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  • Writer's pictureErin Spineto

A New Kind of Training

For the first time in over two years, I am finally seeing the payoff from my workouts. I am getting stronger and faster and I can go longer. I have tripled my long swim in only 4 weeks. After spending two years, working out whenever I wasn't totally fatigued and still seeing rising times and declining mileage, I am more than happy to see that trend reversing.

I am four weeks in to a twenty-week training program for my trip. The funny thing is what I am training for, the skills and speed I am building, I am also praying I won't ever have to use.

For over a decade I have been training for triathlons and the training is very straightforward. You will need to swim, bike and run a certain distance and so you go out and practice running that distance. On race day, you know the distance to be covered, know that you have put in the time to cover it and you do.

After a few good years of this, you might have the good sense to add some strength training to counter some imbalances all the forward motion puts on your body or to counter the emaciating effects of endurance sports (have you seen the top Ironmen?) Not that that was ever one of my problems, but it all makes good sense. Very linear thinking on that one.

Now that I am planning a sailing trip, I had to look at training in a very different light, because in reality, what I will most likely be doing is standing or sitting for six to eight hours a day holding a stick to steer a boat and then pulling a couple of lines every now and then. Compared to hours of a triathlon, it didn't seem to measure up or demand the kind of training I might put into preparing for my next race.

So when I was devising a training plan I had to make sure I could do a low intensity activity for at least 8 hours. That was an easy fix. Start building low intensity long runs and rides up to about 3 hours. If I can run for 3 hours, I can probably stand for eight several days in a row. But that would not be the only skill I might need.

The other skills I am training for, I can only pray I will not have to prove. They are based more on a worst-case scenario, the "what-ifs" as Tony would say. What happens if I fall off the boat? A man overboard drill isn't exactly going to work. So I will be dragging a 50 foot line behind the boat. In the event I fall off and have my wits about me enough, I can sprint for the line, and hope to reach it in time for the boat not to have sailed away into the sunset without me.

Thus I have to incorporate swim sprints into my training. In the middle of my long swim, I will add some pickups and some all out sprints to make sure my lungs can handle the speed and that my muscles are ready and efficient should I need them. So, let's say that pays off and I now am holding the line dragging off the end of a boat traveling five knots. Or maybe I should say, being dragged through the water at five knots and needing to get 50 feet ahead on the line so that I can get back on board.

Looks like I should add some strength training, and let's focus on some upper body strength. And not just weights machines in a weight room that really don't relate much to real life movements. For this I have tapped into an old program I did that built muscle and the ability to use it in real life situations, P90x. I have taken some of their moves and modified it to fit into a schedule that will be built around my specific needs. So three or four times a week I am doing all sorts of pull-ups and push-ups in so many different variations it can boggle the mind.

Now, just for argument's sake (don't worry Mom, this will never actually happen) say I miss the rope. With no one to radio for help or to swing around to get me, I may need to get moving. The rules of hypothermia say you never try to swim for land. But there are rules that say you should never try to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up in a day. That was a cinch and the other people I saw RUNNING it fared far better than me.

So I am assuming those rules are stated for the average person, one who has not trained for long distance swimming. The water is warm, it will be day light and sunny or at least warm, so I should be able to swim at least two miles straight. I have built long swims into the work week. I hit one mile last Sunday which is right where I left off when I was only moderately sick.

After getting really sick a good swim became 600 yards, and even those were hard to get through. At my worst, seven minutes of yoga put me on my butt in the middle of my living room panting and thinking I would need at least four hours recovery sleep for it.

During most of the trip, I will not be more than a half-mile offshore. At the most, probably one-and-a-half miles. So a two-mile prep swim should give me enough in the reservoirs to fight a little current if needed and make it to land. And, I suppose in this case, I should pick up a survival guide to the Keys so in case I have just swum to one of the many, many uninhabited islands that are out there I will know which berries to stay away form and how to build a shelter for a night.

And of course the least essential aspect of my training but really the one that flashes before my eyes quite often, I am going to document this trip and it takes place on a boat in Florida where it is quite warm. Since I am not the most talented photographer who knows all the right angles to use to make a person look their best, I better be comfortable with myself in a bathing suit, my uniform for the week out there, in the middle of February.

So I am eating clean, bypassing the extra cookie, and getting out there at 5 am to get in the extra twenty minutes on the trainer or treadmill because every bit counts and even though I may hide it well, I am still a girl who, behind a few other more important priorities, still wants to look good.

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