Swimming Improvements

SwimmingImprovementsThe photo above is looking towards Fire Mountain yesterday as we rode the Ironman Route in reverse. We’re very lucky that Rachel Joyce invited Jo and I over to Club La Santa for 2 weeks at the perfect time for final preparations for Kona. This is an awesome environment for training and I now understand why people rave about it. If money was no object I’d come and stay here for several weeks in the run up to IM Lanzarote only moving to Puerto Del Carmen (PdC) for race week. The food on the buffet in the evening allows me to be completely Paleo and despite absolutely stuffing myself each evening I’ve lost 2lbs already this trip. I now see why Jaime and Oli were a little disappointed last May when they moved from here to our hotel in PdC and had to eat the buffet there. I’d expected not to particularly like having loads of athletes around when I’m focussing on training but I’m quite enjoying it. Going to the gym is more interesting when there’s a german weight lifting squad training.

It feels like being on Epic Camp training here since there’s a natural 12 hour window for training. The pool opens at 7am and dinner starts at 7pm. I’ve managed to get to the pool first thing each morning and enjoyed swimming initially in the dark and then as the sun rises. I’m hoping to do some swim sets with Rachel. I’m expected to be pushed as she’s rather casually mentioned in passing doing 4:40 400m and her favourite set being 40 x 100m on 1:25 !

Yesterdays ride was great. Jo, Rachel and I set off together round El Golfo. For the second half of the ride Jo split as she had a shorter and easier ride to do. Rachel proved excellent ride company. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden with someone where we rode side by side up climbs but we managed just that up Mirador Del Rio and then up the zig zags of Mirador Del Haria. At the top I had the nicest Cappuccino I’ve ever tasted – it was an expresso topped with a tonne of whipped cream ! I’ll be having one of those after my 4 reps of Tabayesco tomorrow. I feel I’m cycling strongly but other than on the flats I felt she was stronger. Given her swim and bike I’m hoping she’s right up there in the womens field heading out on to the run at Kona.

Getting back here I went and did an aqua jog for just over an hour. It was great – much less boring going up and down a 50m pool and I really felt it after. It’s made my decision that I’m not going to do any running here despite the foot being pain free now for a day. I’’m going to substitute aqua jogging. This will mean I can hold off running till I get my orthotics. My hope is that the aqua jogging will build the appropriate muscular endurance so if the orthotics allow me to run pain free I have an outside chance of a decent run in Kona. The only remaining question is go I mark an aquajog post bike as a ‘brick’ in my training diary ?

So, finally to the title of this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about swimming and how to improve a triathletes swim. From my observations at our club I reckon that most triathletes who weren’t squad swimmers as a kid make no improvements in their swim year on year after an initial improvement when they first start. I’d be very interested to read of any studies done on this. As I start my swim coaching qualifications I would say that my “career” goal now would be to find a way to improve Triathletes swims. Here are some initial thoughts.

A few weeks ago I posted my training hours and showed something in the region of 3,000 hours swimming as a child and teenager. At the end of that I had a reasonable stroke – good enough to get to nationals and to national student finals. Certainly robust enough to make me a fast triathlete swimmer. To put this in perspective a keen triathlete swimming 3 hours a week would take the best best part of 20 years to amass those hours. Note, all those 3,000 hours would have been with a coach giving feedback on bad technique every session.

Ok, that sounds daunting. Now, it clearly didn’t take 3,000 hours to get a decent stroke as I competed well for many years. It must have been some figure less than that. The key things are:

  1. There was constant feedback from the coach. The way this feedback is given is noteworthy I believe. With kids the coach is willing to literally yell across the pool whilst they’re swimming. I’ve noticed this with the coach and the kids that swim before us on a  Wednesday. But with adults the coach tends to be more discrete / polite which means the feedback isn’t given whilst you’re swimming but at the end of the length when you’re stopped
  2. The swimming was intense – 2 hour sessions at least every weekday and many double sessions.

This got me thinking that perhaps what a Triathlete needs is a period of time training like a swimmer. This could go as far as purely swimming and weights no run or bike. Anecdotally you here of this sort of thing. Rachel said that Bella Bayliss’s swim improved massively when she had an injury that stopped her bike and running so she swam two sessions a day for an extended period. Would poor swimmers be willing to do this to improve ? Would they have the access to squad time to do it ? It seems Triathletes will spend money on endless pool time and total immersion. Would they pay to have a coach on the pool side yelling abuse at them for several weeks twice a day ? I don’t know.

Here in La Santa there are the perfect facilities to do this. Also in Christchurch where you could swim with a coached squad for 90 minutes 4 mornings and have access to a pool with good laned swimming at all times. I’m working on Jo to be my guinea pig. Post Bussellton and pre Epic I’ve offered to be on pool side in Christchurch for the second session each day. It will be tiring – going from 3 – 5 hours swimming a week to upwards of 15. I wonder if it will work. I’m hoping Jo is happy to try it.

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