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Efficiency in Swimming Part 2

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By Natalie Tissink, of the Raynard Tissink Coaching Academy

Following on from my last blog, how do we go about gaining confidence and developing a love for swimming

First off, I would suggest finding a swim coach and booking a few private lessons. This is a great advantage as your coach will be able to correct any technique problems and thereby help make you more efficient in the water.

Secondly, join a squad. Swimming is a lonely sport, but having company between sets will make it easier and more enjoyable. 

Squad swimming also improves your speed. It’s very easy to plod up and down if you’re swimming on your own, but swimming in a squad will see you pushing harder to stay with stronger swimmers.  Set days and times for squad sessions will help maintain consistency and structure in your programme

If you are unable to join a swim squad, include variety in your swim sessions. Use a pull buoy, paddles and fins. Do drills, kicking, swim at different intensities, do shorter sprints and longer, endurance sets. You will never get faster if you just get in and swim 80 lengths at the same slow, continuous speed every day.

Open Water swimming is totally different to pool swimming and therefore you need to train in the open water in order to be competent at it.

  • Invest in a wetsuit, and make sure it’s the correct size. Not only will the wetsuit keep you warm, but it will also help with buoyancy, thereby keeping your body in a better position in the water, making you faster. 
  • Practice swimming in your wetsuit before race day as it can feel quite restrictive at first.
  • If you live at the coast, get into the sea at least once a week. Practice diving out through the waves. Diving under the waves prevents you from being thrown around like a tumble weed. Once you’ve mastered this technique, it becomes so much easier to get out into the open water.
  • Practice body-surfing back out to shore again. 
  • Do interval repeats, where you do beach starts and swim out for, say 150m, coming back out onto the beach again. 
  • If you are inland, try get into a dam or lake regularly, so as to build your confidence in murky water.
  • There is NO black line to follow or crystal clear water to swim in. You cannot rely on everyone around you to swim straight, and you need to be comfortable with looking forward for the turnaround buoy whilst swimming. Practice lifting your head to the front and looking for the BUOY. I suggest that on every 4th to 6th stroke you look to the front to make sure you are swimming on course. The easiest way to do this, is whilst swimming your normal freestyle, when you turn your head to the side to breathe, simply look up and forward before putting your head back down into the water. You can practice this in the pool, by putting an object (water-bottle) at the bottom of your lane, and maybe 2 - 3 times per length, looking forward and focusing on the bottle. Lifting your head to sight will push your legs down, so be aware of keeping your kick strong and your stroke long.
  • If you're a weaker swimmer, don't stand in the front or middle of the pack at the start of the swim. You will end up having the hordes swimming straight over you. Stand at the back and on the sides. Try get as clear a path as possible.
  • Make sure you know where the turnaround buoys are positioned. In your warm up, try find a taller object on the shore line that lines up with the buoys. Depending on the conditions of the sea, the waves may prevent you from being able to see the buoys at water level, but if you know to head towards a specific building or pylon lined up with the buoy, then you are still on the correct route.
  • Learn to swim in the slipstream of the swimmer in front of you. Let them break the rough water for you, making your path smooth, easier and faster. Stay right on their feet and let them pull you along. But try not to touch their feet on each stroke – or you may get a foot in your face.

These few tips should help with your preparation for the open water swim. If you put in the work and the right kind of sessions, you’ll approach the swim with confidence and enthusiasm. 

Remember it’s not just about swimming harder or faster, but about getting onto the bike strong enough to ride well.

In the next blog, I’ll be talking about wetsuits, so please let me know if there’s anything in particular that you’d like me to cover.

Visit the Raynard Tissink Coaching Academy for more information on personalized Triathlon Training Programs to help you achieve your best possible result.

Annah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017

After a great first year racing in the professional category in 2016, I was amped for the 2017 season. Feeling stronger and fitter and more in the "right head space" - I had done some great training over December spending many many many (and many more) hours on the bike - I loved it. My swim was starting to click, I was starting to understand the phrase "feel the water", and my running was strong

READ ONAnnah Watkinson - Race Report IM Brazil 2017
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