21 October 11: HOW-TO: Swim 100x100s

by hillarybiscay

Last night I tweeted about a 12,000-yard swim workout that I had just composed for one of my athletes. This tweet precipitated a lot of comments, and it seemed that most folks would not have imagined that an athlete would actually have requested this sort of workout. Granted, we have coaches so that we don’t just do as we please all the time in training; so it’s not as if my athletes have all of their “requests” approved. But this particular athlete is training for a 30+ hour running race, so swim workouts like this are part of her cross-training plan—and yes, she did request a 12,000-yard swim. 

I also received some questions about my fave 100x100s swim workout, so I thought I would post some basic tips for those attempting this swim for the first time.

kona underwater

Be mentally prepared. For many, this swim may be 2-3x the duration of your average swim workout. I find that mindset is half the battle during session like this. As opposed to a “normal” swim workout, during which we are all probably consciously or sub-consciously counting down how many laps remain from the start, for the 100×100, one’s mindset needs to be, “I am swimming all morning.” Embrace being in the water and don’t even think about being done. Then when you get to 100 #90, you will be surprised at how “quickly” the workout went.

Bring refreshments. I typically go through about 2 bottles of water with electrolyte and 350 total calories during this session. In addition to your bottles with sports drink, gels or bananas are always an easy source of additional calories. Typically I take 2-3 extra breaks of 60-90 seconds during the swim to shove these calories down and to drink, in case the intervals do not allow enough time to do so (which for me they usually don’t).

Bring toys. While staring at the black line for 2.5-3.5 hours might not be the most exciting activity one could imagine, you can add some spice by switching up your equipment throughout the session. I like to alternate between swimming without equipment and pulling using various combinations of paddles, buoy, and band.

Ultraman swim, en route to a new course record- 2010

Bring friends. I want to tell you that these swims absolutely can be done solo; I have done it, and the athlete I mention above does these long ones solo every time (great mental training for sure). However, I should also tell you that I recruit friends for this workout whenever possible because I know that I will push myself harder with company and because, in my opinion, swimming is simply more fun with friends.

Pace Yourself. Now that I’ve just mentioned “pushing myself,” I want to tell you to pace yourselves! Again, I am directing these comments to those who are new or relatively new to the 10,000 swim adventure: these are survival tips. And in the interest of survival, I want to advise you that this is not the time to be doing all-out 100s or attempting sendoffs that you are not certain you can make. This session—at least at first—is about volume rather than intensity.

Commit. Don’t give yourself an option or an out with this workout. Because, believe me, you will have plenty of time to come up with a reason to stop early or get out if you give yourself that opportunity. I always like posting my intention beforehand here or on other social media, not to brag but to make myself accountable! Obviously having training partners for this session helps in the accountability department as well.

If you are interested, here are some of my reports and even sample workouts from my 10k swim adventures:

Linsey’s Dirty Thirty

10,000 yards at 10,000 meters

Katya’s Wedding Swim

GCM’s First Birthday Set


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