Triathlon can be a long old day out with the bike and run taking up the lion's share of time so it’s easy to understand why, when we are time crunched, swimming tends to be the first thing we reduce in training. However, you really could be missing a trick by doing this, after all, how can you expect the body to perform in the bike and run if you have drained lots of energy out of it in the swim because you aren’t swim fit? It almost seems counterintuitive to put all of that effort over a period of months into the bike and run if you then can’t execute them to your full capability in a race.
It still is a balancing act but consistency is the key so if you only have time for 90 minute total swim time in a week, split it over 3 or 4 short sharp swims instead of just doing one long swim. This will help you in 2 ways; 1) to build a better feel for the water the more regularly you are in the pool 2) you’ll get less fatigued in a shorter session than a long one allowing you to keep good form/efficiency in the water and work harder. Both of these will result in better fitness and strength in the swim, saving you that vital energy for the larger 2 disciplines of the race.
Another element of the swim that is worth spending some time on to help you race faster is open water swim practice. Getting into a lake, river or the sea is a very different experience from your local swimming pool. There is no black line to follow on the bottom so you need to sight out of the water and unless you are really lucky the water tends to be a lot less clear than you would find in the pool. Added to that are the restrictions of wearing a wetsuit which are worth getting used to. It is important to note that this does not mean that you need to be open water swimming every week, you just need to go as many times as is needed to feel comfortable in that environment. So don’t be one of the many who turn up at a race and fall at the first hurdle by not being prepared for the open water that awaits you.
- if you can’t make it to an open water session before your race, try out your wetsuit for a few lengths in the swimming pool so you can at least tick that bit of preparation off your list.
- You can also practice sighting in the pool by doing simple things such as lifting your head out of the water to look at the wall clock as you are swimming along or closing your eyes when your face is in the water so you have to sight to swim in a straight line down the pool.