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Most age group triathletes aren’t fortunate enough to have swum from a young age. In-fact a lot of triathletes haven’t swum at all until they decide to start triathlon. It seems to be the number 1 question I get from people when they first start triathlon… how can I get better at swimming?
Whilst my initial answer is to always ‘Just get in the water.’ You want to be in the water at least 3 times a week, maybe 4 if you really want to improve and get the muscle memory process started. Swimming is one of the most frustrating disciplines for triathletes, as we often don’t see progress for months and months. Compared to cycling or running, we often see results much quicker.
Plus, who wants to go and swim by yourself? Who wants to swim in general when you can’t chat to your friends like you can whilst cycling or running? Who wants to get up in the freezing cold darkness at 5am during winter and jump in a swimming pool? Generally no one!
I heard an athlete say this morning before swim squad:
‘My stroke isn’t perfect, but it is efficient for me’
This particular athlete is a professional triathlete and swims easily off a 1.20 cycle. Yet if you saw the stroke, you wouldn’t see a perfect high elbow, strong catch, passed the hip technique like we’re all taught.
I absolutely loved this!!! It is a perfect quote that I think a lot of triathletes should take on board. Whilst I 100% believe that stroke plays a part, I strongly believe that just getting in the water, spending time in the water and getting stronger in the water will pay dividends over hours and hours of swim technique lessons (opinion).
Here are a few of my favourite swimming drills that you can incorporate into your sessions – I would recommend wearing fins it helps with body position and takes some pressure off the hips.
1. Catch-up Freestyle
- My number 1 tip for catch up is to think of the ‘train tracks’ make sure your arms follow the line of a train track. Make sure there are 4 kicks in between each stroke so you can really focus on a ‘strong’ pull through under the water. Keep the legs together when you breathe and breathe every stroke to work on evening out the hips.
2. Finger Tip Drag
- Exactly like it sounds. Do your normal pull through stroke then drag your fingers alongside your body until your head and back into the water. This drill should be super slow. Really focus on keeping on the hand right alongside your body.
3. Head-up Freestyle
- Triathletes really struggle with this and I believe it’s because it is where the hips sink and the deficiencies creep in. Lock the core in, keep your head looking forward not turning side to side with your stroke and kick hard! This drill is particularly important in the first part of a triathlon, getting a quick start and also helping your hip position when sighting in open water.
- I personally like athletes to have a pull buoy on for scull, as we tend to want to kick as we feel like we are going NOWHERE. But that’s okay. Again this is a slow drill and is about really engaging the first part of the stroke, which is the initial pull phase.
I have attached a few you-tube videos below that can be used to get a visual of what I am talking about.
However I like the 4 kicks in between as I feel it allows for more focus on the actual stroke and you can slow it down.
Progression of this video:
2. Finger Drag
3. Head up Freestyle
Good luck and happy swimming!
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