Training Advice for Newbies

evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
edited December 2014 in Beginner Questions
The forum has many pages of valuable advice about training for marathon swims in the TRAINING category, which can be accessed from the right-sidebar. A friendly reminder to please read these threads thoroughly before posting super-general (non-specific) questions about training.

If, after browsing through the forum archives (using the category & tag listings in the right sidebar) and using the search box, you still cannot find an answer to your question, feel free to post it to this thread.

Examples of useful details you might include (hat tip to @lakespray for these ideas):

- About how old are you?
- What's your current fitness level, how much are you currently swimming etc?
- Do you consider yourself under, over weight or just right?
- What is your swim background, i.e., did swim competitively and if so at what level?
- When did you last time a 1500m pool swim and how fast did you go?
- What training facilities (pools) do you have access too and what are your open water (OW) training possibilities like?
- How much time can you train per week?
- Will you be able to swim with a team?
- What is your current OW experience?
- How competitive do you want to be in these races? for example just finishing them or do you want to win and at very least be in top five overall or age group etc.
- Do any of these races have web sites with results if so please link one or two of them.
- Generally, what is the water temp for these races?
- Going with or without a wetsuit?


  • Advice on break from training for injury.

    I need some advice please from those of you in the know. I have been training for a 20k open water ( Rottnest channel ) swim for most of 2014 with weekly distances of 10 - 12k. Since October I have pushed up to 20k a week and completed my first 10k ocean swim. I found this swim difficult but managed to complete it.

    Two weeks ago I injured my back ( disc protrusion L4 L5 ) and was ordered complete rest. No lifting, no swimming.......

    Now I have been cleared to return to training after two weeks of physio and stretching. With the swim on the 21st of Feb I am wondering,

    How quick do you lose fitness/strength and how quickly can you get it back?

    Thanks for any advice you might have.
  • mczeemczee Member
    edited May 17

    24 years old, part of a team, some open water experience but no a lot, I want to just finish races

  • IronMikeIronMike Bishkek, KyrgyzstanCharter Member

    Wow, totally missed this thread last year. Sorry to @TerryKeogh for no responses.

    I've had up and downs in my training, mostly because of personal reasons. But now I'm stuck in a place with few options for swimming in the winter. I just got back in the pool a few weeks ago and it took me about a week until I got my wind back, at least to handle an hour of straight swimming w/o pain.

    But speed. Well. I do have experience from a year or so ago. Two years ago I trained pretty hard and averages about 3.4k per hour (good for me). I managed Swim the Suck with no unusual pain or anything like that. In fact felt great enough to push it hard the last 45 minutes (of the 4:44).

    Fast forward a year (to 2014) and with little training at all, my usual (slow) 5K of 1:40-ish turned into a nice round number of two hours. And I felt like I was pushing the same. Still no problem finishing the race, none at all. But I was shocked when I saw the time.

    So I think it'll take time to come back. This is probably moot by now.

    @mczee, if you just want to finish races, then get lots of "horizontal" time. That's what I call it anyway. You want to get used to staying horizontal for quite a while. No stopping at the wall in OW! Do some long slow swims with little to no stopping.

    N.B., that this advice is coming from a very new, inexperienced marathon swimmer whose only marathon swims are in the 10K to 10 mile range.

  • DeemaDeema Member

    Alright I've got a few questions. I'm new to marathon swimming but was a competitive swimmer in the past. It's been about 10 years since I competed and I didn't swim much at all during that time. I'm working on getting my fitness level back up, and I have about 40 extra pounds that I'm working on shedding. I did my first 5k in July but that'll be it for this year as there are no local open water swim races.

    My goals for next year are to do END-WET as well as a couple other shorter swims (5/10k). I'm limited to training 3x per week on my own because of kids and work and my husband's schedule etc. So I can do roughly 1.5 hours on Tues & Thurs and a longer swim on Saturdays.


    1. How often do you do longer swims where you practice feeding and everything? I'm thinking I'll take a vacation day once a month to do a longer swim during the day when there are available pool hours.

    2. When I'm practicing in open water I'm usually by myself. I use a safer swimmer buoy, but I also find myself sighting pretty much every second breath, and sometimes I get into a panicy state realizing how vulnerable I am and also just worrying that I'll swim right into another person/boat. Is this just something you get over? How often do you sight when you're swimming?

