Archive for the 'swim' Category

Postal Swim

Today I took part in my first formal Masters’ swimming event, the one-hour postal swim. It’s called the “postal swim” because it’s not a direct, head-to-head competition, but rather one where swimmers use their own facilities and timers and mail in individual results for regional compilation.

The goal of this particular postal swim? To swim as far as possible in one hour. The recorded distance (total yards swum) determines the order of finish.

I had to have an official counter/timer, who recorded my lap count and my cumulative split every fifty yards. Ben graciously volunteered/was dragged along in spite of his loud and frequent protests.

I completed 2,900 yards (116 laps). It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for; my goal was 3,000-3,200 yards. It must have been all that slacking and those extra gingersnaps over Christmas break. :) Still, the swim felt good, very strong at the finish, and as always, I was very consistent – my 50 splits at the end were the same, maybe even a little faster, than my 50 splits at the beginning.

Of course, I have no idea what my regional results will be – that will take couple of months. I doubt I’ll place in my age group; it’s pretty competitive. That wasn’t my objective anyway,I just wanted to do it, and maybe set a baseline to improve upon next year.

Posted on Saturday, January 9th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: swim | 9 Comments »

Double First-Day Jitters

Tomorrow is the first working day of 2010, and I have double first-day jitters.

First, I’m starting swimming with the brand new Poulsbo masters’ swim team. For those of you who don’t know, masters’ swimming is adult competitive swimming. It supports multiple goals – regular swim meets, broken up by age groups; triathlons; and longer open water events. The latter is my gig.

While I’ve been swimming with many of these folks on an unstructured basis throughout the last year, this will be the first time I’ve actually done a formal workout with them under the guidance of a coach. I’m quite nervous about the whole thing, although tomorrow’s workout will be more evaluation and less exhaustion.

Second, I start a new job tomorrow. I’ve been a project manager in IT for nearly five years. We’re spinning off a subsidiary company as an external service provider, and I’m taking a role with the new subsidiary as a senior business analyst. It’s a little different than what I’ve been doing to date. While there’s about a 50% overlap, it’s more technical and detail oriented. I’m nervous about that change, too.

Maybe I could throw in a first date and first day at school tomorrow as well, just to make matters entertaining all around. :)

Posted on Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 by Jeri
Under: swim, work | 4 Comments »

Fit Friday: Joy

Several ideas have crossed my path this week that have made me ponder my hyperfocused approach to fitness, especially swimming.

Earlier this week, I was talking with a good friend who said, “I don’t time my walks and don’t care how far I go, so it doesn’t matter to me. I left all of that competitive time (running, walking, etc) stuff behind in the military.” Instead he walks by the river, watches the morning sun and the ducks on the water, the beavers build their lodge, and basically enjoys being outside.

Another friend sent a link on the “Fun Theory”, a fascinating YouTube video documenting a social experiment. A group of engineers transformed subway stairs from plain into a black and white, musically functional piano keyboard – and 2/3 more people took the stairs just to play on them.

Entrepreneur and fitness guru Jonathan Fields has a fabulous post on how to make exercise more fun than sex. Perhaps he’s a tad optimistic, still, he has a point. We used to run around outside playing until we were exhausted as kids, and never once thought of it as drudgery or exercise.

So what do I do?

I swim. A lot. I’m kind of obsessed with swimming. And truly, I love it! I enjoy the coolness of the water, the weightlessness, the strength, grace, rhythm and endurance I feel in the water. In a pool, I like the smell of chlorine, the stillness, the snap of a perfect flip turn. In open water, I like the light refracting through the water, the waves, the sense of connection to the natural world.

Still, I let myself get so hyperfocused on the trivial details, the part that matters so much less. I require myself to swim two miles per workout. I want to get faster, I’d like to get my mile back under 30 minutes. I need to kick more. Intervals would make me faster; harder workouts would improve my time.

Holy crap, I’m 45 years old and I’m not and never will be Dara Torres! As my friend said, it’s not about competition. If I do what I love, and focus on the things I enjoy most, the rest will follow. And even if they don’t, I’ll stick with it, because doing what brings me joy motivates me.

I also walk and do yoga, but I don’t get so wrapped up in compulsiveness there. I don’t know if it’s because I am not so attached to those activities, because they aren’t naturally competitive sports, or because they don’t lend themselves as easily to the process of continuous evaluation and improvement.

The line between exercising for enjoyment, fitness, physical and mental health, and obsessively, compulsively exercising to a rigid perfectionist standard, is not fine and is not blurry. I wander across it far too often. I need to – I will – focus on joy and loving what I do as a primary goal, a lifetime goal.

Posted on Friday, October 23rd, 2009 by Jeri
Under: health, swim | 3 Comments »

Fit Friday: Intensity

Jeri SwimWhen I simply enjoy swimming without pushing or competitiveness, it’s a wonderful experience. I love the weightlessness, the smoothness and grace, the hypnotic rhythm, and the mindful, meditative state I reach after lap upon lap. Still, I’d like to get faster.

I’ve been swimming pretty good workouts lately – usually 2 miles, 3x a week, consisting of:

  • 1 mile freestyle warmup

  • 400 mixed kick
  • 800 of stroke work, more distance or intervals
  • 200 warmdown

It takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes and feels really good.


I had the chance to swim with a triathlete friend in Alaska. Craig is a good distance swimmer – he lapped me a few times. (Dammit!) We both want to improve our endurance swim times, and had a great conversation about workout intensity.

