30 March 2015


During my recent triathlon training I've been including a long swim every fortnight to break up my training sessions and also to build up my distance. Through these long swims I've picked up a couple of tips which I thought I'd share!

1. Break it down
This is something I've found extremely useful - especially if I don't think I'm going to be able to handle a longer swim. 100 lengths of a 25m pool can seem a bit daunting but mentally breaking it up into smaller sections makes it a lot more manageable.
For the 2.5k swims I've been doing, I'' mentally break it down into this:
- 300m Warm Up
- 5 x 400m
- 200 Cool Down
At the end of you'll have swum 2500m but in more manageable sections, rather than saying I'm about to swim 100 without stopping. Although I'm breaking it down I will swim it all at the same pace, sometimes I'll pick up the pace from the halfway point - like you may do in a race scenario.

2. Using a pull buoy
This is just a precaution for if I'm struggling with the distance, but it can help break down the swim again. It's there for variety and to add a bit more of a challenge for the arms. It adds something a bit different to the regular stroke and a chance to have a bit more fun and variety. Although I haven't used it myself during a long swim I always take it with me just encase.

3. Focus on breathing
Although thinking of other things (such as what to have for breakfast - something I commonly think of) can help you get through the set, it's important to focus on your breathing. This focus on the breathing can help the sets fly by as you're not focused on watching the lengths tick away. I normally breathe every four strokes, but I'm also currently working on my bi-lateral breathing.I know people who breathe every two and there are probably those who breathe more than every 4. Find what works for you and work on it. Work on tilting you head to the side rather than lifting it completely out of the water. Bi-lateral breathing can be more beneficial to some and I'm trying to work on it for my open water swims. 

4. Relax your stroke
One of the coaches at my tri club suggested that this may be useful for some on longer swims. It might not be for everyone and isn't probably the best solution if you're aiming for a PB but it can help relax your body and give you a bit of a break. It's basically a fingertip drag (a drill we commonly practice to get high elbows in the water - here's a video for a bit more detail) across the surface of the water. It can help slow down your stroke, but also gives your arm some recovery. 

5. Focus on form
Similar to my point about focusing on breathing, focus on your form. This concentration not only allows the lengths to pass by quicker but it's also an extremely useful time to work on your technique. Concentrate on your kicks, making sure you're utilising your whole leg, from the hip right through to the toes. Focus on the catch and making sure you're pulling all the way through with the stroke. You hand should be pulling back in a straight line rather than wobbling through the water. My form in the water is something I'm still working onbut a strong one will be more effective over longer distances.

So there's just a couple of things I've picked up so far through doing long swims. What are you tips for getting through getting through long distances? Let me know @afloralcrown!

27 March 2015


A couple of posts on this topic which I would highly suggest reading:
Scallywag Sprints - Exercise: Am I an Addict?
These Girls D0 - Exercise Addiction vs Dedication

About a week or so ago now Cathy tweeted bringing up the topic that apparently 5 hours or more of exercise a week could be seen as an addiction. My initial thought was that's slightly crazy and also that if it were true well then I should maybe be a bit worried. My current level of exercise is double that. I'm averaging about 10 hours a week and that's only going to get slowly higher over the next couple of months. Fiona wrote an post on the topic and when it was first published I knew I had an opinion, I just had trouble phrasing my response. I still do but here is my attempt at a reply.

Just to say before I start - this is about my own relationship to exercise and my personal opinion as to whether I am addicted to it or not. I don't think there can ever be a truly definitive answer because there are so many factors and opinions surrounding it. So to give a brief intro - this will summarise my relationship with exercise and how it's impacted and shaped me. Also how I deal with it and whether I think it's having a positive or negative effect on me - both mentally and physically. There won't be a clear cut answer but hopefully my thoughts will make at least a little bit of sense!

In short - I don't think I'm addicted to exercise in a negative way - it it could be said that I'm "addicted" to it at all.

