Workout I Did: 100×100 Birthday Swim

I swear, as I get older, I’m losing my mind.

Case in point: The Birthday Swim. Every year, I hop into the pool for a 100×100 swim — that’s 100 sets of 100 meters each, or 10 kilometers of swimming.

Yes, I swim 6.1 miles. In a pool. On my birthday. For fun.

Told you I was losing my mind.

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I first heard about birthday swims from my friend Hillary, who was exposed to 100x100s in her early years as a pro triathlete. Her coach, the legendary Brett Sutton, would assign the workout to the entire triathlon squad as a way of commemorating an athlete’s birthday. The 100×100 set can be done anytime, anywhere (I’ve done it at triathlon camp with Hillary), but doing the swim on important occasions, such as birthdays, makes the set feel more like a special occasion than a day of trying to drown what remaining brain cells I have left.

Doing a 100×100 swim is not for the weak willed. For one, it’s a long time in the pool — this workout has taken me anywhere from three to five hours — and the swimmer must constantly fight the temptation to throw off her goggles and say “Eff it. I’m getting in the hot tub.” That’s why the 100×100 swim is so important, though: embracing the long-swim mindset makes for a stronger, more resilient athlete.

I’d be remiss not to mention the physicality of the task, too. Doing a 6-mile swim is not something most people can do spontaneously. It requires planning and a gradual build toward the distance (I suggest being able to swim at least 7,000 meters in a workout before tackling a 10K). In that sense, it’s almost like training for a marathon, though there’s no finisher’s medal waiting to grace your pruny, waterlogged skin at the finish.

But the sense of badassery you feel? It’s better than any finisher’s medal. It’s the best birthday gift I could ever give to myself.

Want to tackle your own Birthday Swim? Grab your suit, slather on the sunscreen and dive in:

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Have you ever done this 100×100 workout? What tips do you have for newbies to the Birthday Swim? —Susan

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