The pursuit of sporting excellence

That British breaststroke swimmer. OK. So, his training regime is 10 km a day. Before the weights and all the rest of it.

Which is an interesting example of quite how much effort goes into that sporting excellence.

I’m a good swimmer. Just one of those things. I can do a mile, easily – when pools are open and that’s my exercise gig that’s what I generally do as well. I know I can do two miles because I have done.

Could I do 5 and more miles in a day? Sure, spreading it over several sessions, slowly. And having gone into training in order to be able to do it the once.

That is, even as someone with an aptitude for the base activity, I’d have to go into training to be able to do, the once, his normal daily training.

A useful guide to how far away from normality this world beating stuff actually is.

32 thoughts on “The pursuit of sporting excellence”

  1. When I was in my mid-teens, I was selected for a special swimming programme under a professional coach. It was necessary to commit to training five days per week before school plus weekends. Unfortunately for me, the pool was seven miles to the east of my home and my school five miles to the west, with no direct public transport. It simply wasn’t possible for me to take up the offer. I could manage to train once per week and compete once per week. Despite that, I used to make the county championships every year. I sometimes wonder what might have happened had I been able to take up the training offer.

  2. I have been thinking about doing a challenge to see if I can swim 500 miles in a year. This works out at around ten miles a week so last week I swam ten miles to give myself some idea what I would be taking on. I did 4k on Sunday and Monday took Tuesday off and then did 4k on Wednesday and Thursday. Initially the 4k swims were taking a little over two hours but the final one took about two hours and twenty minutes. Having taken a year off, I’m not really swim fit yet so I thought that this was quite promising. My best time over this kind of distance was 3.8k in ninety minutes at the Outlaw Triathlon in 2017. When I found out how far this guy was swimming, basically four times as much as I was planning I felt I’d been put in my place a bit, but then I’m 62.

  3. I’m no sports scientist, so I’d appreciate some info from those better informed – is there actual benefit from swimming such distances? You obviously have to get your technique perfected and maintain that, as well as build up the physical side of things. But really? Is 10k daily actually better than say 5k? Or are you actually at risk of over-training?

  4. Doc Bud: Running between 10 and 24 miles a day would have put you in good shape for your swim training.

  5. @Ecks.. Dunno about “useless”… Or if it is, then in line with the fact that 99.999% of what humanity does is “useless”, especially if you take the Long View.

    Thing is, humans compete. Whether it is as nations, or about Star Trek trivia between geeks, we compete our entire lives. In fact, we get extremely neurotic if we can’t ( or are not allowed to ) compete, especially if the competition is rigged so we can’t possibly win.

    Whether any activity we build competitions around are “useful” or have “value”, or are “interesting” is irrelevant.
    It obviously has for the people competing in them, and some make a pretty penny out of the practice. And quite a lot of people seem to like to indulge in the faux tribalism associated with it.
    As such it makes us less neurotic, and less likely to pick up our other traditional pastime when we get neurotic. Panem et circensis is not a sneer, but an accurate observation and a solid safety valve.

    Whether any given competition, be it classic military skills (now known as decathlon) or haiku flower arranging, is interesting to anyone personally is up to taste, but “useless”…. ? I’d hesitate to call it that.

  6. Initially the 4k swims were taking a little over two hours but the final one took about two hours and twenty minutes.

    A major problem with fitness is that to get a significant benefit takes a good chunk of time out of the day.

  7. Grikath
    Is it not the pentathlon which is based on military skills? In which GB took both the men’s and women’s gold medals.

  8. @Stonyground – if you have the time and enjoy it, go for it! I’d suggest mixing it up and doing some sprints as well.

    I used to swim a lot and really enjoyed it, but have lacked the time and opportunity recently. However, I’ve just moved somewhere with a 25m pool so no more excuses!

  9. @Jimmers That’s the “officer and gentleman” modern event based on the Napoleonic/pre-WWI skillset. The decathlon has everything you needed to break a phalanx/shield wall. Different era.. 😉

  10. “A major problem with fitness is that to get a significant benefit takes a good chunk of time out of the day.”

