Workout of the week: The long swim

As of Wednesday, I have three long swims in my Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim training log. Each has been 6,000 meters, and each has been an adventure.

Long swims are so different from long runs. They require some planning in terms of resting and refueling, but not as much as long runs (longtime readers will recall that I often prepared for my long runs like they were rocket launches). And while long runs are adventures in the literal sense, leading to new sights, sounds and experiences during actual travel, long swims are an adventure in sports psychology.

My first long swim was great, in part because I didn’t think about it too much.

My second long swim a couple weeks ago was a struggle. I hadn’t planned a workout, so I just swam a 3,000 straight, then a bunch of 500s and 250s. I lost count. My lane was crowded, and included multiple members of the Duke swim team, apparently on their spring break, and a dude with a bunch of fish tattoos who kept tapping at my feet. Literally. Like it was high-school swim practice, and we were all swimming the same workout, and I was falling behind. In my opinion, open lap-swimming in public pools should work this way: Faster people who want to pass should do so without making the slow person stop (this is not that hard in a pool with long, wide lanes, like Wilson Aquatic Center). Slower people who notice that faster people are at their toes should move out of the way at the wall.

But that’s another story for another blog post. Before my long swim on Wednesday, I planned a workout, 6X1,000 meters, borrowed from Donna at Beating Limitations. I also planned a winning mental strategy. I treated swimming like a long exercise in meditation, and chose a different mantra for each 1,000. My goal was to maintain an even pace for each 1,000, and to maintain my focus mentally. Here’s how it went:

First 1,000 (there were all pull, since I’m still weirdly squeamish about kicking with my new ACL): 17 minutes. Mantra: Stronger every stroke.

Second 1,000: 17 minutes. Mantra: Find peace here.

Third 1,000: 17 minutes. Mantra: “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley.

Fourth 1,000: 17 minutes. Mantra: Stronger every stroke (again—it’s a good one!)

Fifth and sixth 1,000: 17 minutes. Mantra: “Roman’s Revenge” by Nicki Minaj, which, at that point in time, felt just as calming and meditative as “Three Little Birds.” Whatever works, right?

Being able to nail such an even pace without trying too hard was a major confidence-booster. So was the ability to keep my head in a place that let me finish the swim in a good mental state.

Here’s how the rest of my training week looked:

Sunday: Run 3.8 miles, 36:35

Monday: PT with agility stuff

Tuesday: Run 3.28 miles, 31:47 (avg moving pace 9:30 mm)

Wednesday: LONG SWIM! 6X1,000 meters, pull. 17 minutes per rep.

Thursday: Run 36 minutes. 3.66 miles. Moving pace: 9:46.


Saturday: Run 5K

The only negative: I kind of forgot to do any other swims. Oops. I’ll be better next week.

Are you training for the Bay Bridge Swim, or another long-distance, open-water race? If so, I’d love to hear other workout ideas for the long swim!


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8 responses to “Workout of the week: The long swim

  1. Oh good grief, some people can be total pains to share a lane with (especially at Wilson). I love the folks who have been sharing a lane with me for some 20 minutes and are obviously slower than me, hang out at the wall for 5 minutes and then push off about 2 seconds before I do a flip turn.

    I’m not doing the bay swim, but I know many people training for it and who have swum in several times. I think it is a good idea to mix in some IM work to maintain muscular balance. Doing a shorter open water swim beforehand – such as the 1 or 2 mile Memorial Day Weekend McDonnell swim in Reston – is also helpful to many folks.

    • Thanks for the advice—and for the sympathy re: lane pains. The people who dart out in (swim) traffic are the worst! Every time someone does that I a) wonder if they’d pull out into actual traffic ahead of an oncoming car, and b) pass them (without tapping on their feet, of course).

  2. Great job on the swim!! Before I had to cut my training I loved doing a 3 x 1 mile @ descending pace (I tried to make each mile 2 min. faster than the last)

  3. Wow, nice evenly paced swim and good tips for getting through them. Glad it was a confidence booster for you. Keep the swim reports coming!

  4. um, you swam longer than we’re going to run tomorrow. well done. 🙂

  5. That’s an impressive long swim, especially how consistent you were! I like your mental strategy, I may have to borrow it. My problem with longer swims is losing count of how far I’ve gone! I don’t feel like I can zone out as much as I would on a long run because I’m worried I’ll forget how far I’ve gone/how much is left.

  6. Swim sets… How about: 4 x 10 x 100 with a minute or two between the 10 x 100.

    Or pyramids… 100, 200, 400, 600, 800, 1000 — and then back down again to take it to 6 ?

    I do backstroke cooldowns for 400 to loosen off my shoulders after..,

    I’m tweeting my swims with the #50kinMay tag this month if you want to join!

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