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Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.

From The New York Times:

Her Parents Thought Swimming Lessons Were a Good Idea

Krystal Lara is one of very few Latinas in her class at Stuyvesant High School, and in the pool. She’s backstroking her way toward the Olympics.…

Former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka

Good video about former Yale swimmer Siphiwe Baleka


It really is fun what the body can do and what the mind thinks that it can't. Recently, one of my open water swim coaches - Bob Roper  - came to me and said, "Naji, I want you to start bumping up your time in the water."

At the time when he told me that I was averaging about 60 mins in 55F water. On occasion I would go up to about 65 or even 70 mins but all the while my mind started telling my body, "Okay this is too much lets head in good work for the day."

Not a bad idea to listen to your mind on this, but i also knew that my core was nice and warm. Sure my fingers and toes were a bit numb but I'm so use to that I don't pay attention anymore. Well this past week I decided to try a little "total body confusion." What this essentially means is that rather than give the body a chance to get comfortable with a certain routine, you change it up and make it work other muscle groups or a more difficult lung capacity etc. I read about this concept from a Channel Swimming Group i am a part of on Goggle.

With this thought in mind I decided to give it a go. However, laziness got the better of me for the first three days of the week and all I did was procrastinate and not swim at all. Finally on Thursday (4/22) I ventured into the water and told myself, "Keep going down the buoy line of the cove, touch the flag and come back, then repeat two more times.

The first two flag touches went fine but by the third I could feel I was out of gas. My arms barely were clearing the water and I knew that I was really tuckered out. Add to this - for the sake of experimenting - I choose not to eat anything before going in. I wanted to see how far I could go (safely) without feeding. As I neared the dock of our sister club The Dolphin Club I knew that it would be a struggle to just turn the corner and swim to shore.

As i struggled along, two very attractive female  Dolphin Club swimmers swam up to me and asked if I was okay. I responded that I was and I just wanted to get to the beach. I thanked them for their concern and pressed on for a whopping two more strokes. Then I stopped turend to them and said, "You know what i'm just going to climb out on your dock if that's okay?" The two young women helped me out and one sprinted off to fetch me some hot tea. They were both quite concerned about me and I was deeply touched.

But in the midst of all this I should add that I was not hypodermic nor was I disoriented. In fact, a year ago I would have been hard to understand as I spoke due to mild hypothermia, but now...nothing. I thanked them again and walked over to our side of the beach and got in our shower and sauna. A lot of others had come in after me into the water and left long before. Some saw me and asked, :"Naji, how long were you in there today?" "90 mins" came the reply.

As I sat in the sauna it dawned on me that the long swim I had planned for May 29th; the long swim in which I wanted to raise money for The Josh Project; the long swim which many said was not in my grasp might just now be due to this new training method.

Oh don't fret, the feedings will come back now, I just wanted to see what I can do without them. This coming week (4/26-4/30), I plan on averaging 90 mins in the water and possibly 2 hours this coming Friday. I look back on where I've come from a year ago and am amazed at what our bodies can do if we just shut the mind off and let the body do its thing.


Keep Swimming!

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Replies to This Discussion

Wow Naj,

I really am impressed and also very intimidated about doing anything close to what you've just described. Your mind and body are working together to create exceptional human performance. Performance I don't think I could come close to. The ocean water here in south Florida has never gotten into the 50's (maybe except for the lakes). I have swam in waters without a wet suit as cool as the upper 60's (Fort Lauderdale Rough Water Swim, 1 Mile and the MIT Triathlon swim again only 1 Mile).

You inspired me to challenge myself this year, and I swam my first 5K open water swim at the Swim Miami annual Open water event. The water was a balmy 71-72 degrees (:-). I just had major dental work complications, and had not trained for this event, but I will definitely do it again. I have been invited to swim on a relay team around Key West I believe 12 miles total, but I haven't accepted. It was impressive to see several Olympic Swimmers, swimming the 10K swim, they were so fast that they finished 10K as I was finishing 5K. Wow. But what was more impressive, is that a blackman (Dwight), who is new to competive swimming, new to open water swimming, swam the same 5K swim and was 15 minutes faster than me. We are the same age, but one difference, he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident 5 years ago and decided to start swimming two years ago for fitness. Wow, Dwight is the man.

Hey Naj, you keep up the great work and keep sharing your experiences, you are an inspiration.

Thank you Thaddeus and congratulations on your own accomplishment, well done! Cold water marathon swimming is not for everyone, I know but I love it so much and you have no idea the euphoria I feel when I exit the water with only my cap, goggles, and brief and look back and think, "Gosh it was such an impossibility a year ago and now its second nature." Maybe one day I'll give warm water a try. And by warm water I mean 63-65F hehe :-)

Naji: - that is facinating! Thank you for sharing another part of your journey in aquatics. You truly are amazing. I am encouraged by your strength and courage. I will Keep on learning how to swim!!!! Peace, Love & Joy be with you always.............wanda jean butts - THE JOSH PROJECT, INC.
My God Naji,
Every word I read of your experiences just keep getting better and better. What an awesome feat you have accomplished, and you truly are an inspiration for "wanna be's, such as myself. One would truly attest to my question about you....What manner of man is this? Keep on keeping on My Brother, and I would really love to read some of the articles that Mr. Steven Munatones has written about you in the past.


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