    Cycle commuting was good because it took around fifty minutes each way but it would have taken half an hour in the car anyway. I’m retired now so fairly time rich but the gym opens at six so, if I have things to do I can get up early and be done by eight.

  11. @Grikath, the ancient pentathlon (footrace, javelin, discuss, long jump and wrestling) was considered to be made up of skills useful in battle. I don’t think the ancients had a decathlon

  12. BlokeInBrum,

    You can’t really over train with low impact exercise, as long as you don’t try and do too much at the outset. These days I mainly exercise on hilly bushwalks or on an x-trainer, both low impact as long as you don’t roll your ankle when walking. I can walk up to 4 hours or spend about 2 hours on the x-trainer. As a 62 year old with COPD, exercise definitely improves my breathing.

    In my 30s I use to run ultra-marathons, including a couple of 100 milers, that definitely carries risk. I was lucky, but many friends have had knees replaced.

  13. Grikath,

    It is useless, because it fails the Pub Test. “let’s go to the pub and watch the swimming” said no one ever. No one bribes clients with tickets to the swimming. Name another current non-British swimmer and now imagine not being able to do that with football or tennis.

    Peaty does this because of lottery funding, and lottery funding gamifies medal winning. Doesn’t matter how uncompetitive the sport is. They’d rather fund women’s boxing than 100m. Theres no money in swimming, so by paying people to train, you win medals over true amateurs.

    Then these dolts look at the medal table and say “look how well we’re doing”. You just can’t compare the fierce competition in the 100m with rowing, which is a few posh boys. Of course we win at horse ballet. How many kids in the favelas can afford a horse?

  14. Welll… Given what I’ve seen on screens all over the globe in “sports cafés”.. I beg to differ..
    As long as people can bet on it, it’s fair game. And money can be made. Seven ways up until Sunday.

    So yes.. As long as peeps are willing to bet on the outcome, any competitive activity will generate revenue and pass the “Pub Test”.

    UK-ians are avid betters, asians even more so, and I’ve seen ffing bowls and cricket matches on main screens in pubs, even here in clogland where UK-ians come to piss up… Chess matches even… And the flower arranging is not a joke.. Anecdotal, but a bookie in Singapore showed me the odds on his Weirdest Bets because I wanted a silly floater.. Guess….

    Between personal satisfaction in something you happen to be good at, and the possibility to “win”, peeps go through great lengths, and somehow, somewhere people actually invest in it.

  15. “How many kids in the favelas can afford a horse?”

    Non presumably, and? This sounds like one of those if everyone can’t have something then nobody should arguments. As someone who finds football to be utterly tedious, I don’t really see the relevance of the pub test either. Something isn’t more or less worthwhile based on how many people want to watch you do it.

  16. “Something isn’t more or less worthwhile based on how many people want to watch you do it.”

    In terms of televised – or even publicly supported – sport that’s pretty much there is to it actually.

  17. Well yes, I suppose it does make it more worthwhile if you are going to get paid stacks of cash for doing it because lots of people are prepared to pay to watch. But it is still worthwhile to do something just for its own sake.

  18. What I like about the Olympics is that it’s a private event. The organising committee every time gets volunteers to give their time (albeit for some perks like free travel, snacks and a uniform) and the major funding is from sponsors and US and Asian TV networks.
    Except . . . the Olympics is an Ofcom Listed sporting event, and the people who have to pay for the BBC to show it under threat of court have no say in who runs it, what it costs, and what is fair for a protected designation.

  19. Grikath,

    There’s a difference between watching some swimming in a bar because it’s already on vs actively going out to the pub to watch it.

    Stonyground,

    “This sounds like one of those if everyone can’t have something then nobody should arguments.”

    Not at all. I’ve nothing against rich people spending huge amounts of money on a horse and training it to do ballet. But when you win at it, you aren’t involved in something as competitive as the 100m. Almost every kid on earth can start in that with a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and trainers. And there’s money for doing well at 100m, so it attracts more kids than Olympic sports with sod all money.

