Swimming is on my training schedule 4 times per week and I will say when I first saw that I was not thrilled. I know that swimming is my weakness but to go to the pool 4 times in a week was daunting. Then something happened along the way and I am falling in ‘like’ with swimming. The sets that I am doing are not what I have been doing for the past two years and variety is the spice of life. For example, today I had a short recovery swim but inside of it there were a couple of descending sets. In the past descending would have been 4×100 with each 100 getting faster. The sets today were 6×50 and 6×100 descending every 2 which means that I have to control my pace for 2 sets before getting faster. I have learned so much about my swimming ability in the past 7 weeks and it has been awesome.
Of course when you start something new you begin to notice it everywhere. With my new ‘love’ of swimming I began to notice articles and posts from bloggers and in online publications discussing different swimming sets and drills. They seemed to be popping up everywhere, and it makes sense since this is the winter and logging outdoor bike miles is tough for much of the country. With that free time pack your bag and head to the pool would be the theory and it is working for me.
Maria and John (and I) have an aggressive goal for Ironman Texas and when it was first written down it was daunting. Taking 15 minutes off of your bike time isn’t as imposing because you have 112 miles and when you break that down that is feasible. Even if it were the run it would be feasible but when it came off the swim the finishing time staring me in the face frightened me. How in the world am I going to knock of 15 minutes from my swim time? Swimming is just the warm-up right? The race doesn’t start until the bike right? Wrong. As I said about being a triathlete……the race starts when the canon goes off and that means swimming is part of the race.
So when I read this article in Active.com yesterday it all came together and made sense. I AM going to knock those minutes off of my finisher’s time by swimming 15 minutes faster to start. Here is the list of the article and how my training mimics the points presented:
Less is More
This is great news for those who would rather be out there biking and running. If swimming is your weakest of the three disciplines, it doesn’t pay off to spend several hours each week in the pool and neglecting your other workouts in the process.
I am swimming more frequently but not swimming more distance or total time in the pool and that is great for my psyche. In the past I would regularly have 2-3 days of 3000-4000y swims. That was exhausting especially because a lot of that was drills and drills take time. Now the swims are 2000-4000y and all mixed up with little to no rest. Constant movement makes the time in the pool fly by and the constant change of sets makes it as if you are doing something new every time you go swimming. For example, this week I had a 1500y continuous swim sandwiched in between much shorter sets. When that 1500 yards was done I was on the back end of the mountain getting ready to get out of the pool. It was perfect and made for a great day in the water, even if my overall time on that 1500 yards was a tad slower than I wanted.
Strength and Flexibility
This isn’t a brand new strategy. However, it has become more important as workouts and training shift from quantity to quality.
With the right strength training program, and a little yoga mixed in, it is much easier to skip the occasional pool workout altogether than it used to be.
Strength training is two times per week for me and each day is only 40 minutes and that has 15 minutes of core work intertwined. I am also doing Bikram Yoga every Friday. When the core work was added (by the way have you joined our 30 Day Ab Challenge-Core Work on Facebook?) I could immediately see a difference in my swimming. With the core being stronger my body is more streamlined which means a more efficient body position and that means faster swimming. The strength is focused on the muscles that we use the most in triathlon BUT each day always has lat pull downs and seated rows. Why? To develop stronger back muscles which are your power muscles for swimming.
Wetsuit Technology has Improved
Most of the major wetsuit manufacturers today—Orca, Blue Seventy, 2XU, Zone 3, Speedo and Quintana Roo—offer specialized forearm panels that actually help swimmers produce a stronger pull.
Well this doesn’t affect me now nor will it during my two Spring races in Puerto Rico an Texas but it is not just wetsuit technology that has improved. Swim skin technology has improved as well and when I put it on this year having a stronger core will be evident as the swim skin will have an opportunity to do a better job and result in those 15 minutes coming off the board when I exit the water of Lake Woodlands.
I hope these rules of swimming will help remove any fear that you may have as you head into your spring races whether they be a first time sprint or Ironman or your 15th Ironman. Taking advantage of new techniques will only help you get faster.
How Often Are You Swimming?
What Tips Can You Share That Can Lead To Faster Swim Times?