Triathlon Coaching

7 Ways To Have A Stress-Free Triathlon Swim Start

The swim start is the shortest portion of a triathlon, yet for many, it is the most difficult. And swims that take place in the ocean have many added challenges! Avoiding panic is the key to a successful swim. Here are some simple steps to help you prepare for a great start.

The triathlon swim start is the shortest portion of a triathlon, yet for many, it is the most difficult. And
swims that take place in the ocean have many added challenges! Avoiding panic is the key to a successful swim. Here are some simple steps to help you prepare for a great start.

Practice With Your Essential Gear

The rules and regulations of many triathlons allow the wearing of wetsuits and, depending on water temperatures, they are sometimes required. It is imperative to acquire a wetsuit well before your event in order to try it. You’ll want to try swimming in it as well as removing it for the transition. Wetsuits are great for buoyancy and warmth, but for some, wearing a wetsuit can cause a feeling of constriction, which can cause anxiety. Practicing in your wetsuit (whether in a pool or open water) will help you feel more comfortable wearing one in the water.
Goggles are another essential piece of equipment for open water swimming. And (as with any race) you don’t try something new the day of the event! Leaky or foggy goggles can cause difficulty with sighting, which is stressful and can even steer you off-course. Wearing goggles that are tested and true can be the difference between a successful swim and a not-so-successful one.

Try These Gear Hacks
CUT THE LOWER SECTION OFF THE LEGS OF YOUR WETSUIT

While it can be difficult to take scissors to your fancy, expensive wetsuit, the ease with which you’ll be able to remove it and the resultant time savings in transition are often worth it.

WEAR TWO SWIM CAPS

Most races give out caps specific to the race, which designate the wave one is racing in. That’s fine, but if the water temperature is cold, wear another cap underneath your race cap to keep your core body temperature from dropping.

WET YOUR GOGGLES

Finally, wetting the inside of goggles with water from the ocean before the race can prevent fogging. For sunny venues, a pair of mirrored goggles can help eliminate glare

Check out the course

Checking out the course prior to the race, and if possible swimming it, are extremely beneficial when it comes to alleviating pre-race nerves. Take note of any landmarks or objects on the shore to help with sighting, and be sure to memorize the position of the buoys, especially the ones that designate turns.

Find a good start position

At the start of the race, take a position on the sides or in back of the group to avoid getting into the fray at the beginning of the swim. This will also give you an opportunity to find someone to follow or draft off of. Watching the pros or the group ahead of yours is a great way to figure out which positions are the best. The initial excitement and adrenaline at the start will cause a surge, but then you should settle into a pace which feels “comfortably hard” and try to maintain this throughout the swim until the finish is in sight.

Practice Sighting

Sighting during the swim is important for keeping on course and maintaining a straight line, but lifting your head will cause your hips and legs to drop, which creates harder work. Try to sight every 5—7 breaths, and use “alligator eyes” to lift your head forward a minimal amount—just enough to see—before turning to the side to breathe. It is always an option to take several breast strokes if you can’t see the buoys or feel panicked. The time lost by using a slower stroke for a short time will often be made up by staying on course and relaxed.

Draft

Drafting, or following just behind another swimmer, will result in less energy expended and often a faster time. As with biking, energy savings can be up to 30 percent! The best way to draft is to swim right behind a swimmer who has a similar or slightly faster pace. The best position is right “on their feet” and in their slipstream, but try to avoid tapping their toes.

Ace the Exit

At the end of the swim pick up the pace of your kicking to increase the blood flow in your lower extremities, increase your heart rate and, of course, finish fast! This will help prepare your body to move from a horizontal position in the water to a vertical walk or run into the transition area.

Swim as far into shallow water as possible. This will minimize the resistance caused by running through deeper water. Be careful when standing up, as some dizziness may occur. It’s a good idea to practice getting in and out of the pool after swimming fast during training to get used to this feeling.

Finally, run to the transition as quickly as possible while removing your wetsuit down to your waist. Once to the transition area, you can remove your wetsuit and celebrate that the swim is over! You are off to a great start!

