Category Archives for "Swim Training"

Swimming Techniques for Open Water

“Swimming on open water for your next Triathlon? Then you need to check out these swimming techniques. Read what they are below!”

tri2There are some fundamental differences between swimming in open water and swimming in a pool. There are also differences between ocean swimming and lake swimming. Here I will explain swimming strategies specific to the ocean environment, and how to use the ocean conditions to your advantage.

These ocean swimming strategies are taught in Ocean Lifeguard training, enabling the Lifeguards to quickly rescue struggling swimmers. Every year the Lifeguards must complete a re-qualification swim consisting of a 1,000 yard ocean swim in less than 20 minutes. Granted, Lifeguards are very strong swimmers; however; if the ocean conditions are right, and the surf and currents are strong, it is not uncommon for the them to complete the 1,000 yard swim in under 10 minutes. By utilizing the ocean conditions to their advantage they can often swim faster in the ocean then they can in a swimming pool, and if you follow and practice these techniques, so can you.

1. Prepare for the cold.

Unless you’re in the tropics, the ocean is going to be colder than a swimming pool. Stronger swimmers are in the water for less time, and they can often get away without wearing a wetsuit. If swimming isn’t your strongest suit, wear a wetsuit when ocean swimming. These are the guidelines I suggest when considering the use of a wetsuit in an ocean swim. If the water is over 70, I wouldn’t wear a wetsuit, for fear of over heating. Remember you will be exercising so you will generate heat. Water temperature between 70 and 65, wear a cap. If the water is below 65, wear a thin wetsuit. If it’s below 60 wear a thicker wetsuit, a cap and ear plugs. You should feel comfortable swimming in your wetsuit, and any wetsuit will increase your buoyancy, making swimming easier.

2. Keep your mouth shut.

This may seem like a stupid suggestion; however, the ocean is very salty, and many swimmers accustomed to pool swimming get sick, because they unknowingly swim with their mouths open. When you’re breathing during your stroke get your mouth out of the water, and close it before you put it back in the water. Try to take in as little salt water as possible. There’s nothing like ruining everything you trained for, just because you can’t keep your mouth shut.

3. Check for a long shore current.

Before the race, swim out past the breaking waves. As you float in the water, turn and face the shoreline. If there is a long shore current you will move either up or down the coast. This will give you a feel for how fast the long shore current is moving and if you need to account for it on your way out to the buoy. This is also a good time to practice body surfing (see item # 8, Part 2).

4. Find a rip current.

The ocean bottom is uneven and waves break in areas where the bottom is more shallow. The water thrown up on the shore by the surf flows back into the ocean in the deeper channels, creating rip currents. Rip currents tend to recur in these deeper channels. Rip currents are your fastest way out of the surfline. Look at where the waves ARE NOT breaking. Generally there will be a recurring rip current in that area. In extreme cases you can actually see the water flowing back out to sea. By out swimming in a rip current, not only will you have to deal with less white water, but you will also be swimming on a conveyor belt heading out to sea. When you need to get out of the rip current simply turn parallel to shore and swim out. This way you are avoiding the force vector of the current. At the start run parallel to shore to enter the water at the beginning of the rip current. The waves break over anything that creates a shallow. By avoiding the breaking waves, in the ocean, you also avoid hazards. More at Ocean Swimming Techniques- Part 1 of 2

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Triathlon Swimming Technique

Triathlon Swimming Technique: Improving Your Triathlon Swim

“Triathlon swimming technique you can use for your next race. Learn how you can improve your Triathlon swim below!”

Triathlon Swimming Technique

Triathlon Swimming Technique

As technical as the sport of swimming can be, it is tough to narrow down the answer to the often-asked question, “what should I concentrate on?” So, I came up with a “top ten” list of steps to improving your swim for a triathlon. These aren’t necessarily in any order, but should go a long way in helping you achieve your goals, whether you are a beginner or trying to go pro.

Hand entry. Slice your hand into the water right about at your goggle line, and drive it forward. Many swimmers attempt to get as much “air time” as possible by reaching the hand out before entering into the water, but it is actually more efficient to go through the water with your hand as you rotate from one side to the other.

Head position. Keep looking straight down when swimming freestyle. It’s important to keep your head down with only a small part of the back of your head out of the water. Also, as you rotate through the water, try not to move your head with the rest of your body rotation.

Pull. In freestyle, your hands should pull all the way back past your hips. The last part of the stroke before recovery (arms coming out of the water) should be an acceleration behind you, not up out of the water.

Kick. Try minimizing your kick as you train for swimming. Most people will kick extra hard to make up for lack of balance in the water. Minimizing your kick will allow you to improve your balance, as well as conserve energy.

Training intensity. The best way to measure your training intensity is to count your heart rate immediately after each swim. You can estimate your heart rate by counting your pulse rate for six seconds immediately after each swim. Add a zero to this count, and you will have your approximate exercise heart rate per minute.

Master’s swimming. Move to a slower lane to work on stroke improvement. If you belong to a masters team, don’t feel that you always need to keep up with your lanemates at every workout. Masters teams typically have many people with many different swimming goals. It’s important to do your own thing! Remember that technique comes before all else and if this means swallowing a little pride to make improvements, just think of how much faster you will be for this in the long run.

Keep your arm from crossing over. One of the most common bad habits I see in swimmers is the arm crossing over to the opposite side on the pull. Breathing on your left side results in your right arm crossing over, breathing on your left side results in your right arm crossing. Often this happens when one goes to breathe, but sometimes it’s caused just from over-rotating. To avoid this, make sure your head isn’t moving with the rest of your body, and try to pull more in a straight line (still bending the elbow) and ending the pull on the same side you started. (For example, right hand slices into the water, pulls back and hand ends up near right hip.)

