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Does Binge Swimming Work?

posted June 3, 2007 @ 9:30 PM  |  Open Water Swimming category

Dynoswimmers, Dean Osterloh and Judi Rich begin their morning ocean practice.
Dynoswimmers, Dean Osterloh and Judi Rich begin their morning ocean practice.

~By Judi Rich, Dynoswimmer

Last year I remember Dean talking about doing a “binge swim”. He had asked if it would be something I’d be interested in. I had never heard of a binge swim before and was very interested in learning more. He explained that it would be hard swimming 2-3x a day for a week straight. He said that while you were doing it, you’d probably ask yourself, “What have I gotten myself into? Why am I doing this? I must be totally crazy!” I remember thinking, "Am I ready for this?" (I had just recently returned to competitive swimming after 17 years away from the sport.

Dean further explained that binge swimming would make you totally exhausted and it would break you down. The theory is that over time, binge training, coupled with a consistent training regimen could help you to become a much stronger, faster swimmer. I thought to myself, I must be nuts but yes; I was open to try anything that would make me faster.

Unfortunately, we never had that opportunity last summer to have our binge training session since Dean left Florida to return to Connecticut for work related reasons. I thought I’d lost my chance to do something so crazy. But the opportunity re-emerged this year, and my doubts and fears returned - not that that ever stopped me before; I was willing to try.

When this year's opportunity arose, I immediately jumped at the chance. I mean I had already committed to swimming the 9-Mile Swim and hosting Emily while she was visiting Florida for her open-water training. It was later that I came to find out that it was going to be an all-out binge swim; I was psyched. Here’s my opportunity to do this binge swim thing that Dean had explained to me a year earlier and not only was it a binge swim - it was an open-water binge swim (for the most part). I couldn’t ask for anything better than that! I love open water swimming. I was in.

The first day of our training started off a little disappointing due to the rough conditions, however the pool practice was highly challenging. Thereafter, we drove back to the beach to try round two of our open water sessions. We did make it out past the breakers, like we had done that day's morning but it was still too rough to swim. We carefully made our way back to shore. Everyone made it back safely despite the ocean claiming two training fins and a pair of missing goggles.

It really didn’t hit me until later that day: how fortunate I was to grow up on the water. I never realized how in-tune I was with it. Yes, it was tough getting out through the ten-foot waves and yes, I was pushed under a few times, but nothing happened that really frightened me. And maybe that’s not such a good thing, having a fear of treacherous conditions is not all bad. But I’ve seen worse.

The waves in New Jersey on a normal day were almost like the conditions we were experiencing or at least, that was my perception! It’s been a long time since I’ve been swimming at the Jersey shore. In any event, I totally agreed with Dean’s decision to call off the swim. It wasn’t about me, it was about Emily and Emily had never really swam in the ocean, let alone during storm-like conditions.

Day two was much better. The waves were still quite large, the red flags were up and the rip currents still bad. However, that didn’t stop us from getting out past the breakers to the so-called calmer waters to begin our (typically 3-mile) swim. The waves were constant and they were high. As we swam, we’d be swimming up the rollers then back down again. It was quite the roller-coaster ride, something I happen to enjoy. But if you’re not used to this, I can see how it could make you sick. Here again, my childhood experiences of swimming in the ocean, the bay, and living on a boat for two summers had prepared me for the worst. Luckily, I never had to experience sea-sickness. I felt so badly for Emily, because I could see that she was feeling terribly ill. She was pale. She did an exceptional job though. Considering the conditions, it being her first time ocean swimming, and the fact that she was seasick, she stuck with it and swam.

The following week; weekend #2, Day 3 of the swim binge training session: The conditions hadn't gotten much better. All week the ocean was rough and we all heard the news about record lifeguard saves at the local beaches, not surprising that Dean called off the Saturday AM swim. By that afternoon though, after our pool practice, we were back to the beach for our 5th ocean swim. Dean was running one day late due to problems with his flight, so Scott was leading this practice. I emailed Scott to let him know that over the previous week Emily and I had gone to the beach to "play in the waves" (as Dean requested). During that time Emily was unfortunately slammed by a wave, tumbled and had gotten some sand rash on her shoulder. I knew she was shaken up. It shook me up too, but I had this happen to me thousands of times before, so it was no big deal. Luckily, the night before at our pool practice, Scott had done an intense open water practice. He told me to get Emily there a little early so he could go over a few more open water techniques with an added quick overview of the marine life in our area. All that week on the news, they had been talking about the man-of-war jellyfish washing up on shore and to “watch out!” Considering the fact that we swam near a pack of dolphins (scary seeing fins out there) the week before, I knew Emily was very skeptical about re-entering the ocean. Scott reassured her and she did get back into the ocean for our fifth ocean swim. This time she did much better. Not only did she not get sick, she was much more confident getting out through the breakers. Coming in, she did an awesome job.

