Swimming for triathletes (Series of 4 Parts)
The difference in „pool” and open water swimming.
1st of all when we talk about swimming in triathlon, we have to split it into POOL and OPEN water category. Very often I see athletes hammering out super fast times in the pool and yet they totally underperform in the open water and get dropped early in the swim. If they manage to keep up with the fast group they often got nothing left in the tank for bike and run later in the race..
Let’s examine regulations behind this phenomenon.
Of course we have to make a difference depending on the target group: begginners, practicing athletes, pros.
And yet I think there are 2 ways to train an athlete for open water swimming
1) Teach propper technique and drills in the pool first and once it’s ’sunk in’ and automized turn towards more open water drills and adjust the pool sessions accordingly
2) when it is a beginner start everything with open water swim emphasized swimming sessions and drills.
The mainstream idea about triathlon swimming is that we need high crawl cadence and propulsion mainly comes from arm-work. Thus we need to strengthen our arms and shoulders with exact swim drills or specific way of working out int he pool ( pull-bouy, band, paddle). This is important for several reasons: we need to navigate (raise head, check happenings in front, targeting directions: bouys, exit gate), need to change swimming directions fast (passing slower swimmers, following „leg-water” while someone blocks us), need to accelerate whenever it is required to catch a „leg-water”…etc, or just being able to fight your position in a big group of swimmers.
No matter what your approach – always remember – a good coache’s eye catches more than you might think you can catch yourself from time to time. Proper technique needs to be tailored to your individual needs – a drill that works for the guy on the lane next to you might just be useless to yourself and your needs.
Why swimming technique is so important? I think just because moving in water is 10 times harder than moving in air. Little details examining someone’s swimming technique and solving these „little” problems could save him/her minutes during a race.
The swim leg is a very crucial – if not the most crucial part of a triathlon, as it affects bike, run combination a lot! That is why I mentioned before: you may exit water with the dreamed group of fast swimmers, but for a „strange” reason do not performe any close to your biking and/ or running ability.
Details and further thoughts on this topic going to come in part 2-4
Adam Molnar (Special3 Se, www.special-se.com )
pro athlete, and swimming/triathlon coach
First out of the water Challenge Kraichgau, first out of the water Ironman 70.3 Austria