    We’ve won 22 gold medals and they’re worth less than Jamaica’s 4. Those 4 are all in track, highly competitive. None of ours are in track. Of course we’re going to do well in a velodrome, because almost nowhere has a velodrome. And there’s bugger all money in velodrome, so if you throw in some lottery money, you win because you have full time people competing against part-timers. It’s easy to win doing that.

  20. Bloke in North Dorset

    Bongo,

    “ Except . . . the Olympics is an Ofcom Listed sporting event, and the people who have to pay for the BBC to show it under threat of court have no say in who runs it, what it costs, and what is fair for a protected designation.”

    A bit understated. I have had a lot of pleasure both playing and watching sports throughout my life. I haven’t watched a second of these Olympics because I couldn’t face the BBC’s presenters and presentation. All they need to do is show me the sport, provide commentators who are knowledgeable and can explain to the layman the technicalities. But no, it’s all about providing sinecures for past sportsmen they deem to be “acceptable” and their favourite presenters.

    I can’t even face their rugby production, only turning it on as the game starts.

    They take banality to depths never seen before.

    PS the honourable exception is TMS.

  21. “We’ve won 22 gold medals and they’re worth less than Jamaica’s 4. Those 4 are all in track, highly competitive. None of ours are in track. Of course we’re going to do well in a velodrome, because almost nowhere has a velodrome. And there’s bugger all money in velodrome, so if you throw in some lottery money, you win because you have full time people competing against part-timers. It’s easy to win doing that.”

    A classic statement of the BoM4 fallacy, on display most weeks on this blog. He doesn’t get it, therefore it’s not worthwhile. A modern day puritan.

  22. BiND,

    “A bit understated. I have had a lot of pleasure both playing and watching sports throughout my life. I haven’t watched a second of these Olympics because I couldn’t face the BBC’s presenters and presentation. All they need to do is show me the sport, provide commentators who are knowledgeable and can explain to the layman the technicalities. But no, it’s all about providing sinecures for past sportsmen they deem to be “acceptable” and their favourite presenters.”

    The one exception to this is Michael Johnson in the athletics. He can talk in real depth. He clearly watches a ton of it, knows what’s going on with the athletes. He seems to have notes, so he’s put in some preparation. Everyone else in the room with him is part of some sort of BBC charitable programme to give money to former athletes. Absolute deadbeats at analysis.

  23. Diogenes,

    “A classic statement of the BoM4 fallacy, on display most weeks on this blog. He doesn’t get it, therefore it’s not worthwhile. A modern day puritan.”

    It’s better to add some argument to insult, if you don’t want to be thought of as a stupid, lazy motherfucker.

  24. I went to the pub to watch swimming. I did not go to the pub to watch the recent football. Swimming is one of the most popular events in the Olympics with TV viewers.

    I would like to see the Olympics trimmed back and many of the fringe events ditched. However, which ones? People often say, get rid of events where it depends on the judges, but that would get rid of boxing as well as nonsense (IMHO) like dancing gymnastics and swimming in make-up. You always end up with: “Keep what I like/value, ditch what I don’t”.

    One of the main attractions of the Olympics is the chance to see fringe sports played at a high level.

  25. MC,

    “One of the main attractions of the Olympics is the chance to see fringe sports played at a high level.”

    Sports like swimming are on Grandstand all the time.

    Few people really care that much about these sports. We know this because you can just turn up to the world championship rowing at Reading and take a seat among the many empty seats. If people cared about rowing they’d be charging admission.

  26. I don’t think I’ve ever heard ex-players give as good an analysis of a football game as I heard once from Mr Mourinho.

    He may be a nasty manic-depressive for all I know, but he does know a thing or two about the game.

    I don’t know about the Lions tour – dull rugby on a pay-to-view channel is not my thing.

  27. “Sports like swimming are on Grandstand all the time.”

    Which hasn’t been broadcast since 2007.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *