Tag Archives: swimming

Last Florida swim proves a cathartic one

This morning’s swim, my last in Florida before I head back home to Washington, was unexpectedly fabulous.

I’ve been swimming with the New Port Richey, Fla., masters team, which meets at the city’s recreation center at 5:30 a.m. weekday mornings. Today was the first day I made it to the pool for the very beginning of the 5:30 a.m. workout, and it was a hot one. How hot? When I opened the door to my parents’ house at 5:15 a.m., I felt wave of sticky heat gush in. The pool temp was 91 degrees, even with an aerator spitting cold water in to cool it down. The coach warned us to take it easy.

I really intended to. But you know how you have those days when you just need to run, or swim, or lift something out? When you feel like your workout is the only thing in the world in your control, and you just have to take it by the reins and kick your own butt?

It was one of those days today. So I swam the warmup easy, and then swam out my frustration and heartache and other emotions on several sets of 75s, which somehow, didn’t get boring at all.

The workout:

1,600 warmup: 400 pull, 400 swim, repeat

12X 75 swim: Free, stroke, free

16X75 pull

I felt so good at the end, I added:

8 X 100, choice (free, or stroke, or whatever)

Next up: Deciding whether to run with Pacers tomorrow night, my first night back home. I’ve been laying off for the past couple week, as I’ve needed some time to nurse my stubbornly sore hip. But a quick run on the beach went fabulously well yesterday morning, so I’m pondering the possibility of getting back into my routine. Wish me luck!


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A week of cross-training

My plan: A week of cross-training to allow my hip, which has moved from stubbornly sore to possibly injured, time to heal. I hope to swim, bike and row my way through a running-less week, losing none of my running fitness in the process.

Sound like I’m dreaming? Hey, it worked for Alberto Salazar!

The running legend qualified for the Olympic team in the 10,000m in 1980 after taking a two-month hiatus from running, relying on swimming as his primary activity following an IT band injury.

This, according to a great spread about cross-training in this month’s Running Times. The feature also includes some helpful tips for rowing, which I’ve been trying to incorporate based on suggestions from the FIRST training program.If you’re using an “erg,” as the rowing machines at the gym are apparently called, you may want to read the whole RT story.

The takeaway: According to former college rower Kelly Johnson, who’s quoted in the story, proper technique involves making sure you’re isolating your three major rowing muscle groups, and engaging them in the proper order: your leg muscles first, then your back, then your arms. Also, she says most people find a stroke rate of 18 to 26 comfortable.

I also might give cycling another try. I was pretty hard-core about cycling when I first started my hip-injury recovery, going on enough long rides to purchase two pairs of hideous padded bike shorts. Almost as soon as I bought them, biking became painful, too, and if I’m gonna hurt myself, I’m gonna hurt myself doing something worth the pain — i.e., running. But writing a story for Kickstand magazine, a cool mag about cruiser bikes that debuted this month, may have inspired me to give low-key, easy cycling a try.

My story was about Robin Little, owner of Bikes and Bites, a cruiser-bike rental company, who says: “We’re not doing this as an ‘Oh my God, how are we going to make a living’ venture,” Little said. “We just want to see how a two-wheel cruiser bike can contribute to the betterment of our city. When you’re motivated by passion and fun, it’s always easier to wake up in morning, no?”

And, of course, swimming. Here’s what I’m hoping the next several days look like:

Today: Swim 3,000 yards, lift (only exercises from my old physical-therapy routine for legs)

Friday: Swim 3,000 yards

Saturday: Lift, swim 4,500 yards (last long-ish swim before the Bay Bridge Swim!)

Sunday: See if Steve will take a long bike ride with me, or row 30 minutes

Monday: Swim 3,000 yards

Tuesday: Try running again. If my hip still feels as bad as it does now, it’s time to see the doctor again.


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Mind games

I was going to title this post “the power of positive thinking.” Then, I

This magnet, with its cheesy motivational message, helps keep my brain ready to train.

This magnet, with its cheesy motivational message, helps keep my brain ready to train.

almost vomited, and realized it would have the same effect on you.  I opted instead for the slightly less cliched and cheesy “mind games,” because that’s what I successfully played with myself pre-swim yesterday.

I was slogging through my Monday, actually dreading my afternoon swim break, when I found Surfing the Waves of Motivation by Alison Arnold, a “mental toughness trainer” for a host of Olympic athletes,on active.com. Read this for a mental boost in training and in life.

