Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY CAROLYN MUR­RAY

IMAG­INE YOU’RE AT your noon-hour masters swim pro­gram and as you come to the end of the pool, you glance at the board and see that the coach has writ­ten an IM set. Do you em­brace it and do your best but­ter­fly, or do you swim the whole thing freestyle as that’s the only stroke you know and the one you will use in your next triathlon? Ath­letes and coaches of­ten de­bate whether triath­letes should stick to freestyle or add other strokes to their work­outs. Al­though swim­ming is the short­est por­tion of a triathlon, it’s also the most tech­ni­cal and can be in­tim­i­dat­ing for some ath­letes. Small changes can take hours to per­fect, es­pe­cially if an ath­lete is new to swim­ming or has poor tech­nique. While swim train­ing has to be pre­dom­i­nantly stroke spe­cific, there are strong ar­gu­ments for be­ing well-rounded. For some ath­letes, adding other strokes can ful­fill a spe­cific pur­pose and for oth­ers it may de­tract from time spent fo­cus­ing on other ar­eas of train­ing that can re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. If you are not sure whether al­ter­nate swim strokes will en­hance your train­ing or not, read on.

Why other strokes can help your triathlon swim­ming

Pos­ture and In­jury preven­tion: Both back­stroke and breast­stroke can help to cor­rect pos­ture, par­tic­u­larly rounded shoul­ders, which can lead to in­juries. Im­prove range of mo­tion: Breast­stroke kick can help open up your hips if they’re tight from cy­cling and run­ning, but­ter­fly and back­stroke can also help with shoul­der mo­bil­ity. Change of Pace: Freestyle re­peated over and over can be­come bor­ing. Adding other strokes can def­i­nitely break up a set to keep the ath­lete’s at­ten­tion. Trans­fer to freestyle swim­ming: If done prop­erly but­ter­fly and breast­stroke can both help im­prove the catch phase of your freestyle stroke. Boost vol­ume: In­cor­po­rat­ing other strokes as re­cov­ery can al­low you to swim longer and im­prove aerobic con­di­tion­ing. Im­prove swim­ming power: Be­com­ing a well-rounded swim­mer, which in­cludes flip turns, breath­ing, ro­ta­tion and all swim strokes, can boost com­fort in the wa­ter and con­fi­dence which can make you a faster, more pow­er­ful swim­mer.

Po­ten­tial draw­backs to adding other strokes

Time is crit­i­cal: If you only have a few hours a week to swim then you may want to stick to freestyle and max­i­mize the time you have to train. It takes time to learn a new stroke and this might be bet­ter spent work­ing on freestyle swim­ming. IM can cause an in­jury if done in­cor­rectly: If you’re a weak freestyle swim­mer and have never learned other strokes, I would not rec­om­mend adding IM to your train­ing plan. If done in­cor­rectly, but­ter­fly can ir­ri­tate your shoul­ders and breast­stroke can bug your knees. Sim­u­lat­ing the race: Freestyle is the stroke you’ll use while rac­ing. You can change things up with­out other strokes: Freestyle kick with­out a board, pull with pull-buoy and band, al­tered breath­ing pat­terns, pool pack swim­ming, open wa­ter and mini triathlons are all great tools to change up a set and keep ath­letes fo­cused.

It’s a mat­ter of opin­ion and there is no an­swer that’s right for ev­ery­one. Th­ese key points may help you de­cide what’s best for you.

Carolyn Mur­ray is a Life­s­port coach and former Olympian. She has coached Triathlon Canada’s Re­gional Triathlon Cen­tre, and is Canada’s par­a­lympic coach for Rio 2016. Visit her at: life­s­port­coach­

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