Triathlon Training has begun in earnest. I am swimming twice per week with the local Masters Swim group at the Kiwanis Aquatics Centre. Swim workouts are created by an experienced coach, Christine Arsenault, who challenges us, corrects technique and keeps us motivated. I started swimming last winter after a twenty year break from any swim training (high school swim team!). It feels great to be back in the water and my fitness is definitely improving.
My swim technique has improved over the past months, but it is still under construction. Along with the standard repeats of different intervals in the water (25m sprints, 50m, 100m, 200m, etc.) we do many drills and strengthening exercises that improve our technique and make us overall much better, more efficient swimmers.
Bilateral Breathing: In the half year that I have been swimming I have learned to do bilateral breathing, which is especially important for open water swimming when breaths may be determined by the waves. This week we did an exercise to work on our bilateral breathing and our tolerance to oxygen deprivation. Each 25m we increased the number of strokes we took before breathing, starting with 3 strokes per breath and moving all the way up to 9 strokes per breath. At the start of the exercise I could only do 5 – 7 strokes. By the end of the workout I was able to squeeze out a few 9 strokes for 25m. A real challenge, but amazing to see how quickly one’s body adjusts and learns.
Sculling (with no kicking) is another excellent drill for improving strength and technique. Sculling teaches the hands how to propel in every phase of the pull cycle and will improve one’s stroke. Again, I have found with practice a huge improvement in my sculling and in my swimming technique overall.
Here is a video that describes sculling.
Pulling Buckets (or parachutes): Adding resistance to our bodies, in the form of buckets attached to stretch cords that we tie around our waists, is a challenging strength workout. This week we did three sets of 4 x 50m of swimming pulling two buckets. The buckets dragged behind us, forcing us to work much harder in our free style stroke.
Between the bucket exercises we did timed swims of different distances (400, 200, 100). We felt like we were zipping through the water after those buckets were removed!
Kicking and Pulling are also standard drills, forcing us to target our legs or arms respectively. These drills can be done in many various ways to keep swimming interesting and the body challenged. Kicking can be done with or without a kick board. Pulling can be done with a pull buoy between the legs to aid in floatation, or without the buoy for increased difficulty. Find swimming equipment pictured below at a specialty swimming or triathlon store.
It is definitely worth your while to find a master’s swim group to train with. I am benefiting from having well designed swim workouts, feedback on my stroke technique as well as having the challenge of other stronger swimmers to pace off of and to chase when we do timed intervals. I am still working on my hand entry into the water – improving my technique is ongoing.
Here are some visuals for proper form in free style.
The new challenge of swimming is a great compliment to my running routine and will benefit my running, overall fitness and aid in keeping me injury free over time.