Saturday, 8 February 2014

My swimming tips

A recent Twitter conversation with the owner of jackoatbar led to me writing this blogpost.

As a triathlete who came into the sport of triathlon from a heavy swimming background, I realise I am in the minority. Most triathletes come into the sport from a running background.

As such a lot of them struggle with breathing.

Breathing when running and breathing when swimming are two completely different things. This is reinforced by the fact that I struggle to breath effectively when running and vice versa with a lot of the runners who are learning to swim with me.

Anyway I've digressed slightly. In the conversation with jackoatbar, he suggested I write a blogpost about swimming tips. So here it is.

The most important thing I can say about swimming is relaxation is key.

So the first rule of swim club is don't talk about swim club.

The second rule of swim club is relax, relax, relax.

If you can't relax in the water your body will be tense. If you body is tense then you will not be able to swim as effectively as you could if you were able to relax.

I am completely at home in the water as I have been swimming since I was 7 and competitively from the ages of 8 through 14. I am always at peace in the water, it is like a second home to me. Because of this relaxation I am at one with the water. I know that sounds a bit zen but it's true I know how to use the water effectively because I am at home there.

Another thing about swimming is there is no magic cure. If you want to swim quickly and efficiently, there is no option but to spend time swimming. Losing swim fitness is so easy. If I don't swim for two weeks then I take a massive step backwards. I lose rhythm in my stroke and my speed and stroke suffer as a result.

So unfortunately if you want to improve then you need to spend time banging out the metres.

The most important thing about swimming in a triathlon is learning to swim efficiently. Swimming efficiently is key to saving energy for the rest of the triathlon. After all there is no point thrashing yourself in the first discipline to save a couple of minutes when by swimming efficiently you could be in a much better place for the rest of the race.

The best way to demonstrate this is using the following two videos. These videos are of GB Triathlete Adam Bowden. Adam has been coached by Alan Rapley who I went to see in early January.

In the first video Adam is doing a 50m sprint. Pay special attention to how fast his arms are turning over.

In the second video Adam covers the same distance in the same time but is putting in a lot less effort.

Following my time spent with Alan I am trying to retrain my body to swim in this way but as a former sprinter I am finding it difficult. In my youth it was a case of putting in as much energy as I could to cover the distance as quickly as possible I didn't have to worry about lack of energy as I used to do 25 and 50m sprints so I could use brute force to get through the water. Now however it is about putting in the least energy possible to cover the distance as quickly as I can.

Swimming efficiently will save valuable energy for the rest of the triathlon. This is even more important as the distances of triathlons increase.

The thing which blew my mind when I started swimming long was that slowing down my stroke only cost me a fraction of my speed but meant that I had a lot more energy for the duration of swimming sessions. Before this I was attempting to use brute force but was struggling as the sessions went on as I had no energy left.

The other major tip I can give you is to pull effectively. This means that your hand should be vertical for as much of your stroke as it can be. To practice getting an early vertical forearm there are drills that you can practice. These are covered in the next few videos.

If you get your hand vertical at the front of your stroke then you are pulling for the maximum length you can and this will increase both your efficiency and speed.

If you can, join a triathlon club or masters swimming club as swimming with other swimmers does help you improve as you pick up so much from analysing other swimmers strokes.

Even I pay attention to my own advice as last night I travelled for an hour to go swimming with Long Eaton Masters as their coach Dave Akers has been talking to me on Twitter.  Last night Dave gave me a lot of advice. This was the sort of thing I wanted from my time swimming with Adwick Masters but unfortunately that didn't happen. I know it seems ridiculous travelling for 50 miles to go swimming but it is the coaching that I need, Dave gave me some pointers to improve my stroke and last night I was consistently swimming 1:35/100m off 2 minutes which is nearly at #projectonehourswim pace. And the swimming on a Friday night fits in with my already bursting training plan.

If joining a tri club or masters club isn't an option then search the internet as there are lots of videos of efficient swimmers. Here is one featuring Jono van Hazel. Pay attention to the length of his stroke and look at his body rotation. It is phenomenal to watch.


Hope you enjoyed reading this blog and thanks for reading,


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