So we have spent a bit of time thinking about what is required to put together a training program. Now we can dig a little deeper into the specific swim, bike and run elements to see where you should be investing your time. When it comes to swimming the one comment I continually hear is that “I can’t swim, I am a terrible swimmer.” To which my response is “we are triathletes, we are all shit swimmers; there are just degrees of shitness!”

In fact most professional triathletes swim with a far from perfect swimming technique. So why are we are obsessed with chasing perfect ion?

For me the starting point for swimming is:

  • To get some basic swim fitness
  • Then we need to learn the basics of swimming, to develop an efficient stroke. The key focus here is a long relaxed, stroke that reduces drag and creates a default stroke we can call upon to salvage a swim when we get tired or anxious.

Once we have developed this and built some basic swim fitness around this technique, the key is not endless hours in the pool, rather it is about getting in the open water and making it your home. I have seen too many people spend hours in the pool, only to get into the open water and either get overawed by the situation, either going out too hard and blowing up, or seeking out a safe spot at the back, getting trapped behind slower swimmers and simply cruising to the finish.

  • On the flip side I have seen plenty of swimmers who can’t swim in a pool to save themselves yet put them in the open water and they are able to execute great swims. A great open water swim means
  • Comfortable with any conditions (rough, wetsuit or no wetsuit, ocean, lake, rolling start, mass start)
  • Have the endurance to comfortably swim the race distance
  • Confidence to start up the front and mix It up from the gun
  • Able to swim straight by sighting frequently
  • Able to find and then hold a draft the entire swim
  • Deal with challenges as they arise.

While it is best to practice these things in the open water it is also possible to do it in the pool. How many times in the pool do you practice sighting?

Once you have this mastered, then you can work on the propulsion aspect of swim technique, then some volume and finally play with some intensity. While intensity is probably where most of the big gains come, the reality is most age-group triathlete’s simply don’t swim hard enough to even get close to gaining these fitness benefits.

Comparing the effort level of the A lane swimmers to the lower levels normally highlights the extra vigour required to take your swimming to the next level. There is no talking, reps are done on time with specific breaks, swimmers leave 5-10sec gaps, and they either swim until their arms are destroyed or they are left gasping at the end of the pool.

So with winter upon us, have a think about where your swim investment is best spent.



Extract from the Lakers “BTW” by N.Pietsch