Keep the feel. If swimming is your toughest sport, it is important to keep the feel for the water, and get in the water at least every other day (no, showers and baths don’t count!) This way, your body maintains its kinesthetic awareness of being balanced in water.

Work those lungs. Mix in some hypoxic training sets into your workouts. For example, do a set of 4×100’s breathing every 3-5-7-9 strokes by 25, with 15 seconds rest in between each 100. Your lungs will thank you for it towards the end of the swim part of your race!

Work your weakness. In the sport of triathlon, most coaches agree that you should spend the most time working on your weakest of the three sports. For many of you, this will be swimming. Within swimming, the same concept applies. Spend the most time working on the weakest part of your stroke. If balancing on your side is an issue, do some kicking drills on your side. If moving your head is a problem, focus on head position most of the time. Whatever it is, you will gain the most by spending your pool time improving on that weakness. More at 10 Steps to Improving Your Triathlon Swim

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Half Triathlon Training

How to Swim Faster: Swimming Smarter not Harder

“Important tips on how to swim faster. Read them now!”

For many coaches, swimming faster is the result of gradually increasing the length and intensity of swimming workouts so that the general fitness level increases.

How to Swim Faster

How to Swim Faster

While conditioning has its place, this is not all there is about how to swim faster, because swimming is a very technical sport. There are a few gifted swimmers that instinctively learn how to move efficiently in the water. Given enough time and practice, they will always improve.

But most of us only have a vague sense about our efficiency in the water. Remember, we are land animals! Because of this, swimming lots of lengths will often only make our bad habits more permanent, while our swimming technique only improves slowly or even not at all.

So what do we need to do? In fact, to learn how to swim faster and better with less effort, we need to swim smarter, not harder. Specifically, we need to work on two facets of our technique:

1. We need to decrease drag in the water.
2. We need to improve propulsion in the water.

Decreasing Drag

The importance of swimming with the least amount of drag is often neglected. However, this is an area where we can greatly improve our efficiency in the water.

Water is much more dense than air. Drag in the water increases by the square of the speed at which we swim. So there is quickly an upper limit on how much force we can apply against the water to increase our speed.

On the other hand, reducing drag requires skill rather than force. So there’s a lot of room for improvement there. That’s why it should be the top priority of learning how to swim faster.

Principle #1: Improving Your Balance

The first and most efficient way to decrease drag is to improve your balance. This means that you try to stay as horizontal as possible while moving through the water. When you do this, you disrupt the least amount of water molecules on your path, which translates into reduced drag.

As an example, while swimming freestyle, swimmers often lift their head to breathe or look ahead. When they do this, they lose balance and their hips and legs drop. Their body is less streamlined and generates more drag while moving through the water. Additionally, they need to kick harder to keep those legs up. Needless to say, a lot of energy is wasted while doing this.

Note that being as horizontal as possible is especially important for the freestyle stroke and backstroke. For the breaststroke and butterfly stroke, things are a little bit different because a body undulation occurs during the stroke cycle.

Principle #2: Swimming Taller

The next way to decrease drag is to make yourself as tall as possible in the water. The theory behind this is that for the same mass, a long tapered object moving through the water creates less turbulence than a short compact object. In fact this principle has been used by naval engineers since hundreds of years.

To swim taller in the freestyle stroke, you enter your recovering arm early in the water once it has passed your head. You also make sure to completely extend your recovering arm forward underwater before starting the downsweep and catch.

Principle #3: Compact and Efficient Kick

In world-class front crawl swimmers, the kick contributes for up to 10% of propulsion, while the arm stroke contributes for the rest. So an efficient kick is important for fast swimming, but less than what is commonly believed.

What is equally important is a compact kick, meaning that it should neither break the water surface nor move too low below the body line. Otherwise unnecessary drag is created which will only slow you down.

Improving Propulsion

Once you have reduced drag to a minimum, you can work on improving your propulsion. Again, this is mainly done by improving your swim stroke mechanics, not by building bigger muscles.

Principle #4: Swimming More on Your Sides

The first way to improve propulsion is to roll more from side to side with each arm stroke. Rolling more on your sides allows you to better engage the large back muscles in addition to the shoulder muscles. However, floating on your side is counter-intuitive at first and requires some practice for getting used to.

Principle #5: Using Your Core

This is another secret of how to swim faster. You should engage the large back, hip and torso muscles while rolling from side to side. The synergy between your core muscles and arm muscles allows you to apply more force to your swim stroke.

It is a little bit like a baseball pitcher when he throws the ball: first his body twists backward, then his hips initiate a rotation forward which is channeled through his upper body into his shoulder, arm, hand and finally into the ball, with an acceleration at each step.

Once you have integrated this technique, you will be able to swim longer and faster and tire less quickly, as your core muscles have more endurance than the ones in your shoulders and arms.

Principle #6: Anchoring Your Arms

This is the last piece of the puzzle on how to swim faster with less effort. Before applying propulsive force in the water with your arm, you need to make sure that your hand and forearm are aligned and facing backward. You can then effectively move your arm backward like big paddle.

This swimming technique is often called the “high elbow catch” in the freestyle stroke because you need to keep your elbow above your hand to be able to successfully do this. More at How To Swim Faster – The Six Principles Of Fast Swimming

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