Training for a marathon swim is always going to be slightly different from person to person- dryside activities vary and pre event tapering is very personal, but there are some golden rule tips that apply to everyone. The Kaiwi is a challenge for swimmers whether solo or relay.
More than any other sport, emotional and psychological preparation is vital to completing a marathon swim. You are going to be in sensory deprivation AND isolation for hours. The impact of that cannot be stressed enough.
My rule of thumb is:
First 6hours 75%body, 25%mind- your physical training is at the top of your priorities, you’re relying on your technique. Your body is just beginning to eat into it’s reserves.
Second 6hrs 50%mind 50%body the switch to internal fuel storage affects your fluctuating moods. Introversion puts anything experienced in the first 6hrs to shame. Cyclical mood swings can be greatly affected by correct fuelling timing. Mental exhaustion can halt you in your tracks, hence mind coming first.
Third 6hrs 50%body 50%mind Body comes first, technique comes back into play, although it may be very different. Conditioning is key here- you need to have had physical and mental toughness training planned in advance- sleepless nights followed by hard sessions in the morning and fasting all day to train hard in evening prepare your body and mind to cope with operating well under duress.
Fourth 6hrs 75%mind 25%body If you are in this region, your body is stripped, your power feels like it’s only maintaining. Get the mind right and you can be happy ticking along. There is more strength in there, and it will be your strength of mind that gives you oomph when required.
Efficiency of stroke is more important that speed for a marathon swim, so flexibility and core strength are vital. Yoga, pilates and massage are your best friends.
As is lung efficiency- if you can’t do altitude training or free diving (both increase lung efficiency) then breathing pattern switches are excellent: in the pool- 1 length sprint 3stroke/breath then no rest, 1 length 7- or even 9 stroke pattern. Rest 10secs. Then repeat. Or in open water, 3breaths 3stroke pattern, 5 breaths 5 stroke pattern, 7 breaths 7stroke pattern, 9 likewise if you can, then pyramid down again. These exercises increase your oxygen conversion. Bilateral breathing will make you more balanced and even through the water, but also allows you to breathe away from any chop.
Don’t neglect your kick! It gives your arms a well-earned break and if things go wrong, can get you to the other side! Try distance with a kick board- work up to 45mins kick only maintaining a decent speed.
Train in rough water, and swim through tides (make sure you have support alongside) as the Kaiwi is renowned for its current and training for the frustration of not getting anywhere cannot be replicated in the pool!
A sample workout
• 200m medium paced front crawl warm up
then stroke improvement sets-
8x50m FC (front crawl) kick only; rest for 20secs between each 50m
4x100m FC arms only; every other 100m use resistance paddles; rest 20secs between
500m FC swim steady hard pace
into workout proper sets (cardio and lung stress)
4x100m kick only hard pace; rest 10secs between sets(as training progresses, do 10 pull ups on poolside in ‘rest’)
8x50m arms only hard pace; every other 50m use resistance paddles, rest 10secs between sets sets (as training progresses, do 10 sit ups with feet on poolside in ‘rest’)
8x25m FC swim SPRINTS rest 30secs each 25m
50M butterfly swim, 50m fly kick only, 50m fly arms only,50m fly swim rest 30secs repeat
200m front crawl swim down, medium pace