Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Reflections: The Swim Block

First, by the numbers:
~50,000 meters done in 11 swims over 8 days in 5 different pools and two ocean locations. (Estimated 50,000 b/c ocean swims are not exact, but it's pretty darn close.) I didn't keep track of exact minutes or anything but logged ~16 hours of swim time. All that done with 1 awesome training partner who made it way more fun than it would have been solo.

Most challenging part:
~Finding the time to do it all... This was more challenging logistically than say a bike or run week would be simply b/c of pool hours and availability we had to work around. Good thing we had the ocean as an option as well.

The hardest workout:
~ The first one last week Wednesday 5 x 1000's. That workout trashed me. Lucky for me we got to do that one twice.

The least enjoyable workout:
~The second one last Thursday morning. I was still trashed from Wednesday and the water was freezing and it was dark out the whole time.

The most enjoyable workout:
~Tuesday morning sunrise ocean swim. It was simply gorgeous and glassy and glorious. Swimming doesn't really get much better than that.

The biggest surprise:
~That we both swam right through the fatigue and actually felt better as the block went on (rather than worse as I expected). Not only did we feel better, we swam faster at the end. It was awesome to do the test 1000's at the start and the finish of this week... Interestingly, my slowest one this morning was faster than my fastest one last week... In total I dropped 93 seconds (combined total for 4x1000's) with the last two each being a full 30" faster than the last two I did last week.

More deep thoughts about swimming a lot... These might seem a bit rambling but remember I just spent ~16 hours swimming so I had lots of time in my own brain... In no particular order...

~When you swim 3x/week for maybe 2-3 hours total, swimming is not nearly as natural and automatic as it becomes when you spend 16 hours/week doing it. If you want to feel more natural and confident in the water, spend a lot of time there.

~ I was very rarely bored in the pool. Go figure.

~I was crazy stiff/tight for the first ~3 days and then either it got better or I became numb to it but I swear right now I am not as tired/fatigued/sore as I was on Friday. I talked to Lucho about it yesterday and told him that I expected to feel like I was sliding right down the side of a mountain all week and was nervous about how quickly I felt like I was descending last week Thursday (day 2!). I was rather certain that by Sunday I would have been in the depths of hell on those 100x100's... But instead of sliding down out of control, by the 4th day I got my grip and actually started clawing my way back up. And then by day 6 I found myself climbing a whole different mountain- one that was higher than the one I was on last week.

~While I would admit that it was common for me to wake up in the morning feeling like I'd been hit by a bus, by the time I got up and had some coffee and hopped in the pool and got going I was okay. Same story told by Nalani so it's not like I am a freak of nature here- she fared physically and mentally pretty much exactly like I did.

~Surprisingly, I did not need a feed bag all week. Maybe a little more hungry than normal but not ridiculously so. I did find that I was very thirsty and my skin was very dry (there were days- ok really that was just Monday- where I swam doubles where I didn't even get out of my bathing suit between swims- true story- and I swear I felt like my skin was fuzzy from the chlorine. Nasty.) I also felt sleepy a lot and stiff especially through my upper body but also my legs.

~Pretty much universally when I swam doubles I felt physically better on the second workout of the day. That's the same story I've got for running so maybe afternoons are just a better time for me physically?

~Where's the physiology in what we found out this week? I don't really get it... science would say that as we use our muscles a lot and get fatigued that we would perform worse, not better. The improvement/adaptation part is supposed to come after we allow our bodies an opportunity to recover, which, when we're swimming 2x/day doesn't seem like recovery? I mean, Sunday 10,000M, Monday swam twice for 6700M, Tuesday swam twice for 6500M, then this morning swam faster than I've swam in years? Hmmm. I would say that yes, physically I felt better but that maybe the biggest difference was in my head... My confidence this morning was sky high and I had that Eminem song in my head (I'm Not Afraid) as I just ripped off evenly split 1000's that just got progressively faster as the swim went on. I knew I was not going to fall off any cliffs and I think the confidence I gained this week was the biggest benefit of doing the swim week.

~I'm really glad we did this swim block. Like I said above, the biggest benefit for me may have been emotional/mental vs physical... I thought it was super cool to pay attention to how my body was physically responding and teach myself that my limits are so much further out there than I even thought they were. This week, while challenging, did not put me at my physical limit (as far as volume goes) which of course begs the question- Where's the limit? I still don't know... which is rather cool I think. I absolutely loved the challenge of this though.

