I would guess that the average number of practices a week for those reading this is three days a week. I know of some whose schedule permits less and some whose schedule permits more. When we add up the interruptions and challenges in our routines over the months, we are probably in the pool less than we’d like to be and wish we were free to be in it a lot more.
But consider this idea – though you may not be able to get in the pool more often on a regular basis, you could look ahead on your calendar and see a week where you might give a lot more time to swimming – just for a single week.
Amazing things can happen when you occasionally set aside the time and energy to spend five, six or even seven days in a row focused on your swimming.
Yes, if you are working the body every day for so many days, you will get tired over that many days when you are not used to it. Yes, you will need to rest, but we’re talking just one week here, and you can also make sure you get very good sleep each night between. Though you will get tired in one way, you will feel so much stronger in others…
I first learned this secret around 19 years old when I went on a 4-day, 400 mile bicycling tour with some triathlete friends around the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, USA. Though I was used to doing several tough workouts a week as a triathlete, often two a day, I rarely went cycling for more than two days in a row because of needing to space my training with the other two disciplines. And, I might get in three rides in a whole week, maybe four on top of a full time school load or work load (in summers). But on this tour we were covering so many miles every day, for four days in a row. The roads had us climbing, sprinting, fighting headwinds, avoiding log trucks, and racing each other all throughout the route. I recall being quite tired after our first day. A meal and sleep was so welcomed at the end. But with good food, good sleep, beautiful terrain and inspiring friends, I got up the next day ready for more, and the next and the next.
The tour itself was wonderful. I still enjoy the memories of that trip so much. But what amazed me was what I felt the following week when I resumed my regular training (and I commuted by bicycle to work that summer). I felt so much stronger. I felt much more sustainable power in my legs. I recall riding in traffic on my commute and found myself able to accelerate at a higher rate and not feel tired. After several days of hard work on that tour, harder than what I was normally used to, my body adapted to that work and, after a couple days of rest afterward, new strength emerged.
It’s hard to stay at home, in the midst of the home, family and work responsibilities that often take priority for our time. That is why it is so helpful to go somewhere else to make the time and space to live by a different, more simple routine for a week. When we go on holiday, we are permitted to more easily strip things down to a few activities and really give ourselves to those things
At camp, we can do just that – give our best time and energy to focus on swimming, eating, resting, and enjoying the company of others with like-minds.
The Right Conditions
Amazing things happen in a week when we set up certain conditions:
We are swimming every day for five or six days. We may spend more than 3 hours in the water a day, and more on some. The volume of swimming is usually more than what you do in a week at home.
We have a variety of structured swimming activity – short/slow work, intense focus, longer continuous swimming, and dealing with different kinds of water situations.
We practice certain mental (and we might say emotional) techniques for making longer, stronger swimming feel so much more enjoyable.
We have comfortable weather and water – making it inviting to get in often.
We are surrounded by a welcoming, accepting, encouraging group of people. We feel the positive pressure to keep going more than we would on our own.
We have new and interesting sights and sensations to explore in our environment.
When we come away to a special place for a week, it is not hard to get yourself to do this day after day, like it might be at home, with other things competing for your energy and attention.
Over a week, your metabolism, your muscles, your motor system and your mind are stimulated repeatedly in positive ways and they respond by adapting to this increased load and opening up new levels of strength.
It is common in our Intro To Open Water camps to have someone come who has swam only short distances in a pool and by the end of the week they are swimming a couple kilometers.
It is common in our Distance camps to have those who might have swam just a couple kilometers previously end up swimming 4 or maybe even 6 kilometers on our final challenge swim day.
These three boys, 13, 11 and 9 years old, came with their parents to our camp in Kaş last week. They have been in swim lessons at home and were used to swimming a few laps at most. The parents weren’t sure how much they would want to participate in the sessions and longer swims, but once we exposed them to the skills, the beautiful water and the welcoming group, those boys ended up swimming more than a kilometer continuously to their own great amazement. They realized they were far more capable than their swim lessons made them feel.
I still think fondly of these 30-something gals who came to camp some years ago – when they arrived they could swim just 25 meters of breaststroke. By the last day they were swimming freestyle over 2 kilometers. They were ecstatic, needless to say.
In our distance camp (in Kaş at the end of September), with such exceptional conditions and support, I am no longer surprised to find a few swimmers who have maybe swam just 5 kilometer before swim 10 or even 12 kilometers by the end of our week. They come away with an extraordinary sense of expanded capabilities.
Swim Camp At Home?
Obviously, for the cost in money and time, there is a huge advantage to coming away to a special place for a week to get a major boost in skill and strength. But I also want to encourage you to consider setting aside a week at home, if you think that might be possible to arrange. You save in the money and travel time, but you need to pay for this with effort to plan and protect the time you set aside to swim.
You have to schedule this week intentionally.
You need to get your gear and food ready so it is ready to go, day after day.
You need to be ready to say NO to most of the other requests for your time, energy and attention.
You need to have a plan for how to spend your time each day. Plan the distance (or time) you will go, the activities you will use, the skill objectives you will focus on.
Not only do you schedule more swimming time, you schedule more intentional rest time as well – good food, good sleep and limit other activities that will compete for your energy.
Try to include others in your activities, if it is more encouraging for you to train with others.
Try to visit new places if you can. Visit another pool. Go out to a local open water location for one or more of those days. (For example, in a city about 25 minute drive south of me, they have a 50 meter pool that is opened up to long-course in the summer, so I like to go there once a week in the early morning for my long swim).
Once A Year Or More Often?
Going away to a swim camp for a week might be something you do once a year because of the time and expense. But if you can manage to arrange your own swimming-intensive week at home, you might do this once a quarter, both as a training boost and as a pattern for giving yourself a beneficial fitness holiday in the midst of your normal life.
To see the boosting effect for yourself, you just need to try it!