If you would like to talk to a British Triathlon & IRONMAN Certified Coach, why not book either a Coach Consultation or a Video Swim Analysis Session.

4 Key Uses for the Power Duration Model

One of the new tools featured in WKO4 is the Power Duration Model (PDM). The PDM is an estimate of the relationship between time to exhaustion and work rate during both anaerobic and aerobic exercise. The main benefit of the PDM is having a robust mathematical description of your power-duration relationship. This provides quantitative insight into your unique abilities and paves the way for other useful analyses.

Why utilize a model to consider training and racing protocols? Endurance performance is limited by a number of factors, mostly oxygen transport, energy consumption, and neuromuscular power and economy of movement. Understanding how these systems both enable and limit your ability to sustain power over time is imperative to training success.

Training Levels
For training needs, the relationship between time and exhaustion can be divided into four groups according to dominant metabolism, which supplies energy to muscles:

Neuromuscular Power: 5-15 seconds. The lactate anaerobic metabolism is the basic energy system ensuring motor activity (phosphagen system).
Anaerobic Capacity Power: 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Motor activity of high intensity is primarily supplied with energy by the anaerobic lactate system (anaerobic glycolysis).
Vo2Max: 3-8 minutes. From this period on, the aerobic system is dominant, but the portion of anaerobic lactate metabolism can still be large (anaerobic and aerobic glycolysis).
Steady State/Endurance Power: Approximately 10 minutes to several hours. Motor activity is ensured by the aerobic energy system from more than 90% (oxidative system).
Power Duration models help us understand not only the overall relationship between time and power exhaustion but also how to prescribe training plans and workouts to create maximal results and adaptation.

Determine Rider Type and Identifying Strengths, Limiters, and Opportunities for Improvement
All cyclists have strengths and weaknesses. When working to improve your training and race or event performance, it is important to correctly identify your strengths and weaknesses and to use this knowledge to maximize and design both your training focus and your race strategy. The introduction of the WKO4 Power Duration model supplies you with numerous ways to review and identify your strengths and weaknesses, and the simplest method is phenotyping.

What is a phenotype? It is composite of a rider’s observable physiological characteristics and power individualities such as peak power, time to exhaustion and functional threshold power, expressed by grouping like individuals of similar traits. In WKO4 cyclists (and soon runners and swimmers) can be divided into four general phenotypes:

1. SPRINTER
These athletes have a larger amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers and excellent ability to produce force on the pedals in a very short period of time (less than 30 seconds). They can be “explosive,” with incredible peak wattage in the first 5 seconds. A sprinter can also be more of a “diesel” sprinter with the ability to maintain a very high wattage for up to 20-30 seconds.

2. PURSUITER
These athletes have large natural VO2Max power and can produce high watts from roughly 3 to 8 minutes. They typically can produce 120+% of their FTP wattage for 5 minutes, which is above the upper limit for the Coggan Classic Levels for Level 5 (VO2Max).

3. ALL-AROUNDER
These athletes possess a fairly even blend of fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. They might have a very good sprint (5-15 seconds) and can time trial well for an hour with a high FTP. They perform well in nearly all events; they’re not great in any single one but are always a threat to win. One important thing to remember about all-arounders is that they also have the ability to “change” phenotypes depending on the focus of their training. An all-arounder could spend a year working on his pursuit and become a pursuiter, only to spend the next year working on his climbing and become a time trial/steady stater. This is very common among all-arounders.

4. TT/STEADY STATER
These athletes have a large percentage of slow-twitch muscle fibers and a high FTP, typically along with poor neuromuscular power. They can sustain their power output for a long time (more than 30 minutes) and exhibit excellent endurance for many hours. They are excellent in stage races, long rides, time trialing, climbing, and any event that requires a long, hard, sustained effort.

