Don't Just Swim, Swim With Purpose

Don't Just Swim, Swim With Purpose

The swim...oh, the dreaded swim. The leg of the triathlon that causes so much fear and anxiety for so many athletes. Wetsuits, goggles, equipment, sets… where does one begin?

The common issue I have found by coaching triathletes is that many triathletes tackle the swim without a strategy or a plan. Triathletes set out to "go for a swim" and complete a particular distance. One mile, 1.2 or 2.4 miles. This is a great strategy for completing the race, but not for dropping time and gaining water confidence. Here are some tips, tricks, drills and sets for swimming with a purpose.

The workout: your workout should have a goal and purpose in mind. For instance, 3,000 yards - middle distance, 2,500 speed work or a 1,650 recovery swim.

Sets: workouts should follow a plan with sets and intervals. Intervals are set distances done in a specific time frame. 10x 100 on 1:45. This means that four lengths of swim need to be completed under 1:45. If you come in on the 1:30 you get 15 seconds rest, 1:40 you get 5 seconds rest. Interval training is crucial for gaining speed.

How did I set intervals? If you would like to know how to set up your own intervals to your speed, time yourself swimming a 100 yard swim at a medium to fast speed. Add 15-20 seconds to your time and that is your 100 pace time. Each week or two, or once the interval becomes easy, lessen the interval time.

Equipment: Cap, goggles, suit, and sunscreen is all you need. Many triathletes make the mistake of training with fins, paddles and kickboards which won't help you in a triathlon or help you get faster. A common ailment triathletes will use are fins to "keep up" with sets. Coaches opinion, fins give a false sense of speed and are not very successful at improving your kick. Kickboards are helpful in improving your kick, but the best option is kicking in a tight streamline, without the board. It will definitely improve your kick using more natural swim positioning. Be a purist!

Drill: some of your workout should incorporate drills. Drills help you improve and fine tune your stroke. Here is a great drill to incorporate into your workout.


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One Armed Drill: This drill is a great all around drill to help improve hip and shoulder rotation, flexion and getting the most out of your stroke. Start by kicking off the wall in a tight streamline. The first 25, swim only with your right arm. Next 25 use the left. Keep the left arm by your side, hold onto your thigh if that helps. The focus of this drill is to work on getting a full rotation of the shoulder. The hips should fire along with the shoulder, pointing towards the bottom of the pool. Reach all the way forward and pull all the way through with your stroke. When you need to breathe, breathe away from the arm that is stroking. This drill will feel awkward at first, but will do wonders for your stroke. This drill is great by 75's. Twenty five of each arm and 25 regular swim. (right arm, left arm, regular swim)

Here are three workouts to try...

Middle distance

400 warm up- easy
6x75 drill - 25 right arm, 25 left arm, 25 swim - 10 seconds rest
4x50 kick no board tight streamline - 15 seconds rest
6x200 easy, medium, hard repeat - 15 seconds rest.
6x50 easy, medium, hard repeat - 15 seconds rest
200 easy - cool down

Total: 2,750 yards

Speed work

400 warm up
4x75 drill - 25 right arm, 25 left arm, 25 swim - 10 seconds rest
9x50 - easy, medium, hard - repeat
5x100 on the 2:00
5x100 on the 1:50
5x100 on the 1:40
200 cool down

Total: 2850 yards

Recovery swim

300 warm up
8x75 drill - 25 right arm, 25 left arm, 25 swim - 10 seconds rest
500 swim
500 pull
100 cool down

Total: 2000 yards

The swim can be daunting, but if you set out with a purpose each time you swim, you will embrace this amazing part of the triathlon. Happy swimming!


Written By: Caitlin Nicholas, Tri Sirena Siren Luminary
Follow Caitlin on Instagram @tri_caitlin

Do you set a game plan before training? Let us know in the comments below!

This blog was created for informational purposes only. It's content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or online.

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Nice Blog. Kept it basic for non swimmers but still informative. Great job.

Loretta Ehlers

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