5pm: same day, 6th ocean swim: Since our morning ocean swim was canceled, Dean had mentioned that we’d do a makeup swim. I checked my voicemail once we had walked back from the previous swim and sure enough, Dean’s flight was on time and he was on his way to the beach. We had only a short break between swims. Dean asked how things had gone and was ready to get into the water. We weren’t as anxious as he was, but were ready. He announced that we could use fins if we were tired although he preferred that we didn’t. I chose not to use them. By this time, the waves had picked up and it was getting choppier.

Dean was very happy with Emily’s progress as compared to the previous week. He said he was “pleasantly surprised” with her overall open water skills. She made it through the waves with no problems and seemed much more relaxed. As we swam back through the breakers after our swim, we were riding in some massive waves. As I look up, I see Scott (and Karen) riding a wave directly in front of and straight for me! I didn’t have anywhere to go but under water. They successfully rode the wave toward the shore over and on top of me. I could feel Scott, and the wave as they passed over me. Luckily I didn’t get kicked, smacked or crushed. What a trip! We then swam Emily and Karen back to shore after another successful swim. Dean, Dakin, Scott and I went back out past the breakers for a third time. After adding a bit more distance to our swim we decided to look for a massive wave like the one Scott and Karen rode in. We never found one quite like that, but we sure had fun anyway. Poor Scott had his little bout with the waves’ fury and got sand blasted to the bottom of the ocean. For the record, we would miss you, Scott.

By Saturday night, I was feeling tired. I knew that we still had four more practices to go and that Sunday morning’s swim was going to be the “long” one. Emily was asking me how much swimming I thought we’d be doing. I truly didn’t know although I had my suspicions. We were up 7am Sunday morning and at the beach by 8:20, ready to go. Dean had announced this was it. We’re doing the long swim.

I give Emily such credit. Here she flies into Florida, stays with people she doesn’t even know (my family and I), swims with people that she’s never met or swam with before, and is ready to get back into the water for the “long” ocean swim. During this one, Emily was veering out into the Atlantic (no lane lines in the ocean). So since I knew she was struggling to “get through” this swim, I told her that I would swim on her right and that she could use me as her lane line. Zig-zagging would only make the swim that much longer. After about the 10th time Emily apologized for bumping into me, I told her not to worry, don’t apologize - just swim. So Sheryl swam on her left side and I swam on her right side giving her the emotional support she needed at every break (which weren’t many). Meanwhile Dean's shouting, “I’m over here, guys. Over here!” This time I could tell she was determined to make it to HER goal: the water tower. Well, not only did she make it to the water tower, but beyond it. Four yellow houses past it! She went further than she ever thought she’d imagine. Sure, she was being pushed (by Dean) but she did it and did it well. I am so amazed at her ambition and determination. Way to go, Emily!

By this time, I was feeling great. As long as I was swimming I was fine. Between swim sessions, I would start to feel tired. So by round two, day two, of weekend two, I was ready to go. I just had to make it through this 2nd swim of the day then homeward bound for a nap before our last night out, another two practices and then finally the binge swim training session would be over. This particular swim though was awesome. Fin swimming in the ocean is a lot of fun. And when you’re tired, those fins really help.

Last day, Memorial Day morning ocean swim: This was it, the last ocean swim of our binge swimming. For this session it was: Dean, Doug, Emily, Dakin, Amy and me, paired together in that order, we were doing a little of everything this morning. Lots of drills: freestyle while counting strokes, breaststroke and backstroke. It was a more relaxed swim than the previous ocean swims and definitely the calmest out in the ocean. As we were swimming Amy asked, “Are you swimming fast?” I replied, “No, just swimming.” She was like, “Damn girlie, you got fast!” Doug and Dean both confirmed that I had picked up some speed. Yay!

Then came the last practice of our last day. This time we're in the pool. and Dean didn’t pity us at all. Warm-up was a 1650, non-stop swimming. It was a nice change though: fresh chlorine water. After being baked in the sun, covered in salt and sand, the pool was quite refreshing. Even though it was a tough practice, it was clear, it was cool, and it was fresh. Again, I was told that I was kicking ass (thanks, Amy). The 1650 was followed by stroke technique then followed by some relays. Yes, after all this swimming, we were asked to race! As the relays went on, those of us who swam every binge swim session got just a little tiny bit slower - I mean we were tired and worm out - but that’s OK, it was still fun!

So, you ask? Does binge swimming work? Well, time will tell. So far, not only have I noticed a difference in my speed, so have my teammates. Hopefully I will be able to retain and improve upon it. And never once did I ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” I actually enjoyed the entire experience!


Binge swimming was also known as a 'Taper' back in the 80s.

and I'm doing that this week in fact.

Posted by B on June 4, 2007 @ 12:34 PM

Or "Pre-Taper" if you're preparing for peak season. We're using the Binge training to break us down midseason. Many of the college teams do the same during their Christmas week uber-training sessions. Many names, many ways to use it.

Posted by Dean O. on June 4, 2007 @ 1:30 PM


What event are you tapering for?

Posted by josh on June 4, 2007 @ 6:41 PM

Judi, You are a swimaholic!

Posted by amy on June 7, 2007 @ 5:02 AM

I always was! It sure beats the alternative, right?

Posted by Judi on June 7, 2007 @ 12:21 PM


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