Customize Your Training

Now that you know the basic phenotypes, you can enhance your understanding of your strengths and weakness through in-depth review of your Power Duration model and comparing yourself against the standards. powerdurationcurve1

Using this new understanding, you can customize your training to achieve better results. Here are some basic rules to consider:

  1. Train your weakness, race your strengths. As you start building a training plan or workout, first focus on workouts that address your weakness. For example, if you’re a sprinter and sweet spot or tempo workouts are your worst nightmare, you need to do more of this work, particular early in the season.
  2. Limit the weakness work. As a caveat to rule 1, you need to limit the workouts that focus on your weakness, because they take a bigger toll on you. Find the right balance of adding workouts that focus on your weaknesses without creating a high level of fatigue, which limits adaptation.
  3. Keep building on your strength as your plan progresses. At the end of the day you’ll tend to win races by utilizing your strengths, so the focus is important.
Beet Juice to Improve Performance

Beet Juice Improve’s Performance

Beet Juice Improve’s Performance

We all know a healthy diet is high in vegetables and that athletes generally have healthier eating habits than the average person. But does Beet Juice Improve’s Performance?, Despite this it wasn’t until 2009 that the performance benefits of beet juice (known as beetroot juice outside of North America) came to the attention of athletes1. Since then, elite athletes have fully invested in beets as a way to gain the last couple percent over their competition. Five years after the first research was published we have a greater understanding of how and why beets boost performance and how we can get the greatest benefit possible. This is a guide to optimizing your beet intake.

The science

Beets contain a large amount of inorganic nitrates. These compounds are the precursor to a very important signalling molecule that our body needs to function- Nitric Oxide2. NO is made naturally within our bodies but we can dramatically increase its availability by eating nitrate rich food. Among other roles, NO acts as a vasodilator in functioning skeletal muscle, increasing the size of blood vessels to allow more oxygen flow3.

Juice, concentrate, or powder?

The first study on beets suggested that 500 mL of beet juice each day may lead to a 15% increase in the time taken to reach exhaustion1. Since then, athletes have tried numerous ways to make this process more convenient. Juicing 3­ to 5 beets every morning is not only time consuming and messy, but also expensive and impractical if you are traveling. Alternatives in the form of powder and concentrated juices are now widely available on the market. The most recent study at the University of Exeter used concentrated beet juice, like Red Ace Organics, which replicated the effect of fresh juice4. Research has yet to recreate the performance benefits using beet powder.

How much?

While the first study used 500 mL, or about 2 cups, that is a lot of beet juice to drink. Anecdotes of digestive distress after drinking that quantity suggest there is an advantage in finding the lowest dose that works for you. New data shows improvements can be measured at 300 mL, or about one shot of concentrated beet juice4. At 600 mL the performance gain is bigger, but doubling that dose provides no extra benefit. This suggests that NO levels can become saturated.

Raw or cooked?

Previous research suggests that cooking will significantly reduce the available nitrates in vegetables5. This is why juicing beets or using concentrate is the preferred method for ingesting beets. The exception to this is light steaming, which may actually make the nutrients more available to the body6. Obviously, beets take some serious cooking to be edible, steaming isn’t going to cut it. For other high­ nitrate vegetables, like spinach, light steaming will not affect the nitrate availability.

Drink it fast or take it slow?

The nitrates in beets are converted into nitrites by friendly bacteria in our saliva7. This is an important step that should not be overlooked. This conversion is not instantaneous, and the use of mouthwash or toothpaste soon after drinking beet juice may wash the nitrates out of your saliva7. It follows that drinking beet juice slowly may increase the time nitrates are in contact with these bacteria, increasing the conversion to nitrites.

Will it work for me?

Like all supplements, individuals will respond differently to the performance enhancing benefits of beet juice. In the latest University of Exeter study, they report “non­responders” in each group4. There was a chance that no performance benefit would be seen, even at the highest dose given. The subjects being tested in scientific research are in a tightly controlled environment; in the real world it’s impossible to tell how other supplements, or even caffeine, may interact with NO levels.

Just beets?

Beets have taken the limelight in the battle for nitrate supremacy, but the truth is many vegetables contain inorganic nitrates in high amounts9. Keeping your nitrates high in your normal diet may maximise the effect; use beet juice to top it up before a major competition. The following table shows the nitrate content of other common vegetables.

