This article first appeared on optimatrainingsystems.co.uk.
Done in an Hour: Swim
This is the start of a series which is intended for all of us who are constrained in the amount of time that we can devote to our training. The series title, “Done in an Hour…” formed the basis of the brief — come up with a selection of workouts for the swim, bike and run that can be done in an hour, the sort of time we can squeeze in before work, as a long lunch or after work but before we have to deal with all the family stuff.
The first of his articles, James looks at three swim sessions that are designed to improve your technique, your race preparation and your open water swimming. All of these can be fitted into that magic hour as long as you focus on the task in hand.
In order to identify your weaknesses you first need to complete a basic time trial so you have a benchmark that you can judge your improvements against. This timed swim needs to be long enough for your weakness to reveal itself, but not too long that you totally lose the plot! I find the double distance 400m swim very effective for this as it gets longer as you become more efficient.
Every four to eight weeks you should complete a good warm up session and then swim 400m. Get a friend to time the swim (you will need each 100m split and the total time) and to record your stroke count on every fourth length. In an ideal world, a bit of video so you can see what you look like swimming would not go amiss either.
Each time you do the test just add another 400m so the first is 400m, the second 800m, the third is 1,200m and the fourth (your last-preseason one) is 1,600m. This should be done approximately six weeks out from your first A-priority race.
I’m sure that you have a time in your head in which you would like to complete your Standard (1,500m) distance swim in? Remember, triathlon is three disciplines and you need to get out of the water relatively relaxed and strong; it always amazes me when coaches or athletes claim they where first out of the Bla Bla swim or had the fastest bike at Wotsit! Well done, I say, but what was your actual triathlon time? That’s what counts…
Olympic distance target times and their 100 and 400m splits work out like this:
|Target||100m time||400m time|
|29 mins||1.56 per 100m||07.44|
|25 mins||1.40 per 100m||06.40|
|21 mins||1.24 per 100m||05.56|
There is absolutely no point in doing a 1500m swim in January in the UK and getting disappointed that you can’t hit the times required. Winter is for working on your weakness and building confidence.
Your swimming must always have an aim or goal (especially if you have not come from a swimming background) to ensure you keep focused on the next swim set and you can record your positive progress.
Three key areas to watch out for are:
All of these weaknesses in leg kick can cause drag behind the body which will slow you down by pulling your legs and bum towards the bottom of the pool.
Although swimming with your club or in a master’s swim session can be a great workout, it can also have the biggest detrimental effect on your swim technique (if you are building a stroke), as you will tend to race the guys in your lane and you will not be relaxed or working on your specific weakness. More importantly, swimming on someone’s feet every session does not set you up for swimming open water… …in your own water!
In this short article I can’t explain what could possibly be wrong with everyone’s stroke, but remember an effective swimmer will move through the water effortlessly, with little drag or friction, and a low number of strokes per distance (around 14 – 16 strokes and in a time of around 15 – 20 seconds per 25m).
The penny “dropped” for me in swimming when I swam with a junior squad. There were 8 to 10 year-old boys and girls quite happily doing 60 to 65 seconds per 100m; no muscle mass, no power – just good economy of motion. Swimming is so like golf, if you try and whack the ball with all your might you don’t get it. On the other hand, if you relax (and work diligently on technique) you will get your hole in one!
If your time is too slow, or your stroke count is too high, you need to set about working on aspects of your stroke to change your weaknesses into strengths. Take responsibility for your swimming, this can be done effectively by going to a swim coach who can make a difference, as what you feel you may be doing in the water can be quite different from what is happening in reality. A little video analysis can paint a thousand words.
For this session, hopefully, you will need to have have been working on your weakness and now have some free space in your mind to concentrate on race specific drills and sets!
The first thing you should get stuck into your swim practice is a dry land warm-up. At some point watch the top 1,500m swimmers in action and then visualise the perfect stroke as you are on poolside. Hold onto the vision as you do your arm rotations, basically;
If you are doing a race or open water swim, perform the same warm up each time and you will be amazed at how having the same pre-event routine will calm the nerves!
You don’t have to wait until the weather warms up to practice open water skills, try some of these in your pool.
Start the session with a normal warm-up of between 400m and 1,000m followed by between 1,000m and 1,500m of drills. I find it best to do ½ length of a drill then ½ length normal swim or one length drill and one length swim to accentuate the ‘feel’ of the particular drill. Be creative with putting together your swim session, you want it to stay interesting! (See this article for some other drill session ideas.) During the main part of the set incorporate the following:
Use your imagination! All I ever see is triathletes swimming round and round and round in open water. Especially on your first couple of visits to an open water session put into practice what you have learned over the winter.
This article first appeared on optimatrainingsystems.co.uk.