“How do I improve my swim leg for triathlon?” – Also very applicable to Runners! There are 3 go to tenets that should help you improve and certainly make you more efficient in that triathlon swim leg.
Be Consistent : Consistency in training is the number one method to achieve success in all three disciplines of triathlon, especially swimming. Depending on background I encourage my athletes to maintain at least 3 training swims a week a solid structure and basis to each session. For some who do not have a swim background yet have lofty goals like a Kona qualification we may work up to 6 swims a week and 20km of swimming. Typically this would consist of four 4km sets and a couple of 2km recovery type sets that would follow other disciplines – so Sunday for example might be a longer run and later in the day a 2km recovery swim.
Understand Your Speed: You need to know how fast you are swimming your 100s so learn to read the Pace Clock or use some form of timing equipment, like your fancy Garmin 920 watch, or use a Finis Tempo Trainer. This skill is essential in order to measure improvement – you can’t measure improvement if you don’t know where you are starting from. Knowing what times you are swimming and the pace you are holding is central to improving your times. Having said that for a triathlon swimmer I’ll take efficiency over ultimate speed every day of the week. So I’d much rather you swam 1:15 in your Ironman efficiently than you swam 1:05 but it took a lot out of you. To achieve either result we still must understand our relative speed and the simplest way is to start reading that pace clock..
Build Sessions These work to prevent the common mistake of going off too hard. We see this error in all three disciplines in triathlon where an athlete starts a session or a race too fast. Try to break sets down into 3 where you build through the session. So if you were swimming a 2400m main set maybe as 12 x 200s think of the first 800m or 4 x 200m as easy, the middle 800m as steady and the last 800m as fast. This means getting faster, or at least trying harder, throughout the set. This not only applies to swimming but all disciplines in triathlon. This will allow you to be aware of your pace in a race and can teach you how to start fast but not too fast and then to build throughout the swim.
So in your next swim set why not try and put one of these latter two tips above into practice and over the next few weeks work to become more consistent in your training and soon you’ll reap the benefits.