Monday, March 20, 2006

Confession of my swim!

It has been 10 days since my last swim! I would have swam more but the pool was closed all last week. I know no excuse. I could have swam at the Y. It felt good to be back in the pool though. My confession is I am not sure if I believe in all the fancy swim workouts we do as triathletes. My thought is that open water long distance swim training has to be different from indoor pool training. From what I am finding from all masters workouts and most books is that we triathletes train like pool racers. They use pull buoys, kick boards (I think paddles may make you stronger) and perform different strokes all of which I cannot find value in. I need to learn proper freestyle stroke not how to do back stroke, breast stroke, or butterfly. You don't see Faris Al Sultan doing anything but the freestyle stroke during a race. I have been swimming with some of the toys, performing technique drills, and speed intervals, an average of 2 to 3 days a week for the last 2.5 years. I did learn in that time how to do flip turns (not necessary for open water swims but fun to do in the pool) and breathe every 3 strokes which is called bi-lateral breathing. I am proud of these results but my times have not improved. I was averaging 2:00 for 100 yards 2 years ago and still average the same today. So as you can see I'm not a firm believer in all that fancy pool workout routines but I'm open to learn and tri. Lately, I just swim 20 to 35 minutes of a steady pace and am happy with that. But I want to learn to swim for open water racing. I do plan on swimming in the lake more this summer. Maybe I need to take the leap of faith and join the masters club and see if I get a swim life change. Maybe I need to pay mega bucks to have my swim technique analyzed with a coach and video. And maybe I need another 2 years of swimming after which I may have something else to say. Maybe I need it all. Who knows?


E-Speed said...

I think strategy differs on your swim background.

For me I pretty much get the same results if I swim 6 days a week 4,00 yards at a time or 2 days a week for around 2500 yards. For me just getting in the pool and swimming keeps my swim legs in shape for racing.

Time out of the pool is a big nono though. All of last seasons races reflected this for me.

TriSaraTops said...

I agree--I think it's all about being COMFORTABLE in the open water. As long as you are consistent that is what matters. You will have to come do some Columbia Beach swims with me this summer! Lots of fun! :)

jessie_tri_mn said...

I too was stuck at that 2:00 per 100 yards pace for a long time.

Now I'm down in the 1:40s.

Oddly, what helped drop that included getting more and more open water swims under my belt, and also, doing interval sprints in the pool. Like running, you've got to train faster to swim faster.

But first, you've got to get in the pool ;)

qcmier said...

Swimming is a tough thing to master. I understand what you are going through because I myself have been really focusing on improving my stroke for the least 3-4 years. I agree that all the fancy stuff is overrated for triathletes. Like jesse said, you need to do interval workouts. (Just like track work for running) But you need to do them while having a good stroke. You don't want to practice bad habits. I'll email you some more thoughts.

Cliff said...

I don't think open water is as bad as everyone say it is.

I did open water in my first tri and that is also the first time i swam in open water. It was fine to me. Of course..haha i was swimming breastroke.

My goal for swimming is to swim efficient. Keepthe legs once i drag my body back on shore, I can pound on the bike and the road afterwards.

trifrog said...

I also think that sometimes the short intervals aren't long enough to stress your muscles in the way a race will. Would you train for a fast 5K by doing 100m sprints? You might do some striders once in a while for that distance to work on your form, but you wouldn't do a whole workout that way.

Try increasing your intervals to the 200-500 variety. Check out the swim workouts listed as 'Muscular Endurance' in the back of The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel
or online at That website is a great place to keep an electronic training log and the selection of different types of workouts is humongous. I just checked and there are 40 workouts of just this type alone. 150 swim workouts overall; all with specific paces noted.

When I followed that system to the letter a couple years ago, my pace dropped from an average 1:45/100 to 1:30/100. I've since slowed back down just doing my own thing whenever I feel like it. That's why I'm returning to Training Bible now and hoping to see the same improvement I previously had.

And as you've heard before, technique is absolutely crucial or the best VO2max in the world will not make you move any faster in the water.

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