Coaching a swim across the English Channel

Captain Matthew Web 1875

Captain Matthew Web 1875

In 1875, Captain Matthew Webb became the first person to swim across the English Channel from Dover, England to Calais, France. Since then, fewer than 1500 people have accomplished the same feat. With a success rate of 50%, equal to Mt Everest summit attempts, just over 100 people successfully swam from point to point last year. This September, my uncle, Tom Bell, hopes to become one of them. A 19 nautical mile swim at its narrowest point, approximately 36km, in an unpredictable, frigid tide, that changes every 6hrs, could take upwards of 12hrs to complete in good conditions. Official sanctioning bodies limit swimmers to don nothing more than a speedo, cap and googles, as they brave the elements timed during seasonable high water temperatures in the 50s. 800 boats cross the channel daily, the world's busiest shipping channel. . With the help of an officially sanctioned boat captain, myself, and a crew of 3, Tom will wade into the water on an early morning the week of September 13, putting his faith in his team and his training.

Hudson 10k 

Hudson 10k 

VO2 Max Testing

VO2 Max Testing

For the past two years I have coached Tom remotely, sometimes joining him in open water training swims, races, and channel pacing. At 44yrs, he swims 6 days per week for 2hrs hours or more, covering an average of 35km weekly. Outside of the pool hes improved his strength and power with twice weekly strength and conditioning workouts. He's assessed and improved his VO2 Max - a powerful indicator of aerobic performance, has worked on his anaerobic threshold - critical for racing rapidly changing tides, has refined his mechanics and efficiency with countless hours of swimming drills, tailored by the help of the Functional Movement Screen, and honed and refined a specific nutrition strategy essential for fueling an exhausting and time sensitive 12 hour swim. In preparation, he s competed in the Little Red Lighthouse Hudson 10k in New York City - a 2+ hr swim up the Hudson River under the George Washington Bridge, participated in the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim twice - a temperamental 24 mile race in the deceptively beautiful Tampa Bay, and his biggest accomplishment to date, the 22 mile swim across the Catalina Channel in California. His completion of the English Channel will bring him one swim away from completing the Triple Crown of open water swimming - The English Channel, Catalina Channel, and Manhattan Island. A feat fewer than 100 people in the world have accomplished!

Tampa Bay Marathon Swim

Tampa Bay Marathon Swim

Tom is dedicating, and raising money with this swim, for the I AM ABLE Foundation. An organization supporting disabled individuals through fundraising, fitness opportunities, and motivation. Consider supporting him and the organization through this link: I AM ABLE

How to Choose A Personal Trainer

Want to begin an exercise program, but do not know where to start? Perhaps you have already started a program, but are having troubling sticking to your plan, lack planning, or are not getting the results you want. Hire a fitness professional!! Where should you look for one? What credentials should you look for?

While a simple Google search will return a google of results, not all of those top page ranked search results are top ranking professionals. As the internet has become ubiquitous, and social networking has given anyone and everyone their 15 minutes of exposure, there are a lot of marketers out there, who know how to get the first look, but have little to no training experience. Social media has opened the doors for a new kind of entrepreneur, the internet marketer. These individuals exploit mass market appeal with a broad reach of health content, to improve their search engine ranking. Nearly all of their time is spent online, and very little if any on the gym floor. Fortunately, with a little knowledge, you can weed out the bad from the good.

First, decide where you would like to workout. Making your training location as convenient as possible will decrease your risk to skip a workout. Should you decide on a local gym, inquire about their personal training department. Additionally, boutique private training studios are on the rise. There, a small gym fee allows you to use a facility with a trainer. This eliminates the need for a gym membership, which many exercisers do not use beyond visits with their trainer anyway. These smaller gyms cater to results oriented fitness and have done away with obsolete cardio and machine equipment (check out my blog Cardio vs. Resistance training for more on that). Many trainers also make house calls and can provide an excellent workout with little to no equipment. Resistance training does not have to involve weights. Learn to master common body weight movements before loading your body. You may also find ads on craigslist.com. By following the guidelines below you will be able to choose a qualified trainer.

Ask about a trainers credentials, education, and experience. As the public becomes more conscious of their health, the standards for fitness professionals is in greater demand. Many hold bachelor of science degrees in areas like exercise science, exercise physiology, kinesiology, biomechanics, sports management, and physical education. Associates and masters degrees are also common. Your trainer may even have credits or a minor in nutrition. In addition to a solid education, trainers should also hold a nationally recognized certification. While there are many certifications, some of which require as little as an online test, the following are the gold standards in the field. Each association's websites provide resources for locating a certified trainer in your area.

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) established in 1978, is the global leader in strength and conditioning sciences. Trainers certified through the NSCA, may hold one or both of the Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), or Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) certifications, and are qualified to work with both athletes and the general population, dispelling both fitness prescriptions, and nutritional advice.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), established in 1954, promotes and integrates scientific research for the greater health and well being of the general public. Certifications through the ACSM include health and fitness, clinical, and special needs population certifications. The fitness professional certified through the ACSM is qualified to work with both relatively healthy to high risks individuals.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), established in 1987, have carved a niche within the corrective exercise field. Fitness professionals certified through NASM are prepared to assess and correct common and minor movement pattern dysfunction, such as poor posture, lower back pain, etc.

While each of these governing bodies maintains a certain level of specificity, a trainer certified through any of these is more than qualified to work with populations of many levels and needs: weight loss, endurance, strength, sport-specific, pre/postnatal, prehabilitation, rehabilitation, post surgery, corrective exercise, youth fitness, nutrition advice, etc. Additionally, a trainer should carry professional liability insurance, as well as a CPR/AED and or first aid certifications. Most trainers offer complimentary, needs based fitness assessments and goal consultations. These are a good opportunity to inquire further of a trainers education, certification, and experience working with your specific goals. Remember, you get what you pay for. Inexperienced or unqualified trainers may offer lower rates, but may not have the capabilities to work towards your needs and goals. As always, consult with your medical professional before engaging in any exercise program.