my lap tracker which was convenient.

The Swimathon organiser at Whitstable, Frances, gave the briefing to the eager swimmers and told us that Whitstable Swimathon was the most popular event in the South East and was doing really well nationally too. We were then split into our lanes and were told to get started as soon as we were ready. This is where the carnage began…!

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Those of you who have read my previous blogs will know I’m no fan of sharing a lane with other people, and for Swimathon I had to share with at least 15 others making it very busy. Some of these were children too (and those of you who know me in real life will know I’m not a big fan of small humans) which made it a little problematic as everyone was of varying ability and the children tended to congregate at the end of each length causing congestion, or didn’t quite understand the etiquette of keeping to the side so that someone could pass them after a tap on their foot. This was probably the most frustrating part for me as I am sure I would have been 10-12 minutes quicker if I hadn’t been caught up with so many people. There was also a family swimming side by side at various points which again caused issues for those of us wanting a competitive swim.

Even though the above was annoying, the whole ethos of Swimathon is to ‘swim yourself proud’ and to get the nation swimming – so I’m pleased there were so many families and non-regulars there taking part in such a great cause.

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I really was amazed with how I performed on the day too which has given me a confidence boost for my upcoming summer triathlons. I now know that I can easily achieve my distance in a decent time so will focus on improving my strength and speed over the next few months. As swimming is definitely my weakest discipline, this is hugely reassuring.

The following day my husband went to the Olympic Velodrome for some track cycling and decided to call into the London Aquatic Centre whilst he was there to check out Swimathon. His photos made the venue look spectacular and I have a feeling this will be where I choose to swim for next year’s event – I also really like the idea of a 50m pool!

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Here’s hoping all other Swimathon-ers had a fun time, too!

Swimathon: The Final Countdown

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IMG_0962IMG_0933Can you believe the #BlogSquad is now in its last few days of training for the Sport Relief Swimathon 2016?

I feel like I have well and truly become what I like to affectionately refer to as a ‘pool rat’. It feels like I am always at the pool…realistically it’s only two or three times a week, but that lingering eau de chlorine on your skin is enough to make you feel like you’re never too far from a lane.

As much as my internal dialogue protests at the prospect of an early morning swim, I have to admit it really hasn’t been that bad. Getting to the pool before work for a 45 minute session has become part of my routine and I have found that it really is a lovely way to start the day. You also see the same familiar faces when you swim at 6am in the morning because anyone who would put themselves through exercising at that time of the day is generally working towards some kind of event and is therefore rather disciplined. I have a sneaky suspicion that the majority of people in the pool with me are triathletes because we all seem to have the same Speedo Fins and pull buoy at the end of our lanes ready for drills. In fact, I wish I could have taken a photo of this on one of my swims last week as every single lane seemed to be accessorised with these, and we all gave polite nods of approval to each other.

That’s the thing I like most about swimming – everyone seems to be friendly. People think nothing of engaging in conversation in the changing rooms and saying a cheerful good morning when you join your lane. This may have something to do with the fact that I don’t swim at a leisure centre, and so people are more grown-up and respectful – but I’d like to hope it’s a universal thing.

My training hasn’t been easy though – don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy swimming and the routineness of it all, but I find swimming any kind of distance more than 800m a little bit boring. Distance swimming in a pool is just not my thing. Sure, I can do it – but I don’t like doing it. And I really don’t want to spend my time doing something I don’t particularly enjoy. Put me in open water though and I could swim all day. I feel stronger and more confident when I’m open water swimming because, as a sailor and a general beach bum, this is what I have been brought up with.

Despite not overly enjoying being in a pool, I have really enjoyed the Swimathon journey and am pleased that it has instilled some good habits. I genuinely am looking forward to completing my Swimathon challenge on Saturday at Whitstable pool and am thrilled to be the member of the #BlogSquad on #TeamRedSwim. I’ll be keeping up my swimming as it all feeds into my triathlon training…thankfully Swimathon has provided me with a great foundation to build upon for achievements in my races later on this year.

Swimathon: Swimming with Duncan Goodhew

Blog1As you know, I am part of the official #BlogSquad for the Sport Relief Swimathon 2016, and one of the most fantastic opportunities to come out of this commitment was back in December when the #BlogSquad was invited to an evening of swim training with Olympic legend and Swimathon President, Duncan Goodhew.

It’s not every day you get to swim with an Olympian and I was equal parts nervous and excited. Of course, the day came round and I remember feeling extraordinarily tired and run down (it was #AdventRunning month!) and wondered how I’d make it through a day of work, let alone a few hours in the pool. Luckily a restorative bit of malt loaf on the way to the pool gave me the sugar rush I needed to enjoy my evening with the other bloggers and Duncan. Although I was really dreading being photographed whilst feeling so rotten.
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As soon as I arrived Duncan came over and started chatting to me about swimming, running, education, essentially everything. I really felt at ease and excited to start swimming. Duncan was great in focussing on each of our strengths and weaknesses and giving us different drills to do depending on our abilities. The one thing he noticed about me was that I overthink things enormously (which is true in everyday life too) and that I need to relax and let things flow naturally. I’ve really tried to take that piece of advice away with me and apply it in my current training. We spent a lot of time focussing on our front crawl and after a few lengths where I applied Duncan’s advice, I got a high-five and a ‘that was sensational’ from him. Needless to say, that pretty much made my life.
Blog31487-115We then spent a bit of time working on our breast stroke; the stroke I feel most comfortable with at the moment. Duncan noted that I have a powerful kick (this probably had something to do with #AdventRunning too – thanks team!) which certainly helps with this stroke, but I know I suffer with poor upper-body strength which affects everything else. This is something I’ve really tried to work on in recent weeks though and judging by how achy my upper arms are at the moment, I think something positive must be happening!

