I’m a swimmer now?

For the last few months I have been swimming 3 or 4 times a week. Not huge distances or durations (usually for around an hour and between 2 to 2.5 kilometres) but enough to get a good workout in and, more importantly, often enough to get some consistency.

Swimming is incredibly neuro-muscular and very dependent on good technique, which means that practice practice practice is the best way to get better. Yes, I do some dryland training and strengthening and that helps out a lot but not nearly as much as the time I spend in the pool doing drills, intervals and just plain old swimming.

Kevin Koskella (TriSwimCoachOnline) says “I feel that athletes – especially beginning triathletes – get overwhelmed by all the technicalities and science of training and forget the essentials like form, drills, and how their bodies are reacting to training.” It would appear that Coach Ben feels the same way. For example, this week’s swim workouts were:

  • Tue: 1500-2000 meter easy recovery aerobic swim. OK to use different strokes.
  • Thu: Warm-up freestyle swim 500 meters.
    Swim 100m with the paddles, at about 70% intensity, focusing on long reach, pressing your chest down, and high elbows as you pull.
    Recover 15-30 seconds.
    Swim 100m with the paddles and pull-buoy, same rules as above.
    Recover 15-30 seconds.
    Swim 100m with the paddles, pull-buoy, and the bicycle tire wrapped tightly around your ankles so that you cannot move your legs.
    Recover 15-30 seconds.
    Swim 100m with the paddles, NO pull-buoy, and the bicycle tire wrapped tightly around your ankles so that you cannot move your legs.
    Recover 15-30 seconds.
    Complete 2-3 rounds of the workout above, as time permits, then cool-down with another 500m at about 70-80% intensity.
  • Fri: Warm-up 400-500m. Then swim 100m at T-Pace (~85-90%). Time this 100.Recover 15 seconds. Then swim 75m at T-Pace – 5 seconds (~90-95%). Recover 10 seconds. Then swim 25m at maximum pace (100%). Recover 15 seconds. Repeat until you can no longer sustain within 5 seconds of your original 100m pace. Cool-down well.

It might look complicated on paper but it wasn’t in the pool.

Tuesday was just a day to swim and enjoy the activity. It’s great to take a break from the formality of drills to just enjoy moving through the water and to not worry about watching the big clock on the wall (or the fancy new toy I got).

Thursday was a good day for me. This workout has been really helping me find the follow-through on my stroke. A lot of swimmers’ strokes end somewhere near their chest but if you can keep it going all the way to your hip (and beyond), you are going to get a big advantage. Your arm is very powerful, pushing downwards from your chest to your hip. Try it!

Friday was super fun. A lot more fun that just doing 12 repeats of 100m. I am always happy when I get to do short sprints. It makes me feel like a real swimmer and there is something very satisfying about panting for breath at the end of the pool.

I also added a new piece of gear this week. I bought a Garmin Forerunner 910xt. It has an accelerometer in it (like an iPhone) that measures your arm stroke, stroke rate and distance – even in a pool! Very cool. Here’s a link to the workout report Garmin made after my swim on Thursday. Very cool and useful for me and my coach!

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