Hello, my name is Banu Akyel and I am from Ankara, Turkey. When I was 5 years old, my father taught me how to swim in the Aegean Sea after many days watching him and his mates swim open water along the coast.
As a child, I swam competitively for a short period of time, until I realized I was allergic to chlorinated pools! So I took some time off from the pool, and headed to the open water. Even when I could not swim very often, what has not changed throughout my life, is my love for water.
Getting Back Into Swimming
Three years ago, I began to participate in open water swim competitions. Since then, I have crossed the Dardanelles and Bosphorus straits, and swam in Cunda, Ayvalık and Içmeler, Marmaris a couple of times.
I literally lose myself when swimming in open water. I often follow sea turtles or fish, and forget all my cares while swimming. So much so, that even the coastal guards warn me if I’m too close to the wildlife.
My first ever open water meet was a disaster. I wore a wetsuit that I didn’t even try on beforehand. It was too tight and the water was so warm, so I realized that I did not even need to wear it.
“It is a good rule of thumb, never try a new thing in a meet.”
The first 200-300 meters were shallow so it required a short sprint run in the water. That was horrible! I wasn’t doing any dryland training, so the running was tough.
How I Train
As I have never been a part of a team, I did not know how to train in the beginning. I used to just do unstructured swimming, just long and non-stop laps back and forth at a slow pace.
I searched the internet, read a lot, then I discovered MySwimPro. It’s amazing. I have learned how to do a flip turn, many unique drills, and followed a couple multi-week training plans to prepare for my competitions.
“I am not exaggerating when I say that MySwimPro has helped me a lot in reaching my main goal in life – to be healthy and happy.”
I used to have a Polar v800 watch, so I copied and printed workouts every time, until some day I could not resist the temptation , I got my Apple Watch. Now I get guided workouts right on my wrist. MySwimPro is really a virtual coach to me in the pool. I’ve been using it for 2 years, and my AppleWatch + MySwimPro for one year.
“During this time, my 100 meter pace has dropped from a 2:10 to 1:40 at endurance, and 1:50 > 1:30 pace for sprints!”
My Love For Swimming
On May 11-12, 2019, just a few weeks ago, I completed my first Oceanman race. It was the world’s largest open water swimming event, held in Alanya, Turkey. Over 600 athletes from 24 countries swam one of the most beautiful courses in Turkey.
This was my first 10K open water swim since I first started to compete in open water events. I always loved to swim but rather for my amusement. With the MySwimPro app, I have learned new styles, corrected my stroke, improved my pace and my SWOLF score. I also built up my confidence, my athletic fitness and never got bored during workouts.
“Even though I’m a competitive open water swimmer, I am only with myself. I listen to my body, to the water and just enjoy the swim. Sometimes it leads to a medal, sometimes it does not. Either way it is a joy.”
For this specific event, I chose to complete MySwimPro’s 10K Challenge Training Plan, paired with dryland training. I felt ready and prepared. My first goal was to finish the race, and then set a limit, to swim it in under 4 hours.
Related: How Banu Trains with Strava & MySwimPro
As this was my first marathon race, I did not know what to expect for things like swimming with a wetsuit, whether or not to stop at feeding zones, getting used to the water temperature or other factors. Luckily, I had the confidence that I could endure this kind of distance.
Well, I ranked 5th in my age group and 10th overall. I earned my slot for the Oceanman Finals in Dubai!
In the meantime, other open water meets are on the horizon. Definitely another Alanya meet next year with new personal challenges. An Ultra-Oceanman? I don’t see why not!
I am working every week to learn new training techniques, to improve my endurance, and get faster. I aim to finish another 7k race from Kastellorizo, Greece to Kaş, Turkey this summer. I also want to swim a race in the Dardanelles, and get new personal best times in my other races in Turkey.
My next objective is to swim in a lake or a river meet. Another one would be to become a triathlete, which I‘m confident to accomplish in my late 50’s – baby steps. 😊
My Advice For New Swimmers
If you are a newbie, the first thing I would recommend is to set your goal, and define what you are trying to achieve. Then read the materials in MySwimPro , watch the videos and understand what a structured workout is. Go for a swim and explore different strokes, techniques and drills. Push yourself but do not be too hard on yourself. Have fun. Log your workouts, and share them. Inspire and be inspired!
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Banu! We’re so excited to have you on board as an ambassador, and can’t wait to hear how you swim this year!
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