Blog51487-123At the end of the evening we did some filming with the Swimathon team before parting ways. Swimming with an Olympian is one of those surreal opportunities that you don’t ever really expect to get the chance to participate in, so I am incredibly grateful to Duncan for giving up his time and for everyone behind the scenes making this happen. I left the pool that evening feeling incredibly inspired and ready to tackle my swimming challenge with 100% enthusiasm.

Swimathon: Things I’ve Learnt So Far

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As you know, I am part of the official #BlogSquad for the Sport Relief Swimathon 2016, which means I am currently spending a lot of time in the pool. The pool is a funny place and I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the past two months of training, including…

  1. I generally dislike being around people. I knew this about myself already, but when you end up swimming in a lane with someone who stops 5 strokes in to stand up and have a look around at their surroundings, or someone who takes up so much of the lane that your arms and legs end up touching the side of the pool, or end up with a man who hasn’t learnt how to control his splash, you can get a little flustered. The splashy man I’ve mentioned in previous posts seems to be partial to a morning swim and always enters my lane just as I have finished my warm up and am moving onto my main set – as a result of this, my main set always suffers and I end up in a bit of a grump. My tri coach assures me this is good training for the start line of an event, but I just think I need my own private pool (husband, if you’re reading…).
  2. I think I assumed that I would improve really quickly – I haven’t. People tend to jump to the assumption that because I’m on the Swimathon #BlogSquad that I must be some kind of Olympic swimmer…sorry to disappoint, but I’m not. My stamina has certainly improved over the past few weeks of training and I am regularly swimming 1200m a few times a week, but my goodness, I feel like the slowest swimmer in the world sometimes. Well, until a really slow person joins my lane and then I feel amazing.
  3. I also assumed that I would resemble some kind of mermaid after a few weeks in the pool and would have one of those toned upper bodies the magazines tell you you’ll get if you take up regular swimming. Well, my speed resembles that of a sea snail and my technique looks like something a crab would attempt. Less mermaid, more sea monkey with poor upper-body strength.
  4. Waking up at 5.30am for a swim is horrible. Honestly, no one should be awake at that time of day during the winter months…but as soon as you make it to the pool all misery is forgotten and you begin to wonder if you should make all of your training sessions early morning ones because having the freedom to do absolutely nothing in the evening is quite blissful.
  5. It only takes three swims a week to make you start smelling of chlorine. I’m a huge fan of regular showers, I also love Lush bath products much like every other female on this planet, and yet I still smell that faint aroma of chlorine every time I wave my arm past my face (I talk with my hands a lot in every day life).
  6. I have never been a swimming costume person – and the thought of wearing one filled me with dread as I have a stupid hip-waist ratio which makes my body look like it belongs to two different people. As it turns out, there is a swimming costume that suits every body shape and I actually feel quite confident in mine at the moment. Big thanks to Zoggs for helping me out with that!
  7. My usual peachy bottom has gotten even peachier. Now this is something I never anticipated happening as I was obviously convinced that swimming would only change my upper body, but I guess it makes sense. Apparently I have a powerful kick so I’m beginning to wonder if I am relying on my legs more than I am my arms when I swim. Either way, I quite like having a peachy bottom, so this is a lovely side effect of swimming.
  8. Swimming makes you hungry. Sure, I’ve experienced ‘runger’ fairly often – but swim hunger takes this to a whole new level. When I’m in the changing rooms after my swim I feel fine. Then thirty minutes later whilst sat at my desk I suddenly feel like I could eat an elephant. The swim hunger doesn’t subside either but instead chooses to stay with you for the whole day as you make your way through oatcakes, babybels, yoghurt, bananas…anything you can set eyes on. This may also be a contributing factor to the aforementioned peachy bottom.
  9. People who work at pools are generally really kind. Even at that unholy hour of the morning I can guarantee that everyone I cross paths with will say a cheerful good morning and will smile – that makes a huge difference to my swimming as it instantly puts me in a good mood. A lifeguard even passed me my water bottle last week as I was struggling to reach it from the pool. Pool people are good people.
  10. As with life, swimming has its ups and downs, but one thing I have learnt over the past few months is that I absolutely love swimming. Wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter how slow or ungraceful I am in that water, I am always having a good time. I still think I prefer open water swimming to pool swimming, but I certainly won’t be giving up pool swimming once my year of triathlon is finished.

 

At the moment I think my training is going fairly well – I still have about five weeks left before taking part in Swimathon and am not setting myself a particular time to achieve on the day. My Swimathon challenge is going to be all about enjoying myself in the water and musing over how much I have achieved over the past few months. I am also really pleased that I chose to complete Swimathon at Whitstable pool as the Active Life team have been nothing but supportive on social media and are regularly cheering me on and encouraging me to take part in their other events.

Hopefully everyone else is enjoying their training too!