Football’s opening kick-off. The drop of the puck in hockey. Baseball’s first pitch.
No matter the sport, athletes agree that the difference between success and failure hinges on how well they perform at the beginning of the event. Triathlon is no different. That’s why it’s perilous to shortchange swim training in the workout regimen.
But swimming poses mental and physical hurdles for many triathletes that make it difficult to master. Now is the time to slowly increase the swim workout with a special focus on efficiency and technique. The key is to “practice correctly.” Improvement lies in mastering proper drills and letting your mind concentrate on one element of the stroke at a time.
The first thing to realize is that breathing … just is. So many athletes get in the water and put too much thought into the next breath. When that happens, they are on a slippery slope: The stroke starts to fall apart and the heart rate increases.
Learning to practice now is imperative to a fast swim on race day. The best way to relax your breathing is to grab a kick board and learn the proper technique. You will need a kick board and fins:
- Grab the board on each side about halfway from the front.
- Hold the board in front of you, arms straight.
- Start kicking.
- Kick from the hips and your core with a very slight bend at the knees. Point your toes straight back and keep the kicks small and tight.
- Keep the water just below your lower lip and blow long, slow bubbles on the surface.
- Kick for volume, not speed.
Proper kicking will help develop different parts of your stroke. It will teach your brain proper body position by keeping your chest down in the water. It will also develop the rhythm of your kick.
Remember, practicing is training your brain through small over emphasized steps.
Kevin Koskella at TriSwimCoach.com posts the question: Why do so many triathletes struggle with the swim?
“The honest truth is... it's not because they're horrible swimmers. Many of them have no trouble swimming endless laps in their local pool,” he says. “It's not because they're out of shape. Almost every triathlete shows up on race day in great physical condition.
“The reason why most triathletes fizzle out in the swim is because they are doing it wrong. Most swimmers waste energy trying to churn through the water instead of moving the body forward. It's as dramatic as trying to row a boat using your bare hands instead of using top-of-the-line rowing oars.”
300-yard kick with fins. Point your toes and keep the kick small
100 yards using a pull buoy.
100-yard swim; no fins.
Focus: kick pointing your toes and keep the kick small
8 x 50-yard “catch drills” with fins.
Focus: Go slow, breath on both sides of every stroke, counting “one-thousand-one” as one hand catches up to the other.
10 x 50-yard swim.
Focus: Medium to hard effort, no fins. Take 8 to 10 deep recovery breaths between each.
100 yard swim
Focus: Easy, long strokes.
Source: Matt Zepeda - Zoom Performance Head Coach, USAT Level 1 coach