    3. Goggles. I've tried a whole bunch of pairs in the last year, and so far they all press on this one area of my eye socket that causes a pounding headache if I'm wearing them for more than 45 minutes or so. When I did my 5k I started feeling nauseated in the last 20 minutes from the headache. Has anyone had this problem and what did you do?

    That's all for now although I'm sure I'll have many more in the future!

  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsMember
    edited August 13

    These kind of goggles are entirely legal by all the channel rules. intex-reef-rider-snorkelbril-kind[1] intex-sea-scan-snorkelbril-kind[1] - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • andissandiss Member
    1. To gain confidence you kind of just need to bite the bullet and keep exposing yourself to different type of conditions. Try to gradually build it up otherwise it will backfire.

    I sight more if i need to sight more - like if you swim in a harbour or if conditions are bad with strong currents.

    I find a personal mantra that you repeat to yourself helps. Can be something simple like - Do NOT think negative thoughts.

    Check this article its runners but you get the point

  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WAMember

    One: Once a week to once a month, depending on time, weather, escort, etc. It helps if you can do it in open water under conditions similar to your big event. It's good to know in advance how your body will react to the time and conditions you expect to encounter.

    Two: I almost always swim with an escort nearby, (or a buddy), but sometimes he's keeping an eye on a bunch of us who are spaced apart by several hundred yards. I think frequency of sighting depends on the amount of potential hazards present. Flat water with no boats in the area, I might only sight every 20-30 strokes. If it's rough and hazards (driftwood, boats, etc.) are present, I probably sight around 6-8 strokes. Sometimes more if there's lots of driftwood, because running into driftwood really sucks.

    Three: My goggles start hurting my eye sockets around 2 hours, so I reward myself with putting them up on my forehead while I feed.


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasMember

    @Deema Glad you're here. And good luck with your marathon swimming career!

    END-WET is a remarkably ambitious goal for your first year out of the gate. I don't want to discourage it, because I don't know you or what you're capable of. However, you might want to enter some shorter events along the way, just in case...

    As to your questions:

    Sighting First, you need to learn to swim straight. This isn't a patronizing statement of the obvious. It is a learned skill that can become natural and instinctive over time if you practice. Spend focused time on each of your OW swims on practicing swimming straight. Here are some ideas:

    (1) Get intimate with your movement in the water. Become more self-aware of your stroke. Take 15 strokes without sighting. Course correct and do it again, and again, and again. Is there a pattern? Why? Feel your stroke. Look at your hands entering. Feel your roll. Feel your pull. Get LONG. What are my legs doing? Am I scissoring or fluttering? Does it change when I breathe on one side? If you have a natural bend one way or the other, figure out why and adapt. Pay attention to how your natural bend changes as you fatigue. Or when you speed up/slow down. A few strokes before you sight, try to guess what you're going to learn when you do sight. Were you right? If not, spend then next 15 strokes trying to figure out why. Then try again.

    (2) Learn to use visual cues all around you, such as sediment in the water, plants/rocks on the bottom (if you have clear vis to the bottom, tilt your head 15 degrees forward and you'll swim straight as an arrow!!), the location of the sun when you breathe (or on bright days, the glare in the water), the direction of waves/chop/wind, the shoreline, adjacent boats/buoys/objects in the water. If you learn to pay attention, there is a wealth of directional information all around you. If you practice being aware of the cues, your awareness becomes almost subconscious. You'll start to "feel" straight or off (tip: "feelings" are not always reliable!!)

    (3) Sight less, not more. Sighting is a crutch. Using it excessively will only increase your reliance on it and atrophy the skills discussed above. If I'm paying attention, I typically sight every 12th stroke (I'm an automatic bilateral breather, so every other left-side breath, I'll sight). If I'm taking a tight turn, approaching an obstacle, or in a dog fight with another swimmer, I'll sight more frequently, even every breath. But most of the time, I'm just cruising along, not paying attention. In which case, I have no idea how often I sight. Not often, though. But I swim very straight.