We prefer solo swim workouts and long slow distance training. It suits our strengths in the water. (And on land.) He mentioned, though, that he tends to not push himself as hard when he swims by himself. I notice myself that I’m predominantly a mono-paced swimmer – my half-mile, mile and two mile pace are all the same.

He suggested — and I agree — that it means I’m sandbagging a bit. I’m not working as hard as I could be and I’m keeping plenty in reserve.

The alternatives? Interval training by myself is one possibility, and I already do a little, but not a lot. The other is working out with the local Masters’ swim team.

Interval Training

Long slow distance is a phrase commonly used to describe both training method for endurance sports. Many find it effective preparation for endurance events like marathons.

Still, most coaches and sports trainers recommend interval or speed training to build speed. It’s very effective in cardiovascular build-up and makes more well-rounded athletes. Interval training can also be more effective at inducing fat loss than simply training at a moderate intensity level for the same duration.

What is interval training? There are several variations, but they all include shorter distance, higher-intensity effort. They might include:

  • Intervals: Swim 8 x 100 yards free with 20 seconds rest in between

  • Timed intervals: Swim 8 x 100 yards free on the 2:00 – the faster you swim, the more rest you get
  • Laddered intervals: Swim 2 x 200s, 4 x 100s, 4 x 50s, with 20, 15 and 10 seconds rest respectively.
  • Fartlek training: Swim 800, alternating 50 easy with 50 sprint, no rest in between.

The last type of interval training might be familiar to those who use programmable fitness machines, and add in hills, variable speed or incline, or intensity to their workouts.

This is pretty do-able, in fact, I already do it probably one day a week. Today it was 8 x 100 IMs, with 15 seconds rest, but practicing it more regularly would help my speed.

Masters’ Swimming

Masters’ swimming is the adult version of a club swim team. It’s for all age and ability levels and all goals – competitive swimmers, triathletes, fitness swimmers and open water swimmers.

My wonderful mother swims Masters’ at 76 years old – she competed in the national Senior Olympics this summer. So do Dara Torres, Rowdy Gaines and open water champ Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen.

Masters’ teams – there isn’t one at my local North Kitsap pool, but there is one at Bainbridge Aquatic Center, the next town over – generally work out 3-5 days a week, with flexible schedules to serve working adults. They do shorter, intense, interval-oriented workouts, but still do a good job of supporting the endurance athlete since so many of their participants are triathletes or open water swimmers, rather than meet competitors.

The thought of working out with a swim team makes my OCD heart palpitate. I’d have to circle swim in a busy, choppy lane, feel all competitive and pay attention to a pace clock.

Why would I do this? Interval training and/or Masters’ swimming? I’d like to continue to enjoy swimming, to love what I do, but I’d also like to build a better speed base and prepare for some longer and faster open water events. I’d also like to build a variety of ways to stay actively involved in swimming for the long term, and social and team engagement is a good way to do that.

Posted on Friday, October 16th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: swim | Comments Off

Fit Friday: Events on the Horizon

Last week, I mentioned that scheduling and training for adventures or athletic events motivates me. I’m not particularly fond of the adrenaline jitters that accompany competition, but I love the endorphin rush and psychological satisfaction of achieving my goal.

So what do I have on the horizon, keeping me going?

Ironman Course Swim (2.4 mi, Kailua-Kona, March 2010) I’m going to Kona for a girls’ va-ca, and plan to dive into plenty of swimming and water sports while there. One of the world’s premier open water swimmers lives and operates a training business on the big island, and she will swim the Ironman course with clients and provide coaching on technique, open water and racing.

Fat Salmon Swim (3.2 mi, Lake Washington, July 2010) This is the northwest’s premier open water distance swimming event. It’s the longest one on the schedule, sanctioned by USMS (Masters’ swimming), and has minimum entry time guidelines. Yes, I meet them, but back of the pack isn’t exactly my goal here. :)

SCCA Swim Across America (2 mi, Lake Washington, September 2010) This event, held for the first time this year, was popular with swimmers of all ability levels, from recreational to Olympian. The water gets a little cold in mid-September but that’s ok – the English Channel is even colder. ;)

Swim Around the Rock (3.25 mi, San Francisco Bay, TBD) This elite level open water swim around Alcatraz and back bills itself as a challenge for fast swimmers. It requires a very strategic race plan because of the changing tides and fast currents around the Rock. This is a goal for the future, when I have more speed and experience with ocean swimming.

Crossing for Kids (3.5 mi, Puget Sound, not scheduled) In 2005, the first and only Crossing for Kids was held, from Bainbridge Island to Alki Point, 3.5 miles across Puget Sound in 51 degree water. I would love to swim this crossing! In fact, if it doesn’t ever get rescheduled, I may recruit a couple of swimming friends and a boat escort and swim it privately, just for the thrill of achievement.

I’d also like to do a sprint triathlon next year, the entire race, not just relay style like I did this year. (I’ll walk the run). The women’s Gold Nugget Triathlon in Alaska is an option, although the swim is depressingly short, not to my advantage. There are dozens of sprint triathlons in the Puget Sound area, so I have no idea which one I’ll select. It won’t be the insanely overcrowded Danskin women’s sprint tri, with 5,000+ participants it’s such a melee it can be dangerous.

Posted on Friday, October 2nd, 2009 by Jeri
Under: health, swim | 2 Comments »