How Crossfit Helped Me Swim Across The Worldโ€™s Largest Whirlpool (8.5km in The Arctic Circle)

I completed the swim with my two younger brothers, Calum and Jack, and it took 02:22 hrs to finish. No human had ever swum across this stretch of water prior to our attempt.

Alongside some of the most dangerous currents in the world, we had to navigate the risk of Orca Pods, Lionsmane Jellyfish and the threat of hypothermia from the Arctic temperatures.

"Three English brothers will dive into ice cold water and swim through the world's strongest tidal currents in the company of 600 killer whales and the world's largest jellyfish to protect the Lofoten Islands from Oil Drilling." We are partnering with WWF Norway to use our "Into the Maelstrom" expedition next month to draw attention to the Norwegian Governments plans to drill for oil around the Lofoten Islands ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด The area surrounding the Moskstraumen whirlpool is an area of outstanding natural wonder, with the worlds largest cold water coral reef, mainland Europe's largest seabird colony, the world's largest cod stock and over 600 Killer Whales ๐Ÿ ๐Ÿก๐ŸŸ๐Ÿ‹ We believe the whirlpool ๐ŸŒช is the perfect personification of mother nature and that by completing these swims we will inspire people to protect the wild places that remain in the world ๐ŸŒŠ WWF General Nina Jensen stated that "This is a tremendously demanding and risky project and it demonstrates the strong commitment that these three brothers have… Awareness of Lofoten's natural values should awaken commitment far beyond our borders and their swim should tell our politicians something." http://www.wwf.no/?51005/Legger-p-svm-for-et-oljefritt-Lofoten #swimming #whirlpool #swim #wwf #norway #wildswimming #outdoorswimming #orca #killerwhale

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The whirlpool is called The Moskstraumen, and consists of a system of tidal eddies and whirlpools, one of the strongest in the world, that forms at the Lofoten archipelago, Norway, in the Norwegian Sea. It is located between the Lofoten Point (Norwegian: Lofotodden) of Moskenesรธya (Moskenes municipality) and Vรฆrรธy, at the small island of Mosken.

TRAINING FOR THE SWIM

As the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine that you are reading, I live and work in Berlin, where our office is located. I train at CrossFit Aorta and now at Berlin Strength as well. The vast majority of my swim training is done in the beautiful and scenic lakes that surround the city, and in the Olympic pool at The Europasportpark, where the forthcoming Berlin Regional competition will be held.

When it came to training for this swim, this is what i did.

This weeks #fridayfeeling is the feeling of heading into the unknown but trusting in your team and believing in yourself ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿป In this shot all three of us move into swimming formation as we approach the Saltstraumen whirlpool in Norway ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด No one knew what the currents would be like under the water, what they would do to a swimmer or whether they were strong enough to suck you down to your death ๐ŸŒช Despite the months of training, research, preparation and support of the most experienced Norwegian ship captain in the region there comes a point where you have to take a leap of faith as you push on into the unknown ๐ŸŒŠ Reaching this point is the most terrifying moment, when no ones knows what will happen and you can't predict the outcome ๐Ÿ”ฎ This is the moment when we dig deep, trust yourself, your team and see how far our brotherhood can take us ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿป 5 minutes later with 45 seconds to spare we made it, just before the tides changed and the central vortex opened up, becoming the first people to swim the Saltstraumen ๐Ÿ‡ณ๐Ÿ‡ด๐ŸŠ๐Ÿป๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸŒช #swimming #swim #openwaterswimming #outdoorswimming #wildswimming #brothers #family #norway #visitnorway #saltstraumen #adventure #adventuretime @stella_polaris_as

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COLD WATER ACCLIMATISATION

The one thing that scared me the most about the swim was the cold. When you are submerged in cold water for longer periods of time, you can start to feel it seep into your bones. It can affect your mind and make you think very dark and negative thoughts. As Crossfitters and athletes yourself, you are very familiar with how important it is to be able to stay mentally strong. I wanted to make sure that i could survive the cold without letting it affect me negatively. 

In order to do this i took cold showers every day for 6 months before the swim. This was about as fun as it sounds, but after a few weeks it just becomes normal, and is actually a great recovery technique as well for efficient recovery after Crossfit training. It flushes lactate from your muscles and improves your immune system as well. 

