Yesterday, was Earth Day. And the March for Science. And for me, it was the chance to finally complete a long-time personal swimming challenge: the Swim Around Lido Key.  The swim is a 7 mile swim around the island of Lido Key, located off the coast of Sarasota, FL.

I had heard about the swim a year ago when I was training for my Swim Around Key West. I was all set to check the Swim Around Lido Key off my swimming bucket list last year, but unfortunately the weather was not in my favor and the swim got cancelled.

So this year was my year for redemption.

I began my training in February, focusing on swim practices and some health and fitness related 30-Day Challenges including: Getting Fit and Going Paleo.   Going into yesterday’s swim, I felt confident and ready.  My actual experience, however, was a battle.  By Mile 3, the water had a surface chop that made it difficult to keep a straight line and sight, my motivation started getting tested around Mile 5 and by Mile 6, the final mile, an intense current  had developed that was not in my favor, making it the longest and most exhausting (and frustrating) final mile of the whole swim.

In the end, I successfully completed the swim but it was far more mentally and physically demanding than I was  expecting.  In honor of the 7 mile behemoth swim, here are the 7 lessons I learned from that experience.

  1. Find Your Motivation– This challenge spanned 3 months of hard work.  There were a lot of days that I didn’t want to work out, and during the swim there were plenty of moments where I wanted nothing but to give up and quit.  What kept me going was the voice that stirred inside me reminding why I was putting myself through this torture.
  2. Swim Early and Often– This goes without saying. For a big, physical challenge the training and work leading up to it is critical.  In post-race reflection, I could have benefited from starting my training sooner and pushing a little harder in some practices.
  3. Listen to Your Body– If I can identify the biggest difference between my training for the Swim Around Key West last year and my training for the Swim Around Lido Key this year, it was that I learned to listen to my body.  Knowing the difference between muscle soreness from a hard workout versus muscle aches or pains from potential injury is really critical.
  4. Train Your Brain– I neglected to do as many long swims in my training this year, in the end I think that caused me to lose focus on the actual race day.  Having a waning attention span or unfocused brain is difficult to deal with on race day, but it is definitely something that can be trained.
  5. Diversify– Early in April, I noticed that I was really struggling to stay motivated. I was bored with my workouts and as a result, I started losing interest in practice.  First, change up your sets (the style, the pace, the distance), which helps not just with motivation but also by activating different muscle groups. Secondly, change the type of workouts. I probably could have done with more workouts out of the pool, working on strengthening on my core, my arms and my back.
  6. Be Confident, but Not Too Confident– Having completed my swim around Key West last year, which was a 12.5 mile swim, I went into this training feeling very confident.  This swim around Lido Key was 5.5 miles less than Key West so I felt like I could scale back on my training.  The lesson here is that shorter distance does not automatically make for an easier challenge. Open water swimming can be unforgiving and unpredictable.
  7. Just Keep Swimming– No matter how difficult, determination and tenacity can be some of your best allies.
Advertisements