Jump on in, the water is warm!
From many Rhapsody athletes, we field questions about how to enhance conditioning and improve endurance without putting excess strain on those joints – we are here to tell you it’s time to get your feet wet and add swim training to your routine.
To keep you from falling off the deep end, we brought in swimming expert Emma Gage.
Like a fish to water, Emma grew up in the lap lane competing at the youth National level in England. At 16, however, her swim career seemed to sink due to a succession of injuries that resulted in an early retirement from the sport.
While attending university, she found her way to a CrossFit class and, like the rest of us, was in hook, line and sinker.
On a day like any other, a dear friend asked for help to get in shape for a masters swimming competition. Although she hadn’t swam in nearly 10 years, Emma felt strong, fit and confident from her CrossFit regimen – if nothing else, she figured it would be a fun challenge.
Soon, she found herself beating her lifetime personal bests with no formal swim training. Shocked, but on to something, Emma signed up for a masters swimming team.
Thus began the grand experiment of combining CrossFit and swimming.
IN HER WAKE
Over the next year, Emma shot her way back to Nationals and qualified for the World Masters Swimming Championships in Kazan, Russia (2015) where she won 3 gold medals, 2 silver medals and broke 2 world records.
Having qualified for the 2016 Olympic Trials, she reunited with her old coach and advanced to two final events – missing out on consideration for the Olympic team by a mere 0.17 of a second.
Although the near-miss was heartbreaking, Emma was proud of her performance swimming the fastest she’d ever swam in her life. The experience ignited a passion for marrying CrossFit and swimming for elite fitness training.
“Swimming combined with CrossFit is a phenomenal way to train – it will develop your engine, your endurance, and your ability to keep going during a workout.”
A blur of bubbles in the pool, Emma is also a decorated coach holding a L2 in Swim Training from Swim England along with her CL-1, Gymnastics, Weightlifting and Running CrossFit certifications. She has been a full-time coach at M Squared Fitness in Manchester, England for three years running and launched SwimWOD, bespoke swimming training for athletes, in 2017.
Bringing her brilliance across the pond, the program Emma writes for Rhapsody Fitness includes weekly workouts with 3 levels of difficulty for you to choose from (sound familiar?), so there’s always a place for you to begin and find your edge.
In addition to jumpstarting your stamina, swimming is delightfully low-impact on the body. If you are working through any “niggles” or nagging injuries and aches, swim training is a stellar way to get in solid work while taking some pressure off those pain points.
First and foremost, understand that being in the water is an entirely different experience with a special focus on challenging your conditioning and learning to control your breathing.
Emma recommends to start by setting three types of goals – an overall goal which may take months or even years to accomplish; some moderate goals to be milestones on the path to your overall goal; and quick wins to keep you motivated along the way.
“I think if you only set one really hard goal with no clear path along the way, it can easily become disheartening and will feel impossible to get there. So allow yourself mini goals too that will make you feel good and show you that you’re making progress.”
For example, your overall goal is to swim a mile (1600m) unbroken whereas you can swim 50m unbroken today. To get to your mile, your moderate goals might be to swim 4 x 400m or 8 x 200m, which totals a mile, but still with some intentional rest. Your smaller goals might be to add a length on to your current max total each time you try it – so week 1 you do 50m, week 2 you do 75m, week 3 you do 100m, etc…
Weekly swim workouts are available on SugarWOD under the SwimWOD option in the dropdown programming tracks menu.
JUST KEEP SWIMMING
When it comes to mindset, swimming is simply more of a solo sport, so when the going gets tough, you have to find that drive to keep going within yourself.
“Swimming is less sociable than other sports, and when you are actually training there is no music, you can’t hear anyone encouraging you, so you HAVE to be able to motivate yourself.”
Emma’s parting words of wisdom for us minnows is to jump in and enjoy.
“Training should be fun and it should make you happy. If it’s not doing that, have a rethink about how you can make it enjoyable again.”
She also adds to make sure you hydrate as you do still sweat while swimming and add a pinch of salt to your water to avoid pasky cramps.
Interested in learning more about swimming with Emma? Follow her on Instagram at @SwimWODOfficial or reach out to Team Rhapsody today.