Training Plans for Marathon Swims 10K and up

evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
edited March 2021 in Resources

There's one question (or category of question) I get asked more than any other (through the MSF contact form & FB page, through the SBCSA, etc.) --

I just signed up for [insert name of swim]. Do you have any good training plans for that?

I suspect that anyone who's been around the sport for a while, probably gets this question quite a lot. So, I hope this thread will serve two purposes:

  1. For people seeking info about how to train for marathon swims -- as a useful, practical resource.
  2. For experienced marathon swimmers -- as a simple, effortless "answer" to the constant barrage of requests for training plans. Just send a link to this thread!

Here's one approach:

  • Start with a thorough evaluation of your stroke technique - preferably with video-assisted analysis from an experienced coach. Identify 2 or 3 focus points, and work consistently for at least a couple of months before significantly increasing your training volume.
  • Try to swim almost every day - let's say, 6 out of 7 days in the week. Build up to this gradually, if necessary. Pool or open water - doesn't matter much at this point; just swim.
  • Join a Masters team. Swimming with other people == "free" motivation.
  • Once you're swimming almost every day, add a "long swim" on the weekend. Let's say, at least double the time or distance of your typical swim session.
  • Maintain a training log. How much are you swimming now, per week?
  • Compare your current average swim distance per week to the distance of your goal swim: Are these two numbers close?

    • If so, good job! Keep it up for at least 3 months before your target swim (preferably 6 months).
    • If your target distance is significantly greater than your current average per week, you need to swim more. But build gradually.
    • If this is your first rodeo, consider building your weekly average to somewhat above the target distance. With experience, you will develop an intuitive feel for "where you are" vs "where you need to be."
  • Plan a "long swim" of half your target distance. How did it go? Regroup and iterate as necessary.

  • Plan a "long swim" of 2/3 your target distance. Note: these intermediate long swims can be "official" swims, too!

    • e.g., using the 12-mile Anacapa (SB Channel) swim as a training swim for the 20-mile Catalina Channel swim.
  • If your goal is a cold water swim, you need to train in cold water (at least some of the time).

  • If your goal is an ocean swim and you only swim in lakes or pools, you need to find some wind-whipped rough saltwater and swim in it.
  • Read Read "Take it too far." Read other blogs and old swim reports. Watch Driven and Sea Donkey.
  • Read the Marathon Swimmers Forum. Use the search box to drill down on specific topics.

Sometimes people are unsatisfied with this advice - it's too abstract. They want specific details! They want a training plan, day-by-day, week-by-week, telling them exactly what to do. Is this a triathlon culture thing? "You need to do X on the bike, Y running, and Z swimming." I dunno, but I've never trained for swimming like that.

So that's why I'm putting this out there as a Forum thread rather than a static blog/article somewhere. Perhaps by pooling our collective wisdom and experiences, we can shed light on the important parameters of marathon swim training, as well as provide a few specifics for those who crave specifics (and thus help make our sport more accessible).

And if you're one of those people who are constantly fielding requests for training plans, perhaps this will make your life somewhat easier.

The floor is open...

  • Question prompt 1: Choose one marathon swim you've done, and describe how you trained for it.

  • Question prompt 2: In general / conceptually, how do you approach training for marathon swims?



  • timsroottimsroot Spring, TXCharter Member

    I think it is a running/triathlon thing. It's very easy to find multiple free, day by day training plans for running races of just about any distance.

    I generally train alone, by preference. I end up doing a lot of the same sets when I'm not working with a coach, but the main metric I pay attention to is weekly yardage compared to the distance of the swim I am preparing for. (i.e., if I'm prepping for a 30km swim, I'd prefer to have the weeks leading into the swim average 30km). I do try to get in some long swims if water temperature allows (living on the US Gulf Coast makes that more difficult if the swim is later in the year.

  • OH M GEE. if anyone asks me.. I'm just going to print this out and hand it to them.
    Thank you, you just saved me a bunch of time.
    I do think as @timsroot says.. it's a triathlon thing too.
    Why swimming is so different? I'd wager a guess that swimming is so technical... you can run even with crap form.....
    Anyhoo, great synopsis.

  • RoelRoel Boxtel, the NetherlandsMember

    Many thanks, this certainly helps! It's easy to get caught up in the lifehack mentality of follow-these-specific-tips-and-you'll-be-awesome.