Sports to me is a second nature. It's part of my daily routine. Whether I'm thinking about it or actively participating in itexercising plays a big part of my everyday life. At the moment that second nature is just bigger. I'm training for the biggest event I've ever entered. Daily I'm thinking about moving my body towards that goal.  I've always been this way and exercise has always played a big part in my life and growing up. In Primary school I did sports every weekday - tag rugby, netball, football, cricket and cross country. Secondary school and I remained the same. I was first to change every P.E. lesson, waiting eagerly for the session to begin. Any and every chance I could do sport I would take it. I studied P.E. at both GCSE and A-Level, it was my favourite subject (alongside Media), and for my year at uni I joined the Netball team, trained for my first half marathon and started a runstreak (which today marked day 345). Sports and exercise is well and truly part of who I am.

So there's the positive side. I'm active. It's great for my physical health. I feel strong I'm moving and I would say my body is fit and healthy. Although, because I've been exercising most of my life I've probably caused some damage internally, it might be just a little, but there is the potential for long term damange which I may not notice until I'm older. 

And as for the mental effects?

I feel fantastic when I exercise. But that may be just the endorphin's speaking right? Or is it the fact I'm pushing myself to succeed and when I do
, that victory feels amazing? Lately I've not been my usual self. At all. I don't know what's exactly wrong and that's frustrating in itself. But the one thing I know I'm happy about is that fact that I'm training. Exercise makes me feel good. Yes, it may be those endorphin's kicking in, but at the moment doing some form of activity gives me the chance to clear my head and focus on one thing. Is it bad that I'm relying on those feelings from exercise to combat those down feelings?

I can sometimes be so encompassed by this high that I may not be recognising negative impacts. Pushing myself if I'm ill, beating myself up over the fact I'm having to skip a session and feeling guilty that I do - these are three emotions I've had towards exercising over the past week. Taking rest days is just as important as the training itself and that's something I'm struggling to come to terms with at the moment. You can sometimes be so focused on the fact that you "have to" exercise and start ignoring the signs your body is giving you to not do it. This is when I think the "will to exercise" can sometimes become unhealthy. You need to listen to what your body is sayingsometimes ignoring the training guides and adding in extra rest days is what you need to do. Both your body and mind will thank you for that rest that it clearly needs and wants. 

In terms of where exercise ranks among my priorities - it's fairly high up. At the moment I'm training for an endurance triathlon and it's becoming my main focus. Training sessions take up most of my evenings but I'm also making sure that I make time to see friends. This way I maintain the balance and I don't get completely absorbed by the exercise. My friends sometimes probably think it's a bit weird that I've gotten up at 4am before work to squeeze in a run or that on Sunday I like getting up before sunrise to begin my cycle. But that's what I enjoy doing and I would never think of that as a negative thing. It's my chance to unwind and have escapism. Some people get that from the television, I get mine from moving. 

I think that there is SO much more that I could probably say on this topic but I think I want to try and keep this as brief as possible (which I haven't really managed!). 

I think it's an incredibly interesting topic to look at and discuss. I'd love to know what you think as there is never going to be clearly defined answer to this. Everyone will have an opinion on this and I'd love to know yours. Tweet me @afloralcrown or if you write a post about it send it over! It's a big topic that everyone will have a say on. 
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*photo of Charlie taken by me

20 March 2015


Inspired by the awesome Cathy's post on 64 thoughts on a 64 mile bike ride I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts from my long swim this morning - 15 thoughts for 1.5 miles of swimming fun! 

1. Big push weeeee - 100 lengths and awayyyyy we go.
2. (8th length in) Have I lost count already?! I think I have.
3. I knew I should have gone to the toilet beforehand...
4. Third of the way - you got this!
5. And I haven't miscounted wahoooooo.
6. My goggles have steamed up - but I cannot stop!
7. I've still got to run later *cry*

8. Halfway! Let's try a slightly quicker pace.
9. (2 lengths later) Yep, the other pace definitely felt better. 
10. Why yes, lady in the lane next to me we are racing - you just don't know it. 
11. I can't wait to swim outsidemust remember to get a wet suit
12. 20 lengths to go!
13. Why hello there new swimmer! Welcome to this morning's race.
14. 100 lengths done - woooooooooo!
15. Best do two more.... just incase.

I'm doing a long swim roughly every two weeks as part of my training - today was 2.5k all in one go. I've got a post coming up on dealing with these longer swims,hopefully with a couple of useful tips!