Monday, February 1, 2016

Going Big: 45 Days of Swimming

by Mark Pietrofesa

I turned 45 this year. I completed Ironman World Championships and after a long season of swim/bike/run, I needed a physical and -- more importantly -- a mental break. I find the break comes not from reduced training but more so from not obsessing about the training. In short, doing whatever feels right. I did not do much of a scheduled training load for the first 30 days besides swim and run occasionally with no biking whatsoever.

In the beginning of November I set my sights on a goal to complete a swim for 30 days in a row. This meant swimming 30 times in 30 days, as there can be difficulty with a closed pool, travel or some scenario that causes a missed day. Unlike running which is always possible somewhere, I could not always get in water for my required 3k swim. If I needed to make up a swim, I granted myself a second swim of lesser duration of 2k on the same day to make up for the missed swim and get myself back on track.

So what is the point in all this? First, I felt I needed a new challenge and this was something that I had never done before. Second, I wanted to reinforce some stroke changes that I learned from Karlyn Pipes-Neilsen of Aquatic Edge before this all started. There were many changes and to work on them, I figured that an overload of concentrated swimming might get them ingrained.

I have learned that simple goals work best for me. Planning around my day and or week to make sure I got in those swims was fun and challenging. This kept my head in the game and allowed me to up my swimming in the off-season, which I am certain will carry through to the next year in improved fitness and perhaps breakthrough performances. Also, doing this sort of training is easier mentally as opposed to trying to run or ride in the cold or dark, which always takes a lot more mental energy and does not leave me feeling like I had an off-season.

After I got rolling, 30 days came and went, and since I was 45 this year, I figured I could push myself right up to Christmas to reach 45 swims in 45 days at 45 years old. I noticed my best swimming came around the second and third week, after my early training improved my speed, but before the daily overload started to slow me down.

A couple other tips that helped me were to have a backup pool that I could use at any time. My local 24-hour Fitness has three lanes, is available 24/7 and there are many others all over the country in case I couldn’t swim locally. I did plenty of early morning swims and never had a problem getting or sharing a lane. Also, since swimming Masters seven days a week is too physically demanding, a nice leisurely recovery day on my own was a useful break.

So, get out there and start with a streak. 10 days, 20, 30... it eventually gets easier and once you get in the groove, you might not want to stop.


Mark Pietrofesa spent this past season ripping up the 45-49 with particularly strong showings at California 70.3 and the Big Kahuna Triathlon. He’s a perennial figure at the Ironman World Champs in Kona. As a single father of a teenage daughter he balances parenting, triathlon, and work with his triathlon training.

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