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Have a Plan!

Back in March… as the world was watching events unravel in China and Italy with horror and dread…I was attempting the million metre challenge – to swim a million metres over the course of the year. To hit this target involves an average of over 83k a month… doable, or so it seemed back then. I was swimming 6 days a week, anything between 1 and 7K a day…. And then like so many of my swimming friends I had nearly 2 ½ months out of the water.

During that time I rerouted my training and spent more time running, cycling, doing Pilates and HIIT in the living room with Jo Wickes, Tom Daley and at one point 26 Olympians! I rediscovered my love for running and cycling which had taken a back seat to the Million Metre challenge. Most importantly I enjoyed it all and it meant I didn’t feel quite so bad about the absence of pond weed and chlorine although knowing that my 2020 goal was moving further and further out of reach was a toughie.

Since the 20th March, I’ve been in the water less than a dozen times…. And swum less than 24k…. so, the question now is, of course, what happens to the challenge…. Is there any way to grab it back between here and December? Well, unlikely for me as my local pool isn’t opening before September and even then will be strictly limited in terms of swim sessions, my nearest Open Water space is a 50mile round trip… easily doable, but not every day… so I’m waving goodbye to the challenge for this year and looking forward to cracking it in 2021.

But this does raise the question of how to rebuild the distance swimming with limited access to a pool/lake/sea and without picking up any injuries. The plan so far is to be sensible and to be kind to my mind and body. At the moment I’m enjoying my swimming and if I can get in the water and push myself a bit further every swim then that’s great. If I have a bad day, that’s fine too. I’m working on technique and stamina, with some speed work thrown in for good measure, but I won’t lie, it’s hard work, not for my body (which is always super happy in the water) but for my headspace.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore swimming and everything swimming related, I’m absolutely loving coaching in the open water and supporting other swimmers with their swimming goals but motivating my own swimming post Lockdown was initially proving trickier than you might expect. I was enjoying my alternative training and the bathroom scales reassured me that I would still get into my shortie… With no challenge or event (all those I had lined up have been cancelled) there was no ‘push’.

I really do have to thank Kim Boon for her help in this respect as her Kim-O-Swim virtual timed event in June was the nudge I needed. A timed swim, on the day that would originally have seen us all pile into Lake 86, poised and ready for Kim’s starter signal. 4k in about 1h20… I say ‘about’ because frustratingly my normally trusty watch had a hissy fit that afternoon and erased all my data so there is no record of the actual time but it’s an educated guess based on the lap times I saw every time I hit the turn buoy. No matter, it had the desired effect and the next time I got back in the water it was with a plan.

The plan isn’t complicated and it doesn’t have to have a big swim as it’s end goal but there is now (as there was before 20th March) always a swim goal, something to aim for today, between here and the next buoy, in the next hour (or 2), over the next week or the next month. There will always be a bit of Fly for good measure and occasionally there will be a little deviation from the plan. Last week I looked up to sight and spotted two of my winter swimming buddies in the water ahead of me (their ‘heads up’ breast stroke with conversational ‘putting the world to right’ chatter is unmistakable) so of course I slowed down to join their chatter for a while. It was a welcome deviation and uplifting to see they had made it through the last 4 months safe and well.

Have a plan, have a goal, set a mini challenge or join the KimOSwim virtual one in August. no matter how small the achievements, celebrate them as a victory in this crazy year. No matter how different it may be to the original plan for 2020, go with it and find the positives. Over half way through and what a year it’s turning out to be so far…. I wonder what August will bring!

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