We’ve been following Katie Benoit as she trains to complete the Oceans Seven to raise funds and awareness for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. She’s already completed three of the seven open-water swims. As she prepares for #4, she shared her training routine as well as some of the challenges she faces as a working mom.
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.