The first insight that gave me a light-bulb moment: “It’s normal for all athletes to question their participation in sport once in a while.” Yeah? ‘Cause we don’t always talk about this unfortunate aspect of the sport. The more seriously we take ourselves as runners or swimmers or whatevers, the greater the chance for burnout. And nothing can knock you off a serious training schedule like burnout. Finding the balance between pushing yourself and killing yourself is a part of running we often neglect.

The second “omigosh, she’s in my head” moment came when I read this: “Negative thoughts and feelings are poison to motivation. Watch your thinking and change negative thoughts quickly.” Duh. That’s SO obvious.

Except that it’s not. How often do I find myself hopping on a long, ugly train of thought that takes me from lamenting the fact that my long-suffering hip is sore to wanting to hide under a blanket rather than swim or run? Worse, I then beat myself up for not wanting to swim or run, and wonder where this lack of motivation comes from.

Arnold suggests a simple trick: “Surround yourself with positive affirmations that remind you of your goal and passion. Put uplifting sayings on your logbook, bathroom mirror and screen saver.”

Before training for a marathon, I shunned this kind of sincerity. But something about those 20-mile runs made me  scour YouTube for marathon videos, clip ads for the Nashville Country Music Marathon from Runner’s World and post motivational quotes all over the house. A whimsical magnet on my fridge still suggests: “If you’re going to doubt something, doubt your limits.”

Remembering that process made me realized how lazy I’ve let my brain get. I’m signed up for a host of races for which I’m training pretty hard. But I’ve been sitting back and waiting for motivation to strike me. Makes me think of the Peter De Vries quote:

I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

Before I went to the pool yesterday, I took a minute to really think about one of the aforementioned motivational quotes I long ago taped to my mirror. It’s Eleanor Roosevelt:

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Then, I went and kicked butt. I pulled out a roughly 4,000-yard workout I used to train for the Bay Bridge 1-Mile Challenge open-water swim last year, with a few added twists. Also, thanks to the sore hip, I did this with a pull buoy.

2,000 free, each 500 progressively harder

6X300 free, with six hard strokes every 50 yards (new favorite trick)

5X25 sprint, 5X25 no breath. That’s right. I added extra 25s. It was just that kind of night.

What’s motivating you lately? Share your favorite quotes, mantras or other thoughts by posting a comment below.


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More cross-training for runners: BOSU for ITB syndrome, swimming

I gave the BOSU balance trainer a respectful and terrified shout-out earlier BOSUthis week, when I learned dozens of new ways it could kick my butt at the gym.

I am now convinced it not only has the ability to kick my butt, but possibly to find world peace. This thing is kind of magical.

My runner-friend Amy suggested her own BOSU routine, suggested to her during physical therapy for ITB syndrome. In addition to sharing a name, she and I share this pain-in-the-butt (or, more appropriately, hip) condition that never, ever seems to go away. Here’s how Amy describes her routine:

First, I do all my exercises with BOSU flat side up, blue side on the floor. Here’s the “runner’s routine” my PT recommended:

-Squats with 10-lb med ball: 3 sets of 8
-1-leg raises in following positions: 3 sets of 15 seconds/each
(all of these require you to balance on one leg in the middle of the ball while doing something else with other leg)
-leg bent 90 degrees at knee (shin parallel to ground)
-leg bent 90 degree at hip (quad parallel to ground)
-leg extended 45 degrees out from side of body
-leg extended back 45 degrees/body forward (think swan)
(Once you get good at all these, close your eyes, which makes it harder to balance and puts more strain on your ITBs)

I thought these would be along the lines of my dreaded leg lifts, which provide an almost-instant sense of stability in my hip muscles, but don’t do much in the way of a traditional workout. Kids, something about these balancing exercises had me sweating like … well, they had me sweating a whole lot. Today, my glutes want to kick my butt (they find they’re not so well positioned to do so, luckily).

Also rocking my cross-training workout world yesterday: a new swim workout modified from this page. My 3,200-yard workout:

300 warmup

3X300 free with pull buoy. Take six hard strokes every 50 yards.

5X200, first 50 fly, next 150 free.

3X300 free with pull buoy. Take six hard strokes every 50 yards.