~I don't think I'll repeat this swim block in the near future, primarily because I don't think it is the wisest way for me to spend my training time and energy. The swim is not my limiter. I will say though that after this week I am now in love with the idea of sport specific blocks and without question I will be putting in some very big bike and run weeks in 2012. I feel like this week was further proof that our bodies adapt to whatever stresses we place upon them. Guess what kind of stress I'm going to apply next? ;)

If you have any other burning questions about this swim block, feel free to ask below... I'm happy to answer!


Beth said...

So cool. I love all your observations. So interesting that you felt better as the week went on. I wonder if this is more because of the mechanics of swimming and the same thing would not happen with running/biking? I guess in your next big sports specific block we will find out! :) Great job!!

Molly said...

Very cool! I was thinking about swimming most of December in my off month and seeing if it makes a difference. This is good to know!

mmmonyka said...

Wow, that's indeed a lot of swimming! Glad you liked it.

I think I said this before but feeling better as time progresses and without recovey is to be expected. All stage cyclist would tell you that. They prefer to be dead at the end of the day and not continue pedaling the next day after first few days but then slowly but surely they get stronger and stronger and they feel awesome. I need to check where I read about it and see what the explanation was. Although I would expect people starting to experience this after longer period of time, maybe after 10days or so, not after 4days like it was with you. But maybe it also depends on how much stress you put on your body. If TdF cyclists hammer for ~4-5h/day then it takes longer for their bodies to adapt. You swam "only" 2h/day so it took only few days to start feeling stronger.

2 questions:
Why did you want to do it originally? For fun or because you wanted to observe what happens?

So what kind of stress is next? My guess is running... :)

Angela and David said...

One day when I come back to triathlon I'd like to do something like this. I do think there's a big benefit to swimming and doing a huge volume. When I swam everyday for a month my swimming improved remarkably. I think the same effect could be observed in cycling. I think it's a bit tougher with running just because of the recovery you need to build in.

You and Nalani are beasts.

Michelle Simmons said...

@Angela... oh good, you don't *really* hate us. ;)

@Monika... I think in the beginning it was really just to break up the monotony of normal training weeks and doing each sport 3-4x... shocking the body by changing things up is (almost) always a good thing. I was also just really curious about how our bodies would respond to tripling or quadrupling our swim volume so I guess it stemmed from that. Curiosity? Just for fun? Because we could? All that. Plus, I just like training a lot. lol. ;) Next up I'm going to be running a ton... don't think I'll do a real 'crash' week like I did with swimming but will be steadily increasing my volume and frequency with running to the point where I'm running just about as much as I can (lots of double days) and will monitor it all and see what happens. But with running I'll prob try to go with consistency over time rather than one big huge week out of nowhere. Then come january I'll start riding again in earnest and will prob plan on a big week (300-400 miles) once/month through the winter/spring.

mtanner said...

Okay here is mine,- the answer is yes. I am open to trying anything! And quite simply I like your answer best.... Because you can!

cherelli said...

Geez what a total water baby/mermaid you are - maybe that's you'd turn into if you kept up that volume! Nice observations though - interesting, especially the improved speed. Thanks for the tip - awesome!

Ginger Spansel said...

Very awesome! Really enjoyed reading about the swims. Sick Ginger would love to do something like this someday!!

GoBigGreen said...

you know i could see doing this in the summer or when ican get outside, otherwise it would be pure torture. I wonder if your body wont Either " scream for joy " when you arent swimming ie your lat, lower traps, triceps will rebound into tightness or if you will feel fine. You have to give us the DOM"s that does or does not happen:) Hope you feel just fine, and of course Angela and i dont hate you we just wish you lived here with us:) hee hee

naisqu said...

Your blog needs a "like" button for those of us who have nothing to add other than just a ":)".

Ange said...

very cool Michelle. Two comments... I can't Believe you stayed in your suit between workouts that day!!! no way could I do that. Even if it was 80 degrees here. And, I am curious about what happens next. What type of weekly swim volume will you go to now ? If you go back to a 2-3x week swim routine ( not sure what you typically do), will you be able to maintain the fitness you've built or will you lose some? how much? And, one more. I totally agree that you can't truly have a good feel for the water unless you swim day after day after day. Great job!!

Kiet said...

I like the take home message of doing one sport blocks, will be incorporating that once I get rolling on next season.

jc said...

thanks for sharing.