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Swim check – what happened to my swimming this winter?

My main focuses for this winter were to become a faster swimmer and a stronger cyclist. After last season, I considered myself a rather okay triathlon-runner. From my running splits’ perspective I could already compete in pro class, so the main focus wasn’t in improving running over other distances. However, since I still love running a lot and want of course to become a faster runner too, I haven’t forgotten running but have actually had very good quality sessions since November.

Let’s discuss swimming this time. Swimming, the sport I’ve always considered my weakest one. Well, in Norway, in the land of poor triathlon swimmers (except my coach, super swimmer Mette :)), I can’t say that I sucked at swimming, but it wasn’t in the level last summer where I wanted it to be. When every minute and second matters, I wanted to learn not to a suck in water and think that race starts already in the swimming split, not after it.

Well, what has then happened in winter? Progress :)

Last Wednesday I swam 4x400m progressively, still feeling rather good, so that every rep was faster than 400m in my CSS test in November. That is at least some progress. Sub-1h ironman swim split doesn’t feel impossible anymore!

I think the key difference between last winter and this winter has been that I got a coach to make me swimming programs that I NEED to swim and that make training both much more fun and challenging. Of course I swam regularly last winter too, but my self-made programs ended often being comfort zone swims or short intervals. Now I feel I’ve done all: short and long repetitions (incl. 500-1500 reps that I would probably never do if I hadn’t a coach), easy swimming keeping focus in technique, drills, plenty of kicks, etc. Easy, recovery morning swims, hard evening swims, and so on.

One big difference has also been that I’ve now been swimming often in the evening. Combining full-time work and loads of training affects me so that I am often quite tired early in the morning. I get myself out of the bed and can train before work, but my body is slow and doesn’t like hard trainings that much in the morning. So, as I’ve liked to have some quality and good energy levels in swim sessions, I started to swim more in the evening. Yes, I know that in races swimming happens almost always early in the morning, but in race mornings, I don’t wake up 40 minutes before jumping to pool and make myself tired the night before…

I think another important thing was to film my swimming, recognise problem points and movements that make my shoulders tired. My shoulders used to become tired very easily, if I swam more then 3 times a week or did often long swims. Now I’ve got ridden of that thing, at least for now.

Some problems were:

  • Head. Although I tend to breath always on right side, I used to turn my head to left too. Accidentally. Stupid movement. Removed now.
  • Swinging left arm. My left arm did a stupid big swing on the air. That probably caused the shoulder tiredness. That seems to be removed now. Having brain with me in swimming and thinking about the arm movement helped here.
  • Bad catch. I lacked the ability to find a good catch. I was too eager to push arm back without first finding the catch. I am not yet perfect (and will never be) with the catch, but I know how good catch feels like and how it brings forward. I think one-arm drills and 200m swim reps with technique focus have helped here a lot. 100m reps become too easily swimming against clock, so 200m reps works better for me.
  • Too much hassle. Trying to remove redundant hassle. I am faster when I make a good catch and concentrate on swimming “well” than trying to swim all out.

One good, endurance supporting thing is for sure swimming in a 50 meter pool – and often without draft help. I swim 95% in a 50 pool, and on those times (when travelling) when being in a 25m pool I feel very fast, just turning and resting all the time.

Another secret key has been motivation. I have a very big race in my calendar and I want to be well and wisely prepared. I can’t lie I feel quite proud of myself, when I look at my training calendar and see that I finish trainings that others struggle to find motivation for. Far too many age group triathletes just stick to trainings that they like and swim far too little! Too seldom and too little in a single swim. Triathlon is not only cycling. Or running.

Although I’ve seen some progress in my swimming pace and better catch, there is of course work to do. I am still a diesel machine and need to practice how to swim in different pace in an olympic distance race and Ironman race. And of course bringing the progress to open water.

Since I don’t take mobile phone to the pool, here are pictures from last Saturday’s skiing trip. :)




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