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The Henley Swim Festival Blogs 2019: Ali (Part 2)

The Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival takes place on 14 July. It’s going to be a fabulous day of river fun with a range of activities and retailers celebrating the best of a British summer Sunday by and in the water. In advance of this year’s event, we’re following the preparations of three swimmers as they get ready to take on one of the Festival challenges, and offer them advice to make the best of the day.

Find out more about the Outdoor Swimmer Henley Swim Festival

Ali's training (or lack of training) update

A very fun and helpful marshal I once got talking to at a triathlon event remarked, as I bemoaned my lack of preparation and training, ‘wow, you even sound like an athlete now!’; I guess it’s every competitors right to play down their performance with a load of excuses. This post is a celebration of my favourites …

So, lets start with the fact that I’ve been training for a half Marathon (a running one, not swimming!), which took place mid-May. I have to confess, all my training efforts and time have been focused on that. It went very well actually – I hit my target (well, almost) and I enjoyed myself. However, my brain is not one that can process beyond the immediate future. Subliminally it seemed to say: ‘get ready for the run first, you can sort out the swim afterwards …’ without taking into consideration that this would give me just two months to train for a mile-long swim.

Then there is the fact that I have been travelling a lot for work recently and not every one of my soulless business hotels has a pool. The one that did, I swam in, honest Miss, but that still limits my practice somewhat. Lastly, I appear to have picked up a strain injury in my shoulder. It has dogged me for the last few years, and the run probably isn’t helping, but it worries me slightly for the swim.

I could go on. Excuses, excuses, I have many.

Regardless, let it be put on record, that this is not a list of excuses that will end in me pulling out. That’s not my way. I’ve committed, I love the sport, and I’m really looking forward to it; I just need to get cracking with some intense practice. I also had a slight temptation to fudge over my poor preparation in this blog but I don’t think I’m the only athlete to have every entered this race under cooked, so I guess I need to represent this kind of competitor!

However, I guess where this leaves me is that I have a finite amount of time to get ready for a mile-long swim. The last blog I did came with some brilliant advice from Outdoor Swimming magazine, which I’m incredibly grateful for (although yet to really put into practice) … so, any tips this time?

Simon says:

Well done on your run. In my mind, a mile swim is massively easier than a half-marathon of running. Completing the latter suggests you’ve definitely got the fitness and resolve to do the former. On the other hand, running fitness doesn’t translate particularly well to swimming fitness as it is such a different activity, so don’t just sit back now and think this is going to be easy.

As suggested last time, I still recommend asking an expert to look at your swimming technique. You still have time (just) to make some refinements that could make your swimming a lot easier.

Secondly, I recommend getting in the water between now and July 14 as much as you can – three to four times per week would be ideal. As you’re managing a shoulder niggle, keep these swims short so as not to aggravate it – 30 to 45 minutes is plenty. Do some gentle mobility exercises on land before you swim and stretch after, being careful not to cause yourself any pain. A good swim coach should also be able to spot if you have any technique flaws that increase the risk of injury and show you how to swim in a way that puts less strain on your shoulders. They can also show you some appropriate shoulder strengthening exercises you could do.

You don’t have time now to complete the whole plan, but if you’re looking for some training session ideas, check out our One Mile swim training plan here: https://outdoorswimmer.com/one-mile-open-water-training-plan – do the shorter ones at the beginning and don’t worry that you won’t complete it.

Finally, forget about “intense practice”. You can’t cram for a swim like it’s a history exam and if you try, there’s a good chance you will exhaust or injure yourself. It’s better to arrive at the start line slightly unfit but fresh and uninjured than damaging your shoulder by over-doing things now and having to pull out.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.