SWIM TRAINING

I used many swim workouts from Chris hinshaw, and I made sure to have one long swim every weekend in the lake. I built this up over a period of several months, starting at around 500m and building up to a final 8km swim in Schlactensee in Berlin. I peaked this distance 3 weeks before travelling to the Arctic, then cut down the swims to 6, 4 and 3 km in order to maintain a good aerobic capacity without burning myself out. I also had at least one (normally two) other swimming sessions (always outdoors) where I worked exclusively and intensively on technique and breathing. 

CROSSFIT FOR CONDITIONING

During this time i used my Crossfit classes to add to my conditioning. I cherry picked workouts to favour longer conditioning pieces, as I was using Crossfit as a training aid to help be achieve a specific goal. Another great thing I learnt here was that for whirlpool swimming, there are a lot of unpredictable elements. your googles may fill with water, you may be sucked down into the water, or swept off into the wrong direction. But Crossfit teaches you to be exceptionally well prepared for the unpredictable. 

Do you ever have that feleing when you look at the WOD and you really don’t know if you are good enough to complete the workout? Yet somehow you manage it, and afterwards your confidence in yourself is improved? That feeling translated incredibly well to giving me confidence during the swim. There were times when I could feel the currents sweeping me off course, and all i could do was put my head down and keep going. In those moments I would think back to things that I had previously thought were impossible in WODs, yet I somehow managed to do in the Box, so there was no reason why I couldn’t complete the swim.

LEARNING HOW TO SHIFT MY PERSPECTIVE

The combination of Crossfit and dedicated swimming work was a great way to improve my mental toughness.

I also learnt during the swim that Crossfit teaches you to focus exceptionally well. Perhaps it is the pain that makes you blank everything else out. During the swim we had spotters on the support boat looking out for killer whales. They feed in these waters, so there was a realistic chance that we could have met them during the swim. When you are swimming and you know they may be there with you, it is difficult to stay calm. but you have to, you have no choice because if you panic, then you will fail. 

This weeks #mondaymotivation is the feeling of protecting the animals with which we share the planet ๐Ÿ ๐ŸŸ๐Ÿก๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿณ The lion's mane jellyfish (Cyanea capillata), also known as the giant jellyfish or the hair jelly, is the largest known species of jellyfish. Its range is confined to cold, boreal waters of the Arctic and it makes Northern Norway and the Lofoten Islands it home. It's stings are incredibly painful and result in large red welts and a sharp burning sensation ๐Ÿ˜ณ Despite the risk these creatures pose we believe that they deserve as much protection as any other species on the planet ๐ŸŒŽ By swimming across the Moskenstraumen we hope to draw attention to the political debate over oil drilling in the Lofoten Islands ๐ŸŒช @visitbodo @wwfnorge #swimming #wildswimming #outdoorswimming #swim #jellyfish #lionsmane #ocean #sea #whirlpool

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I used what I had learnt at CrossFit Aorta, to focus on what i can immediately control, and to forget the rest. In a WOD that’s the barbell in front of you. In that moment all I could do was make make sure my technique was tight, my breathing was solid and i remained relaxed. That helped me to forget that there might have been very large whales in the murky icey waters beneath me!

INSPIRATION FROM THE TOP ATHLETES

In terms of mental strength, you can never go wrong with advice from Josh Bridges. I took a lot of tips from this video.

I have also interviewed Jonne Koski and Tia Clair Toomey recently, both of whom regularly excel during the swimming events at The CrossFit Games. They both offered the same advice which is to always stay calm. Swimming is about efficiency of movement and good breathing technique. Get these both dialed in and you will be well on your way to performing well in any workout that involves swimming, or if you want to try any open water swimming adventures yourself.

This weeks #mondaymotivation is never forgetting to do what makes you happy. As brothers we grew up swimming in the lakes and rivers of the Lake District and Scotland ๐Ÿž As we've grown older we've all moved to cities, London, Newcastle, Berlin and spend less time together and close to nature ๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸŒฒ๐Ÿ” Our wild swimming expeditions reconnect us to what we loved doing together as children and judging by those smiles we'll not be stopping anytime soon ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿป Don't forget the simple pleasures which brought you so much joy in your youth ๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐ŸŠ๐Ÿป๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿž๐ŸŒฒ#brothers #swimming #wildswimming #outdoorswimming #openwaterswimming #swim #family #nature #outdoors #adventure #adventuretime @stella_polaris_as

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