How Else Do I prepare for a swim like this?

I am a firm believer, and advocate of a couple of sayings that get banded around fairly regularly. One of them is – “What the mind conceives, the body will achieve.”  I truly advocate that our mind is, possibly, our most powerful ally when it comes to training for something like this. I also believe that it can also be our most destructive liability.

On these points , training your mind for something like this is – I think – more important than training your body. So how might you do this.

1 –  POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. When talking about any challenge, I am not ATTEMPTING this swim, I am DOING this swim. Notice the difference? The First option gives my mind, and body, a way out. You might as well give up now. The second option is very positive, not leaving the mind in any doubt about the outcome.

 2 – VISUALISE. Your mind’s eye can be the best and most productive place to create a mental movie of you succeeding. I used this to great effect when I Swam the channel. About 20 min each day I played a movie in my mind of me swimming to France. The outcome was always the same – I got across. The movie itself changed every time, envisioning any catastrophe/hardship that my imaginative mind could come up with. Rough seas, tankers, jellyfish, storms, sickness, you name it, if I could imagine it, I played it out how I would tackle the issue.

3 – BREAK IT DOWN – In my experience, I never ever swim 10 miles or 18 miles or any long swim. I swim an hour at a time, or however long till my next feed. If I sit at the start of a long swim and try tell my mind that I will be swimming to some point over the horizon, that I cannot even see, it, like a lot of people I know, would just laugh at me and tell me that I am nuts. You have no Idea how Nuts I really am.

4 – Tear Down those SELF IMPOSED LIMITATIONS. Any limits we put on ourselves are put there by our mind and our belief in ourselves. I started off with many limitations that over life I had convinced myself were true. I can’t swim those distances, I hate Salt water, I will get bored, I have no focus, my body will pack up on me, I will get sick. These and many many more were what I once thought of myself. Over time I have broken those down and surpassed ALL of them without any issues.

Right now I am not doing the longer distances due to time constraints. I do not need to as I KNOW I can cover all those distances, I KNOW how my body will react and at what times it will start to complain. I know this by only doing a few ultra distance swims and I now know how to handle them. I also know how to deal with my mind when it has a hissy fit in the middle of some lake. I ask it one question. “Are you thinking of giving up because you PHYSICALLY cannot carry on? Or MENTALLY cannot carry on?” if the answer is the latter, my mind gets a bit of a beating (metaphorically) and I skulk off with my ego properly beaten.

5 – Remaining Injury free is always going to be an uphill struggle, both in training for these sort of distances, and also during the events. Happily, I can say that through all my endurance training and events, I have only taken 1 ibuprofen tablet. I have often been asked how it is moving from average distances to marathon distances. I personally do not condone hammering out BIG distances every week in training. these need to be built up and you will be amazed at how quickly this can be done. I do however condone that it is imperative to do a couple of long swims as part of your training.

My reasons for doing this are to realise when your body will start to show problems. In my experience, there are certain times when my body will start to rebel and, for me, I know what is going to start complaining, oddly enough, the first thing to go for me is my right elbow at about 4 – 5 hours. At about 7 hours my shoulders are starting to burn and between 8 and 9 hours my mind starts to go. Knowing when this is going to happen and, more importantly knowing how to deal with them, is – I believe – key to this game. So how do I deal with it?


Ok, I now envision many of you thinking “What planet is this guy on?” Stop reading if you want but, alternatively, you may learn something. I come back to my initial statement, that, Our mind is, possibly, our most powerful ally. It, like any other muscle, can be trained

In my mind, I have a set ot minions, helpers that are a constant in my body, a bit like a herd of Travelling paramedics. In my imagination, they carry everything they need to deal with pretty much anything I can imagine. They are constantly at the sites of most distress throughout all my swims doing Whatever I deem necessary to alleviate the pain. Anything I can imagine, that might help with the problems is used. I often give the pain a physical attribute that I can relate to and then fix the physical aspect of it ( e.g Imagining my pain as a sea Urchin with lots of spikes and my minions then remove the spikes until I am just left with a smooth ball) Sound Crazy?? I thought exactly that as well when I was first told about it. I had nothing to lose if I gave it a try ,so I did and it has made a huge difference.

The above is just a few things that I do with regard to training my mind. It is this organ which controls our whole body so there is no harm in testing it and you will be amazed and how we can alter our perception on just about anything once we throw away some of the self-imposed limitations that we ALL harbour.