Swim Report – June 14, 2014 – Late Spring bliss…

After a chaotic week where the air temperatures dipped into the low 50F’s, we lucked on out Saturday morning with a nice, sunny day – and a relatively warm lake.

The official water temperature measured just under 62F at 5:15am, but the lake conditions were about as ideal as you could get.  So after the usual socializing/procrastinating phase, we all slipped into the lake rather quickly.

Given the flat and calm water, the swim south to the beach was quick and efficient.  We had a steady north wind to contend with on the way back which gave us a slight current.  But we still made pretty good time on the return to L1.

What made the morning especially significant, though, was the presence of several new Lake Monsters – including Lake Monster #300!  As a celebration of this milestone, we gave out a new pair of Barracuda Triton goggles.

[NOTE: For those of you interested in ordering Barracuda swim products at a special discount, be sure to check out openwaterchicago.com/deals]

‘Nuff said.  Here are the pics and video:



Pool party at 5:15am



Sunrise at water level


Renee, Lake Monster 299


Geneva, Lake Monster 300 [yay, we hit the 300 mark!]


Amanda, Lake Monster 301


Greg, Lake Monster 302


Tony, Lake Monster 303


An artistic shot of Rick, Lake Monster 304 (Photo: Josh Jones)


Sunrise video!

OWC Mindshare 1: The inner game of outdoor swimming

Believe it or not, you are actually “wired” to thrive in the elements.  But you will only be successful if you understand how you interact with a highly dynamic external environment at a physical, emotional, and logical level.

In this kick-off session to the OWC Mindshare series, we will review this topic area in depth.  By the end, you should have a much better frame of reference to guide you with your open water swimming – as well as elsewhere in your life.  Here are the details:

OWC Mindshare 1: The inner game of outdoor swimming

- Date: Saturday, June 14, 2014

- Time: 7:00am

- Location: Vicinity of Ladder 1

- What to bring: Just yourself as this is a land-based seminar (i.e. no swimming involved!).  You can also bring something to eat or drink – I will likely be doing so!

- Cost: Feel free to donate to OWC at any time after the clinic if you feel that it was in any way valuable to you!

[For more details on the OWC Mindshare series - CLICK HERE]


OWC Mindshare: A new model for open water swim education!

Are you tired of feeling like a shipwreck survivor whenever you finish an open water swim?

Well, that’s exactly what you will get when you train to merely “survive” the swim!

How about OWNING the swim instead?

In other words, what if you could actually THRIVE in the open water environment and have it be an ENJOYABLE CHALLENGE instead of a “necessary evil” that you just need to “get through?”


I’ve been in your situation.

I know what it’s like to be facing an upcoming open water swim and to not feel adequately prepared to deal with the uncertainty of the experience.

And I also know how frustrating it is to be told by inexperienced coaches that the solution to your dilemma is to “just do it” and “get more laps in” out in the lake.

Bottom line – this approach doesn’t solve your problem!

You need SPECIFICS – strategies and tactics that will enable you to excel in the open water and to actually ENJOY the experience.

And most important, you want this from a TRUSTED ADVISOR who can provide valuable guidance based on real experience in Lake Michigan (imagine that!).

Fortunately, there is now a new and exciting alternative to the status quo!


Open Water Chicago is thrilled to announce “OWC Mindshare” - a new series of specialized clinics designed to give you key insights and tools you need to successfully navigate open water swimming.

Starting in June, I will be scheduling and conducting 30-45 minute interactive educational sessions which will take place at 7:00am (after our swim meetups and within the vicinity of L1).

The topics will vary, but below is a current list of several areas we will cover based on the feedback I’ve received from all of you:

- The inner game of outdoor swimming
- How to effectively prepare for cold water immersion
- Anxiety and panic in open water swimming: why they’re completely different and why they require separate strategies
- Reality-based sighting: how to really keep your bearings in a chaotic swim situation
- How to handle swimming and breathing in waves, chops, and currents
- Gear selection for open water swimming: what is the best setup for various situations?
- Drafting: how to conserve energy through other swimmers
- How to conquer an Alcatraz swim – or any other SF Bay swim

So what does this cost?


All you need to do is show up, listen, ask questions, and seek clarification on anything we go over during that session. You don’t need to bring any swim gear as these will be “land-based” sessions.


Here’s the key – if you think you have received any value from any of these clinics, then feel free to go to the OWC website at any time afterwards and donate WHATEVER YOU WANT by clicking on the blue “Support OWC!” button on the middle right side of the page.

If you do NOT think you derived any value from attending these, then please do NOT feel obligated to donate anything. Yes, I am serious!

So why this compensation model?

