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

Swim Report – May 10, 2014 – Spring Reunion!

I’ll keep this quick since this has been our first really good weekend of the year – and I’ve been trying to spend as much time outside as possible!

Bottom line, another fantastic morning with near perfect swimming conditions. The lake temp came in at just under 55F, but we had clear skies and flat water all the way to the beach and back. So swimming in just a cap and jammers was really pretty easy.

The warmer weather also brought out some returning Lake Monsters, including Kaley, Chris, Brett, and Joel. It was great to see more and more swimmers coming out! The big question is, where were you?

Sunrise shots




Lake Monsters!


At the beach


L1 artistic shot


The scene at 5:30am

Swim Report – May 3, 2014 – First Meetup of May!

Another amazing morning out at L1….

Despite the early (and getting earlier) swim start time, we had a decent turnout. Nick and Martin showed up as well as Jason, who’s getting ready to take on Alcatraz early next month!

The lake temp came in at 51F, but it was more than manageable without the neoprene given the very intense but very welcome sunshine. Thanks to the very calm and clear waters, I was able to do my first out-and-back miler of the season.

Can’t wait to start seeing everyone out at the swim site again!

Chess Pavilion




Lake Monsters gathering



Taking the plunge


Heading back!


Swim video

Swim Report – April 26, 2014 – Back to the summer gear

Judging by the mess out at the lakefront this morning (Sunday), it looks like our gamble to go for Saturday paid off…

Given a 5:58am sunrise time, I had to set the alarm clock rather early. But it was sure worth the loss of sleep as evidenced by the amazing images below!

As with last week, Nick and Martin arrived shortly beforehand. Also on hand were Courtney and Willis (I think I got your names correct) – two late nighters who were out at the lakefront taking in the show as well. All in all, quite a festive mood out at L1 in the wee hours of daybreak!

The lake temperature (surface) came in at 51F, and we were once again lucky enough to have some very intense sunshine to accompany us during our time in the water. I again opted to jog to the beach and swim back. But Nick and Martin started out at L1 and did a longer swim.

Slowly but surely, I’m getting my swim endurance back after this punishing winter!

Pre-sunrise shot of Venus and a crescent Moon


Skyline at daybreak




A close up


Sun worshippers enjoying the show


Swim start!