    Panicky Feeling This will recede. In the meantime, try sticking to the shoreline, perhaps 20 meters off the shore (or off the dock line, if docks) and avoid deep, wide-open crossings where boats are an issue. Fewer boats closer to shore and the boats expect people. Also, try swimming early/late in the day, when there is less boat traffic. In addition to less risk, there is much less (or none) boat noise underwater, such that you can easily hear approaching boats. Alternatively, find an area lake with a very large designated swimming area. There is one about 45 minutes from me with a 500 meter long row of buoys. Not only am I protected from boats (more or less), but I have defined distance markers for pacing/interval sets. I've also used long bridges for a similar purpose (swim along the pilings).

    Long swims in general, my desire is to do one 10K a week year round, but it seems to end up being only around 2 per month. When training for a specific objective, I do more frequent and/or longer long swims. I almost never "practice" feedings or anything else. Out of necessity, I need to feed on long swims, so I try to use the same formula I'll use in an event swim to get used to it and deal with any digestive issues (this is important!). But you might want to do some "rehersal" long swims to figure out dietary needs and to build up your "kit" of extra stuff you might need. I never did much rehearsing, just learned through trial and error, but I didn't start as ambitiously as you are.

    Also, on END-WET (and other swims), you'll be escorted by a kayack. Whole different animal. This DOES require practice, planning, patience and communication. But that is the subject of a whole new post...

  • DeemaDeema Member

    Thanks for the input everyone!

    @Niek - I don't know how anyone can swim with their nose covered in those types of goggles, I get claustrophobic whenever I put them on! I'll keep trying different types of goggles and I'm sure I'll find one that works for me.

    @andiss A mantra might be good. Better than what's currently running through my head during most of my swims - I have young kids and I often get songs from toddler shows stuck on repeat in my brain. Good times.

    @loneswimmer I always find that when I put my goggles up in the middle of a swim I can never get them back on with a good seal or in the right spot. Have you run into this problem?

    @Spacemanspiff Thanks for all of the advice! The year of END-WET would be my 2nd year out of the gate, but still I only got in a 5k this year so it's a big leap from that to a 36 mile swim for sure. I'd like to do some shorter distance swims before it, but this swim season is pretty much over for me since I'm out of money from being on maternity leave. I was looking at the Las Vegas 10k in May, but it looks like they aren't putting it on any more or they're taking a break, I'm hoping they start it back up in 2016 because I have a relative that I could stay with there and enough air miles for the trip.

    Great advice on sighting. I've been practicing closing my eyes in the pool. It's an odd feeling.

  • mjstaplesmjstaples Atlanta, GA, USMember

    Loosen your goggle straps, a lot. That helped my headaches. And as for sighting, end-wet is a pretty narrow river. I just kept my head down and sighted solely off my kayak. I had her on my right and she stayed even or a little behind me about 10 feet or so away. If she got close I knew to pull to the left and if she got far I'd pull to the right. So no need to lift my head until I was near the finish.

  • DeemaDeema Member

    @mjstaples my goggles are already the loosest they'll go, but after my last swim I tried something different...I took my hair out of the pony tail before putting my cap on. I feel like an idiot - my goggles are working a lot better now that the back of my cap is flatter. Maybe I'll get a hair cut before my next event.

    Thanks for the additional info on end-wet. I was curious if I could use the kayak for sighting or if they would just hang back and follow me.

  • swimmer25kswimmer25k Member
    edited September 2
    > Niek said:
    > These kind of goggles are entirely legal by all the channel rules.
    > ![intex-reef-rider-snorkelbril-kind[1]]( "intex-reef-rider-snorkelbril-kind[1]")
    > ![intex-sea-scan-snorkelbril-kind[1]]( "intex-sea-scan-snorkelbril-kind[1]")

    Can you exhale from your nose with those things? I wouldn't think they would be desirable for anything other than snorkeling. I think EVMO likes Swedes (they're awesome in a mass start at protecting your eyes from getting kicked in the face), and I've always used Speedo Sprints. The old Compy goggles were used by a lot of swimmers back in the day.

    My main issue about the "mask"-type goggles are that you don't look very cool or badass when wearing them. If you look the part, people will treat you as such. Look like a dweeb (must have cap on sideways and a stopwatch stuck to the goggle to qualify) and you'll get your feeds stolen, or you're escort will abandon you in shame. :D
  • wendyv34wendyv34 Vashon, WAMember

    LOL!!!! I love those (non-badass) dweebs who wear their caps sideways! Thanks, I can't stop laughing! 8-}


    It's always a bad hair day when you work at a pool.

Sign In or Register to comment.