Tag Archives: motivation

I’m swimming the channel tomorrow

Of course I’m not swimming the actual channel, but I will be starting the Aspire Channel Challenge.

The challenge is to swim the same distance as a channel crossing (22 miles) in your local pool over a 12-week period. It starts tomorrow (12th Sept) and runs until 5th December.

I’ve been struggling with a back injury this year so I haven’t done much swimming, so it really does feel like a challenge to complete the distance. However, I’ve been swimming a few times and I think I’ll be able to give it a good go.

Although my back is a bit better, it’s a long way from being right, so I’m easing myself into gently. At the moment my swim routine is as follows:
– 100m warm-up
– 4 x 250m swim
– 100m cool down

I’m hoping to gently increase both the total distance I can swim, as well as the distance I swim in one go, so I’ll increase those middle swim sets by 50m every couple of weeks.

The total number of lengths I need to complete to ‘swim the channel’ is 1416, while the above set is 48. So based on that, I’ll need to swim an average of 2.5 times every week for the duration of the challenge.

One of my personal reasons for doing the swim this year is to help with my motivation (to make me go to the pool 2 or 3 times per week), so for that reason, I’ve donated £22 to the cause (£1 per mile). I’d be really grateful if you could spare a few pennies too – please go here to sponsor me: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patrick-smith-2016-aspire-channel-swim


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I’ve done it

My plan for 2015 was to complete 1,600kms – and after this morning’s swim I have crossed that threshold.

The distance isn’t the actual distance travelled during my training and events in 2015 as I use an algorithm to try and equal out the three main activities I partake in – swimming, running and cycling. As I’m mainly a swimmer, it didn’t seem fair on me to compare distances with runners for example. Yet nor did it seem fair to just do lots of cycling to boost the numbers. So the 1,600kms distance is a ‘normalised’ running distance for the year as I multiply any swimming distances by three, and divide any cycling distance by four.

So my totals for the year so far (I plan to do another session tomorrow):

Swimming: actual – 408.66kms; adjusted – 1,225.98kms
Running: actual – 270.17kms
Cycling: actual – 447.27kms; adjusted – 111.82kms
Total: actual – 1,126.10kms; adjusted – 1,607.96kms

I’m pretty pleased with that. Well over 1,000 kilometres in actual distance covered and a whole day to spare in hitting the target. But all of this is with a complete lack of motivation in June and July (after the big swim in May), which meant that to complete the target my top three months (in order) were October, December, November.

Update 31/12/15

After today’s session my final totals are: 1,145.8kms actual and 1,620.56kms adjusted.

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I talk quite a lot about the community of swimmers in my presentations and I mentioned it on the radio the other week too. Over the last few weeks in the disappointment following my Windermere swim I’ve had chance to witness it first hand.

One of the most obvious ways was in the support I received at the end of the swim itself. For many people the fact that I suffered and took longer than I had anticipated made it an even better swim. I received plenty of pats on the backs and hugs and people wanted to congratulate for overcoming it all and completing the swim. At the time I couldn’t really accept it all as I felt like a failure. But the community of swimmers understands that it is actually the swims that you complete even when what feels like your entire being is begging you to quit – those are the ones that take a greater effort and should be recognised as a greater achievement. So apologies to anyone I may have brushed off that evening.

This community and show of support was repeated online. Again I brushed it off at the time, and while I’m still not happy with my swim (or myself), I can now see what people mean.

But even greater than that is the fact that some of the stars of the support are willing to help others out. Soon after the swim I reached out and asked a two-time channel swimmer if I could have some of her time to chat to her about where I went wrong and what I can do to put it right. She responded almost immediately and was very generous with her time and advice.

I do feel better after the swim now and am starting to plan for next year – thanks in part to the great community of swimmers I feel lucky to be part of.

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Training plans

I’ve finally got round to creating some swimming training plans, so I thought I’d share them with you.

A couple of weeks ago I devised a weekly plan – when to train and what exercise I’m doing. (Of course since then I haven’t been able to stick to it all, but that’s a whole other story). However, what I hadn’t done is define what I was going to do in the pool each time I went.

Normally I tend to alternate between doing speed endurance sessions, or just getting in the pool and swimming until it is time to get out. However, I’m aware that it would be a good idea to work on my technique a bit (especially my lack of rotation on my right side; and how my left hand lifts up as I stretch it out). So I wanted to create some sessions that would still be fun, would still feel like a ‘proper’ work out and would be manageable on my own.

I’ve split my sessions into four main areas:

– Warm-up / Cool down – as the names suggest, just gentle swimming, but I’ve added in some breaststroke and the use of the pull buoy and kickboard to mix it up a bit.

– Technical – drills suggested to me by Trish, one of the Swimtrek guides.