    In parallel to the swimguides for Gibraltar and corsica-sardinia you could call it the No Bullshit Guide to Training Plans B-)

  • KatieBunKatieBun CornwallSenior Member

    I'm a relative newcomer, having done my first 25k + swim in 2013. I've followed the pattern I learned from Freda Streeter in 2012, when I started joining in with summer training in Dover.

    October to May, mainly pool interval training and drills. Sets don't have to be imaginative, lots of 100s, 200s and 400s, with occasional forays into "just swim for an hour" sessions. The main things for me are to concentrate on technique and also work very hard so I'm red in the face when I crawl out.

    Distance-wise, I've only ever hit 30k once in a pool week. My usual tally is somewhere between 16 and 20k. I build for 3 weeks out of each month and then have a lighter one for a bit of respite.

    Once the water gets bearable outside, (50+F or 10C, if you like,) I start to build outdoor swims, eventually doing one back to back weekend of long swims of anything up to 6/7 hours, depending on the event being trained for and how long I have available to train for it. As the outdoor distance builds, I reduce the pool time but still retain a couple of sessions of intervals.

    It has occasionally come undone because I've pushed things too hard, got lazy about technique or done daft things like jumping off bridges and injuring myself, but I seem to be managing.

    There's no "one size fits all" and I wouldn't dream of trying to influence anybody else. This is just the basic outline of what works for me.

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Roel said:

    In parallel to the swimguides for Gibraltar and corsica-sardinia you could call it the No Bullshit Guide to Training Plans B-)

    ...and Issyk Kul! Don't forget poor little ol' NoBS Guide to Lake Issyk Kul!


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • emkhowleyemkhowley Boston, MACharter Member

    Great advice, @evmo

    To your point about going farther in training than the event is, especially if you're new to the sport--despite having been in the marathon swimming game for more than 8 years when I set my sights on Lake Pend Oreille in 2014, I went back to square-one with my training to get ready for that. Although I had a good base and enough experience to think that a 32.3-mile swim was a reasonable goal, I was still quite daunted by the idea of going past the 30-mile threshold. So I spent all spring working hard in the pool building up to longer and longer distances. I found the April Fool's challenge Bob Fernald laid out (10 X 10,000 yard pool swims in the month of April) to be a great component to this high-volume training. (I'm such a sucker for a good challenge.)

    Over the course of January through May, I was averaging between 30 and 50K per week (SCY) in the pool and doing some cold water dipping here and there. I was also running and rowing a fair bit to cross train. I was swimming with Wayland Masters coached by Jen Dutton, who's a stroke technique wizard. She fixed some flaws I'd struggled with my whole life. I felt the best I had swimming-wise since college--lean and fast and like I had my MOJO going--but I was still really scared of that mental barrier I had about 30 miles. So I did a continuous 24-hour training swim with Jen in Lake Cochituate on the summer solstice. I swam loops around the lake and fed myself from a table Jen had set up in the shallows for us, so it wasn't an official marathon swim, but I felt great the entire time. (The GPS crapped out after 14 hours, but I estimate I swam about 38 miles during that period.) This experience gave me a chance to work out the kinks on my feed plan (I had recently converted to using UCAN) and it gave me an enormous confidence boost that I could endure 24 hours and still be a functional human being at the end. Although the actual event in LPO only lasted 20.5 hours, I knew I had at least another 3.5 hours in the tank if I needed it, and having that banked time in my back pocket was the confidence boost I needed for that swim to be a success.

    Conceptually, I think consistency is the most important part of training for marathon swims. Getting to the pool or lake or ocean a minimum of four times a week (I'd prefer 5 times, but that's not always possible because life) is paramount. It almost doesn't matter how far I go each time, it's the act of making training a priority and doing it regularly that keeps things moving in the right direction for me. I like to keep my base level at about 20K per week, even if I'm not training for something specific. That seems to be enough to keep me ready for most challenges (and sane) and able to ramp up to higher yardage when I need to without too much fear of injury.

    Rest is also important, and I fear becoming increasingly more so as I age. And I'm not talking about just taking a day off from swimming here or there, but actually keeping a healthy sleep schedule. These days sleeping enough and getting to the pool on a regular schedule seem to be my biggest challenges.


    Stop me if you've heard this one...
    A grasshopper walks into a bar...

  • phodgeszohophodgeszoho UKSenior Member
    edited February 2018

    Always interesting to read. My approach is probably similar to @KatieBun (fellow newbie graduate of the Freda Streeter "awesome" training plan) - intervals through the winter build the distance in the spring through to the "goal" swim.

