Interview with open water swimmer Adam Walker

Adam Walker is the UK’s leading open water marathon swimmer and the first British man to complete the gruelling Ocean’s 7 Challenge, I interviewed him last week around his challenges, fitness and nutrition.

Only six people in the world have completed the Ocean 7 challenge and Adam is one of only two people to complete the challenge on the first attempt. During his ocean marathons Adam burns 1,100 calories an hour with his longest challenge taking him 17 hours, where he burnt 19000 calories over 37 miles. So when it comes to nutrition, what does he recommend for those who are swimmers, and what does he eat while in training?

Lots of good carbs and greens – brown pasta and vegetables as well as a variety of fish. Mixed nuts for a snacking instead of sugary sweets and chocolate as they will give you highs and then lows in terms of energy. You need to eat enough to replace the calories burn’t in swimming.

In open water you can burn up to 1100 calories in an hour due to the body having to work harder in the cold temperature. When I’m doing an event, I would have carb powder drinks giving a slow release of energy every 30 minutes to replenish what had been burn’t however I also loved natural foods like homemade soup with chick peas and carrots which had natural carbs too.

 

Tell me more about your swimming challenges, and why you challenged yourself to do them?

I believed it was the ultimate challenge of myself, I wanted to test my capability. I was inspired by a movie called ‘On a clear day’ about a fictional character called Frank who swims the English Channel for inspiration. I felt I needed some inspiration myself. The plan was to swim the English Channel and that was it. However I swam the English Channel in 2008 and ruptured a bicep tendon and was advised to give up the long distance swimming by my surgeon.

As this wasn’t an option ( I knew I couldn’t give up on swimming) I taught myself to swim more efficiently by using the core muscles to power the stroke rather than the conventional way of shoulders and chest. The stroke was so successful I decided to swim from Spain to Morocco and back again breaking the British record one way in the process.

I then decided to take on the ‘Oceans Seven’ the toughest 7 ocean swims in the world. During the swims I have been stung by a Portuguese man o war, lost feeling in my spine and swam 17 hours non- stop to finish. In Catalina my shoulder ruptured again for the second time and I swam with one arm for 6.5 hours to complete it in 12 hours 15 minutes. In the Cook Strait dolphins came to my aid when there was a shark underneath me and escorted me across. The video went viral and is currently on 5.1 million hits.

Man V Ocean Book Jacket.jpg

Were there any terrifying moments?

I had sharks on three separate swims but was never terrified as I believed it was my destiny to get across. I am lucky enough to have found this sport and so I just focus on the positives.

How did you keep on track in the water? What was your motivation?

Keeping it simple in my mind, if it’s simple in your mind, its simple in reality. I would say ‘It’s just one arm in front of the other, how hard can that be?’ I would think of the end goal and how it would feel when I reached my destination. I felt that I had to complete each one as it was my destiny to complete the challenge.

For someone who isn’t that keen on swimming for fitness (aka me) can you give me some hints and tips on how to love it a little bit more and why it’s good for fitness?

 

Open water swimming is a great way to push your fitness, meet new people, laugh a lot and it won’t break the bank. However, beware, as it is addictive and once you try it you might get hooked, like I did!

 

Adam’s book Man vs Ocean is now available, via Amazon

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