Swimming is always the shortest part of a triathlon. That said it shouldn’t be neglected, it’s important for setting you up for a successful race.
With a good swim you’ll arrive to your bike a little higher up in the field and feeling fresh, ready to follow the wheels of the other athletes around you. Have a bad swim and you can end up feeling tired, less in control of your performance and chasing hard too early to get yourself back to a winning position which will have consequences later in the race.
Swimming can be a frustrating sport, before we even get ourselves motivated for the session we have to battle with pool opening times, busy lanes, travel to get there, parking, getting in the damn thing and it’s not even free! So for those reasons swimming is probably the hardest to find and maintain your consistency.
With races coming up quickly it is possible to really get your swimming firing in the matter of a few weeks. Of course, if you have built a nice strong background and base over the years you’ll find it easier to get your arms back, but for those of you struggling here’s a few ideas to help you make gains in your swimming in a short amount of time.
Focus on technique
I find that when I’m struggling for speed and feeling for the water sometimes it’s best to back off the intensity, relax a bit and hit some technique focused sessions. Although they may not be particularly hard at all, they will get you feeling more efficient in the water, so even though you’re perhaps not at full swimming effort at least you’re pulling the water efficiently. You may find you go faster this way rather than trying to cram in some long intense swim sets in a desperate attempt to get fit again.
Upper body and core work
I also find that some upper body and core work will also help your case in a short amount of time. Sometimes we’re quite fit but we just don’t feel powerful in the water, normally because the running and cycling really strips that strength from our arms and leaves us feeling empty.
The first session back you’ll definitely get quite sore if you’re not used to it, but after a few days and a few more gym sessions, you’ll recover and probably feel more activated and more able to pull the water. I’d recommend exercises such as lat pulldowns, chin ups, bench press, and any TRX exercises are good as well.
Consistency is key
Consistency and frequency is the key to swimming well. Swimmers often talk of feeling for the water and you’ll struggle to maintain that if you’re only swimming once a week, so you’re better off swimming 3-4 3k sessions through the week, rather than sporadic longer and tougher sessions.
In each session try to incorporate some sort of speed training, even if it’s just an easy swim. So when you rock up on the start line your body remembers how feels to swim fast.