Record Hopeful Turns to CrossFit for Swimming Kick

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by JOSINTA TILLETT
Glover trains in Wellington´s cold, rough waters once a week.

Glover trains in Wellington´s cold, rough waters once a week.

The swim across the English Channel, from England to France, will take an elite swimmer around seven hours, the more humble an average of 13 hours.
Adding CrossFit strength and conditioning training to an already-tough regime has boosted the ability of a top swimmer hoping to break the English Channel crossing record, in ways he hadn’t expected.

Casey Glover, a 26-year-old from Wellington, New Zealand, already holds the record for swimming the country’s 26km Cook Strait in 4 hours 37 minutes in 2008, breaking the previous north-south record by 2 hours. He’s participated in Olympic trials; swum 41km across Lake Taupo, New Zealand´s largest lake; and completed various other events, but he turned to CrossFit to get an extra training boost for the English Channel crossing.

The swim across the English Channel, from England to France, will take an elite swimmer around seven hours, the more humble an average of 13 hours. The stretch from Dover to south of Calais is a good 34km (if you manage to swim in a straight line) through frigid water, a shipping lane, and English sewage, presenting both physical and mental challenges to even the toughest athletes.

Glover had always been a regular in gyms, messing around with various programmes that had him concentrating on developing his upper body strength by pumping out reps of chin ups, bicep curls, lat pull downs and other old favourites. “I was just meddling and wanted something to complement my swimming,” he says. Knowing that he needed something more structured and technical, when a friend mentioned CrossFit, he thought he’d give it a go.

Glover

CrossFit training has also provided Glover with something extremely valuable but also unexpected — greater mental strength.
Glover joined Wellington’s MaD CrossFit in April 2012 and quickly saw the gains he’d been promised. His overall strength increased markedly, and he soon realised that there’s more to swimming than just upper body strength — in the same way as there’s more to running than just leg strength. However, although Glover was loving CrossFit and also felt fitter overall as a result of muliple WODs per week, he began to notice that his actual swimming was suffering, given its technical nature. Glover tweaked things to gain some balance and now concentrates on strength training and one WOD per week. MaD CrossFit owner/coach Matt Dyson notes that “training Casey is a bit different, but in class he’s treated as just another member,” although he steers clear of movements that may injure a shoulder. Out of class, Glover is on a separate strength programme, and Dyson notes that most of his conditioning comes from swimming itself.

CrossFit training has also provided Glover with something extremely valuable but also unexpected — greater mental strength. Despite all of the previous training and races he has completed, Glover says that through the grueling WODs he’s performed at MaD, he has realised what more he is capable of and has learned to push past thresholds. “In some swims I’ve been able to push past pain and handle it for longer,” he says. Glover finds himself more confident in races and has stopped psyching himself out.

Glover’s swimming training has him in the pool every other day, ticking off distances of 6-15km and in the open sea once a week for an hour. These open water swims in Wellington’s notoriously cold and rough waters have him well-prepared for the worst England could throw at him.

Glover’s training appears to have been more self-directed than one might expect from someone at his level, having left a former coach who wanted to speacialise in pool swimmers and then working alone for 5 months. Now, having found John Ross to coach his pool swims, Philip Rush for the outdoor swims and Dyson at MaD, Glover’s training has been tied together nicely.

Glover looks forward to increasing his CrossFit training post the English Channel swim, with the chance to do his favourite WODs.
To get in line with the 200 other individuals who will attempt the swim this season (there is only a 10% success rate for the crossing) Glover booked his spot 2 years ago and will have between 5-11 September to complete it, weather dependent. Glover naturally goes into this with some trepidation. “I’m nervous about not having been to the English Channel and what the weather will feel like,” he says, although he will have a few days beforehand to try out the water. During the swim, a support crew floating beside him will ensure he heads in the right direction and will give him a drink bottle every 30 minutes with heated water, electrolytes and energy gels.

In true CrossFit community style, MaD held an event on 11 May to help Glover raise the NZ$16,000 it will cost him to get across the Channel, which he is also doing in support of the New Zealand Heart Foundation. In 3 heats, 16 teams of 3 athletes powered through a chipper based on English Channel facts:

  • Teams of 3 had to row for max distance in 6 minutes 55 seconds – based on the current Channel record of 6 hours and 55 minutes – each rowing for 90 seconds and then moving on to the other movements. The first member had to finish the movement before the next person could start.
  • Air Squats x44 – based on the total number of one way swimmers 1331 (13+31 =44)
  • Pull Ups x18 – based on the distance in nautical miles
  • Wall Balls x21 (20/14# to 10/9’) – based on the distance in miles
  • Sit Ups x32 – based on the date of the first crossing 24/08/1875 (24+8=32) by Captain Matthew Webb in 21 hours and 45 minutes
  • Box Jumps x20 (24/20”) – based on the last possible day of the attempt in 2013 11/09/2013 (11+9=20)
  • Double Unders x107 (scale to 214 singles) – based on the total number of crossings 1790 (17+90=107)
  • Burpees x33 – based on distance in km

Scores were given for distance rowed and for all team members completing the entire chipper, with the movements themselves coming from Glover as they are some of his favourites. The fundraiser was a great success with a lot of people new to CrossFit being supported by old hands, an awesome atmosphere and, naturally, plenty of sweat angels left on the floor afterwards.

Glover hits the fundraising WOD at MaD CrossFit, Wellington

Glover hits the fundraising WOD at MaD CrossFit, Wellington

Glover looks forward to increasing his CrossFit training post the English Channel swim, with the chance to do his favourite WODs – Christine (3RFT 500m row, 12 body weight dead lifts, 21 box jumps), which he is good at and better than his rival, close friend and regular training buddy Matt Woodrow, and MaD’s baseline (500m row, 40 squats, 30 sit ups, 20 push ups, 100 pull ups) because it´s short and fast.

For now, Glover will stick with his nicely-balanced regime between CrossFit and swimming, with hopes to be the fastest crosser of the year, with a time under 8 hours or, at best, close to the world record of 6 hours 55 minutes.

For more information and to donate check out Glover´s website: submerge2emerge.co.nz.

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