Summary

Beets are not going to make you fast on their own, but for the athlete that cares about marginal gains, they could provide the race winning boost. New products such as concentrated beet shots now make it convenient to consume on race day, and it’s ideal to do so 2­-3 hours before the gun goes off. Experiment in your own training to see what works for you.

WKO Analysis

WKO4 Analysis

wko4 analysisWKO4 Analysis Insight Accelerated

WKO4 is more than a reporting tool, it’s an analytical engine. Using your unique physiology, WKO4 Analysis will help identify individual strengths and weaknesses. Plus, have the flexibility to review the data that is most important to you. Gain faster insights and have confidence in your training.

Further to becoming a TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified Coach We are now offering WKO4 Analysis as part of premium training packages, Contact Us to find out more.

 

TrainingPeaks Certified

TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified Coach

TrainingPeaks Level 2 CertifiedTrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified

I am pleased to announce I am now a TrainingPeaks Level 2 Certified Coach, this will give my current clients and future clients an extra level of confidence in my professional coaching ability, knowing I work to industry standards & guidelines.

TrainingPeaks Level 2 certification requirements
  • TrainingPeaks Level 1 Certified for 6 months.
  • Attend a TrainingPeaks University or Complete TPU Online + one other qualifying online course.
  • Have a nationally recognised certification in the sport(s) that you coach.
  • Have liability insurance.
  • Submit two athlete letters of recommendations
  • Pass Exam and Interview.

Take a look at my full coaching profile HERE.

Freestyle Stroke Animation

Freestyle Stroke

Freestyle Stroke Animation

Swim Analysis Take a look at the following Freestyle Stroke Animation and try videoing yourself and seeing how your compare. Or book a full Video Swim Analysis and have your own video created after the session.

We are offering tailored swim analysis packages aimed at working towards improving your technique over a block of sessions. These are available as either 30 minute, 45 minute or 60 minute sessions. They are suitable for all levels and come as single sessions or in a block of sessions.

 

 

 

5 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Motivation

How to Beat That Workout Slump

5 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Motivation

Training in the summer and early Autumn can be a monumental task. It’s hot or suddenly cold, sometimes the weather changes rapidly within a given day, and let’s not forget you’ve been at it for months already. It’s easy to fall into a slump, but I’ve got five ways to help you rejuvenate your motivation and get back out there to kick some butt!

Tip #1

Take two to three days completely off training. Yes, you read that correctly. “But Coach!” I hear you say, “Won’t I lose fitness?” Actually, no. You can hit your training hard, and stick to your diet plan perfectly, but if you don’t apply that same diligence to your rest, you will run out of gas.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean it’s time to clean out the garage, pull stumps out of the garden, or rotate the tires on your car – it’s time to relax. So please, with my blessing, take two to three days off and rest up.

During this time, eat to support your daily energy requirement, go to bed early, take naps, stay hydrated, feel free to foam roll and do some mobility work, but take it easy. You will come back recharged.

Tip #2

Add more Omega 3s to your diet by eating cold water wild-caught salmon and other fish.The Omega 3’s help reduce inflammation, and they can really boost your brain activity and help clear up some of that mid-day brain fog and slump that happens. When you are less brain-fuzzed, you’ll have more energy for your next workout.

Tip #3

Keep at least five to six hours between workouts. While there are great benefits to completing a brick workout once a week, stacking workouts on three or four other days often leads to mediocre results.

If you absolutely have to stack two workouts, keep them short and the quality high. Otherwise, respect the purpose and desired adaptation for each workout, and complete them with enough time for your body to recover in between.

