Triathlon Magazine Canada - - FEATURES - BY CLINT LIEN

I’VE NO­TICED A trend in the sport over the last few decades. Ath­letes are tak­ing shorter and shorter train­ing breaks. The fear of at­ro­phy has over­pow­ered the wis­dom of re­cov­ery. The fall should be a bit of a down time for ath­letes, though. The way to view this pe­riod is not to see it as a time of de­cay, but as an op­por­tu­nity for de­vel­op­ment – a time to fo­cus on weak­nesses. In the pool that usu­ally means work­ing on your tech­nique. Af­ter your last “A” race, and af­ter tak­ing at least 10 to 20 days of no struc­ture and lim­ited ex­er­cise, think about a six- to eight-week pro­gram of ag­gres­sive tech­nique im­prove­ment. I break it down like this: first we fix the boat, then the pro­pel­ler, then the trans­mis­sion. In coach­ing terms: get flat, grab more wa­ter and then in­crease your stroke rate.

If you’re swim­ming up­hill, in other words, your hips are drop­ping in the wa­ter, re­gard­less of the ef­fi­ciency of your stroke, you won’t be swim­ming to your full po­ten­tial. To help im­prove your po­si­tion: • from the five to 10 per cent of your to­tal ses­sion that you should be do­ing in race sea­son to 15 to 25 per cent dur­ing the off-sea­son. In­clude a healthy por­tion of dol­phin kick, which strength­ens the core in a very spe­cific way. • to build strength and an­kle flex­i­bil­ity. • When kick­ing, kick­ing from the hips and keep­ing your kick stream­lined, smooth and pow­er­ful. Fo­cus on po­si­tion – not propul­sion. lift the hips and press the chest down. with one gog­gle in the wa­ter at all times. (If you have a prob­lem with this try swim­ming with a ten­nis ball tucked un­der your chin and a swim snorkel.) • •


The fol­low­ing might be a typ­i­cal ses­sion my swim­mers will do in the off-sea­son. I would ad­just the vol­umes based on the level of the ath­lete.

SRI = Sec­onds Rest In­ter­val 400 choice warm-up 2 x 200 snorkel w/fins @ 20 SRI 4 x 50 kick as 25 strong/25 easy @ 10 SRI 4 x 50 bucket @ 10 SRI 400 snorkel w/tempo trainer set @ +5 strokes a minute over base­line, 45 sec rec. 4 x 50 kick as 25 dol­phin/25 free @ 10 SRI 4 x 50 band only @ 10 SRI 4 x 100 re­laxed per­fect swim­ming @ 15 SRI 4 x 50 kick w/fins @ 10 SRI 200 Cool-down To work on your ac­tual stroke, noth­ing com­pares to the watch­ful eye of an ex­pe­ri­enced coach. If you can pair that with the use of above and be­low wa­ter cam­eras, you’ll be well on your way. Hear­ing some­thing is good, see­ing it is great. I use an ipad mini in a Life Proof case and a selfie stick to video my swim­mers. I can give them vis­ual feed­back pool-side. I also rec­om­mend an app called Coach’s Eye, which al­lows me to view the footage one frame at a time, along with a host of other use­ful fea­tures. An­other sim­ple but ef­fec­tive way to watch your stroke is to break out your snorkel again.


is a great way to high­light a weak stroke. By se­cur­ing the an­kles (with­out a pull buoy) you’ll ei­ther sink feet first, or you’ll learn how to catch wa­ter and keep your­self go­ing.

is a gen­tler way to point out in­ef­fi­ciency. All my swim­mers have a child’s beach bucket se­cured to a punc­tured tube in their gear bags. It costs a few bucks to make and works per­fectly. Imag­ine driv­ing with the breaks on – as soon as you lift off the gas you slow right down. Swim­ming with a parachute (or bucket) will high­light the weak spots in your stroke in the same way.

For this I rec­om­mend the use of a tempo trainer, which is a beep­ing metronome that fits un­der your swim cap. If you just try to bring up your stroke rate you will likely in­crease it too ag­gres­sively and your stroke will suf­fer for your ef­forts. Us­ing a tempo trainer, you can de­ter­mine your nat­u­ral base­line rate and then at­tempt to in­crease it in small in­cre­ments. Do a test 400, stop­ping to ad­just the unit un­til you’ve de­ter­mined a base­line. From there you can start bring­ing it up in sub­se­quent ses­sions.


The fall off-sea­son is a per­fect time to work your swim tech­nique. Re­move split times and vol­ume pres­sure and con­cen­trate on get­ting good. Get­ting fast will fol­low.

Clint Lien is the head coach of Mer­cury Ris­ing Triathlon based in Vic­to­ria.

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