Smart Swimming Tips to Conquer a Triathlon

Jan. 21, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 20, 2013 at 7:21 p.m.

With the triathlon season right around the corner, many of the triathletes in the area have started to put races on the calendar and are beginning their base training of swimming, biking, and running.

So if I had to bottle as much knowledge on the sport that I would like to give, but was only able to give a few tips, what would they be? They say practice makes perfect, and that's exactly right, especially when it comes to the sport of triathlon.

Efficiency in the swim, on the bike, and on the run can make all the difference in how you feel during training, and more importantly, how you perform during a race.

Unless you happen to come from a swimming background, this discipline for many novice triathletes is typically the one that can cause the most anxiety and is the area that requires the most focus of the three.

Practice Good Swimming Technique Before Inefficiency Becomes a Habit

One of the most important aspects of an efficient stroke is keeping your head down. It makes sense that the lower you carry your head in the water, the less resistance you have as you move through the water.

Focus your eyes down at the lane line on the bottom of the pool, or if there isn't a lane line in your pool, practice tucking your chin back towards your chest. Water should move at the very top of the forehead, not at the center.

Keeping your elbow high and reaching the arm stroke out will allow you to "move" the most water as you propel yourself through. Imagine the space between your head and your hand as it enters the water on a shorter stroke, versus when you are reaching further out. When you shorten the stroke, the stroke becomes choppy, and you are unable to fully utilize the pull part of the stroke. You should swim with the forearm, not the hand.

Imagine that the forearm is like a paddle and as it moves underneath the body, the elbow should still be in a somewhat bent position. Drill work during the warm-up or cool-down can help perfect the stroke. Drills including one-armed drills and the fist drill can help, as well as using training tools such as stroke paddles and fulcrums.

When I work with swimmers on stroke technique, one of the biggest mistakes I see them make is that they are "plowing" through the water. This means that their shoulders and lower body stay almost neutral as they move through the water.

With little to no rotation of the upper and lower body, drag is produced which leads to a slower swim. I tell them to act like a "torpedo" as they move through the water with constant rotation along the spinal axis and the rotating hips and feet kicking quickly within a tight range. As an arm stroke is being made, there should be a subtle glide with full rotation to the breathing side. A good drill to practice this is by extending one arm out and performing a "side kick" drill.

Swimming is typically the toughest hurdle to conquer when you enter a triathlon. Practicing good technique at the beginning of each swim workout will pay off in the long run with a more efficient stroke and faster times on the swim.

Edna Runner Qualifies for Boston Marathon

Edna resident, Lindsey Bradford, competed in the Louisiana Marathon over the weekend where she placed 4th in the 35-39 age group out of 61 runners with her time of 3:39:08, thereby meeting the Boston Marathon qualifying time standard for her age group.



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