Swimming Break Through!


Something I have been doing is replacing coffee with tea. Why? I drink a lot of coffee, sometimes 10 cups a day. On average I would say 6-8 cups a day. Some would be black coffee, some lattes, some red eyes (coffee and 1-2 shots of espresso). It was getting out of hand and my dad’s side of the family is known for having a bad heart. For almost 2 weeks I have been drinking 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning and then tea in the afternoon. Most green tea or decaf tea. I have felt a significant different in energy and sleeping better.

Back to Triathlon talk! Who reading this cares about coffee!

On most Mondays I go to Cindi’s Masters Swim Class in the afternoon because I get a good level of technical advice on my swim stroke. This is the time of season where you should be fixing your mistakes. Well… you should always try to fix your technical errors.

“All of your mistakes are happening because you are constantly off balance” Cindi told me. After watching the video I couldn’t believe it. When I swim I feel like i’m hitting a home run, on video I look like a gorilla trying to swim through the water. So much energy and extra drag/resistance to achieve these swim times.

Cindi pointed out these errors to me:

1) Wide Catch

2) Not getting full extension

3) Wiggling Hips

4) Splicing Legs

5) Minimal Core Utilization

6) Constant Redirection, Minimal Forward Motion

All of these mistakes are coming from lack of balance on the water. Which means my catch phase sucks and at some point I am losing balance on the water and everything falls apart.

For a reference point, I did a swim set with the group where we did a multiple pyramids of 100, 200, 300, 200, 100s. During one of the hard 300s I went 3:59 which is 1:20y average. I was swimming VERY hard to hit those times.

After discussing on what drills I needed to work on to fix this, I reduced my weekly swim volume by 50% and didn’t swim repetitions over 100 yards. Every swim was focused on executing the swim drill over a 25 and putting it together into a 25 freestyle. More swimming wasn’t the answer to my technical issues.

What did I notice throughout the process?

My swim strokes per 25 went from 20-22 to 18-20. My swim speeds remained the same at a lower effort.

On Friday I did my first swim test of the season: Max Effort 400 and 200. My 400 was a 5:08 (1:17 average) and my 200 was a 2:29 (1:14.5 average). Putting my threshold swim pace at 1:20y. The 400 was a lifetime best, yay go Steve! And to be honest, It was the “easiest” max effort 400 i’ve ever done. I literally couldn’t believe it. When I got home I told Cindi, “You saved my swimming!”

For years I have been swimming the same paces, never making progress. My motivation in the water was slipping because I wasn’t getting better. But heres the thing, I was the problem. Not swimming. Not the pool. I never really put the time and effort into fixing my swim stroke. I liked to complain about it, but never put the effort into fixing it.

What did I learn?

1) Reduce swim volume when fixing technical errors. You can’t fix technical errors when half of your concern is on the length of repetition. If you keep swimming longer repeats on a broken stroke, you will become a broken record.

2) Go to the pool with 1-2 objectives. Don’t try and fix your kick and your breathing at the same time. You will get confused and upset. The only improvements that will be made is increased hatred of swimming.

3) Don’t just swim drills. Thats worthless and doesn’t translate to holding good technique under higher speeds and fatigue, unless you plan on swimming your Ironman with a closed fist. Execute Drills into Freestyle of varies speeds and lengths.

4) Know your 25 speeds and your 25 stroke count. Every triathlete knows their cycling cadence and power and their running stride rate and pace. Why don’t you know this stuff in the pool. Its an IMMEDIATE display if you’re getting better.

In the Swim Smooth Calculator, it estimates off of my 1:20 threshold I am capable of swimming a 57:40 Ironman Swim. Now that sounds awesome, but I lack the endurance and open water skill to swim that fast. However, it is good to know I have the potential to swim that fast come September.

Hope you learned something from this!