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To train or not to train for the Scilly Swim Challenge 16k

Our regular blogger, City of Derby’s Val Thorpe, fills us in on how she is training for the Scilly Swim Challenge in September.

I had to do training. Lots of training.

Sixteen kilometres is a long way to swim, even over two days. So there was no choice – I had to do some training. Lots of training!

But how do you prepare for something like this?

I’m lucky that I’m a member of a Masters club so the first thing I did was to tell the coaches what I was planning for this season, the events that I had entered, culminating in the Scilly swim.

This enabled them to help me by planning endurance sessions (fortunately there are other crazy swimmers who were happy to do these sessions alongside myself).

Examples of these endurance sessions are the classic ‘pyramid’ sessions (1x400m, 2x200m, 4x100m, 8x50m, 16x25m and then back up the pyramid) and on one glorious day starting with an 800m!

Another favourite of mine was 16x150m, done in blocks of four with each block’s swim/rest time five seconds less than the block before.

I’ve also done lots of sets on strokes other than front crawl. I’m not very good at the other strokes so I have to work hard on them and they allow for much needed variety in training and less chance of overuse injuries occurring. Drills and technique sets also play an important part. Sixteen kilometres is an awful long way to swim with poor technique!

Land-based training

My club has had some issues with pool time this year as one of the city’s pools has been closed so I’ve introduced some land-based training.

Twice a week, I go to a body pump class which consists of weight training to music. It’s a lot of fun and certainly has made me much stronger in the water but I can’t emphasis enough how important it is to have a good instructor who makes sure that you use correct technique.

Val Thorpe performing a bench press

Mine always says: “you can add weight when I tell you that your technique is perfect and not before.”

I’m also trying to do a 30 minute cardio session a week on the rowing machine and finally I’m doing two stretch classes a week.

One is a Pilates class and the other is a combination, Pilates, Yoga and Tai Chi. I find that these classes are the hardest training I do all week because my flexibility is very poor, but I no longer seem to get aches and pains after swim sessions and back ache is a thing of the past.

I hope I’ve given you a small insight into my training, but remember we’re all different so what suits me at my age may not suit you.

Next up are my first two open water events of the year!