A good example of a stacked workout to maximize time and results would be a bike run combo that gets your heart rate up and then lets it recover over and over like in a high intensity interval training session. If you have a solid base, then give this one a whirl:

Bike: Warm up 5 minutes Zone 2 easy pedaling at about 90 rpm. Complete 5 x 30 seconds of spin ups (easy gear, high cadence) , then proceed with 2 minutes Zone 4 effort at 88-92 rpm followed by a 1 minute Zone 2 recovery, still with a cadence of 88-92 rpm and repeat nine more times. Spin 5 five minutes at a more high Zone 2 to flush some of the metabolic waste, then get off the bike and lace up your runners. (Time elapsed 45 minutes)

Run: Your body is already warmed up from the bike session and ready to go, so we will hit the meat right away. Begin jogging at your maximum aerobic heart rate for 5 minutes so your legs wake up, then accelerate over 20 seconds to your mile pace, recover 1 minute 40 seconds, repeat this four more times, then jog 2 minutes easy to help lower your heart rate back to your recovery heart rate.

When you’re ready to go again, aim for 2 minutes at your goal 10K pace, followed by 2 minutes at your goal 5K pace, and finish off with 30 seconds at your goal one mile pace, recover 3 minutes and 30 seconds by jogging low Zone 2 then repeat the last set of the 2/2/30 and finish this off with at least 5 minutes of easy aerobic running.

If you have time, include another 5 minutes of aerobic walking at the end. (Time elapsed 26 minutes) Women should aim for at least 10 minutes of aerobic running/walking at the end to have a better chance to flush metabolic waste. Men are more efficient and need less cool down (5 minutes minimum), but that’s a topic for another day.

Tip #4

Take naps (my favorite!). They can be 20-minute cat naps, or full blown two-to-three hour sack outs on the weekends.

During the week, a quick cat nap after lunch can completely recharge your brain, giving you more energy and making you ready for the rest of the day.

It may take a few tries to get used to taking naps, but your work and workout productivity will start to soar with this new practice. If naps end up affecting your nightly sleep, then try taking them earlier in the day or investigating why you’re not sleeping soundly. It could be a sign of chronic overtraining.

Tip #5

Complete two to five minutes of meditation. Athletes benefit from daily meditation because it helps improve your focus, and aids in visualization of goal attainment.

Those who meditate proclaim the powers of it are extraordinary for their brains, so how can you get those benefits without sitting for 20 minutes twice a day?

An app called Stop, Breathe & Think provides a great alternative for athletes. It’s free for the basic version on iPhone, and the three minute Mindful Breathing Session is perfect to start with.

Finding three minutes a day to listen with headphones to this app with eyes closed can really increase feelings of calm, control, motivation and relaxation.

It may seem crazy, but taking time to let our bodies and our brains recover and giving them what they need with rest could be just the ticket that will help you feel more motivated for your next workout, and enable you to take your strength and performance to the next level.

Also take a look at Reasons to hire a Triathlon Coach.

Power Training

Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster

How to Use Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster, Over the past few years, the concept of Sweet Spot Training has gained a reputation as being one of the most time effective ways of getting stronger on the bike.

How to Use Sweet Spot Training to Get Fitter Faster

Over the past few years, the concept of Sweet Spot Training has gained a reputation as being one of the most time effective ways of getting stronger on the bike. Best used with a power meter, but still doable with heart rate, Sweet Spot Training, or SST, is done by doing intervals at 85 to 93 percent of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). If you do not have a power meter, you can use Lactate Threshold (LT), though it is not as accurate.

Where is the Sweet Spot

Other training zones have very specific names like Endurance or Anaerobic because it defines the system you are working when at that effort. Sweet spot however crosses over two zones and covers the high end tempo to low end threshold zones. To be more precise, founder and head coach at FasCat Coaching in Boulder, Colo. Frank Overton who has been using SST with his athletes for more than 10 years defines it as 84 to 97% of your FTP.

Why Does it Work?

The reason this range is so effective is that it allows you hit a number of key physiological areas at once in a short amount of time, so you get a tremendous bang for your buck. For the time crunched triathlete, SST can be a lifesaver. The chart below from Dr. Andy Coggan shows exactly what types of adaptations SST can provide

Sweet Spot Training

As the chart shows, for all but the most explosive efforts, SST training can be effective at improving your fitness. With SST, you can build your mitochondria (the key to a strong aerobic base), increase your lactate threshold (helping you handle intense efforts), increase muscle glycogen storage (up your body’s ability to store energy), and increase your VO2 max (raise your physiological potential). All of this can be done from holding SST for 30 minutes to three hours.