    The main place I differ to @evmo training advice above is I do not think I have ever managed to regularly match my swim goal's distance in a week. As someone who works/commutes long hours I have to be content with doing what I can when I can. Often this is more about quality then quantity. Bashing out an hour of 100s at a pace that is pushing it well above my cruising speed.

    Because of this I often try to avoid setting myself targets, usually because they will not be meet and I just start to get depressed. One of the reasons I dropped off Facebook Groups like "Did you swim today" is just seeing everyone else seemingly bashing out weekly distances that I will just never have the time to do often makes me insecure and panic that I am not doing enough.

    It is a difficult balance and by no means am I advocating to people that they should do less. I managed 40K for January and I am pretty chuffed with that. However I would definitely train more if I had the time.

    Probably why my current success rate for marathon swims is sitting at 66% with 4 successful and 2 DNFs :-/

    On top of weekend loading I would also recommend swim camps. Cork Distance Week, Infinity Ht the Wall etc. I find intensive/condensed dedicated training periods over 4 to 9 days works really well for me.

  • Some great comments here! I'm swimming 4 times a week (sometimes 5 if I get a weekend) but I will also have a day in the gym doing nothing but core exercises. Does anyone else have a gym/strength building day or is swim swim swim the key?

  • SwimUpStreamSwimUpStream Portland Oregon Member

    Great topic and I have sooooo much to say but for now I’ll address the triathlon comment. I started into Marathon Swimming from a triathlon world and based my training on a similar philosophy and pattern to triathlon training. My first few years while fairly successful on paper were fraught with ego, frustration, insecurity, self loathing, and many devastating DNFs. As I began to create my own training plans and philosophies, I found a calmness and confidence in my swimming. I incorporated pool and OW sessions, with as many variables as possible. I’ve practiced boredom and discomfort. I’ve swam dog ass tired (after a 12 hr nightshift and after being awake 36 hrs). In preparation for my 25 miler, I’ve used NEK swim week as prep and done an 24 hr pool event (1 mile on the hour for 24 hrs). Each swim, I look for a lesson to draw from on my next big swim. But inevitably it’s the support of the community and sharing between each other that has made the difference for me in transitioning from a triathlon training format to Marathon Swimming. There is no one way. We all coach each other and are on the same team. Since training well does not always equal finishing - and that’s an accepted truth in our community, we are each other’s support system when DNFs happen. For me, these are the factors that once I embraced I became a marathon swimmer, not the actual distance swum.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    cwerhane said:
    Great topic There is no one way. We all coach each other and are on the same team.

    I love that!!!! I have long felt that with open water swims and triathlon, they are often team sports (even solos, since support crew counts), and all seeking the same goal, so same team!!! :D

    My approach to marathon swimming may seem totally against the rules, but I swim when I can, allow for a hiatus between the lake and serious pool time, and count on building my miles in such a way that my "marathon" is just the next swim. Between now and Spring Break, I may only swim on Mondays, Saturday mornings and a mile here and there if I pick up a class to teach at the pool on a Thursday. I have a few part time jobs and a 10 year old, so time is of the essence. In low swim times, I count on walking and a nod toward better nutrition and sleep.

    My monthly mile tally grew from 36 in January, 2017 to 141 in July. I had been able to add miles without shoulder problems. The warmer pool let me gain miles without the high intensity that could have led to sloppiness, and the colder lake let me sprint a few miles at a time gradually, to avoid injury. I looked at the chill as an anti-inflammatory with no side effects. I swam when I could, and limited my car time to avoid back issues. I did a few pool meets for fast bursts, but mainly worked on perpetual motion.

    Facing Lake George last year, I did try to pin down a few swimmers about food, but heard more than once how personal the feeds systems need to be. I finally started to trust myself. Sure, I made a few missteps, but I learned a lot, still managed to finish, and am looking forward to another crack at it.

    Hardest part: Assembling a crew. :D

    I love reading all the responses!!!

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    Sam said:
    Some great comments here! I'm swimming 4 times a week (sometimes 5 if I get a weekend) but I will also have a day in the gym doing nothing but core exercises. Does anyone else have a gym/strength building day or is swim swim swim the key?

    I am by no means one to emulate wrt marathon swimming. I don't "race" (with the exception maybe of 5K) except maybe against myself and my mental state. Like many others, I am lucky to get in 4 days of swimming a week, and even in that case that means only 12-15K. But most weeks life intercedes and I adjust. Semper Gumby.