– Speed – or rather in my case, it’s about speed endurance. It’s not about the maximum speed I can swim, it’s about being able to hold a good speed for as long as possible.

– Swim – just some time in each session to just get some lengths in.

I had six different technical drills suggested to me, so I’ve created six different programmes, each programme working on four of the drills – in that way I get to mix it up and don’t get too bored of them. Then for the other areas I had two options for each, so just tossed a coin to see which one I’d do with that particular technical session.Once I planned the sessions I printed them out and laminated each of them (I had a bit of help cutting them out and laminating them from my son). Each time I go to the pool I’ll take one of these cards at random. In this way I’m hoping that I’ve got some sessions that keep me both interested and guessing.

Six [hopefully] interesting traing plans.

Six [hopefully] interesting training plans.


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Big Week

This is going to be quite a big swimming week for me as I put in the last hard training before the indoor 10km swim I’ve got coming up on Sunday 23rd.

My plan for this week is to swim a combined distance of 20km – obviously over the course of a number of sessions – and I’ll then rest (or taper) the following week, with just a couple of gentle swims / gym sessions.

One of the difficulties of swimming compared to running is the fact that you need a pool to swim in (or lake in the summer) and it has to be open and free for you to use – you are much more at the whim of other people’s schedules. So one of the hardest aspects of this week will be the planning. My pool opens sporadically for lane swimming and most of the slots it has are when I’m meant to be working. Anyway, my plan is to swim Wednesday & Friday mornings (the pool is open for 2 hours) and then top-up at the weekend.

It all started last night with a c. 1hr 30min swim. I’m not going to be counting laps, but instead working on a time basis to assume my distance.

My normal casual swim pace is now at 1:55 / 100, so for these sessions I’m going to round that up to 2:05 / 100 or 21mins per 1km. That gives me the chance to nip out to the loo, stop and take a drink, get stuck behind slower swimmers, or just ease off a little if I want. Last night I managed 1hr 24mins before they closed the pool, so at that assumed pace – exactly 4km.

Bring on the rest of the week.


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Monday’s swim set

I’m going to start to write up a few of the sets that I do. There are two main reasons for this, the first is that it will act as a reminder for me if I need to devise sets again, the second is that it will provide benchmarks that I can test myself against.

Monday mornings are often quite busy in the pool as the four lanes are reduced to three as the swimming club takes up one lane. So it’s not always possible to lots of short sets (you can lose your “spot” in the lane and so are swimming into the toes of slower swimmers, or having faster swimmers do the same to you). So this week I decided to do some longer, timed sets.

– 1km, non-stop – 18 mins 30

– 1km, 5x200m – 17 mins 50

– 1km, non-stop – 19 mins 29

I enjoyed that as a session and now have a new goal to beat 19 minutes, then 18, then 19 again for the above session.

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100 #LETJOG14 kilometres this month

It’s only the 20th of the month and I’ve already hit the 100km mark for the month. To be honest I’m pretty damn pleased with that.

For those of you not of a mathematics persuasion, that’s 5kms per day on average.

Of course for me, much of it has been swum rather than run, the breakdown is:

– Swimming – 24.4kms
– Running – 12.94kms
– Cycling – 68.09kms
– Total (according to my algorithm) – 103.16

I’m just 13.5kms away from hitting the total required for the month – and I should do most of that during my swim tomorrow morning. If I keep going at this pace I could catch up everything I missed in January and be just ahead of the target required to complete the challenge in the year. That said, there’s a danger that I might be in Barcelona for the whole of next week with work (I was just planning to be out there for two days), so that might scupper the plans a little. Even so, I’m pleased with where I’m at right now.

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#Febathon week 2

Half way through the week I almost failed. I nearly ignored Febathon after a tough day in London, but, as this post proves, I sucked it up and embraced the spirit of Febathon.

Slightly ironic then that the very next day (Wednesday) I genuinely forgot and therefore did nothing! I should have planked and done some press ups in my hotel room in London that morning, but clearly not learning from the night before’s almost failure I didn’t and planned to do it that evening. It wasn’t until the following morning that I realised that I’d forgotten. But that aberration then gave me the licence to have another blank day on Thursday.

So two blank days, but here are the full weekly stats (Mon 10th – Sun 16th):

– Planked – 60 seconds
– Press ups – 30
– Swimming – 9.85kms
– Running – 2.81kms
– Cycling – 16.65kms
– #LETJOG14 total – 36.52kms

I’m now 13.6kms ahead of February’s #LETJOG14 total – although still behind in total after falling behind in January.


Filed under Cycling, Motivation, Running, Swimming

My own personal #Febathon

Unfortunately I was ill in January and so I couldn’t complete Janathon. But I loved the idea of it and the focus and discipline that it brings, so I wanted to try and recreate that on my own. And so #Febathon was born.