How To Sweet Spot

How is SST best accomplished? Should you do several short intervals? What about one long interval? What about doing it in a group setting? Many athletes start with what has become known as the classic SST workout, 2×20 with 5 minutes of rest.

However, that classic workout may be a bit too hard to start with. When it comes to starting out with SST, or even for athletes coming back after a season break.

This sort of structured training plan can help you get the most of the time you have available to train, contact us to find out more.

Shrewsbury Triathlon Coaching

The Top 7 Reasons to Work With a Coach

For many athletes, working with a coach has made the difference between just “training” and doing focused workouts to meet a goal. We asked a simple question on Facebook, “Why do you work with a coach?” and these are the top responses we received from athletes. Which of these aspects can you benefit from the most?

1. Structure

For many athletes, setting up the structure of their training is the hardest step. There are many components involved in how you prepare for your event. Factors like experience, goal time, time to train and others all come into play. This also makes it confusing. When should you do a base period? How long should your build be? You can certainly work to manage all of this, but it can frustrating. One athlete wrote in that having a coach helps her, “To avoid obsessing over my training.” Another athlete wrote that having a coach helps since it provides, “Focused effective workouts versus my rambling attempts.”

2. Accountability

Another popular answer, accountability, is something a coach can provide in a one-on-one manner. For some, knowing someone else is going to see if they miss or shorten a workout gets them out the door. As one athlete put it, “I can not follow a plan without guidance and being checked.” For those that need to have someone else to be accountable to, nothing is more effective than a coach.

3. Motivation

Hand in hand with accountability, motivation was another popular answer. Daily training, while effective, can also be draining. From hard tempo runs to long bike rides, the training can be daunting at times. Having someone else to cheer you on and push your limits can make all the difference. “I know what I need to know but find excuses,” wrote one athlete. Having a coach encourage you through training, and even through the down days can keep you on track to reach your goals. The mental aspect of training can not be underestimated. When you have support you can reach higher. One comment that stood out was, “Because he makes me feel like a world champion!”

4. Provide Wisdom/Smarts

There are certainly plenty of resources available to athletes- at times it can be too much. Picking and choosing from the multitude of literature on training can be time consuming and stressful. Having someone invested in your goals to wade through that and provide a clear plan allows you to focus solely on getting the work done. One commenter wrote that their coach, “Has forgotten more than I know about how to race and how to get faster.” Additionally, coaches can shorten the learning curve of endurance sports training. They can, as one athlete put it, “impart some of their wisdom and experience on those of us hoping to achieve what they have.” Coaches also give the feedback necessary to avoid making the same mistakes repeatedly by providing unbiased comments. They give, “Impartial advice and critical analysis,” as one commenter wrote.

5. Lower the Chance of Overtraining/Injury

Endurance training can be addictive, and overtraining is a real concern. Having someone else to monitor not just your daily workouts but your overall health can keep you from overdoing it. “Without her I’d be doing nothing or way too much,” wrote one athlete about her coach. Additionally, rest is as necessary as training in order to make fitness gains. For many athletes, taking a rest is the hardest part of training. Coaches can, “reign me in and rest,” as one athlete wrote. Going too hard, too often can lead to injury, something no athlete wants to experience. Having a coach pull back your training before an injury happens is highly valuable.

6. Time Management

This is an area where a coach can help the most. As one athlete wrote, “I know I can apply effort. Being short on time, I need someone that knows more than me to make sure I’m putting it where it counts.” The majority of athletes have limited time to spend training, so ensuring that every session matters and no time is wasted is key. Having an unbiased expert create a plan that works with your schedule and directly address your strengths and weaknesses can take you to the next level without wasting your most precious resource- time.

