Continued from Part 2.

From High-Stress To Low

Let’s say you want to move from 2 hours of swimming (about 5K) to 4 or 5 hours (about 10K).

you When you get into swimming events that are more like 4 to 5 hours long, the average citizen athlete may have difficulty making time for single training sessions that last 2 or more hours. So, simulating event-like training stress has to be done in more creative ways, over the months ahead.

(And just to make sure we are clear here, when I use the term ‘stress’ in this context I am talking about the good and necessary stress that you must experience in training in order for your body to be pushed into adaptation and so you then eventually experience the expansion of your comfort zone.)

It is not enough to impose the body to a high amount of training stress just once or twice either. It has to be similar to the kind of stress you will experience in that event. The kind of stress you will face comes from the mixture of…

  • working at a event-like intensities,
  • working for an event-like duration of time, and
  • working in certain kinds of challenging water conditions.

The body and mind have to be exposed to this kind of stress so frequently, over weeks and months, to the point that they become so used to it that the actual event stresses feels normal, even comfortable.

In other words, you’re training goal is to gradually impose more and more stress upon the body and mind so much so that they can adapt and grow comfortably accustomed to it. This is how you move from surviving the event to being comfortable in it.

The big challenge in your training plan is to carve out more blocks of time where you can impose the stress of swimming continuously for longer periods of time. Not only does your body need to be exposed to this kind of stress, your mind does too. You need to discover what it is like to be moving repetitiously for hours and hours and develop skills for occupying your attention with positive and productive things.

 

Different Kinds Of Strength

Here is one way of describing your performance systems:

You metabolic system converts fuel to energy, delivers that energy to the parts of the body that need it, and removes waste. Your muscular system convert that energy into power, into work. And your neural system controls precisely where power is directed, at a precise moment, in a precise amount.

Over the months ahead your training plan will build, in this order of priority…

  • Neural Strength
  • Muscular Strength
  • Metabolic Strength

And, when done in a mindful framework, the training for these will help you build Mental Strength as well.

Your brain has to have neural connections in place to control your movement patterns and practice working those connections for hours and hours, and to keep working automatically under increasing fatigue.

Your muscle teams have to practice working at a high level of precision, coordination and strength for hours and hours, and to keep working under increasing fatigue.

Your metabolic system needs to be ready to stay fat-oriented in order to tap into your virtually limitless energy reserves, and it needs to be practiced at processing energy and remove waste at the rate your body needs for hours and hours of working at this intensity, while keeping your body temperature stable, and to keep working under increasing fatigue.

When you prioritize strengthening the neural system, the muscular and metabolic systems will be developed by necessity because they must support everything the neural system tries to accomplish. But if you reverse this order of priority, you won’t get neural strength (for superior movement patterns) automatically.

 

Simulating Event-Like Stress

The kind of fatigue that you experience from these extraordinarily long distance events comes from simply working for that many hours in event-like conditions. If you don’t have that many hours to give in a normal practice session, then you have to carve out special time for it, and simulate this kind of fatigue in other ways.

Every week or two, you can set aside a block of time to swim for 4 hours straight.

You can do a stressful practices once in the morning and again that evening, when not fully recovered. Maybe 2 hours + 2 hours.

You can do a stressful practice once in the evening and again the next morning, when not fully recovered. Another 2 hours + 2 hours.

You can do stressful practices three days in a row. This could be 2 hours + 2 hours + 2 hours.

What is happening here is that you are intentionally reducing the recovery time between stressful practices, so that the body has to experience getting back to work under less-than-recovered conditions. After all, when you swim that 4+ hour event, you will have to keep swimming as your fatigue increases. Only the first part of your swim will be done when you feel fully fresh. The rest of it must be done while you are fatigued, with less than full resources. So you can simulate that in training by conducting another practice when you are still fatigued from the last one, and still require of yourself your best technical form and effort.

***

Read the entire series of Surviving, Comfortable or Competitive Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

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