Swimming For Triathlon - PART 1 - Frequency

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This is part 1 in a series of articles about swimming for Triathlon. 

I aim to cover a few key principals that I have learned about swimming in the past few years which ha really helped me enjoy the swim component of Triathlon - Both in Coaching and as an athlete.  I’ll write in order of relevance - Starting point > Icing the cake. 

Ive really enjoyed my swimming and improvements over the past few years. Much thanks to some great mentors and also thanks to my own commitment which brings me to the very first point. 

 

MINDSET

Triathlon is a balance of SBR and for some the priority is B, R... The swim is loathed by some. There are a couple of contributing mindsets that lead to this 

- The swim is a small component in respect to the total triathlon 

- Athletes think they can make up for a bad swim by having a uber level of bike fitness. 

In my opinion the swim is the key for a few reasons 

Swim with confidence and relative ease and you actually have the ability to get on the bike and bike to your ability. Swim terribly and you get on the bike exhausted 

If you want a shot at a podium - Be it age group or overall, you have to be competitive in the swim or at least not in a completely negative position eg slow, tired and playing catch up on the bike - These realities are less than ideal for a winning or personal best performance and breed an unproductive attitude

With that in mind the swim is now a priority. And with that we now have unlocked the secret to turning that swim into a weapon ...

 

FREQUENCY

Getting in the water often is and absolute key. When we touch and work the water the mechanics click in and we get that feel for it. I think further to that is that we get the ability to get intuitive about how we can make progress - Subtle things like body position, kick rhythm, catch length/position, under he body strength. It is endless with swimming but by getting in the water often we are able to pick up where we left off in our last session - Work on just 1 or 2 things until they are ingrained.. Then we move on. 

Choose some basics that are suitable for the development of your stroke as an individual not someone else's 

Ok so rant understood. How often is enough? In the real world of Triathlon training you would have to say 3 swims a week is bare arse minimum. Volume is important but if you can’t wrap your head around a 3km swim set then just jump in and swim 1k - Play with the water. A 20 mins swim should be achievable and further more it can be a very useful recovery tool. Personally I'm not one to have cranked out huge volumes in the pool but consistently sitting between 8-12 km per week every week of the year has really helped. 

Even when in a full recovery or forced rest I’ll have knocked a couple of swims in - Both for pleasure and out of fear of losing the connection. Its a ‘Need’. 

 

RECOVERY

Triathletes that swim often are bound to be less injury prone. Use the swim as a double edge sword by adding short ‘bonus’ swims in as recovery after hard bike or runs sessions- Not only are you increasing the swim frequency but its excellent for blood flow which cleans up the effects of more impact based training. 

I often use that aerobic recovery swim to enjoy the feel and technique without the pressure of intensity - It helps decompress after a hard session and also fuels that swimming brain with ‘what to work on’ in the next key swim set. 

 

THE CONCEPT OF FLOATING  

A simple one here thats a game changer for some of lesser swim experience and all of us when we ‘Try too hard’. 

Your body actually floats. Its a boat - Position it correctly and don't strangle the mast and you will sail through the water. 

Think about that next time you swim.

Have yo ever rowed a boat before - Well the paddles are your lats - shoulders - arms. Sweep them through the water pushing it back and the boat moves forward.

Below is a video that explains a little further about how we action our ‘paddles’ through the water.

Stay tuned for PART II where we look at intensities including power and endurance. This will set you up with some sessions to help target improvement in the water in general and wrap your head around dialling in swim pace for the distance you are training for.