For many triathletes, swimming is the most mundane of their training sessions, which feels very repetitive and can often lead to sessions being reduced or even cut altogether. I, for one, am a HUGE culprit for this!
Before you cut that next swim session 1,000m short, or switch it out for an extra ride or tempo run, its probably important to look at the reasons why swimming should be a huge focus for your next build (or even during the off season).
Swimming Builds Your Aerobic Capacity
Swimming is a low impact way of significantly building your aerobic capacity quickly and efficiently. By doing so, your aerobic gains will carry over the the bike and run too, giving you increased performance capabilities on all your triathlon disciplines.
In addition to this, swimming has a therapeutic effect on the body’s muscular system. It can help to unwind any built up muscle tension that you accrue in the day to day struggles of training, work and life.
Finding Extra Time On Your Swim Can Be All Down To Your Technique
A lot of swimming comes down to technique, as opposed to your fitness or power.
I know when I first started swimming I would get frustrated by older, less fit people swimming at 30-60 seconds per 100m quicker than me – and in speaking to others, I wasn’t the only one either. Now I know that this isn’t a good way of looking at things, but it naturally creeps into your thoughts when you’re nearly drowning after a slow 400m swim, while others are swimming faster and longer, while seemingly putting in much less effort.
The reality is, until you’re swimming less than 1:30/100m (which I definitely am NOT doing), there is far more growth you can make by improving your technique than there is from improving your physical or aerobic capacities.
So, if you want to push for a PB in your next event, focus on swim technique at least once per week – there is literally hundreds of drills you can do that will help with this and it could help save you 10-15 minutes over the course of a 70.3 and even more over a full Ironman distance event.
Swimming Sets Up Your Bike and Run
This isn’t just for elite athletes – age groupers can benefit greatly from a strong, efficient swim too! If you get out the water in a quick timeframe, feeling fresh and without burning through too much of your energy stores, you will set yourself up much better for a strong second and third leg.
On the flipside, if you have a slow swim you will feel you need to ‘make up’ time on the ride, and while you may do this, you will no doubt be pushing above your power goals, which will in turn hurt your run and likely cost you more time in the long run.
Going too hard on the bike after a slow swim has ruined the day’s of many experienced triathletes, not to mention inexperienced and first time triathletes.
But What If I Can’t Bring Myself To Get In The Pool?
If you are still struggling to get yourself motivated (be it because of the repetitiveness, the cold weather or something else entirely), it might be a good idea to get in touch with a local triathlon club or swim club and see if you can join a Swim Squad.
A swim squad is a great way to keep yourself honest, and a great way to socialize during your swim sessions. On top of this, most swim squads have a coach allocated to the session, meaning you will get feedback and pointers on your technique, which can help you continue to develop an effective stroke.
In summary, while swimming may seem like it’s not as important as the other two legs, you need to give it the time of day. If you are training in excess of 10 hours a week, you need to be doing 2-3 sessions a week swimming, totaling around 2.5-3 hours in total. If you’re training for a full 140.6 event, this figure should probably be higher.