Katie Benoit: My Oceans Seven Training Routine
I work full-time as a police officer and have a nine-year-old son, so there are times when swimming 40,000 yards a week is pretty hard. I know lots of swimmers that swim tons more, so I have to get effective mileage in because I don't have time for more. There is the occasional 6-to-8-hour test swim, but it's not something I can do every day.
Two Swims a Day
My first swim is anywhere between 6,000 and 10,000 yards and happens in a local short-course pool in the morning. I emphasize quality over quantity – I believe you'll get more out of 6,000 yards that you swam focused and a little faster versus swimming 10,000 when you didn't push yourself.
The morning swim time depends on work. I work 2 pm until midnight four nights a week. So on a workday, I swim for 2-to-3 hours at 10 am. On off days, I get a first swim in around 0800 and another in the early afternoon around 1400.
My second swim is typically in my Endless Pool where I work on form, core strength, and cold tolerance (I keep mine at 59) for another hour. The Endless Pool has been fantastic; even on those days when I get stuck at work or my family needs me, I can get a quick swim in. No driving time, no pool schedules - I just head into my garage. It really helps me make my life a little easier and more balanced.
Additionally, I make sure I get my stretching in to prevent injuries, even if it turns into stretching in the shower.
I have to be flexible – sometimes I get stuck at work all night or I have to go to court on short notice. I plan rest days, but if I can't swim on a certain day, I make that day a rest day and adjust accordingly. I just make sure I get my weekly goals accomplished even if there's one day when I couldn't get it done.
Fuel for a Swim
Open-water swimmers are a little different than most people in regards to nutrition. Especially when trying to gain weight for upcoming cold-water swims, I really try to take in as many calories as I can. Right now, I'm struggling to put on any weight for the North Channel, my 21.4-mile swim between Northern Ireland and Scotland in July.
Before training, I emphasize carbs in the form of pasta, breads, rice, and potatoes. I tend to have a carb-loaded breakfast – pasta would be my favorite. It creates a good nutritional foundation for my first swim. I also use Advocare's Muscle Fuel pre-workout drink, which contains 28 vitamins and minerals and gives me a good energy boost. I like to combine it with Advocare's O2 Gold, which helps the body to use oxygen.
After practice, I focus on protein – protein shakes, chocolate milk, or Greek yogurt. For weight gain, I add peanut butter and anything that is high-calorie.
While 7-to-8 hours of sleep would be ideal, I often work shift, and on my work days, it's usually only 6 hours. That's something to be careful about as a working athlete with a family life. Ultimately, you can't trade sleep for extra training time (at least not for long). So it's important to can the guilt, listen to your body, and sometimes swim a little less to get the needed rest.
This does not tend to be a huge problem in colder water. Caloric intake tends to be more of a limiting factor. I drink lots of juices throughout the day for extra calories. I love protein smoothies, but they are too heavy for me during practice.
Of course if I am stuck in a fairly hot swimming pool, I need to add water and electrolyte drinks to stay hydrated. In extreme heat conditions (for example, my Swim Around Key West) I have added salt pills.
Taking Care of my Son
It requires lots of family planning and constant juggling. I couldn't do any of it if my husband wouldn't support it all. I do most of my swimming when my son is in school and I work afternoon-midnight. I also love 24 Hour Fitness, which provides pools and childcare. He's old enough now where I can also jump into my Endless Pool at home, and he'll be modifying his Lego castle or find something to do.