The swim leg of a triathlon is often shrouded in mystery. Many athletes spend years trying to improve their swim split without much luck, while others seem to take to the sport naturally.
Throughout my years of coaching, I have dealt with swimmers at the pointy end of races to absolute beginners and everywhere in between. At the end of the day, every swimmer has room to improve their swim splits and to become stronger so the swim impacts the bike and run less.
Here are our Tips to Improving your Swim Splits:
Ideally, we look to make technique changes in the offseason unless it is a simple fix that can be done without much thought. While swim technique does not have to be perfect, it does have to be efficient. The main factors we look for are proper head/body position, reducing early drop of the arms, proper amount of hip and shoulder roll (not too much, not too little), and a stable body line throughout the stroke. Technique can be improved through the use of drills and Swim Toys.
Structure Workouts Properly
Swimming is different than biking and running. Triathletes cannot swim enough easy, aerobic yards to be in top-notch form. By setting up workouts properly and using higher intensity than what is used on the bike and run, athletes can see massive jumps in swim fitness. We cover this more in depth in this blog -> Structuring your Swim Workouts for Success
With the limited time triathletes have to swim in comparison to standalone swimmers, most triathletes end up being weak in the water. If fatigued, times will be significantly slower. The best way to increase strength is through the use of swim paddles or swimming with a parachute. Increasing swim strength will also help the athlete come out of the water feeling more fresh on race day, leading to a better bike and run. However, when beginning to use paddles, ease into them with some shorter, slow yards while making sure to not overstress any areas of the body.
Improve Open Water Swim Tactics
While this may not lead to being a faster swimmer it will lead to faster race times. At the end of the day, that is the main objective. There are a few simple tips we can use to improve race times no matter the level of swimmer you are. These include sighting, turns, and water entrances and exits. Sighting more frequently and efficiently will lead to swimming straighter, which often equates to swimming less distance than other athletes of similar ability. Also, going around turn buoys where there is the less traffic will lead to maintaining more speed. Finally, standing up in the water when the water is knee deep or less, will allow swimmers to fly by other athletes who stood up too early. These are all practical techniques that we cover in our open water swim clinics.
If you are looking to improve your swim, check out our Swim Specific Training. This is a great way to improve your technique, build swim fitness and get onto the bike feeling fitter and fresher than ever before!