Swimming is a unique form of human movement in that even the best swimmers in human history can hardly hit the speed of a brisk walk. That’s mainly due to the tremendous amount of drag that water places on objects moving through it. There is also the fact that the water you’re moving through is the only thing you have to push against for propulsion.
Both of these facts combined make swimming the most technically challenging, and technique dependent, event in a Triathlon. With that in mind, much of your time spent in the pool will be focused on improving your technique. And there are a few things you can do to help us help you with this. The only way you can really find out what aspects of your stroke you need to improve is by having a swim coach take a look at you in the pool and make some suggestions. While there is glory in suffering alone, the best thing you can do is find a local pool that runs some form of weekly session with an instructor and pop in. You certainly don’t need to go every week, but having your form critiqued in the first week, and then every few weeks after will go a very very long way.
We understand that is not possible for everyone, and this plan is structured to help you improve your efficiency in the swim regardless of input from anyone else. We have included plenty of useful tips and drills to ensure you’re ready to rock it come race day! Just like running and cycling you need to set your training zones. In swimming we like to think of things in terms of split times per 100m. During your test you will also be counting your strokes. What you should notice is that during your 50m effort your stroke rate will be lower than the last 100m of your 500m effort. Your stroke rate and speed are strongly correlated, so counting strokes per lap can help give you a reference point of pace during those longer efforts.
OPTIMIZING YOUR TRAINING
Swim Equipment you will want for training:
- Swimsuit and a wetsuit if you need one on race day
»» Ensure a tight fit with no leaking
»» Apply an anti-fog solution
»» Two pairs, one clear one tinted
- Swim Cap
- Pull Buoy
- Practice sighting and swimming in a straight line.
»» Open water is best—it will help alleviate your fears.
»» If you can’t find open water, swim in the pool with your eyes closed.
»» Lift your head up every 3-6 strokes and sight on the wall or fence of the pool.
• Swim in your wetsuit on occasion…even at the pool (rinse well after).
RACE DAY PREPARATION
The most important thing you can do for
your race happens before it. Be prepared for
anything and everything. Swim equipment:
»» Bring two pairs with you that you have worn before race day (tinted/clear).
»» Make sure they fit comfortably and do not leak.
»» Use an anti-fog solution.
- Lubricant for wetsuit
- PAM works great, but can nullify your warranty. Water-based lubricants are wetsuit safe.
- Spray around your neck and armpits to avoid chafing, and your forearms, wrists and calves to help you get your suit off faster.
- Swim cap—race provided, usually (neoprene or extra one for cold water)
»» While you may swim with your goggles over the top of your cap in the pool, you may want to consider changing this for racing. With the thrashing that comes with swimming in a group, it is not uncommon to have your goggles knocked off mid-swim. If you have your goggles over top your cap, they can fall off and be easily lost in the water. If you put your goggles straps under your cap they will stay on your head.
- Warm-up in the water for 5-10 minutes, if possible.
- Familiarise yourself with the course. And listen to pre-race briefing. Do some bursts of 10-25 yards at nearly full effort at end of warm-up. Finish ~5 minutes before the gun goes off. Get in cold water before the start…if you don’t it will be a rude shock.
READY, SET, GO!
- Starting techniques:
»» Line-up appropriate with your ability—the faster swimmers will be in the front.
»» Find yourself some space—in the middle and three to four rows back are bad places to be…there is no safety in numbers, only chaos!
- Stay calm and relaxed—don’t fight the water.
- Start strong but settle into a comfortable pace after the initial starting “sprint”.
- Breathe early and often.
- Sight frequently.
»» Buoys are not always the best place to sight because of the splashing water (if you make the swim pack) so picking objects like houses, trees, and so forth, that are easy to spot can be better to aim for.
- Draft on the feet or hips of another swimmer to save energy.
- And most importantly: keep calm and Suffer on!
EXITING THE WATER
- The transition from land to water is not easy. Blood rushes from your arms and head to your legs and can make you light-headed.
- Make sure you kick a bit harder in the last 200m to get your legs primed.
- Stay low and push forward.
- Stand up and run only when the water is knee-high.
- Don’t trip—lift your feet over the water (you practice high knees for a reason!).
- Stay calm as you exit the water, don’t sprint all out to T1, this is a good time to remove your wetsuit.
- Remove your wetsuit:
»» Practice in advance.
»» Unzip your wetsuit and pull it off your torso as you run to transition.
»» Take it all the way off in transition—step on the legs and tug your feet out, or pull it down to your calves and pry it off with your hand.