I have challenged some of you about swimming longer distance already. And some of you are challenging yourself without my prompting.
I encourage you to set up a longer test swim that you will do at least once a month, up to once a week, if you like. You’ll find that you are more capable than you realize, and then after several swims, you feel quite capable at this distance.
I have been doing this in various forms for as long as I have been training myself in swimming (and running, and cycling back in those triathlete days long ago). I didn’t do this when I first started swimming, but it became a habit later on. When I was in high school (on a state championship swim team, but I was not one of the champions) all of us who were less-gifted in swimming dreaded the 500 yard race. We prayed the coach would not assign us to it – it seemed so far. To those of us with inferior technique the 200 yard sprints were quite hard enough, so 500 yards seemed like a survival event, not a race.
After 3 years away from swimming (severely injured in my shoulders by that poor technique) in college I was drawn to Olympic Distance triathlon and so I had to get comfortable with 1500m, and ready to do it in open-water (but with a wetsuit). I had other teammates making some good peer pressure so, in addition to my normal workouts, I started swimming that full distance once a week to just ‘get in shape’ for it, physically and mentally. I wanted to remove the intimidation of the distance and make it a normal thing.
But I didn’t stop there. The Ironman race was the greatest triathlete test at the time and there were IM athletes on our triathlon team who inspired us all. I removed the intimidation of the 3800m (4200y) swim by swimming it once a month – an ‘hour of flip turns’ in a 25 yard pool can make you dizzy! But by doing this regularly I could feel confident I could handle that distance when I needed to. And this was all before I found Total Immersion!
When I did find TI several years later, I was still doing a 1500m swim about once a week. So, I immediately started applying my new TI skills to see how they worked on my test swim. And that is how I got sold on TI – it got so much easier, so much smoother, that distance was no longer something I was proud to endure, it became something easy to enjoy. (Being tough lost it’s glamor when suddenly I could swim smart!). Several years later from that, when I moved to Antalya Turkey and began swimming in the sea more and more, I started seeing the profound advantages TI gave me for swimming in open-water and for swimming longer distances. I quickly started challenging my perceived distance limits and pushed them back farther and farther. A 45 minute continuous swim turned into 1 hour. 1 hour swims became 1.5, which became 2 hours, which turned into even a couple 3-hour swims just because I was so curious how far TI could take me on one tank of fuel. 10k suddenly became a pleasant (though long) swim, not an epic endurance event.
Now I am confident that I could handle great distances as long as I have fuel and can stay warm enough. (And that is why I do cool water winter training now – to remove that perceived barrier also!) I did these longer swims with no pressure to accomplish them at any speed – I just started gently and went along to see what would happen, and learn new things. And though I had a distance goal in mind for each swim, I set my course so I could get out any time I needed to, at any sign of trouble in body or mind. That gave me great peace about pushing those perceived distance limits. And they fell away so easily.