Get swim fit to perform at the next level next season

The off season is a great time to get stronger and work on weaknesses, refine technique and get more training done with a look at raising the bar for the coming new season.

Many triathletes I know totally neglect their swimming. The fitness, you gain from a proper swim prep will make you a better overall triathlete, not to mention the mental discipline from the process of churning out the laps. You are fit for what you train for and having good bike and run strength/fitness will not rescue your weak swim if you are not putting in the work and/or have poor technique.

A strong swimming foundation will provide an edge to those who have previously not given the time in the water some priority. Intense swimming also puts less stress on the joints and leaves you with more energy for the bike and run. I am talking about those who are training for performance-based results. If you just want to compete and get by to ‘survive the swim’ – do two swims (or less) a week and struggle through parts of the bike and run due to the swim taking its toll.

The massive misconception is that due to the swim being short in comparison to the bike and run and even more so for half and iron distance athletes, that they can skip swimming and ‘bluff’ their way through. The fatigue that comes with this approach adds up and even if you are not the fastest swimmer or best technically. Having been training in the water and the fitter you are, will help you have a more relaxed and controlled swim, come out fresher and be able to have a good bike and run.

If you are dropping away in the bike and run and are not putting in the work in the pool, coupled with being a weak swimmer, then you are probably wasting a lot of energy in the swim leg. You may be in denial. We, as triathletes treat the swim as a ‘warm up’ to the rest of the event but to truly have this as so, you need swim fitness. In my own coaching, I aim to use this as motivation to get athletes backsides in the water and in a swim squad or at least swim programming (if coaching via distance) to follow what is realistic for the fitness level and ability. If you’re not a strong swimmer and it is your weak link get in the pool at least three times a week of intense swimming and another easy / relaxed swim as recovery / practice technique using fins and finger paddles.

Not enough time?

There are dry land options to add to the swim training with using the likes of stretch cords, body weight routine incorporating push ups and dips and getting more flexible. A little circuit with some ab work and core takes about 20 minutes to run through 2-3 times with cords and is a favourite of mine to use two times a week between swim and especially when I travel and cannot access the water as normal.

As triathletes we not training like ‘real swimmers’. But we can get some really high intensity work done without tearing up the body, as we would in the same sense with an interval run set for example. You can work your engine anaerobically without that same stress on the body as running does. Recovery in the water is great for the body and after a heavy run and bike sessions also. So take this on board and see what a difference being swim fit makes to your overall triathlon result.

Getting into a swim squad, masters or tri squad is a must if one is available to you or if not, seek the advice from one of many online coaches – tri or swim specific that are in the market and start to address the need to start the new season swim fit.


Nick Croft

Nick Croft is a former professional triathlete, Australian Triathlete of the Year and two-time winner of the Noosa Triathlon.
With 19 years coaching experience under his belt, Croft provides online training programs for athletes of all ages and abilities through and runs Noosa Tri Camps in Noosa Heads, Australia.

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