Written By: Sierra Huber
When it comes to your athletic endeavors, the first thing you or your coach reflect on is how much time you have to put into your training week. In the initial athlete training questionnaire that I hand out, I will see athletes advise that they have anywhere from twelve to even sixteen hours of training per week. My initial thought is usually that I must be doing something wrong. I have a full time teaching job, I coach, I have a husband, teach private music lessons on the side, and train for triathlons. How do these people fit it all in? The answer is simple; they don’t! One of the biggest challenges of being a triathlete is finding the time to fit it all in and still be successful. While some events do require very high amounts of training time, this is not the standard.
Many triathletes come from a running or biking background. There are far less who come from a competitive swimming background. It is common that a fair amount do not want to spend as much time doing it because they feel as though they make up the lost time on the bike and run. Why not be as efficient as possible and still come out on top in the swim? Since the swim is the shortest leg of the race, it is normal for any age group athlete to spend the least amount of time practicing it. You also have others who think that doing more lap swimming will chip away at swim times and end up swimming 8k or more over the course of the week to see no time drop at all! The point of this article is that even if swimming is not your strongest event, you can still become successful at swimming in two to three swims a week. The best part of all of this is, you can still fit everything else in.
The first thing I tell any new swimmer or swimmers who are not seeing improvements is to find a one on one coach that preaches technique work. After one lesson you might have enough tools to get you to where you need to go. I always recommend at least four sessions of private swim instruction. There are many aspects that go into swimming and trying to learn it in one hour is not realistic. Alternatively, group clinics can also work as effectively as one on one sessions. However, the least expensive method would be to simply do your own research! There are a plethora of great books on proper swim technique along with thousands of online articles and videos from top coaches all over the world.
The easiest thing anyone can do is simply watch professional swimmers and try to replicate what you see when you are in the pool.
So how do you fit it all in and still see some progress in the pool? Each swim session that you complete should always include technique work. Even if it is a small part of your warm up and cool down, reinforcing efficient swimming technique on a regular basis will go far! Your main sets may not be 100% devoted to technique, but one thing I like to do to keep my mind from wondering is picking a specific part of the stroke to focus on. During that interval or segment I will focus making sure my high elbow catch is there, maintaining hip and core rotation, or simply making sure my kick is strong and continuous. Building this technique work into your swim sessions will eventually turn into something that comes more naturally to you and will help you become more efficient.
As I mentioned earlier, there is always the thought that if you do more then you will get better. This is not completely untrue, though sometimes the time is just not available in our busy lives to always do more. Being a full time teacher, I would much rather spend my time working on my specific weakness than trying to fit in a 5k swim (on top of my bike/run and strength workouts) to do more swimming and hope it pays off. Most times, it does not. Why? Well, if you are not working on the reasons for why you are not improving, simply doing more is not always the answer or most efficient course of action. Part of efficient swimming is also being efficient with your precious time! If you can place your focus on where your trouble spots are and work on those at each swim session, I guarantee your results will come back two-fold!
There is so much technology at our fingertips that can be used to improve your swim technique just by watching yourself swim! All smart phones these days have great cameras and videos built in, not to mention the incredible APPs that are available. Ask a friend or an available lifeguard if they can video you swimming. Have them walk along the pool and follow you from the side and video you swimming in towards and away from the wall. What’s better, is that you do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on underwater cameras anymore. There are underwater phone cases that you can use and take your camera under the water and get some great footage…and the best of selfies! All you need is a helping hand to do the videoing for you and, voila, you have underwater video footage for you and a coach to analyze together!
As busy people, we all know that time is precious! I hope some of these ideas shed some light on ways that you can improve your swimming. By doing less in terms of yardage and more of specific technique work, I hope that you find how easy it is to be successful, see improvements and still fit the rest of life in all around it!
About The Author:
Sierra Huber has been coaching and in the educational field for over 10 years. She is a certified USAT Level 1, Concurrent Hybrid Performance Coach and ASCA Level 1 coach, and continues to train extensively as both a coach and an athlete. She is a coach for UCANDOIT Coaching groups and Complete Human Performance. Sierra works with Age Group to Elite triathletes, in addition to beginner athletes and military personnel looking to pass rigorous tests from all over the country! Her personal experience and proficiency as a dedicated swimmer has allowed her to help other athletes conquer one of the most dreaded parts of military and triathlon training. She has coached all skill levels of athletes ranging from first races to world championship races and all race distances. When working with athletes, Sierra excels at analyzing their form for running, swimming, implementing a strength program and knows how to pull out the best in them.