Diana Nyad, the 64 year old long distance swimmer, made world history as the first person to swim the treacherous Florida Straits without a shark cage, flippers, or even a wetsuit. The three day trip took the determined swimmer through swarms of jellyfish, dangerous shark infested waters, and left her swollen from sun exposure. Yet the ‘senior citizen’ came out of the water in Florida like a true champ!
“You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”
-Diana Nyad, after her 53-hour swim.
Nyad had previously tried the stretch of 110 miles between the top tip of Cuba and the lower tip of Florida 4 times before. She had been thwarted by jellyfish stings, strong currents, and bad weather. But the stars were aligned for her fifth and final attempt. Nyad swam the straits with a team of supporters. One boat dragged a line to keep her on course, while another vessel generated an electrical field to help keep sharks away. The only equipment that Diana Nyad relied on was a full body suit, gloves, booties, and a mask at night to keep jellyfish from stinging her face.
Talk about hardcore endurance and mental strength! Swimmers one-third her age would kill to have the tenacity that Nyad possesses. And maybe her groundbreaking swim has inspired some of you to join the ranks of long distance swimmers.
So in honor of Diana Nyad, this week’s blog features a few tips to get started with long distance swimming. While you might never cross the Florida Straits, these hints will help you be the best swimmer that you can be. That’s something that even Ms. Nyad would be proud of.
1. Propel Yourself With Minimal Effort
When you’re swimming long distances, it’s important to conserve as much energy as possible. Rolling your upper body from side to side, instead of kicking hard, will actually help you slice through the water with greater ease.
2. Reach Forward
Focus on stroke length, as opposed to stroke rate. Unlike lap swimming, where stroke rate is king, endurance swimming is all about covering as much ground per stroke as possible.
3. Feel the Rhythm
Top endurance swimmers all have a unique rhythm to their stroke. This rhythm helps them keep on track mile after mile. Even beginners can benefit from finding their own rhythm while in the water. Instead of keeping time with your legs or arms, use your core as a sort of metronome, rotating back and forth, to help find your swimming rhythm.
4. ‘Bout Time for Bilateral Breathing
Breathing from only one side can throw off your stroke’s balance and rhythm and can easily cause a sore neck or back when long distance swimming. Breathing from both sides will help realign your stroke and will distribute your workload more evenly. If you want to become any level of endurance swimmer, now’s the time to start working on breathing from both your left and right side.
5. Get the Right Gear
There’s a reason that you don’t see any long distance swimmers in board shorts. If you’re serious about endurance swimming, then you need the right swim gear. Pick items that fit close to the body, reduce drag, and are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. A little chaffing turns into a whole lot of skin-sloughing after a few hours in salt-water.
AquaGear extends our congratulations to Diana Nyad and her outstanding accomplishment this Labor Day weekend. Thanks for proving to us all that no goal is ever too big to give up on. The entire swimming community boasts an incredible athlete in you!
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