7. To do the Thinking for Them

Whether it’s analyzing a run, looking at your overall season, or addressing a weakness, there is a seemingly never ending list of elements to incorporate into your plan. This can be overwhelming to many athletes. This is where the coach not only saves time but frustration as well. “I don’t want spend time on thinking what to do, to improve my performance,” wrote in one athlete.

Many athletes wrote in citing several of the elements in the list above. That’s one of the biggest benefits of all; the fact that you can gain so many advantages from one single person. We are encouraging athletes to dream bigger than ever for 2015, and as many coached athletes will agree with, working with a coach may be the smartest step you can take towards achieve those goals.

Book a free consultation with Ed Beech to find out more about how a coach could help you advance to the next level.

Article originally published by TrainingPeaks.

Many triathletes experience a fear of the open water. There are a number of things you can do to help prepare yourself and calm your nerves on race morning.

Drills to Prepare for Open Water

Many triathletes experience a fear of the open water.  There are a number of things you can do to help prepare yourself and calm your nerves on race morning.

To prepare for the triathlon swim, you need to train to race in the turbulence of open water. In addition to using open water swim technique, open water skills can be incorporated in the pool as drills during your swim session.  Sighting and bilateral breathing are two necessary skills for open water swimming that most triathletes learn early on in their training. However, there are other drills that you can practice in the pool that will prepare you for a variety of conditions that you will experience on race day.

Here are four drills that I often use with my athletes to help prepare them for race day.

WATER POLO DRILL

As a triathlete, you need to sight in order to look for buoys and stay on course. If not done correctly, sighting can result in your hips and legs dropping, causing drag and resulting in slower race times. This is a great drill to help you perfect your sighting without losing your swimming form.

To perform this drill, swim freestyle with your head above water looking straight forward.  Your turnover should be quick while maintaining your balance and kicking near the surface.

This is a challenging drill, so if you’re a weak swimmer I would suggest doing this earlier in your set of drills or during your warm-up before you get too tired.

SWIMMING WITHOUT GOGGLES

The triathlon swim can seem like a contact sport at times. Getting bumped into or diving into water can cause goggles to be accidentally knocked off or filled with water. Even if you put your goggles on under your cap, they can still be knocked out of place (but thankfully not lost forever).

Include swimming without goggles anytime during your swim session.  The familiarity of what you’ve already experienced in training will prepare you for that initial shock of having water hit your eyes if you ever lose your goggles so that you can continue your swim without losing much time or energy.

To avoid the irritation of chlorine and water in your eyes, keep your eyes closed while your face is in the water and open them when you breathe and sight.

SWIMMING WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED

This drill is a great way of knowing how straight you really do swim without following the black line. Veering off to one side indicates an asymmetry in your stroke or kick, which is not uncommon. Swimming straight can save minutes in your race by not zigzagging and adding extra yardage to the course.

Include this drill anytime by swimming as you normally would but with your eyes closed.  It’s helpful to know how many strokes you take to swim one length so that you don’t bump in the wall unexpectedly. I would also advise against doing this while sharing a lane (your lane buddy may get tired of getting bumped into).

SWIMMING WITH OTHERS IN THE SAME LANE AND DRAFTING

Swimming in a lane by yourself is always nice, but it doesn’t prepare you for the other triathletes racing next to you. This drill is especially important for those of you who are not comfortable being in close proximity to or being bumped into by the other athletes. While drafting is not legal on the bike, it is legal while swimming and it can shave off a lot of time on race day.

This drill can be done anytime in your swim session, but is especially useful when doing a faster set.  Grab a few of your swimming friends, squeeze into one lane, and go out fast at the same time.  This simulates the start of a race and once you’re all swimming, you can practice drafting off each other. To draft, either get behind or next to the hip of a swimmer who’s slightly faster than you are.

We race better by practicing and by feeling a familiarity with our experiences. While it may not be practical to swim in open water all the time, we can at least simulate the experience and improve our technique in the pool. No one knows what the conditions will be on race day, so be prepared to adjust to the water conditions and environment by including these drills in your swim workouts.

You may also like to read IRONMAN Race Preparation.