From Couch to Swimming a 5k

For years, swimming a 5k has been on my bucket list. To most, this sounds beyond crazy but I come from a background in racing triathlon and swimming was always my favorite. I struggle with finding motivation to workout. It probably sounds ironic since I’m a fitness instructor but I need a reason to get the gym and for me that reason is racing.

The Fat Salmon is a local 5k swim in Lake Washington that happens every year in July. You swim from I-90 to 520 with a massive group of swimmers. Some will be there to win the ultimate prize, a fat salmon, and others, like me, will be out there to prove to ourselves that we can do more than we think we can.

It’s been months since I’ve been in a pool. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been in a pool at all in 2018, but on May 4th with only 10 weeks to the race date, I signed up. After a quick google search, I found a 10-week training plan for swimming a 5k and made room in my busy schedule so I could get at least two swims in each week.

FM heart.jpeg

My first swim started at 3000 meters. To give you some perspective, a mile is 1500 meters. It was physically and mentally challenging but I got through it. What helped me the most, aside from muscle memory and natural swimming abilities, was using all the mental training techniques I’ve learned through my years of Pilates instruction and my Franklin Method education. I imaged my heart rotating around my lungs as I rotated my torso through the water. I pictured my scapula as two slippery bars of soap that were easily sliding and gliding across my ribcage as I got each arm out in front stroke after stroke. To stabilize my spine and pelvis and to kick from my hips, I focused on the relationship between my multifidi, my psoas, and my thoracolumbar fascia. And finally, I pictured my right upper trap (my problem child) as staying soft, relaxed, and draping over my ribs like a cloak.


Since starting my training, I’ve swam 9400 meters with two more 3400 meter workouts this week. I’ll slowly start to build my swim distance in the pool maxing out at 4700 meters in week 7 and add an open water workout in Lake Washington in June.

My point in sharing this story is to inspire others to take on what you think you can’t because if you can focus on the bits and pieces, you can do it. Physical fitness has always set a precedent in my life of pushing me to new places beyond where I thought I could go.  What these last two weeks of training have proven is that what you’re focusing on and what you’re buying into, can make or break you. Pilates has given me the ability to not only physically accomplish my goals because of healthy body that moves efficiently, but the mental tools to cross swimming a 5k off my bucket list.

Jessica Notman