THEN SWIM FASTER.

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - SWIM TRAINING - BY CLINT LIEN

I “WANNA SWIM FASTER? f you find you’re hav­ing trou­bles mak­ing the pace times, con­sider swim­ming faster,” says Neil Har­vey, the man I con­sider to be the Yoda of swim coaches.

That comment was al­ways good for a chuckle – usu­ally to those of us who were mak­ing the times, but less so for those who weren’t. But it was funny be­cause it was true.

Too of­ten, I have to deal with ath­letes who ne­glect their swim speed, fo­cus­ing solely on en­durance so they can just get through that por­tion of the race and get to the bike. Their logic is sim­ple: the swim is the short­est of the events, and the dif­fer­ence be­tween good and great is only a few min­utes, so why bother to kill your­self in the wa­ter? It would be bet­ter to knock big swaths of time off the bike and run splits. Makes sense, right? No, it doesn’t. I’ll tell you why. You need to be swim fit to ex­e­cute a good triathlon, so ob­vi­ously you have to do enough work in the pool. But, if you’re just swim­ming to fin­ish, you’re not re­al­iz­ing your full po­ten­tial as a triath­lete.

If you go to the pool day af­ter day and punch out two to four kilo­me­tres of straight swim­ming, you’ll get fit. You’ll get out of the wa­ter on race day. With­out adding vol­ume or time, though (in fact, you will likely drop both), work on your speed so that you come out a few min­utes faster (re­mem­ber, it is a race) and, be­lieve it or not, you will be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to com­plete the bike and run more ef­fec­tively.

Let’s start with your 100-me­tre time. That’s some­where be­tween two to 15 per cent of your fi­nal race dis­tance for al­most all of you. If you can swim 100 me­tres faster, it’s vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed you’ll bring your full-dis­tance swim time (and over­all time) down.

Here’s how it works. View your 100 time as be­ing the top, or “ceil­ing,” of your fit­ness. It rep­re­sents you “100 per cent” num­ber. When you swim more than 100 me­tres, even at an all-out ef­fort, by ne­ces­sity, you will be work­ing at a per­cent­age of the 100 per cent. Let’s say that for a 1,500-me­tre swim you can work at 85 per cent of your ceil­ing ef­fort. If your all-out 100 time is two min­utes, then work­ing at 85 per cent of that ef­fort might give you a 2:10 per hun­dred pace ( per­cent­age of ef­fort does not cor­re­late di­rectly to sec­onds, but I’ll save that for an­other ar­ti­cle), which would give you a fi­nal time of 32:30.

If you were to work on your 100 time and bring it down to 1:50, sud­denly 85 per cent of your ceil­ing for that 1,500-me­tre ef­fort might be closer to two min­utes per 100, sav­ing you two and a half min­utes in the swim.

So how do you bring down your 100 times?

First, de­ter­mine what your best 100 time is. To do that, do at least a 20-minute warm up with some short ac­cel­er­a­tions to­wards the end. Then do a 100-me­tre time trial as hard as you can.

Then, at least once a week (twice is bet­ter), work on your speed. Ex­e­cute sets with shorter in­ter­vals and longer rest times. My lane one swim­mers (slow­est) would go through this twice for a main set, while the lane four swim­mers (fastest) would go through the set three or four times. You can also do a slight vari­a­tion of this set by drop­ping the num­ber of re­peats from four to three for both the 100s and the 50s and adding 10 sec­onds more rest for the 100s and five sec­onds more rest for the 50. If you record the av­er­age times for the 100s and the 50s, then you have a bench mark to mea­sure against to see if you’re get­ting faster. Ex­e­cute the set again ev­ery few weeks to see how you are do­ing. The sets don’t need to be com­pli­cated. Re­mov­ing the tim­ing el­e­ment from your speed ef­forts is healthy as well. Ev­ery few weeks you can re­peat the 100 time trial to mea­sure your im­prove­ment.

One of the caveats of work­ing on speed is to make sure you’re not dra­mat­i­cally chang­ing your stroke. You don’t want to over­kick or flay your arms dur­ing the re­cov­ery. Keep a nice, smooth long- dis­tance stroke go­ing, but in­crease your ca­dence and try to pull more wa­ter.

Clint Lien is the head coach of Vic­to­ria’s Mer­cury Ris­ing Triathlon; mer­curyris­ing­triathlon.com.

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