Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Deal With "Swim Brain"

This post originally appeared int he 8 Bridges Hudson River Swim blog
That swim you signed up for in December is here. It seemed like such a wonderful idea as snow fell gently outside, while Bing Crosby crooned on the radio, and visions of sugar plums danced in your head. But now, those sugar plums turn to mush, as the Hudson warmed to a nice 70F. 8 Bridges is here, and you can’t help but be a little (or a lot) scared.
Pre-swim nerves are common, understandable, and can help, but the days leading up to a swim can be a game of mental gymnastics I like to call Swim Brain (trademark pending). Swim Brain makes it tough to focus on anything else (school, work, loved ones, not missing your stop on the train) because there is a portion of your brain solely devoted to your swim. It can be awful! As a habitual planner and over thinker, I have a few techniques that help me deal with Swim Brain  that I hope can help you too!
  • DO NOT check every five minutes
The weather is out of your control. Worrying about the wind speed and direction will not help at all. It is so tempting to look, but try to avoid it! Rondi and Dave are the most competent race directors on the planet, and will be doing plenty of weather watching for you!
  • Pack and unpack and repack your gear
When you feel the urge to check the weather, go to that swim bag and pack/repack it. It will help you make sure you have everything you need. Spare goggles? Sunscreen? Lucky stuffed pig you’ve had since you were 7… wait, somehow I think that one is just me.
Monmouth County Swimming Championships 1997
  • Make it a Blockbuster night
Sit your butt down and watch a movie! It will help your muscles rest and help your mind focus on something other than the swim ahead. Some personal favorites…
  • Paint with all the colors of the wind
Commune with nature! Sit under your favorite tree. Walk your favorite trail. Take a relaxing, non training dip in the ocean. Get outside and reflect on how beautiful the Earth is, and how lucky we are to get to swim in the most beautiful river in the world!
Grandmother Willow! I’ve come to talk to you!
  • Journal
Why do you think I am writing this right now!? My Swim Brian is off the charts! All I want to do is jump in the water, but I still have days to wait! It will help to get those feelings on paper, and be really fun to read after the swim. It is also a good time to reflect on all the little steps that got you here. All the people you met along the way, the fun and challenging training swims, delicious post-swim meals, the good swims and the bad.
Hopefully some of this helps you as we being the final countdown to 8 Bridges 2016! Wishing you all swift currents, delicious feeds, and a happy swim.
Hold fast,

What’s On the Menu?

This post originally appeared in the #TeamSelkie blog
I am taking a page out of fellow #TeamSelkie marathon swimmer Stuart Hacker’s playbook, and writing an informative post on a technical component of marathon swimming. Today’s hot topic: nutrition during a swim, commonly referred to as “feeds.” Feeds are are not one size fits all by any means! Some types of feeds will work great for you, but not so great for other swimmers. This is why it is extremely important to try out your feeds well before a swim, and see how they make you feel. That being said, this advice is based on my own experience, and I am not promoting any particular product or feeding plan.
What are some popular feeds for marathon swimmers? Where do I even start?
Every swimmer is different! Some rely solely on liquid feeds, others eat sport gels, and some eat real solid food, like doughnuts and sardines (true story!). A great place for swimmers to start is with sports gels.. I started with these because they taste great and are easily transported by tucking them in the back of your swim cap (see photos below) or in your suit. This easy means of transport makes them great for events when you don’t have a support boat or kayak, but still may need a little boost. From there, the world is (literally) your oyster! Try anything that you can swim while digesting and tastes good.
Image 20-05-2016 at 10.10 (1)
Image 20-05-2016 at 10.10
Image 20-05-2016 at 10.10 (2)
How should I practice feeding?
Ideally, you should practice feeds in an environment that will closely mimic your swim. You have to be able to eat while treading or laying on your back, what I call otter style. Doing this does take some used to, so try to practice it before your event. If open water is not an option, feeding on the pool deck is fine, just try not to break too many rules. I found that eating a gel in the locker room right before I started my workout, or in the middle of it, worked well.
How often should I feed?
Most swimmers feed every 30 minutes. It really helps break a long swim down into increments. Instead of thinking, “I have hours of swimming ahead of me,” your mindset becomes “Just make it 30 minutes until your next feed.” This is why taste is really important for me. You want to look forward to your feeds! It will really help the mental game. However, this is marathon swimming, and conditions may not always allow a feed, but I do not like to go more than 45 minutes between feeds.
How much should I be consuming per feed?
This is a tough one! Since everybody’s metabolic rate is different, everyone requires a different number of calories. My coach has always told me to feel “topped off,” not hungry, but also not exceedingly full. This is why practicing feeds before a swim is so important. The more practice, you will start to figure out what your body needs. Once you experience a long swim on a nearly empty stomach, you will not make that mistake again.
Laura, what do you eat in the water?
I like my feeds to be easy for my kayaker to handle, but also have some variety. This is a copy of a feed plan from my swims last summer. Color coded!
Feed 1 (0:30)- Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Feed 2 (1:00)- Chia Vitality and Water
Feed 3 (1:30)- Carbo Pro/ Nuun Kona Cola
Feed 4 (2:00)- Applesauce and Water
Feed 5 (2:30)- Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Feed 6 (3:00)- Applesauce and Water
Feed 7 (3:30)- Carbo Pro/ Nuun Kona Cola
Feed 8 (4:00)- Applesauce
Feed 9 (4:30)- Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Feed 10 (5:00)- Peanut Butter M&M’s
Feed 11 (5:30)- Carbo Pro/ Nuun Kona Cola
Feed 12 (6:00)-Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Feed 13 (6:30)-Carbo Pro/ Nuun Kona Cola
Feed 14 (7:00)-Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Feed 15 (7:30)-Carbo Pro/ Nuun Kona Cola
Feed 16 (8:00)-Carbo Pro/Nuun Tropical
Carbo Pro is an amazing carbohydrate drink that mixes with water. It does not have a distinctive flavor, so I like to mix it with Nuun tablets. The tablets provide some vitamins, but most importantly, delicious flavors. The Chia Vitality is for a little bit of protein, and comes in a handy little squeeze packet. My childhood favorite applesauce comes in very handy! I use GoGo Squeeze brand applesauce because they are very easy to eat in the water, and taste great. My favorite feed is peanut butter M&Ms. The amount of joy and excitement that this feed brings after 4 or 5 hours of swimming is almost indescribable. If you find yourself in the States or a duty free shop in an airport, I highly recommend picking them up.
Hold fast,