Q&A with 5K National Champions Alex Meyer and Haley Anderson


Olympians Haley Anderson and Alex Meyer answered questions from fans via USA Swimming’s official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts following the conclusion of the 2014 Open Water Nationals. Meyer captured his first 5-kilometer national title, while Anderson won the women’s 5K for her second career national crown. 


Q: Mary Gutierrez via Facebook - How often to you get into open water to train?

Haley: When I have a race coming up I try to do a practice or two in the ocean or the canals in Long Beach. I mainly train in the pool because the best practice for open water is doing a race.

Alex: Well, it depends on the time of year, but in the summer I get out to open water about twice a week

Q: Mary Gutierrez via Facebook - What is the weight training regimen like for an open water swimmer?

Haley: I don't do any sort of weight lifting. I have been doing Pilates for a year now instead to get lean and not bulk up. 

Alex: I train with coach Tad Sayce at Sayco Performance Athletics in Waltham, Massachusetts. The goal of the functional training we do is to make me a stronger, well-balanced and injury-resistant athlete. We mostly work the muscle groups that I don't use when swimming.

Q: Jill Sigrist via Facebook - Is open water swimming more mental or physical?

Haley: The mental aspect is huge for open water. I think it mentally tougher to complete a 10k than physically. You have to be mentally prepared to push yourself farther than you think you can go, when you are swimming for over 2 hours you have a lot of time to question and doubt yourself so you have to be able to mentally push past all that doubt. I think open water swimmers are some of the most mentally tough athletes out there. 

Alex: There are certainly aspects of both. You need to be fit to swim hard for a whole 10k or more, and fast to finish the close races. But you also need to make smart tactical decisions and know how and when to spend your energy wisely.

Q: Ellyce Shulman via Facebook - What is your advice for swimming in choppy water?

Haley: To swim in choppy water you just have to try to stay calm and your stroke as smooth as possible. You don't want to fight the water the entire time and tire yourself out. 

Alex: First of all, don't let it frustrate you! You can waste a lot of mental energy by getting unnecessarily frustrated. For surface chop, make sure you lift your head to sight a little more than you normally would, and maybe turn you head more to breathe - just because you never know when a wave might splash in your face and either obstruct your vision or worse, cause you to inhale a gulp of water into your lungs. For waves with a predictable rhythm, don't try to fight the waves - let them move you around but try to keep your balance using your core. Try to sight when you are on top of the wave if you can.

Q: N.Gomez via Instagram - Do you prefer swimming in lakes or oceans?

Haley: I ultimately prefer swimming in flat water but love both the lake and ocean they create such different races. 

Alex: Just being outside is great! No preference.

Q: Leauhhh___ via Instagram - How old were you when you started swimming open water? Do you have any tips for people starting out in open water?

Haley: I started open water when I was 18. It wasn’t until I went to college that I really started doing it. When you are just starting out it is important to practice the skills and maybe do an open water camp or clinic beforehand, because safety is the most important when attempting any length of an open water swim. There are skills to learn such as sighting, feeding and turning that you should learn before you try a race.

Alex: I started early in high school just for fun, but more seriously in about 2009. The best advice for beginners is to be safe, make sure someone is watching you, and be reasonable and realistic with your goals. Don't try to overdo it.

Q: Xxswim2015xx via Instagram - What type of endurance work do you do to prepare for each race?

Haley: I don't train like other open water swimmers, the program at USC is more geared towards quality fast work, I train like a pool distance swimmer but will do some longer practice maybe around 8,000+ meters. 

Alex: Lots of hard training day in and day out in pools, open water, on the Vasa ergometer and trainer, and on land.

Q: Superstarsam via Instagram - When you fail, what motivates you to keep going?

Haley: I have been swimming for over 17 years. When you are younger, every meet you swim you are going best times, but the older you get it happens less and less. I have had my share of bad races, last year’s Open Water Nationals is a great example of that. It's not worth dwelling on the bad races, but learning from them and moving on. Every time you race you learn something even if you come out victorious, you still have something to learn.

Alex: The desire to win an Olympic gold medal.

Q: Owswimmer via Instagram - What kind of dry-land exercises do you do?

Haley: Outside of the pool I do Pilates a few times a week and occasionally I go on runs, but most of my training happens inside the pool.

Alex: I use a Vasa Ergometer and a Vasa Trainer three times per week.

Q:  Swim.rebecca via Instagram - What is your advice for people who are planning their first open water swim?

Haley: When preparing for your first open water swim, make sure you have a good breakfast and are hydrated. Races are especially draining. Then during the race here are a few key skills to remember: sighting, feeding, and turning. And of course have fun and enjoy the experience! 

Alex: Be safe, pace yourself, and have fun.

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