    For lake Issyk Kul two years ago, I had a supportive direct boss, big boss and home boss. I got in the pool at least 4x a week and swam 1:00 to 1:40 per session (this was on straps). My philosophy is just to complete the swim and that's worked about half the time (for marathon distances) and all the time for shorter distances. Therefore, I try to get in as many hours as the swim will take me, about 2-3 weeks prior to the goal swim. Amazingly, this worked to the minute for Issyk Kul when I checked my times after the swim (6:02). Strange.

    For 20 Bridges, I knew I couldn't get a pool here where I could put in any more than 4 hours straight. So that's what I managed a couple times prior to the event (11,000 yards and 11,200 meters, if I recall correctly). I won't rehash what I did around Manhattan, but suffice it to say that I managed to swim uninterrupted for over 7 hours straight, which I'd never done before. So those two long swims in the month or so prior worked, at least as far as that goes.

    What does all this have to do with Sam's quote above? I DNF'd a 10K in the states years ago due to lower back pain. (Managed to complete StS a month later, so I got that going for me.) What I learned then was the need for more "horizontal time" in the pool; basically, I moved from worrying over how much distance I covered in practice to how much time. For Issyk Kul, my first attempt was a DNF (12C water, poor feed plan, inability to pee & hypothermia) so I prepped better for my second attempt. I included 2x a week strength training for about 6 months with my wife, a power-lifter.

    During my 6:02 crossing of Issyk Kul I never once felt any pain in my lower back (Hurray dead lifts!), shoulders, legs, arms. Nothing. My only issue was the elevation. I attribute how good my body felt to the strength training. I questioned myself when I started it that I was "wasting" two hours a week that could be spent in the pool, but I think the trade-off was worth it. Plus, it was nice husband/wife time!

    I'm back in the gym with my wife now, getting strong for my next attempt (two-way Issyk Kul). Looking forward to success!


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    evmo said:

    • Question prompt 1: Choose one marathon swim you've done, and describe how you trained for it.

    More direct answers to @evmo's questions:

    1: For Issyk Kul 2016: I was stuck on ankle straps due to the lack of lap pools in Bishkek. Regardless, I concentrated on swimming at least as many hours per week as I thought the swim would take me, +1. Issyk Kul is at just over 5000 feet elevation and Bishkek at 2600. I knew I couldn't take enough time off of work to show up a week to ten days prior to get acclimatized, so I worked on my breathing as much as possible. I'd do "sets" (as much as you can do sets attached to the ladder) of different breathing patterns: 3, 5, 7, 9, 7, 5, 3 for 100s of strokes, for instance.

    I thought the swim would take me 5 hours, so I tried to hit 5 hours of swimming per week for months prior. I upped it a little in the last 4-6 weeks, culminating in one week where I swam 6 hours and 2 minutes. Odd, I know, but that's how it added up. This is what I alluded to in my above comment: My crossing took me 6:02. Cue Twilight Zone music here.

    I also did intervals in the 2-3 months prior. Not for the speed, but figured that was a good way to use the limited time I had in the pool. On straps what this meant was: swim 100 strokes normal, 100 fast, 90 normal, 90 fast...10, 10, then back up. Those sorts of sets. It broke up the boredom of swimming in place for an hour plus.

    I even practiced feeding! I put a water bottle on the side of the pool, and set my watch to beep every 20 or 30 minutes, at which point I'd swim over to the side of the pool, flip over grabbing the bottle, and swim elementary backstroke while drinking, then put the bottle back, and swim back into the center of the pool and keep going.

    All of this worked for me. I slowed down significantly at the end of the crossing, but not from pain in anything but my lungs from the elevation (not pain per se, but tiredness). I do have a wonky elbow (arthritis) so that hurt the next day, but not that wasn't unexpected.

    evmo said:

    • Question prompt 2: In general / conceptually, how do you approach training for marathon swims?

    2: As discussed separately, I get in the pool when I can. And I try not to worry about it. I mostly do OW swims in the 5K range. I simply enjoy them so much and actually feel like I can "race" in them. Fast for me. And I always try to beat my previous time.

    But I do also try and find/fit in a 10K or longer swim each year. My general approach to training for a marathon swim is to get in the pool as often as I can. Get as many minutes/hours in per week as possible. If I manage regular sessions, then I try to make one a "distance tolerance" workout, where I do long repeats, maybe 5 x 1000 or 10 x 500, with little to no rest between. To get "horizontal time." Another would be a long set. Once a month our kid's school has a 4-hour "Family Splash" that I'll go to and take up half a lane with something like: 500, 1000, 1500, 2000, 1500, 1000, 500. And I also do typical swim workouts where I have some intervals.

