The swimming part of a triathlon can sometimes be overlooked as a triathlon cannot be won from a good swim however being a strong swimmer has its advantages. The obvious ones being you are less likely to be in the main pack where kicks and elbows to the body, face can be frequent. Not the ideal start to a race!
In order to improve your swim times you must look at your technique, get a professional to look at your stroke before you begin the grinding work of training 3/4 times a week for 90 minutes a session. It will benefit you more in the long run! After this is done you have options, you can join a triathlon club, which will generally have weekly sessions for swimming focused around triathletes.
There is the option of joining a masters swim team which will have a host of swimmers with a different focus, some purely show up to these sets to stay active, some may be open water swimmers, some may compete in the pool and some may race triathlons.
Alternatively some swimmers do prefer to train alone so there is the option of designing your own sets from literature. If you are interested in this option I highly recommend ‘Swimming Fastest’ by Ernest Maglischo. This is effectively the Bible for swimming teachers and coaches. A gargantuan book with detailed scientific knowledge on all aspects of swimming.
In terms of a swimming set, it should consist of a warm up, a main set and a cool down.
What should a warm up consist of in swimming?
The purpose of the warm up is to prepare the body for exercise, take it through a range of movements and raise the heart rate. An example of a warm up is as follows.
- 200m (Alternating 50m front crawl, 50m backstroke)
- Kick (50m) Drill (50m) Swim (50m) reverse order Individual Medley X 2
- 4 X 25m front crawl sprints.
(1500m in total)
A good warm up would be around this distance and should take no less than 20 minutes to complete. Unless you’re Michael Phelps the above warm up will take about 30 minutes to complete.
The purpose of the main set should be in line with the focus of the training cycle. For those who are unaware of this, it means at what phase of your training are you currently at. Are you building base fitness, are you working on lactate tolerance training, lactate threshold training, speed work etc. For the below example I will focus on aerobic development.
A good example of this is 10 X 100m FC on 2 minutes. The progression of this would be to decrease swim and rest times or increase number of repetitions. Incidentally this could be used to tie in with the distance which you have to complete for your triathlon.
How many times a week should I train?
Olympic Distance triathlons have a 1500m swim, half ironman’s have a 1900m swim and the full ironman distance triathlons require you to swim 2.4 miles which is around 3800m. For example when training for an half ironman triathlon adding 2 repetitions per week building up over a period of 4 weeks gives a final main set of 16 X 100m FC off 2 minutes.
An important point to bring to your attention is that significant improvements cannot made without training at least 3 times a week. Finally there is a cool down, this is primarily to clean out lactate from the muscles and thus is essential to future performance.
An example of this is as follows
- 200m front crawl
- 100m backstroke
- 100m old English backstroke (easy pace)
I hope this has been of help, if you have any questions or comments please use the box provided below.