Triathlon swim performance tips
July 19, 2010 Leave a Comment
As you enter T1, it is obvious that things aren’t going well in this race. Or, at least they are going slowly for you since the bike racks are nearly empty. You are probably reading this because your swim time did not compare well to your peers. What follows are a set of basic considerations. You should sort through them, be honest with yourself, and realize that with consistent application and practice, you can make major improvements in your open water swim times in less than a year.
There are three elements to improved swim times in the open water swims:
- You need to swim regularly. For maximal improvement, swim 3 times per week. Peer pressure is an excellent motivator for consistency, and there is simply no substitute for joining a Masters swim group. These groups are widely distributed over the country, and occasionally there is a YMCA group in your community to add another option. Swim practices usually last from 45 min to 90 min, and there may be multiple optional times available per week. Consistent swim practice year round will develop the shoulder girdle musculature and circulation to allow you to swim faster!
- The second element of improved open water swimming is swim form and shoulder girdle strength. Invest in a series of swim lessons from a professional with open water swim experience. These lessons will serve you best if you have them spread over a period of time such as once a month for 4 months.
- The third element of improved open water swimming is simple. Practice in open water, AND if your race is wet suit legal, always wear a wetsuit.
In no particular order here are a number of important points about open water swim skills:
- Wetsuits designed for open water swim racing are expensive. Generally speaking, the more expensive the wetsuit, the better and more flexible the exotic neoprene foam is that make up important parts like the shoulders and arms. You generally get what you pay for.
- Women (and maybe some of you guys) cut your fingernails really short for open water racing. A: You can do some serious damage to the other 100 of your new friends in the same 100 sq ft of space as the race starts with those long nails, and B: When your long fingernail cuts through your new $600 wet suit as you are pulling it on the first time, that nail job won’t be so cool! Wet suits can be repaired with wet suit cement available universally through SCUBA diving shops.
- There are no lane lines on the bottom of most lakes and certainly not in the ocean. Ditto for lane dividers. Thus it is essential that you practice navigation while swimming in open water. This is most commonly called “sighting”. The best way to do this is not intuitive. It is to first lift your head straight up until just your eyes are out of the water, sight your landmark, then turn to the side, take a breath, and continue. Plan to sight every 4-6 strokes, but more often if conditions warrant.
- Learn to breathe comfortably on both sides. This is best achieved in swim practice in the pool by simply swimming even lengths breathing to the left, odd lengths to the right. Breathing to one side only creates two potential serious issues. First, IF you only breathe to the right and the swim course makes only left turns around the buoys, navigation will be difficult at best. And, IF you only breathe to the right and the prevailing wind is from that direction creating a 6” wind chop, you may inhale several gallons of water before reaching the first turn. SO, learn to breathe on both sides.
- Wetsuits designed for open water swimming competition are supposed to fit fairly tightly around your chest and base of your neck. It takes a while to get used to that sensation when you first start wearing them. So plan on at least several open water practice sessions prior to your race to get used to the wetsuit. Be a little careful about swimming hard in the pool to get used to the wet suit, as most commercial pool operations now keep their pools warm enough that heat injury inside your wetsuit becomes a possibility in the pool. Wearing a wetsuit in water warmer than 78º F is not a good idea.
- Wetsuits are allowed in races with water temperatures of up to 76ºF. Wear a wetsuit when it is allowed, as you will swim 3-7% faster than without one!
- The race announcer may say that you may wear a wetsuit in a particular race, but if you do, you are not eligible for any awards. Unless you are rationally racing for the podium, wear the suit. Remember that you are probably reading this article since you swam slower than your peers.
- IF the water is below about 65ºF please read the article on this subject from our web site: http://www.rehabtoracing.com/Cold_water_swimming.php. Many New England races, Pacific Northwest races, and Pacific Ocean races regularly are quite a bit colder than 65º.
For further information contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org