Preparations for the Six-Hour, 60-Degree, Qualifying Swim

In order to prepare myself for the 6-hour qualifying swim and English Channel crossing, nutritional, physical and mental preparations have had to take place.

In March 2014 prior to any distance training, Kevin Finn Ph.D. at Merrimack College Exercise Performance Lab arranged to have a BodPod body fat percentage reading. As the picture shows, this test is done in an egg-like capsule, which I sat in and breathed through a tube. Unlike other ways to measure body fat percentage, which rely on estimation, the BodPod is an Air Displacement Plethysmograph (ADP), which uses whole body densitometry to determine lean vs. fat composition. In addition to calculating my body fat percentage, fat free mass percentage, and muscle mass percentage, the BodPod gave insight into VO2, basal metabolic rate and average daily caloric expenditure. If you would like to learn more about the BodPod technology follow this link:

I then gave the data I received from the BodPod to the nutritional professionals at Infinit Custom Blended Solutions who create specialized drink mixes based on each individuals needs in order to achieve optimal performance. I needed a drink mix for the swim that was customized to my metabolism and body composition because there are many factors to take into account:

  1. The number of calories burned swimming for 6 hours
  2. The number of calories expended trying to maintain body temperature for 6 hours in 60-degree (brrrrr) water
  3. The osmolarity of the blend, which influences my ability to absorb and digest the calories. You want an osmolarity of around 30, anything higher would be like eating a cheeseburger which would be undigestable.
  4. The amount of muscle breakdown anticipated and the correct amount of protein to both replenish the muscle damage, as well as keep me feeling full without feeling nauseous
  5. The best temperature to serve the drink (i.e. warm but not hot)
  6. That dynamic of digesting while being in a horizontal plane (swimming on my stomach)
  7. The amount of times to drink and amount of drink to consume.
  8. Something that is palatable as it is the only form of calories I will be taking in during the swim.

We ended up formulating two drink mixes that I would alternate between; one had more protein and one had more carbohydrates.To learn more about Infinit Custom blended solutions follow this link:

In addition to the nutritional preparation, I had to mentally and physically prepare myself. This consisted of replacing my normally steamy hot showers with icy cold and refreshing showers to prepare myself for the initial shock of the cold water. Nothing says “good morning” quite like the thrill of a freezing shower!!!

Finally and most importantly I have been training 7-8 times a week, with each training session in the pool being 2 hours long. I would supplement the pool workouts with body weight lifting, shoulder prevention exercises, yoga and hikes.

The biggest challenge I faced preparing for the 6-hour swim was the timing. I was balancing the training schedule with my double major course load, leadership in college organizations, and final presentations, papers and tests. Luckily, due to my many years of rigorous swimming training and academics, time management and organization is something that has become second nature.

A few days before I prepared what I would think about during the swim.

Hour 1: Focus on adjusting to the cold, stroke rate, sightings, and get into a rhythm.

Hour 2: Philosophize “whether life imitates art or art imitates life?”

Hour 3: Edit my grad school personal statement in my mind

Hour 4: Sing

Hour 5: Plans for the Draper Business Competition.

Hour 6: Get excited because you are almost done!

Finally I made my drink mixes and acquired enough thermoses for 6 hours of nutritional beverages. I dug out my Uggs and old high school swimming parka to wear once I was finished. I made sure I got at least 7-8 hours of sleep and before I knew it, the sun was up, its go time!


Photo Cred: The Legendary Gloria Lee ’15



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s