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Swimming motivation found

My shoulders aren’t sure why I hate them so much. Just last week, I was

Me at an open-water swim last August. My times this week suggest I was faster then. Ugh.

Me at an open-water swim last August. My times this week suggest I was faster then. Ugh.

happy to go through the motions on my swimming workouts, patting myself on the back simply for getting in the pool.

This week, I found motivation in the form of self-evaluation: Timing myself on stuff after this long period of slackerdom.

This is kind of the equivalent of trying on your skinny jeans after a week on vacation: Even though you know you’re not likely to like the results, the horror of seeing just how far off the mark you are can be motivational.

First up: a 20-minute timed swim suggested by my college-swimmer friend Brooke. Wednesday, I set my watch timer for 20 minutes, and counted the number of laps I completed. Her instructions for intensity included some mention of the phrase “until you want to puke,” and I certainly did, even though I only managed 1,225 yards. I rounded out the rest of my standard 3,000 yards with various kinds of 200s, mostly IM and free.

Next up: Today’s timed one-mile swim. I finished in 24 minutes and some change, which is better than I expected, but still not where I’d hoped to be so close to the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim One-Mile Bay Challenge on June 14. I then did a set suggested by my triathlete friend Marci: a broken 1,650, in which you swim 11 laps, then 10 laps, them nine, then eight, and so on, with 10 seconds rest in between. When you reach one lap, you’ve done a 1,650. I didn’t add this up for myself, but my shoulders ache enough to confirm that I swam for long enough, thank you.

Another set rocking my world right now: the 25-yard repeats suggested by my swimmer-friend Meredith. I’ve been finishing every workout with them, and am finding that they can make even an easy swim into a challenge, letting me leave the pool feeling like Michael Phelps rather than one of the sweet old ladies doing water aerobics in the shallow end.

Speaking of Michael Phelps, I’ve saved the best part of this post for last. I present to you his playlist. OK, not his playlist exactly, but a story from right after the Olympics about what he listens to on his iPod before an event. Because the best way to be like Michael Phelps is to download some Lil’ Wayne.

Something cool: Phelps’ playlist contains some of the same songs as my aforementioned friend Meredith’s playlist, which I posted here earlier this week.

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The art of sucking (and mixing) it up

I’ve got about two months until the 1-mile Bay Bridge Challenge, an open-water swim in the Chesapeake Bay I signed up for back in January as a way to force myself to cross-train.

I did the swim last year, too, so I know I ought to be in the pool for a 3,000-yard workout about three days a week at this point. Non-swimmers: The 3,000-yard swim is kinda like a 30-minute run in that if you make it any shorter, it’s barely worth the effort.

Problem is, just when I need to start amping up my workouts, I’m just totally not feeling the whole swimming thing.

I mean, this is why I signed up for a race: to coerce myself into getting into the pool rather than pounding the pavement every day. Still, getting in the pool yesterday for my standard Wednesday workout was really, really rough. I actually had a sad little daydream that the pool would be closed, forcing me to go home and abandon my workout for the day. This, after driving across town to the pool, not to mention putting on my suit, cap and goggles.

Earlier in the week, I attempted to combat my swimming apathy by sucking it up and kicking my own butt with a hard set of 10 X 100 butterfly in the middle of the workout. Non-swimmers: Butterfly is like doing a tough hill workout, in that even when your heart isn’t in it, it’s hard to slack off. I left the pool with a good workout, but feeling very much like I’d been beaten with sticks.

So yesterday, I decided to try to trick myself into having a little bit of fun by mixing things up instead. I’m too cheap to sign up for a master’s team and too much of a stroke swimmer to do much in the way of freestyle intervals, so I typically do a semi-hard 1,650 or 2,000 “warm-up,” followed by 200 or 400 IMs, or 200s free, until I reach 3,000 yards. Here’s how I mixed it up:

Warm-up: 1X100 free, followed by 1X50 stroke, in IM order. In other words, swim 100 free, 50 fly, 100 free, 50 back, etc., etc. I intended to do two full IM cycles, but was having so much fun (honestly!), I stuck with it for three, totaling 1,800 yards. Something about breaking up the freestyle with quick bursts of stroke really made the yards fly by.

Monster set: 4X400 IM

Got any swim workouts that are rocking your world, or any thoughts that might motivate me? If so, for the love of God, post them below to save me from boring myself to death in the pool.


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