    Again, I try to get in as many hours as the goal swim will take me at least a month prior.

    Something that needs to be considered training but isn't always by newbies (me included) is feeding. I've bonked early when I started this sport. A simple 5k would take me forever because I stupidly had a slice of cold pizza for breakfast and nothing else. Not just nutrition during a long swim, but nutrition before. Fluids even days before. All of that needs to be worked on before you're in the middle of a 9-hour swim. Better to realize your belly can't take so many carb fluids in a 4-hour practice swim in a pool, than when you're in the middle of your big event. Work on peeing while horizontal. I was amazed at how hard that is. Get in some OW with a full bladder and try it. Get used to it. If you don't pee on a long swim that does things to your body you don't need when swimming for hours. And stopping every time to get vertical to pee slows you down. Learn how to do it horizontally, and please, by all that is holy, don't practice this in a pool.

    And the final bit of training is with your crew. Weird things go through your brain as you're swimming for hours, the last thing you need to think of is "Where the hell is my kayaker going?" or "Why is my wife lying over the side of the boat?"


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    training plan for normal (10-20 miles) marathon swimming for newbies - I'm assuming the swim will take about 6 hours.

    i've been swimming for 8 years and real marathons for 4 years and come from an un - athletic background. I swim what my coach tells me to do every week, that's the truth, but here's some broad strokes of what that entails. i live in the northern hemisphere and my big event is usually late june to early august.
    I'l start counting yards in December at whatever my base is per week which can be as low as 15k. i increase that weekly by 1-2k and will peak at 35-40k. i start the first 5-6 weeks swimming 5x a week and then go to 6 days - always take a day off per week. Come March/April I'll start going to the open water or plan a weekend(s) training trip to warm enough water to do some 3-4 hour swims. I think its important to get to open water, swim in the wind, against the current, and the rain, if possible try and get a session with a paddler assuming you will be using one on your 1st marathon, also use this to try out 2 different types of food and bottles. As much as possible i try and get into open water for a chuck of my yards, I'm lucky that there are great pods to swim with in both my home places. I have never done a training swim longer than 5 hours and my longest marathons have taken about 9 hours. And then taper....the hardest part of training but for me really necessary, I'm over 50. I'll peak at say 40k 4-5 weeks out, then drop to 30k, 20k, and the week before i'll swim maybe 30-40 minutes a day a couple of days and spend the 2-3 days or so before the event, resting, reading, contemplating. Because open water requires you put your mind in a good place, its not as much a race for most of us as its a personal test of what we can achieve.

    Crew is another critical piece and your communication with them. Honestly I didn't know any of my paddlers beforehand for my 1st 3 big swims - including Manhattan. Have a simple bullet list - here are mine. - i want you on my right, you set the direction I set the speed, if you screw up don't tell me I won't know, feed me every 30 minute - explain the feed plan if there are different options (my bottles are all the same), count my strokes per minute periodically if it drops more than 5 let me know, don't talk to me unless its for important or for safety...i'm a social person by nature and i'll start chatting and i'm far too slow to be doing that. Don't ask a paddler to mix your feeds on the water - too risky. Trust your paddler/boat/crew/event director - they can see what you can't and have info you don't. If someone tells you to get out of the water or move to the other side of the river you do it - no asking for explanations or arguing.

    Sometimes these events require that i wake up at 5am which is not my normal so i will start adjusting my sleep 2 weeks out to make that my new normal. Train the water temp you can expect and a couple of degrees lower, all those yards won't matter if you're hypothermic 3 hours in. You will start watching the weather 1-2 weeks out, its ok but you need to remind yourself that its beyond your control and this is why you trained in the wind and the rain. never wear anything new, never try a new food or something someone else is raving about that morning. I usually have a couple of mantras with me both inspiring and something for when you go negative...and you most likely will at some point. And then I remind myself that this is my happy place, i've trained for months for this moment - be in it and enjoy it.

