July 21, 2019 - Whether you are trying to win the race, or just trying to get to the finish line, keeping your swim training in line with your other training will help you achieve your goals.
It’s a common question a triathlon coach is asked. Despite a triathlon being made up of three different sports, with swimming being the one that comes first and taking the least amount of time, it seems many triathletes have a strong dislike for swimming. That isn’t necessarily without reason. Most triathletes learned to swim as an adult - in fact, they probably started learning to swim the very same day they decided to sign up for a triathlon. In comparison, almost everyone at some point in their life has ridden a bike (even if only as a child), or done some running (perhaps only in high school gym class), but learning a proper freestyle stroke is not a part of every child’s upbringing.
Even beginning your swim can be HARD, especially when an athlete is first learning the basics. Between the lack of familiarity with pool etiquette, the logistical challenges of getting to a pool, dealing with variable pool schedules, etc., it can be hard to make time to swim when a bike or run would be much easier to do. Also, swimming is the one discipline of a triathlon that is largely technique-based. With cycling and running, going harder means going faster; there is a direct correlation between the effort expended and the speed achieved. With swimming this is not necessarily the case. It’s very possible for a swimmer with poor technique to attempt an ALL OUT interval and go no faster than when they were swimming “easy”. Without proper technique, adding in more power just isn’t helpful – I often make the comparison to golf in that respect; I can’t swing the club harder and be a better golfer without proper technique. This means learning to swim well can be a frustrating and long-term endeavor. A large portion of being a proficient swimmer is to have a strong “feel” for the water. That “feel” can only be found through consistent swimming a few days a week. To add to the challenge, it is something that is easy to lose quickly after not swimming for a couple of weeks. In comparison, we never forget how to ride a bike, right?
Yes, it’s true that the swim is the shortest part of a triathlon in respect to the other two disciplines. This is especially true at the half and full-iron distance. However, by training your swim to be a strong point, you will find yourself getting out of the water with much more energy and a better attitude that will benefit your bike and run race performance. By not wearing yourself out early in the race, you will feel so much fresher when hopping on your bike. If you are racing for the podium or a championship-qualifying spot, getting out of the water earlier puts you closer to the front of the pack instead of racing from the back – which is not a mentally fun way to race. You cannot win the race in the swim, but you can certainly lose it!
Whether you are trying to win the race, or just trying to get to the finish line, keeping your swim training in line with your other training will help you achieve your goals. Like anything we do as triathletes, consistency is king. Don’t neglect your swim just because it’s the shortest part of the race (or because you don’t like it)!
Triathlon Coach with AJ Baucco Coaching LLC