Spoons, Sacrifice and Channel Training

Training for a channel swim, no matter which channel it is, is tough. Its mentally and physically hard and involves multiple sacrifices and as odd as it may sound, my biggest sacrifice so far have been my river swims and dips.

Now, that may seem bizarre, given that I’m training for a swim in open water but after a lot of thought into my training I decided that as amazing as swimming in the river is and as fantastic as it makes me feel, it’s not hugely beneficial for me right now.

A lot of people that live with a chronic illness, including me, use ‘the spoon theory’.

When you’re healthy you have ‘spoonfuls’ of energy and probably won’t realise that your day is full of choices, from if you have a shower to what you cook for dinner. When you live with a chronic illness you don’t have that luxury. You have to conserve your energy/spoons but every activity you do takes away spoons and that is where the Spoon Theory comes in.

Let me explain:

People with chronic illnesses start each day with a handful of spoons, representing how much mental and physical energy they have that day. Each activity you do uses a certain number of spoons and the amount you have changes each day, depending on how you have slept, what you did the day before and what your pain levels are.

Swimming in cold water uses more energy than when the water is warmer. This is a proven fact, although you’re in the water for less time, the warming up process uses a lot of energy and when the water was very cold, like it is now, I was exhausted after every swim. 

That would mean if I did an open water swim, I wouldn’t be able to do a productive pool swim or any other form of training on the same day. For me, where I am in my training at the moment is a problem. 

Below I show you how I assessed both pool and open water swims right now and concluded that, sadly, open water isn’t particularly beneficial for me at the moment.

Open Water Swimming:

Sorting swim stuff out (including warming up things)2
Walk/Push to river3
Getting changed and into the river4
Swim (250m)3
Getting out the river and changed3
Walk/Push home3
Shower & warming up process4

Pool Swim Session:

Sort swim kit out and pack1
Travel to pool2
Get changed and in the pool2
Pool swim (2500m)5
Get out, showered and changed3
Travel Home2

As you can see, doing an open water swim uses a lot more spoons than popping to the pool for a 2.5km training swim. As a result, until the water warms up and I can stay in the water for around an hour, the energy I would use in getting to and warming up from a river swim can be put to better use in longer and harder pool sessions.

This obviously won’t last forever, and I want to be back in open water as soon as possible but for now, the swimming pool will have to do.

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