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    edited February 2018

    From September - May, with the exception of a couple of trips somewhere sunny if I can manage it, I do all of my training in an endless pool, so I keep track of time in the water rather than distance. By Feb, I would aim to be doing 8-10 hours a week consistently, including a longer weekend swim of 2-3 hours and at least one speed interval session and one threshold session each week. I swim at least 5 days a week throughout the year (wherever possible). I also do technique and drills for at least 10 mins in every session. Going in to the spring, I would expect to be doing 10-12 hours a week, and slowly shifting from the EP to the OW as the temps rise, beginning in early May if I'm feeling hardy, but more realistically, mid-May. Once in the OW, I build slowly each week, trying not to add more than an hour at a time to the weekly long swim, towards being able to do back-to-back 6-7 hour weekend swims - I prefer this to cranking out a single very long swim (say of 10 hours). I usually swim alone outdoors, so I find it safer to keep the distances to the 6-hour range where I know I am reasonably comfortable, unless I have someone else with me. I aim to do at least 3 consecutive back-to-back weekends leading up to a marathon swim. For me the trick is not just to be able to do a long training swim, but to be able to get out at the end of each session in a reasonable state (I need to be able to drive, look after myself) and be able to get back in the next day and do some more. This is better training (in my view) than beasting yourself on one very long training swim and then not being able to swim for a few days. For my English Channel swim, with the exception of swimming Jersey-France (9.04) a couple of months before the EC, I didn't swim for more than 7 hours in one go, but I did 10+ 6 hour swims, and at least 6 of these were over back-to-back weekends. But it can take a while at first to learn how far is too far and how tired is too tired, so build up slowly.

    I've not yet done a very long swim (of say 20+ hours) although I did train up for one (Lake Geneva) that I had to pull out of the day before the swim following an accident. For this, I still didn't do much over 6-7 hours in a single swim (I think I did one 8 hour swim), but instead did 3 days of back-to-back 6 hour swims, and on one occasion, 4 days. But I'm still undecided on this as a strategy. In the case of Geneva, this would now be taken out of my hands as the qualification is now back-to-back 10 and 7 hour swims anyway.

    Aside from the swimming, I also now do a daily prehab regimen to hold the various creaky bits of me together, and I run three times a week on a treadmill (and I'm using the term 'run' very loosely here) in the interests of weight-bearing exercise and bone density (especially important for women as they go into the menopause). This is all more time and I know many people struggle to fit it all in, but at this point in my swimming career, I would rather spend less time in the water than cut back on the prehab.

    For anyone setting out on marathon swimming training, my main advice would be:

    • start from where you are - if you're not realistic, you'll end up injuring yourself and you probably won't enjoy very much either.
    • take a leaf out of marathon running's training book and increase distance in modest, steady increments - a common piece of running advice is to increase distance by no more than 10% each week, and I think this is reasonable principle for marathon swimming training too.
    • as Evan said, work with someone on your technique, including under-water video analysis; and then make sure you do the drills to fix the problems....and keep doing them. It will save you a fortune in physio bills later.
    • if you start to develop an injury, go and see a sports professional asap - do what they say, including taking the prescribed rest and doing your exercises diligently. If you're not confident in what they've told you, go and get a second opinion.
    • If you miss a training session for whatever reason, let it go - don't try to make it up or you'll risk overloading yourself. Just go back to your plan.
    • Marathon swimming is not a sport of spectacle; it's about steadiness and consistency.
    • Make sure it's fun, at least for quite a lot of the time. It's supposed to be fun.

    Happy swimming.

  • tbalditbaldi Member
    edited February 2018

    [admin note: this comment was merged from a new thread "Training plan for Chesapeake Bay swim". Please avoid creating new threads to ask for training plans.]

    I won the lottery! Sort of...

    I entered and was selected for the Chesapeake Bay swim in June. I live in Chicago.

    I have done quite a bit of open water swimming. Big Shoulders 6X, 3 Half IMs, etc....

    I have already done my qualifying swim for Chesapeake (3 miles in the pool option) and I am set to go.

    I am swimming on my own regularly but would appreciate any training plan, tips, etc... someone who has done this swim can give me. I am not using a coach and swimming without a masters program at the local community center.

    Any help would be appreciated!!!

  • MoCoMoCo Worcester, MASenior Member

    In addition to making sure you're prepared for the distance, for that swim, do lots of hard stuff tired. When the current kicks up mid-crossing, if you can't pick it up, you'll get spit out the side of the bridges and DQ'd. I think at one point I was swimming at a 45 degree angle to where I wanted to go. It's a fun swim though, good luck!

  • Evan,

    Thanks for this. Exactly what I needed. I am following this!

  • Love this. It is perfect for me.

