This is Part 3 of my Channel Swimming Blogs where I’m sharing some tips and experiences about how to prepare for a 6 person Channel Relay.
As a triathlete I train every day and swim two to three times a week for 2-3km at a time. The first year that I did the channel I did a lot of long swimming. As part of the requirement to have a 2hr swim evidenced and signed off I got it done early in the season. And felt confident.
I didn’t account for the fact that with my five team mates on the boat I might actually swim quite hard for 60min. But plus we need to get to France so it’s not a day out of easy swimming! And even though I could swim for 2 hours. I wasn’t prepared to swim hard for 60min.
Plus it was quite rough and this highlighted that I also didn’t have enough experience swimming in the sea and swimming in rough conditions. The next day my arms were so sore I could hardly put a jumper on! So it does require some preparation and a mixture of fast and long swimming.
I also found having to get in and out and back in again one of the hardest things! So this is something worth practicing just so you know what to expect.
Ideally you’d be swimming at least three times a week for 2000-3000m at a time for most of the year. Through the winter these can be in the pool and each session can have a different focus. I usually split them so 1 session is focused on endurance with longer less intense intervals, one session is more focused on technique with more drills and one session is focused on speed with shorter harder intervals
When the open water season starts, add in at least one session a week outdoors. If you can add greater but don’t make them all your open water swims long and slow. Follow the same format for indoor training with one endurance, one speed and one technique to give you some variety and structure.
Your main open water session will be about building endurance and tolerance of the cold. But it’s also worth doing some harder open water sessions with hard intervals mixed in so that you have the skill and fitness to swim like this outdoors as well as indoors.
During the open water season maintain at least one session a week in the pool focused on technique otherwise it’s quite easy for your technique to unravel.
If the cold is a challenge for you then start in open water as soon as the main season starts to get acclimatised. Start with just 15 or 20min and build up slowly. While your outdoor open water swims are short due to the cold maintain your training volume indoors in the pool so you don’t lose any fitness and gradually transition to the outdoors.
Regular outdoor swims most weeks is what will help you to tolerate the cold, get accustomed to it but and give you the confidence that you can deal with it.
Other things to include in your preparation is some sea swimming, some swimming in the dark and your change over. None of these things are hugely hard just good preparation and helps to know what to expect. But also there was a relay team that got this wrong last year and broke the rules so their swim was stopped.
Being in the team is part of the experience and the fun!
Look out for Part 4 and sample training plan.