08 Feb 5.7 Things I Learned from Swimming 5.7 Miles (And how it relates to content marketing)

Only 1,000 yards to go – a little more than a half mile. Everyone else from my team was out of the water, heading to lunch. And here I was still swimming.

I was part of a swim event called the 100×100. You swim 100 yards 100 times. This comes out to around 5.7 miles. You’re supposed to do it in less than four hours — sort of like the marathon for swimming.

I did this through the Master’s swim team I’m a part of where we swim from 5:45-7 A.M. Those workouts are normally 2,500-3,000 yards for someone my speed.

I finished the 100×100 but didn’t feel like it was a triumphal finish. I was bushed physically and discouraged because I finished so far everyone else.

I thought, Okay, next year I’m doing things differently. So, here are some of my thoughts. And, while it may be a stretch, I’ll relate the swim with my work in content marketing.

1. Fuel Up

I bonked around 7,000 yards. By 5,000 yards I had finished my concoction of tea, coconut water, and honey, and didn’t have anything else to drink or eat. I should have brought more to drink plus some food, too, like a couple ripe bananas. The guy in my lane was kind enough to give me one of his energy gels, which helped.

Next time I will eat more before getting into the pool and have enough food and drink during the swim to ensure adequate energy to finish strongly.

Content marketing application: Having good content is the fuel for a good online marketing strategy. Pull together enough content for a good start to your digital marketing. Most companies have at least some brochures, website content, and sales sheets as a foundation. Figuratively (or literally) put all your content on the table in front of you to evaluate what you have to work with. You can expand, repurpose, break it up, or rewrite it. And you’ll see what holes you have to fill with new content.

2. Be ready for the swim

I swam a couple times a week in the several weeks approaching the day of the event. My cardio was decent because I was playing racquetball three times a week but swimming is a different animal. Swimming requires good technique for strokes, breathing, and turns. Plus you’re using your muscles so differently.

Next time I will swim four or five times a week in preparation. My excuse had been an on-and-off shoulder injury. In reality, I just got out of habit getting up early to hit the pool. It’s easier to maintain than it is to catch up.

Content marketing application: Make sure your website is ready for any traffic you will get through the search engines, social media, and email newsletters. Nothing is worse than getting a ton of traffic and no conversions. Your site needs to be up to snuff:

  • Is your design eye-catching and relevant to your product/service?
  • Is the navigation easy to use and professional?
  • Do you have information people want on your pages? Is it too much or too little?
  • Do the content and graphics prompt the reader to action?

3. Pace Yourself

The previous year when I did the event I was in better shape and wanted to go faster, without as many stops. This year I started out feeling good even and was swimming too fast. It caught up to me later.

Next year I’ll swim in a lane where I can maintain the pace appropriate to me. If I feel like I can swim in a faster lane, then I’ll move over to challenge myself. Otherwise, I’ll be content to stay in the slower lane.

Content marketing application: Consistently add new content to your site and social media platforms. It’s not a one-and-done thing. One of the mantras of search engine optimization over the years is, “Content is king and linking is queen.” You need to grow your content daily and weekly. Your competition surely is.

4. Don’t Cheat Yourself

You’re supposed to do the whole 5.7 miles without equipment – fins, hand paddles, and pull buoys – but we chose to do the final 100 yards using equipment for every 500 yards we swam. After 7,000 yards a couple of the people in my lane had dropped out and the other person in my lane wanted to do the rest with fins. I started using fins, too but stopped after 100 years. I wanted to say I didn’t rely too much on equipment.

Next year I’d like to do the whole thing without using any equipment at all.

Content marketing application:  You would be cheating yourself by creating crappy content. It would be content that is just boring. It doesn’t say anything unique or interesting. What will happen is visitors will leave before the end and probably never return.

Several years ago a competitor of mine did something called keyword stuffing. His site would say something like, “We are a Denver web design company that does Denver web design in the Denver area. If you need web design in Denver then you should call us.” It sounded ridiculous.

You should tell unique, relevant stories and share insights from your expert point of view. That’s what gets people calling you.

5. Be Willing to Take a Time Out

I had to stop for a while because my right thigh was cramping up. I thought, Is this the end of my swim? After some rest, I pushed through and finished. Even if I had stopped at 5,000 yards I would have been far ahead of anyone who had spent the morning on the couch.

Next year I’ll make sure I have enough electrolytes in my body so I don’t cramp. And I’ll stop if I need to – this isn’t life and death.

Content marketing application: If you are spending too much and getting zero results then maybe it’s time to stop the content development for a bit, or just ratchet it back a bit. If you are successful in getting leads in other ways then maybe you don’t need to rely on SEO. Your industry might be too competitive to get results without a huge investment in SEO. The good news is your content will likely create at least some results even if you aren’t beating the big dogs head to head.

I saw this a couple years ago when working with a personal injury law firm. His competition had been doing SEO for a decade and there was no way he’d be able to catch up without quadrupling his monthly budget.

5.7 Have a Plan

The first year I did the 100×100, three of us in our lane would take turns being the leader. The leader chose what we would do for 200 yards and then led the lane. We alternated between freestyle, individual medley, kicking, and even just breaststroke.

This year we did chunks of 500 yards, with 400 yard of freestyle and the last 100 years being the leader’s choice. This helped give us variety, keep track of our distance better, and also get done more quickly.

Next year I’ll likely do the same 500-yard pattern. A guy in the lane next to me swam the whole thing without stopping so I might try the same thing if I get a tracking watch.

Content marketing application: In content marketing one of the things you do is create an editorial calendar. This helps you map out the next six months to a year what kind of content you’ll be creating. Of course, you can have some flexibility with this for more timely topics, but having an editorial calendar can help you think strategically regarding what you will do with your blogging, social media, and email newsletter.

As I mentioned, I was the last one from my team to finish. We had the pool from 8 A.M.-noon and the Sunday afternoon crowd started jumping in the water by 11:30. I just kept my head down and used mental games to keep moving, like doing 75 yards of freestyle and then 25 yards of breaststroke.

When it was over I looked forward to a recovery drink of chocolate milk waiting in my truck and spending time on the couch at home.

Overall, I felt good about completing the whole 10,000 yards and I look forward to doing it again next year. Like I’ve already said, things will be different next year. I’m back in the pool 2-3 times a week and hope to be at four times a week soon.

And I’m thinking of doing a 10K swim in the summer. Maybe I’ll write an article called, “6.2 Things I Learned from Swimming 6.2 Miles.”

Let me know in the comments below what you have found helpful for your content marketing strategies to keep you moving forward and seeing success. And you can always get in touch with me if you want to chat about your content marketing needs.

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