Because I only want you to pay for this if you honestly feel that I provided you with something of value to you and to your specific situation. And by you voting with your wallet, you help me “up my game” and provide you with better information, guidance, and coaching overall.

So that’s it! I will be announcing the first OWC Mindshare session very soon, so please keep checking the OWC home page as well as the OWC Facebook Page.

And thanks again for all your continued interest and support!



Swim Report – June 7, 2014 – Dangerously enjoyable

According to the Chicago Tribune, 63F is “dangerously cold” water. However, Lake Monsters seem to thrive in these conditions…

As we edge closer and closer to the summer solstice, the sunrises (and swim times) grow ever earlier. And yet we have been getting more and more people showing up in the wee hours of the morning to partake in our weekly ritual of awesomeness. So much for logic!

We had about 20 swimmers show up at L1 just before 5:15am on Saturday, and they were all treated to a magnificent show once the sun started to blaze above the eastern horizon. As noted above, the lake came in at a surprisingly warm 63F with perfectly flat and clear swimming conditions. So as soon as the sun was fully out in force, we all got in the lake.

In the absence of any chops or currents, the swim to and from Oak Street Beach was an easy glide through the water. As such, I was able to work on my bilateral breathing – something which proved to be indispensable given the blinding glare of the sunrise whenever I took and eastward-facing breath.

A group of us met briefly at Oak Street Beach before heading back to L1. I was a little chilled during the first 10 minutes after getting out of the water. But I didn’t really have a noticable afterdrop this time. So I can accurately say that Summer has finally arrived at L1 (in more ways than one)!

(P.S. – congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!)



Checking out the sunrise


First brave swimmer!


They’re off!


Michele, Lake Monster 294


Steve, Lake Monster 295


Cady, Lake Monster 296


Jim, Lake Monster 297


Luke, Lake Monster 298


Video at the beach!

D-Day – June 6, 1944

Excerpt from “First Wave at Omaha Beach” (S.L.A. Marshall, November 1960):

Already the sea runs red. Even among some of the lightly wounded who jumped into shallow water the hits prove fatal. Knocked down by a bullet in the arm or weakened by fear and shock, they are unable to rise again and are drowned by the onrushing tide. Other wounded men drag themselves ashore and, on finding the sands, lie quiet from total exhaustion, only to be overtaken and killed by the water. A few move safely through the bullet swarm to the beach, then find that they cannot hold there. They return to the water to use it for body cover. Faces turned upward, so that their nostrils are out of water, they creep toward the land at the same rate as the tide. That is how most of the survivors make it. The less rugged or less clever seek the cover of enemy obstacles moored along the upper half of the beach and are knocked off by machine-gun fire.

Swim Report – May 31, 2014 – Last swim of the month!

I arrived at L1 a bit ahead of the 5:15am swim time, and there were already some people (non-swimmers) out at the south wall of North Avenue Beach gathering to watch the sunrise. So I sipped on the marginally palatable coffee I bought at Dunkin Donuts (the only place open at 4:30am) and waited for the other swimmers to arrive…

The lake temperature came in at an amazing 61F with exceptionally clear water and a very slight southbound current. Several new and veteran Lake Monsters converged on the swim site just before sunrise. We sat around and watched the show for a few minutes and eventually all got in the lake.

A phalanx of faster swimmers shot ahead towards the Oak Street Beach while I stayed behind for a bit and took some in-swim shots. I caught up with the group at the shoreline, and I snapped off a few more pics before we all headed back to L1.

It was a bit more of an effort swimming north due to the current, but certainly not an impediment to any level of swimmer. All in all, another perfect morning for a swim and a great way to end the month of May!

Gathering of Lake Monsters


Yet another amazing sunrise


Near perfect conditions at L1!


Group picture at the beach


Back home!


Chris, Lake Monster 290 (hailing all the way from the UK – congrats!)


Emily, Lake Monster 291 (yay!)


JB, Lake Monster 292 (way to go!)


Jay, Lake Monster 293 (woo hoo!)


Today’s video compilation

Memorial Day 2014


Swim Report – May 24, 2014 – New Lake Monster sightings!

Yet another picture perfect late Spring morning out at L1.  Where were you?!?

Just a quick report today as I’m getting back outside to enjoy the weekend.  The lake temperature came in at 58F with overabundant sunshine and very high water clarity.  

Thanks to everyone for coming out, and congrats to all the new Lake Monsters!

Moon and Venus




Our world famous swim spot


Heading down to the beach


Jason, Megan, and Chris


Marissa, Lake Monster 286


Adam, Lake Monster 287


Megan, Lake Monster 288


Jackie, Lake Monster 289


Pre-swim video

Power Law Strength Training (Updated & Simplified)

Editor’s note - Here’s a repost of a piece from a few years back that’s still just as relevant today.  I made some minor revisions to the routine, but the core principles are the same.

