Planning your training correctly and using the off-season time wisely can pay dividends and you will enter your 2012 race season better equipped with improved technique, endurance and confidence. One particular area to focus on technique during this time is your swimming.
Many triathletes will still favour spending time in the pool over the winter Lifeguard certification purely doing endurance, Tri Coach Steve Lloyd from Absolute Tri commented “At this time of year many triathletes will still prefer doing a hard session rather than technique so they can leave the pool feeling that they have done a good workout. It is vital to have a combination of both so if you don’t feel that you have the time to devote to technique try to fit at least some into your endurance session by shortening your warm up and cool down”.
How does this affect your session? An example would be instead of a 400m warm up, some pull, then the main set, do a 200m slow warm up focusing on perfect technique – then spend the next 5-10 minutes completing drills before moving onto the main set. During this time you are still warming up but thinking about technique rather than purely raising the heart rate and getting the shoulders ready. Repeat this on the cool down.
(The term “pull” means to swim using your arms only, no legs. You can use a pull buoy, a specially shaped float that helps your legs stay buoyant, between your upper thighs when completing a pull set. This isolates your arms enabling you to concentrate on improving your arm movements.)
So far we have said that you need to look at technique, but how do you know you are using the right technique? Apart from getting some good coaching a good acronym is BLABT which stands for Body position, Leg Action, Arm, Action, Breathing & Timing, this training method is widely used by swim teachers and coaches.
- Body Position – are you high/low in the water do you rotate side to side
- Leg Action – does it hinder your body position or are they propelling you forwards and acting as balance aids?
- Arm action – high or low elbow, entering the water with hand too early or over reaching?
- Breathing – this needs to be fitted in to the arm action and general stoke – breathing has to be done but it does slow you down as it disrupts the stroke technique so avoid excessive head turning to breathe.
- Timing – Making sure that everything is working together – timing your breathing to your arm stroke ensure that all parts of your stroke are co-ordinated.
Whilst this is great advice in theory, how can you put this in to practice? If you are training on your own this winter or are thinking about completing your first triathlon in 2011 here are some key things to think about.
- Relax – Steve says “When I first meet triathletes who perhaps aren’t the best swimmers my initial advice is to relax, don’t fight the water feel the water and focus on quality rather than quantity”
- Streamlining – Get in to the best position possible – legs not sinking, no sideways movement, tighten your core muscles and kick from the hips not the knees.
- Hip & shoulder rotation – Rotate hips at 45 degrees each side; rotate into the stroke this allows you to engage your “lats” (back muscles), hips and legs. (Latissimus Dorsi, commonly referred to as your “lats,” are the triangular muscles that extend from under your armpits to your lower back on both sides.)
- Stroke length – Enhance stretch and glide so enter the water, reach long, catch water and then push past your hip.
- Catch – Don’t catch too early as this will increase resistance but equally don’t catch or hold it too long as you will just glide and start to loose the momentum of your forward movement. Wait at the front of the stroke and as soon as you ‘feel the water’ then catch it and push it back past your body. Use sculling drills to help learn the ‘feel’ of the water.
This of course is a very brief look at swimming Lifeguard certification and the benefits of practising technique, to progress over winter here is a list of practical tips for winter training:
- Work on technique – do 1 -2 lengths of technique, do it right and rest. This will help develop muscle memory.
- Refine those skills
- Build endurance
- Watch other people swim and note good and bad technique
- Join a triathlon club that offers coached sessions and try and get there at least once a week
If you are able book a 1-2-1 session with a reputable triathlon coach or swim coach that understands the needs of the triathlete.