To the unknown, Craig Frederiksen would seem like any ordinary 31 year old. In addition to his day-time job, he coaches the local high-school boys and girls swim teams. Craig is a former collegiate swimmer and is a recent U.S. Masters Swimming Open Water National Champion. On top of these accolades, this Moline, Illinois resident has his sights set on what is to be his biggest swimming challenge yet: to swim across the English Channel.

The English Channel is the body of water that separates southern England from northern France, and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. The English Channel is approximately -19 nautical miles (38,000 yards) or 35 kilometers (35,000m). The tides are strong and change direction approximately every 6 hours and can flow up to 4 nautical miles per hour.

The Channel Swim

A significant factor in open-water swimming is ‘experience and habituation’. Most open-water swimming events are in cold (<18°C) water resulting in significant cold-induced stress. The human body needs to control its core body temperature within narrow limits to maintain normal function and survival. Maintaining core temperature is achieved through a balance of heat production (a by-product of energy production) and heat loss.

Water is 25-times more conductive than air leading to a 4-fold increase in heat loss for anybody immersed in it. In open cold water, heat production becomes essential in maintaining normal function. Put all these things together, include a large portion of mental tension, and you have one of the hardest swims in the world!

The 40,000 Yard Swim Workout

In order to help prepare, Craig swam nearly 23 miles (800 laps) at the Moline YMCA on a Saturday last month. That distance was well over twice as far as he had ever swum before.

The swim was broken into a 5,000 yard warmup, then 14 x 2,500s.

Craig trains with a focus on high volume workouts that regularly total 10k or more to increase aerobic capacity. Below is a typical 10k workout for Craig:

The Challenge

The challenge will come at the end of August — a 21-mile swim from England to France across the English Channel. Swimmers are required to hire a boat and captain in addition to bringing their own crew. Craig’s window to attempt the swim is Aug. 28 to Sept. 4.

Swimming the English Channel is considered to be the Mount Everest of Swimming. “The pilot will get a hold of me when there is a strong enough weather pattern to hold for an attempt. We’ll be launching from the white cliffs of Dover and going straight across to Cap Gris Nez.”

“train for the cold, and then lastly, you’ve got to be ready for the conditions,” Craig said. “You’ve got a lot of things working against you.”

Hypothermia, chaffing, and constant exposure to salt water are the biggest concerns in addition to the distance. Craig will apply lanolin, or sheep’s fat, all over his body to help protect his skin and provide some insulation to help retain some heat. “Swimming 40,000 was a huge confidence booster for me. The longest I had ever swum before that Saturday was 15,000 yards. I swam 40,000 yards in one shot. I really didn’t think I was capable of that.”

Making An Impact

Only one in five complete the swim. There have been nine fatalities of swimmers attempting to swim the channel since 1926. He hopes to complete the swim in under 12 hours, but just finishing is a major accomplishment.

Craig cites the support of his Maroon swimmers has been a big motivator. The Moline YMCA also started its own English Channel Swim Challenge to support him.

“They are 50 percent of my inspiration, to be honest,” Craig said of his swimmers. “I really want to do this to promote Moline swimming and raise awareness of our program. And, hopefully, generate more interest in the Moline Blue Marlins and the high school swimming program.”

The Two Rivers YMCA has created a group for those participating in the Swim With Craig – English Channel Swim Challenge. In this group, swimmers can swim their laps, track distance, and keep up with each other! All participants receive a t-shirt and are invited to participate in the awards & recognition program on August 4th, where Craig will be speaking about this experience.

Download MySwimPro for iPhone or Android to follow Craig on his journey to swimming the English Channel!



  1. Mohammed sarfuddeen on

    Hi I am Mohammed sarfuddeen mbbs student.i have patellae Alta in both legs.i runner 21 kilometres.iam age I am want to clear English channel by swimming

  2. Leann Rossi on

    Hey Craig, I am orginally from Orland Park Illinois, I swam at Carl Sandburg HS, then at NIU 84-88. Now 53, and an USMS All American in the pool, I am switching gears to Open Water and training for my first 10k September 22 in Knoxville TN. I have swam a 5k in 1 hour 20 min in a lake but never more than a 5k on a river. I get bored and I have a hard time staying focused after 1.5 hours……any suggestions? How are you preparing mentally for these 10k plus swims? What are you listening to outside of the water for meditation purposes? What is your dry land preparation? What is your nutrition in and out of the water? In a kayak assisted swim, we normally feed every 30 min. What a your drinking? Electrolyte suppliments and protein drinks? Gels? I know that I have lots of questions but that is why we are here and you are just beginning your USMS journey. I am 53 year’s old and definitely need some perspective and motivation. Thanks and good luck with your swimming journey.
    Leann Rossi
    Atlants Ga.
    USMS team Atlanta Water Jocks

  3. Craig Frederiksen on

    Hey Leann,
    Thank you for the questions. By the way, I am also a native Illinois swimmer (Moline-High School, Western Illinois University)
    I understand the struggle with maintaining focus, especially when workouts grow longer. I have been faced with this problem lately as my workouts have not been less than 2 hours. My most successful way to fight this has been trying to prepare a workout or set that requires me to vary intervals and repetition distances. For a long while I was just swimming aimlessly for 5k-10k straight. That was nearly torture. Since I have been doing more set work I have found it more interesting and sustainable.
    To prepare mentally for these workouts I want to make sure I have plenty of time to complete to avoid having to rush or in case of mid workout disruptions (lane bumps or moves). 10k workouts are an incredible investment of time so I also try to commit to a schedule of when the swim will happen at the beginning of the week. If the work day runs longer than planned or I need to get home to the family I skip it (but I try not to). Sleep is another critical part of mental preparation for the long swims. Without enough sleep the workout is probably counterproductive. I do find the more 10k workouts I execute the less mental burden I have realizing I have a pending swim that day or week.
    I do not do much for meditation. I would argue that the swim workouts themselves have become just that. 2+ hours is a long time to be alone with my thoughts while following the black line. I reflect not just on swimming but family and work during these swims. The MSP watch app allows me to mentally drift while not losing track of the workout. Otherwise I have a wide variety or music I listen to during commutes or chores to unwind.
    For dry-land, I recently installed a garage gym. Mainly free weight activity coupled with body weight movements. I try to hit that 1-2 per week. I can give more detail around this if you’re interested. I do feel it has been helping.
    Nutrition is an opportunity for improvement for me. I mainly try to consume enough calories to support the 2K-kcal lost during the swims. I do focus on hydration. I could certainly choose healthier calories to support the calorie loss. During the workouts I usually just hydrate with water/Gatorade. The races can vary depending on the distance. Anything under a 5k I would not take time with in-race nutrition. Races that require a kayak escort I also feed every 30min. Then, I use watered down gatorade and gels. I had a bad experience with protein drinks during a swim. Now I only use proteins for recovery.
    I would be happy to give more detail on any of this or other questions.
    Thank you,
    -Craig Frederiksen

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