As you can tell, I’m not blogging every day, and I certainly don’t have the great support of the Janathon community. But I do have my own determination and the rules of the ‘athon to keep me going. Those rules are quite simple – do some specific and dedicated exercise every day (ie don’t count something you would do anyway). And so far in February I’ve stuck to those rules:

– Sat 1st – we went to watch the world record swim, so it was just planking and press ups
– Sun 2nd – I went for a run, an actual run in the outdoors and everything
– Mon 3rd – a swim session, but I wasn’t feeling great, so just 2.4km
– Tues 4th / Weds 5th – a couple of days in London for work, but I planked and did press ups on both days
– Thurs 6th – a gym session, which includes the bike and the treadmill (as well as a set of core strength exercises)
– Fri 7th – a swim session and this one felt good – 3.4km
– Sat 8th – a quick [stationary] bike session followed by a quick swim

And later today I plan to do a gym session, followed by a quick swim.

The totals so far are:

– Planked – 270 seconds
– Press ups – 120
– Swimming – 7.05kms
– Running – 5.87kms
– Cycling – 23.88kms
– #LETJOG14 total – 32.99kms

I’m currently 0.34kms behind my monthly target (not including the amount I was behind in January), but I should be well ahead of the pace after tonight’s gym session.

Getting there… slowly.

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#LETJOG14… I’m in

One of my Twitter friends (I’m not actually sure we’ve met in real life), Dan has decided on a new challenge for 2014 – he’s going to run from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

Or, more to the point, he’s going to run the equivalent distance (c. 1,400kms) over the course of the year. The idea is very simple, any training runs or events are counted to the running [geddit?] total, with the idea that the total distance has been completed by 31st December 2014.

So, in my own way, I’m going to join in. I’m not going to be doing much running, but I will use the same algorithm I use for the 1,000kms challenge I’ve set myself over the last few years. Quite simply I will double any swimming distance, divide by three any cycling distance and then keep any running distance the same. To complete the challenge within the year I will need to complete an average of just under 27kms per week. That’s a lot, especially as I haven’t even managed to complete the 1,000kms challenge as yet and here I am adding an extra 400kms to that total (or an extra 7kms per week). But it’s worth a go and it will help me through the early months of the year – and then the Autumn / Winter months when I don’t have an actual event to train for.

As part of the entry I will be updating my distance every Sunday – by blogging here (although not every Sunday) and posting on Twitter using the hashtag #LETJOG14. I also need to answer the following questions:

How would you describe your current attitude/approach to running?
– I’m a terrible runner, although I like the idea of it. I have previously run two marathons (in 2004), but not done much since. Instead, I’m a swimmer now, so I’ll mainly be swimming the distance.

Do you have a running career highlight? What is it?
– Running highlights are the marathons (London and Dublin), while the swimming highlight was swimming Windermere (10.5 miles in just under 8 hours) in 2012.

Why are you taking on the #LETJOG14 challenge?
– For motivation, to “meet” others, to help me through the dark winter months (the summers are easier to train in), cos it seemed like a good idea.

How long do you hope to cover the distance in? Do you have a specific date in mind?
– If I finish by December 31st 2014 I’ll be pleased.

How do you plan to cover the distance? Are there any events you’ll be running in throughout the year?
– I’ve got four swimming events that I’ve signed up for so far, I’ll also be doing a few other “training” events:
– An indoor 10km swim in Ponds Forge in March
– A SwimTrek trip in April – we’ll be doing an average of 10km swimming per day
– A channel relay event – a team of 6 of us will be crossing the English Channel
– Windermere – I’m aiming to swim the lake again in August

– – –


I wrote this and had in drafts for a while, convincing myself to go for it. Originally I thought the distance was 1,330kms, however last night a conversation on Twitter confirmed it to be 874 miles – or as close to 1,400kms as doesn’t matter (1,398.4 to be exact).

That’s an extra 70km than I was expecting and an additional 400 more than I have already failed to achieve in a year.

So, I’ve decided to change the algorithm I use to count my distance to be fair to myself. When I first came up with the algorithm the idea was to persuade myself to do more running (and cycling) and a bit less swimming. I didn’t want to over reward the “easy” swimming miles, so I decided to only double them. However, for 2014 I need to be almost exclusively swimming, yet I think trying to swim an average of 13-14kms every week is a bit much even for me (my training plan for Jan expects me to swim c. 8-9kms per week).

If you base the algorithm on how far I can go in each discipline in a set time, then it makes sense to make a change. In 20 minutes I can swim c. 1km, run c. 3km and cycle c. 12km.

Based on that, my new algorithm is: I will treble any swimming distance, leave runs the same and quarter any cycling distance.

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