The Swimming Question
Whether you are an established triathlete or in one of your first few seasons, you could likely benefit from a massive focus on swimming during this pre-season period. It seems that swimming is often the most ignored of the three disciplines making up a triathlon, which is no doubt a mistake for most athletes. It is easy to understand why because it’s the most technical sport and the one which requires sustained dedication to see real improvements. Frustration often results from swim training because results don’t appear quickly. One of the issues is the lack of quality information on how to truly prepare for open water swimming, which is not the same as regular swimming, but many give up before giving swimming a real shot. Unless you have spent thousands of hours in the pool as a competitive swimmer the pre-season should include a large focus on a progressive swimming programme, with the ratio of training hours weighted toward swimming at this part of the year.
Swimming is unique in that it does require high volume and frequency to see great improvements. Performed in water, a foreign substance to us land creatures, makes controlling our skills that much more difficult. For many athletes it is truly a two season process to see the massive jumps in performance gains in swimming, but those that make the commitment are always rewarded with not just better swim times, but a much lower energy cost in swims, and improved performance generally. Some of my athletes have a pre-season focus of up to 50 per cent of training time dedicated to swimming. Built around two foundational workouts each week, supported by other sessions, the swim foundation is the only platform that you can build for the upcoming year ahead. The commitment sounds counterintuitive, but is worth every effort.
Matt Dixon is an exercise physiologist, former professional triathlete, elite coach and the owner of professional coaching company Purplepatch Fitness.