Finding Swimming as an Adult - 10 Questions with Jon Storm

Finding Swimming as an Adult - 10 Questions with Jon Storm

Jonathan R. Storm is an unlikely open-water swimmer. As an adult, he's gone from being a complete beginner with no previous competitive swimming experience to an accomplished open-water swimmer. Today, he is a member of the Waikiki Swim Club and has completed more than a dozen open water swims ranging in distance from a half-mile to 4.5-mile distances, including the world-famous Waikiki Roughwater.

We recently caught up with Jon to ask him a few questions about his journey to becoming a swimmer, a journey that started just two years ago when he learned how to swim for the first time at the age of 43.

How did you get into swimming?

In 2019 I signed up for a sprint triathlon. I knew how to ride a bike and run, but other than learning a few simple strokes to stay afloat as a kid, I wasn’t what you’d call a swimmer. Even though I was unprepared and struggled through every moment of the swim portion of the event, there was something about it that immediately grabbed my attention. 

What hurdles did you overcome to learn how to swim? 

For me, it was recognizing that beyond the physical demands of the sport, there were layers of mental hurdles as well. When I got my start a few years ago I did not know how to do the front crawl. I watched YouTube videos to learn the proper technique, followed by practice in a pool. I went from a single 25-meter length to a full lap and eventually worked my way up to swimming a half-mile non-stop. But, being physically prepared was only one part of the overall equation.

When it came to swimming in open water, I realized I had to be mentally prepared for the challenge as well. I began to visualize the event in my head while I was practicing, picturing myself making it through the course and arriving at the exit. It was also important to remain aware of my surroundings. In other words, I no longer had the luxury of 100% visibility like I did in a pool. Instead, I had to consider the other swimmers around me, being able to spot landmarks as well as the line of sight and turn buoys, and finally the exit of the swim. These were not easy for me to do while trying to maintain my form and speed.

Overall, the combination of pushing both my physical and psychological limits really resonated with me and I was hooked!

Finding Swimming as an Adult - 10 Questions with Jon Storm

After mastering the basics, how did you continue to make progress with your swimming? Did you join a club?

Following the two sprint triathlons, I began searching for swim-only events. These events presented me with new goals I needed to work towards. In 2022 I found what would become my biggest challenge at the time, the Waikiki Roughwater. This event has been going on for over half a century and consistently draws over 800 swimmers each year. It’s a 2.4-mile swim from one end of Waikiki to the other. I began researching online how to train for such an event.

Based on where I was at distance-wise at the time, I swam three times a week and increased my swim distance by 500 meters each month until I reached my goal distance of 4,000 meters. This was all done in a pool. Before the actual race, I got in one open water swim in a lake near my home as well as my first-ever ocean swim at an event in Florida. Completing the Roughwater was surreal and kept me returning to Hawaii for additional swim opportunities. Eventually, I learned about the Waikiki Swim Club and have since become a member.  

What interested you about open-water swimming? How did you go from the pool to open water?

I guess you could say I started in open water and then transitioned to practicing in a pool. Even though I wasn’t very good, swimming in open water intrigued me right away. There were elements of danger; of discovery; and a freedom that I did not experience from other activities. But, living in Dallas, TX limited my open water opportunities year-round, so I found a pool nearby to practice in.

The time spent in the pool gave me a chance to be alone with my thoughts. It helped me think about and plan my day while swimming lap after lap. It allowed me to reflect on my work, my relationships, my upcoming swim events, you name it. Afterward, I always felt a little more prepared for my day.   

What’s been your most fun event and most challenging event to date? 

The most fun event to date was also my most challenging one. It was a 4.5-mile out-and-back swim called the Long-Distance Invitational Rough-H2O. When I first learned of this event, I immediately told myself, “There’s no way”. But then, I slowly wrapped my head around the idea and began setting goals. One Saturday in the pool I made a bet with myself that if I could do 5,000 meters non-stop then I had to register for the swim. The next week I hit 6,000 and the week after that 7,000. Leading up to the event I was swimming 12,000 meters per week.

I remember being terribly nervous the night before the swim. But, besides being stung by an onslaught of Noseeums and a few unintentional “whacks” of a kayak paddle, I finished in 2:26. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a massive brunch. By the time of this event (which took place in October of 2023) I had begun to recognize a lot of the other swimmers, who were always gracious enough to introduce me to one another and made me feel a part of their swim community. I was on cloud nine for sure!

What’s a bucket list swim/event you’d love to do? 

Later this year I will be attempting the Maui Nui, a 30-mile swim over three days between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai. Still filled with apprehension as I write this, I’m also reminded of being able to overcome the doubts I had of my previous swims. There is something truly powerful in setting goals and seeing them through. Eventually what seemed impossible at the time, evolves into an achievement.   

How did you hear about FORM and when did you get your FORM goggles? 

It was around the time I was working my way up to being able to swim a half-mile in the pool. I remember growing tired up counting laps in my head, and because I was swimming non-stop, I didn’t have a desire to break-up my technique to look at a watch. So, off to Goggle I went, typing into the search bar “smart goggles” and found FORM. They were an instant game-changer and I use them both during practice and in my open water races. 

Finding Swimming as an Adult - 10 Questions with Jon Storm

What metrics do you like to see displayed in the goggles – do your choices differ between pool and open water swims? 

I primarily like seeing my time (overall and every 100 meters), distance, and calories burned. I recently added in split intervals to see how I was doing speed-wise every 50 meters. When I finish a workout or open water swim, it’s great having the recap and being able to share the overall results on social media. Just yesterday while at the pool, someone asked me if the goggles I had on were the ones I talk about in my book. It’s always fun to show people the different features of the goggles and how I can track my workouts in the app. They played a big part in my overall swim journey and continue to do so.   

What do you love about swimming? 

Swimming has had an enormously positive impact on me. From re-connecting with the outdoors, to getting in better shape, to making new friends, it’s improved many different areas of my life. And while I still have a long way to go, I love how before each swim I feel like I’m embarking on a new adventure and when I finish, I’m walking away having learned something new, either about myself or about swimming.   

Do you have any advice for people thinking about learning how to swim – particularly as an adult?

No matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s never too late to learn something new. Even though I had some swimming experience from my childhood, I really did not get going until two years ago when I was 43. I was completely out of breath attempting my first 25 meters of the front crawl non-stop and now I’m swimming multiple miles comfortably. Whether it’s in a pool or the open water, just give it a try. Afterall, you never know what doors might open for you!  

  Jon on the cover of his book 'Catch Pull Recover'. Now available from Amazon.




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