Alfie, Mark, Kane, Butch and Lizzie will be swimming the length of Windermere in July braving all 10.5 miles of her icy cold waters to raise money for the Emily Ash Trust to help children with cancer and their families. This is their training journey during lockdown with tips and ideas that might help/inspire other open water swimmers.
In the midst of our 3rd national lockdown, Boris has announced that open water venues and outdoor swimming pools will reopen on the 29th of March! We're excited to say the least! Indoor pools will follow shortly and open on the 12th of April! This will leave us with 102 days to train to swim Windermere - the UK's longest lake. It has also been confirmed that, much to our disappointment, ALL of the swim events we had planned to compete in before July have been cancelled.
Luckily, in the past year we've got used to plans being altered or cancelled and as a result, we've become quite adaptable and creative when it comes to our training. Over Winter, we had hoped to maintain our swim fitness by training in pools before stepping up the mileage and training in the lakes in Spring. Things haven't quite panned out as we had hoped.
This is how we're training instead:
Cold Water acclimatisation
Faced with the prospect of starting our open water swimming season earlier than expected and facing Windermere's chilly waters, we've been doing everything we can to acclimatise. Alfie and Mark have been dipping in their Wheelie Bin regularly. Even February's snow didn't stop them as they bravely dunked themselves into the ice covered sub-zero bin! Mental!
Nothing compares to being 'swim fit' and we reluctantly accepted that we'd lose some of our fitness when pools closed once again. Nevertheless, that hasn't stopped Alfie, Mark and I racking up the miles. Between us we've walked, run and cycled the length of Windermere multiple times over. We can't wait to get back in the water and build on this fitness.
Mental endurance is crucial for a marathon swim - you could go as far to say it's more mental than physical. Mental endurance is something I struggle with, unlike Alfie and Mark who can just 'switch off', I get bored and unmotivated in the pool very quickly. Last summer my mental endurance improved in the lakes as I wasn't constantly staring at the black line. In an effort to maintain this I've been going on lots of walks and runs between lectures and channelling Ross Edgley's mantra "Get comfortable being uncomfortable".
Flexibility and Mobility
With 102 days to go from when we can swim again, there is no time for injury and with the high training load we're about to impose on our bodies, it is vital that we do everything we can to lower the risk. In order to lower the risk and avoid injury, we've put a lot of emphasis on flexibility and mobility especially in the shoulders. Daily stretches and rolling have kept them in tip top shape and this is something we'll continue as we start to swim again.
Lizzie is stretching here to keep flexible with our Dry Bag
If you don't use it, you lose it! We're not trying to become the next World's Strongest Man, however, it is crucial that we make and effort to maintain and even improve our current strength. (Even Mark (54) has been pumping iron!) Without access to gyms, our training has revolved around a lot of bodyweight exercises, resistance bands and the use of TRX suspension trainers. Once again, our focus has been on the upper body and core in order to improve our swim stroke efficiency.
Having not seen a pool this year, I am beginning to get more nervous about this mammoth challenge. Swimming the length of Windermere with only 102 days of access to our swim spots will be no easy task. Despite this, we're keeping each other positive and motivated as we do everything we can to prepare.
Alfie and Lizzie
Follow our training journey on instagram @alf_liz_swim