With the 2016 Swimathon around the corner, we spoke to Zoggs ‘Learn to Swim’ Ambassador, Simone Benhayon to find out what advice she could offer to first time swimathoners.
1. Visit the Pool
As simple as it may sound visiting your local is your first step, This is not to swim but more so to get comfortable with the environment, know where you need to go before your event. It is important that you know the length of the pool you are choosing to train in as you will need to develop a rhythm that will support to sustain the swim. Before the event it is also worth swimming in the pool a few times that you will be doing your challenge in. Again, this is about getting the body to relax and rid of any nerves or doubt that may be plaguing on the day.
2. Comfortable Distance
Swimathon offers a range of different distances for you to take part in this challenge. This can be an overwhelming and anxious choice in itself. If this is your first time don’t choose a distance that is out of reach, make it reachable and achievable, as remember you can always do a greater amount next year.
Now whether you are swimming 1.5 miles or 5 miles, appreciate this is a long distance and it is vitally important that you are comfortable for the entire duration. This is where equipment is important. You need to be comfortable in the swimwear you have chosen. So take your time in making sure you have the right size for you with the right amount of coverage to support you during the swim. Goggles are again a vital piece of your kit, as you want to find a pair that are comfortable, supportive and are not going to leak or fog up as you swim up and down the pool trying to complete your challenge. Another important piece of equipment that it is worth getting used to is wearing a swimming cap. On the day you will be required to wear one and when wearing a swim cap the sound can vary and it can also feel as though you have water in your ears. All these factors can be dealt with before the day to make it easier for you to enjoy and have fun at the task at hand.
It is important now to develop a training program. The main focus on this is to build your stamina and fitness levels and to be able to swim for a long distance without getting tired. Do not get straight in the pool, session one and see if you can swim 1.5km, you have to be prepared to build. Start with a simple 4 week program, with each week having a progression. For example – week 1, start with swimming for 20 minutes with rests in between each length. Week 2, you can build that up to swimming for 30 minutes with slightly less rests, then so on and so on. The program can be tailor made to suit you and what strokes you might be swimming on the day.
When swimming, one of the most important aspects is your breathing and the rhythm in which you sustain for each length. Breathing out at a slow, smooth and steady pace enables the body to stay relaxed whilst swimming. You don’t want to go into survival swimming mode when you know you have a couple of miles to go. When we discuss survival swimming, it is the type where your focus is just to get to the other end at any cost. That the swim becomes about the action resulting in the body tightening as you progress rather than about making sure that you are still breathing in and out on each arm stroke, keeping the body relaxed. Ensure that you practice the breathing, as it will support you on the day.
When swimming such a long distance it is not a race nor is it about trying to get it done as fast as possible. Bring your focus to having a relaxed body position. With every arm movement, regardless of the stroke, ensure that your attention is given to keeping a relaxed posture. This will allow you to be supported by the water rather than fighting to move through the water.
7. Frequency and Consistency
Frequency and, or consistency of going to the pool to practice for the challenge is 50% of the challenge, but what will ensure that you will have the stamina to finish? Set a target to go to the pool a minimum of two times – something achievable but still supportive.
That then becomes your absolute minimum you will achieve, no matter what is going on in life you know that your bar that has been set is to go at least twice. On those weeks that you feel as though you have more energy and less stressed and exhausted, you can go to the pool again to give yourself a bonus session for the week. It doesn’t have to be at exactly the same time each week or same day, just the fact that you are doing it and are committed to it is important.
8. Increase your Stamina
To increase your stamina in training is not to repeat the same swim over and over. This can be supportive to some degree, but it is better to mix up the exercises to ensure you are working a range of muscles to give you greater choice and variety on the day of your swim. Take the approach of Whole-Part-Whole, which means – Start your swim with the whole stroke. For example, it might be front crawl. Do a couple of lengths at a steady pace, then have a break and bring it back to using one part of the body. You may choose your legs, which means you grab a float and just kick for a length or two. This then follows going back to the whole stroke again. You can repeat this and then do the same thing but with your arms. And again bringing it back to the whole stroke.
Motivation can be challenging when swimming up and down the same pool the same way. You could swim with a friend to gain encouragement and motivation to keep up the training. Or alternatively mix up the program to keep it fresh. Record it when you get out to document your progress.
10. Stroke Rhythm
When we swim all of our movements are dictated by a rhythm. This rhythm is going to determine your ability to be consistent and streamline through the water. When swimming over large distances you don’t want to get into a fight with the water, as this will create a momentum backwards. A stroke rhythm will support you to do this. Keep a long stroke but also have a pattern as to when you are going to breathe. Whilst you swim you can focus on ensuring you extend your arm out in front of you making limited splash to support your forward propulsion. In addition, bring attention to the rhythm of your legs, in other words, make sure you are using them the entire time. They don’t have to be moving erratically, but they do have to be consistent and have a rhythm, which will then support the buoyancy of the body. If you remember it like everything is connected, so if one part is not moving to the rhythm the rest of the body can’t move to that rhythm.
Are you ready to hit the pool? Find out how you can get involved in Swimathon 2016 at: http://www.swimathon.org/enter
Article and featured photo courtesy of Zoggs