Have fun!


If you take away all of the trappings of your modern life, you are still the same Cro-Magnon that walked the earth over 50,000 years ago. This means that your body is optimized for specific types of activities – and not optimized for others.


The overarching truth is that you are physiologically designed for low intensity/moderate duration activities accompanied by intermittent, variable, and high intensity “short burst” events.

In ancient times, this meant long periods of walking, carrying food and water, and occasionally sprinting after prey or fighting/fleeing predators. In modern times, this translates to “power law” activities such as sprinting, recreational bicycling, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and tennis – all of which involve intermittent “explosive” physical activity coupled with extended periods of lower energy movements.

Endurance activities such as marathons, iron-distance triathlons, long distance swimming events, lengthy spinning/aerobics classes, and chronic treadmill workouts are unfortunately NOT power law activities. While these activities may be highly rewarding and enjoyable, they are actually “anti-evolutionary” and therefore physically detrimental to humans if sustained over long periods of time.

Power law strength training is characterized by short burst, higher intensity movements and activities that stress the larger muscle groups. It is designed to mimic our paleolithic activity patterns and develop the optimal balance of slow twitch (ST), fast twitch A (FT-A), and fast twitch B (FT-B) muscle tissue.

Below are the essential exercises and sequences with links that demonstrate the techniques. NOTE: You can substitute other exercises (i.e. cable rowing for bent rowing) as long as you are effectively engaging the same larger muscle groups.


The Exercises:

Upper Body Sequence

Lower Body Sequence


The Routine:

  • Follow a 16-8-4 routine for the upper and lower body sequences – except for squats and dead lifts – Do a set of 16, a set of 8, and a set of 4 repetitions for each exercise using progressively more weight on the latter two sets if you can. If you find yourself unable to do this sequence in its entirety, try for a 12-6-3 or 10-4-2 sequence (or just use less weight!).
  • For squats and dead lifts, do a 5 x 5 routine – Do 5 consecutive sets of 5 repetitions each.


Important Tips:

  • Protect your spine – Always brace your abdomen whenever doing any lifting (even when changing weights). Pay special attention to this when doing dead lifts and squats.
  • Protect your heart – Never strain or go to failure as this raises blood pressure unnecessarily. Do not hold your breath or grip too hard when executing the movements – be sure to exhale as you push or pull the weight.
  • Protect your joints – Avoid any twisting motions with your knees, lower back, neck, shoulders, wrists, or ankles – especially if you are lifting or carrying any weights.
  • Keep moving – Do not rest between sets or exercises. Try to average 10-15 seconds max in between sets. Why this is important - The compressed intervals between sets and exercises are the primary factors driving the success of this type of training. By keeping the rest periods to a minimum, you significantly increase the growth hormone levels in your system without increasing the stress hormone levels.
  • Smooth movements are best – Lower the weights more slowly than you raise them, up a bit quicker than down. Move faster on the lighter part of the set and near the end of each sequence.
  • Do not eat or drink anything during a work out – If you are thirsty, have a sip of water (i.e. no “energy drinks”).
  • Keep your workouts very short and intense without overtraining – Get in and out of the gym in 45 minutes or less and work out no more than once or twice a week.

Swim Report – May 17, 2014 – Mother Nature pushes back

Ma Nature must have decided that we were getting a little too presumptuous over the past few weeks. So she presented us with a 48F lake on Saturday morning just to remind us that she is still in charge! A scolding well taken…

Despite a crisp 50F air temperature at 5:30am, we had a great turnout out at the old swimming spot. Nick, Martin, and Jason were back as well as Obed and two new Lake Monsters, Ashley and Jesse. We didn’t get much of a sunrise due to a wall of clouds on the horizon, but Mr. Sol peeked through an aperture for a few minutes just before we got in the water.

The surface lake temp came in at 51F, which was substantially lower than last week. And as we found out later after getting the readouts from our watch thermometers, the actual water temp was much closer to 48F.

Despite the pushback by Mother nature, we all got in the lake and managed to get in as much swimming as possible while the otherwise near perfect conditions persisted. I completed the out-and-back to the beach. But in hindsight, I would have been a lot more comfortable – and would have avoided a rather nasty afterdrop – were I to have opted for a bit more neoprene.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful morning out at L1, and it was great to see more familiar faces out there as well as some new Lake Monsters!

Brief sunrise


Cold plunge


Jesse, Lake Monster 284 (congrats!)


Ashley, Lake Monster 285 (congrats!)


One last look back


Pre-swim video