  • Sarah4140Sarah4140 DenverMember

    emkhowley said:


    Rest is also important, and I fear becoming increasingly more so as I age. And I'm not talking about just taking a day off from swimming here or there, but actually keeping a healthy sleep schedule. These days sleeping enough and getting to the pool on a regular schedule seem to be my biggest challenges.

    Rest definitely! And cross training. I am still a novice at this marathon swim thing—my first swim longer than 10k will be this summer. But at my advanced age (55), these two items are key to past success and hopefully future swims, such as the width of Lake Tahoe this August!

  • j9swimj9swim CharlestonSenior Member

    Working on my training plan for the length of Tahoe on August 11th. So one of the training swims I would like to do before hand is 15 miles which would be my longest to date. My question is when should i do this swim? 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks, 12 weeks out from my Tahoe date?

  • PaigeKiedingPaigeKieding Santa Barbara, CaliforniaMember

    In regards to the first question- I'll talk about my training for Anacapa to the mainland (12.4 miles) and what did/didn't work for me.

    My swim was set for early October, and the bulk of my training took place in the 2 months before the swim. I did start building up my yardage sometime around late May/early June, doing a few 3 and 4 hour swims in addition to my normal swim practices, but I didn't start following a set training plan until the beginning of August.

    Before August I learned a few valuable lessons, number 1 being: don't overtrain! In a lot of cases, overtraining for a swim is even worse than undertraining and it can lead to catastrophic results. Your body takes a LONG time to recover from overtraining. In my case, I decided to do a 5.5 hour swim when the longest swim I had ever done beforehand was 4 hours. Not only was my body not ready for a swim that long (you need to build up distance gradually, in my experience), but I wasn't consuming nearly enough calories. Definitely a learning experience, to say the least!

    Also! Figure out your feeding plan very early on. Figure out a pre-swim routine. I have a very specific routine that I do before each training swim, which goes something like this: eat pasta with roasted veggies the night before for dinner. Watch or read something inspirational and swimming-related, whether it's a documentary, book, or random video you found on Youtube. Visualize how I want the swim to go before going to bed, and go to bed early. Wake up, eat oatmeal, pack up your gear and feeds. Stretch. Jump in.

    My "forever pace" is a very average 2 miles/hour, for reference. I started my training plan in the second week of August. In addition to my Monday-Friday swim practices, I did a longer swim on Saturdays. On Sundays I swam for an hour. Looking back, I probably should have taken a rest day once a week. But anyway, the first weekend I did a 2.5 hour swim, the next weekend I did a 3 hour swim, and so on. I built up to a 5 hour swim 3 weeks before the swim, and then built down (a 3 hour swim the following week, then a 2 hour swim, and then only swims less than an hour in the week leading up to my swim). My training didn't exactly go as planned for the last 2 weeks due to a case of rotator cuff tendinitis, but I managed to pull through in the end (which I'm now paying for by being out of the water for 2 months :neutral: ) So- I think I hit the training volume pretty well; if anything I felt pretty overprepared, but I did learn something very valuable - LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! Always! If your shoulder is killing you, back off on your training for a bit and visit a physical therapist.

    Last thing- I think mental preparation is just as important, if not more important, than physical preparation. Visualize how you want your swim to go as often as you can. If part of your swim is at night, do lots of night swims to get used to it. Find a mantra that you can use when things get tough or scary. Most importantly- make sure to enjoy the journey! Focus on the positive, on how much you've grown, on how lucky you are to be able to experience something few people in the world ever get to experience!

    Obviously everyone trains differently, and everyone's body reacts differently to certain situations, but these are some of the things I've learned from my experience training for this swim.

    Hope this helps. :smiley:

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member
    edited November 2019

    Hello. Personally, When I did Key West (which was my first major swim), I decided to do two long swims prior to the actual swim. First, I did a ten miler (my longest to that date) approximately eight weeks prior to the swim (triple circumnavigation of a lake). Then I strictly did pool swims of varying lengths 2-3-4 miles four days a week. Then I did an 8 1/2 mile crossing of a lake two weeks prior to the swim. Then back to the pool. I didn't swim at all for three days prior to the swim. My desire was to finish Key West in 8 hours and I completed it in 6:16:00-ish. This worked for me, but we are all different. :) All the best.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited March 2021

    It's that time of year again when we start getting lots of incoming searches: "Training plan for XXXX"

    Before posting a new thread, "Does anyone have a good training plan for XXXX", please first read through this thread, beginning to end.

