Some Swimming 101

Hi. I’m Danna. I’ll be doing the short distance at this year’s TriDu, and I have absolutely no experience in triathlons. Unless you count the triathlons I did with my swim club where we assigned arbitrary distances and did everything in the wrong order (we did it as run-bike-swim).
My mom put me in swimming at a young age – despite the countless pictures of little-me crying near any sort of body of water (including inflatable pools) – and I’ve been in a tempestuous relationship with the sport ever since. I do however coach swimming, and absolutely love it.
So on to today’s workout (swim):
I don’t really know how to go about this. I was never a distance swimmer, and while I know my way around the technique, all I’ve ever trained for were races that lasted less than two minutes.
So until I can catch a triathlon friend on Facebook chat, or go to the library and take out some training books, I’m just going to do what I want. While the logic dictates that you need to swim a lot of lengths without stopping so that you can do your distance swim, I would never be able to keep myself motivated to go swimming doing that. So below are just some key principles of swimming that I use when I train/coach and a breakdown of my usual swim workout:
If there are two things you should know/be thinking about when you swim (whether for a triathlon or whatever), it’s these:

  1. Body Position: If I can’t float/stay on top of the water, then obviously I won’t be able to swim. I aim for a nice long form that is sitting on top of the water, with your core activated. If you find your legs sinking, press your upper body down a little to compensate.
  2. Legs: A good flutter kick utilizes the whole leg, ankles that are loose, and loosely pointed toes. If you’re just starting out, make sure that your kick starts at the hip and not from the knees, and you want your heels breaking the surface (you don’t want your whole foot coming out, nor do you want your whole foot underwater when you kick). If you look at really good swimmers, their kicks have an almost whip-like motion.

These are the most important two concepts for me, since without those two you can’t really successfully do the mechanics of arm motions and coordinating your breathing and timing. I’ll get into those later.
Anyhoo, here’s how I usually breakdown my swim workouts:
Warm-up: Always important, prevents injury.
Kick set: Making sure that my kick is efficient and feels strong.
Drill set: This is where I focus on a small aspect of a stroke that I’ve had trouble with, or that I noticed during the warm-up.
Breath control/aerobic set: This is where I get the metres done. My legs are warmed up from the kick set, and I focus on whatever I was working on during the drill set while I swim. “Breath Control” means that I’m controlling how much I breathe (so breathing every 5 instead of every 3) – the reasoning is that it increases your lung capacity, and if you’ve ever watched little kids swim, you know that the moment they breathe, everything falls apart technique-wise.
Sprints: Just to add a little bit of spunk – those aerobic sets can get pretty boring sometimes.
Warm-down: You want to give time for your heart to calm down and avoid getting muscle aches/spasms later on.
So that’s what I have for today – hope it helps!
Also, a really good website for any level of swimmer is – they have a ton of drills and videos that you can take a gander at.
I also swim every Tuesday/Thursday between 12:30-2:00, so if you’re looking for a training buddy, come join me!

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