By Gary Hall Sr.For the Beginner Triathlete, creating a swimming training program is important. Although swimming techniques may be the least important of the tri sports, it is certainly the most intimidating to most triathletes. Therefore, for the sake of your entire race, it is important to be able to go into the swim with confidence, relatively fearless and somewhat relaxed. Coming out, you should not be totally exhausted. The swimming training program and the swimming techniques you choose can help you get to that state.
Forgetting for a moment the nutritional and mental aspects of a swimming training program, both of which are important, there are three aspects involved in the physical training of a swimmer. Here is how I rank them in importance:
1) Technical training (biomechanics and physics)
2) Aerobic training (physiology)
3) Strength training (biomechanics and physiology)
Make no mistake about it, there is no shortcut to getting aerobically fit for the swim. If your swim is a half-mile, a mile or 2 ½ miles, then your training distances and time will need to reflect that. It is not merely a matter of swimming laps, however. How you do those meters will make a big difference in how fast you swim and how you will feel climbing out of the water. If you really want to improve your swim, here are my suggestions.
Train at least three times per week consistently for an hour to 1½ hours per practice. Less than that and you probably won’t improve nearly as fast. Instead of swimming straight long swims, practice interval swimming training with short rest. Train at race pace.
For example, rather than swimming a straight 1000 yard swim, do 10 x 100 yards with about 10 to 15 seconds of rest after each 100. During those ten 100’s try to hold a faster pace than you would during a straight swim, and try not to drop off your pace. If you start out too fast on the first 100, then you will pay later, just like in the race. In fact, this type of interval training will teach you to hold back in the beginning and push harder as the set progresses. Get in the habit of checking your times on the pace clock(hopefully somewhere around the pool) so you will know what you need to do to beat that the next time.
Breathing is also an important part of your swimming training program. Oxygen is underrated as far as I am concerned. Although anaerobic training might help you for a sprint or free diving with me in the Keys, it will do nothing to help your open water half mile swim. You need and should take as much oxygen as you can get. Keep the ATP pipeline flowing. I am not a big fan of alternate breathing, which means you get a breath on every third stroke. I would prefer you learn to breathe on one side or the other, but breathe every cycle. Even better, learn to breathe on either side, but still breathe every cycle. That way, if the need to change breathing sides arises because of a wave or chop, you won’t get totally disoriented.
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