    Thank you!

  • BoundsimBoundsim 06870New Member

    A very useful thread - thanks.
    I am planning on key west, June 2021. Good on training plan (!) but few basic Q on gear
    What goggles would folk recommend for a long swim? I train with Vanquisher 2.0 speedo but they get painful after an hour or so...
    What sun block do you recommend?
    I do not plan to wear a cap due to warm water but how do you protect the head against the sun if I have some but not a lot of hair(!)
    Many thanks and hope you are all navigating COVID ok.
    Simon Bound in CT / FL

  • MLambyMLamby Senior Member

    Hello! When I did Key West I used Sol RX 50 block. Two full, thick applications all over prior to the event and no no burning issues at all. I put one coat on about an hour and a half prior to the swim, and then a second coat right before entering the water. Also used Body Glide for all possible chafing areas. My go to goggles are Aquasphere Kayenne, which, as always, were awesome for this swim. I never wear a cap, and this was not really an issue for me...but I have a lot of hair. :) Your head WILL get very hot however. I actually was fortunate that I had prepared extra, ice cold feeds, because I was dumping them on my head during feeds over the last three or four miles. :) Have fun. It is a great,fun,challenging swim!!!

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin

    @Boundsim said:
    What goggles would folk recommend for a long swim? I train with Vanquisher 2.0 speedo but they get painful after an hour or so...
    What sun block do you recommend?

    via search box:

  • JiggheadJigghead Johannesburg, South AfricaNew Member
    edited January 2022


    I have a lot of open water swimming under my belt, but nothing more than around 6km. My biggest issue has been a lack of training programs coupled with a lack of long distance swims in my area. Usually the limit is around 5km (that I know of) in my neck of the woods.

    The question is, where can one get hold of a sound training program that doesn't cost an arm or leg. I'm 46 years old and pre an injury last August, I was completing a 3km swim in around 52-54mins on the back of simply getting into the pool and swimming for hours, so no science involved.

    Any help would be appreciated.

    I'm raising money for childhood cancer sufferers:

    Check it out:

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin

    If you have a question about "training plans for _______ marathon swim", please read through this entire thread, and browse the topics tagged as training.

    If your question isn't answered in one of the existing threads, you're welcome to post it to the end of this thread or any of the others under the training tag. Please explain exactly why the existing threads don't answer your question.

    Please do not create any new threads, with some variation on "Training Plan for _______ Swim". There are 10+ years of advice in this forum that I've tried to keep organized and accessible. Creating different "training plan" threads for every marathon swim and distance is not necessary.

    Thanks everyone.

  • LakeBaggerLakeBagger Central OregonSenior Member

    @JurgisSpurgis said:
    Hello there! I'm OW swim coach, building a plan for English Channel Solo for one of my swim buddy.
    I've never built a program for anything above ~3hrs of swimming, Meaning for 10K+. I swam myself 25k back in a days, but EC is a different story, when we speak about EC specifics and ~15hrs swim.

    I'm looking for a guidance to find info about peak phase mileage before main taper. This would give me a sense how to count down backwards mezo-phases periodization for a plan.

    Also about long swim workouts. 6h and 10 hr are understandable "must do" during preparation, but what is longest "long swim" workout should it be in a plan for EC ?


    Some people believe swimmers should work up to 25,000 meters/week to be ready to swim the EC, but I think this may be too little to ensure success, especially on a day where the wind and the currents make things difficult.

    The conditions in the EC are highly variable and with a swim this big and expensive, I’d advise anyone trying to be as prepared as they possibly can be for whatever happens. For swimmers with a long history of training, they can get to 40-50k meters/week and be healthy, uninjured and fully prepared (at least in terms of training volume).

    However, if the person doesn’t have a long history with swimming, this may be too much too soon, so it really depends on the person’s history.

    For regular, weekly “long swims”, I personally don’t believe in really huge swings within a training plan. Rule of thumb: weekly long swims should not be longer than 3x the length of the other daily swims in a week. So, if the regular length swims in a week are 2 hours, then the weekly long swim could be 6 hours.

    It’s helpful to have some experience with other long swims before attempting the EC. Maybe your friend can try a swim/race/event that is 10 miles long, then another that’s more like 15 miles. Since you have to sign up so far in advance, there are often several years to do other swims to gain experience.

    In my case, I got my spot in 2020, then did several other 20-26 mile swims before I did the EC in 2022. By the time I got there, I knew what to expect from my body.

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