home coaching programs clinics newsletter links/sponsors events/announcements training information race reports results/photos about SLB


Training Information
> Winter Training Tips and Information
> Fixing a Bad Climbing Habit - Fred Matheny
> Hills, Chocolate Milk and Ice baths
> 2008 NYC Marathon Notes
> Final Marathon Tips
> Starting Lines 27: Big Miles - Joe Henderson
> Make Your Running More Efficient
> Get out of your comfort zone
> CP Map - call boxes & bathrooms
> Tri Stroke Clinic 2008
> 5 Keys to Swimming with Drills and Contstraints
> Triathlon Swimming
> Five Keys to Swimming with Drills
> Triathlon Swimming
> Swimming Balance
> Swim Stroke Clinic presentation
> Swim Stroke Clinic Handout
> Five Keys to Triathlon Swimming
> Running Speed Workshop - Handout
> Running Speed Workshop - Workout
> Pre
> Running Speed - AG Tri Club Workshop
> Speed Drill Workshop
> Post Workout Nutrition - Chocolate Milk
> Periodization...Say What?
> Rest & Recovery
> Training Short Cuts ... Beware!
> Resting Heart Rate
> Getting Ready for Your Marathon
> Running Your First Marathon
> Last Minute Marathon Tips
> Getting Ready for your Marathon
> Pre and Post Marathon Tips
> Four Tips for a Good Season
> NYC Marathon Course Map
> Macro Periodization
> Spring Has Finally Arrived
> Bike Safety - from Joe Friel
> Winter Weather & Training
> Missed Workout Days
> Training for Women over 50
> Marathon to Ultra-Marathon
> Winter Training (Base Phase) - for triathletes
> In Training for Triathlon
> Tip of The Month #7 - The Day Off
> Tip of The Month #1 - Select your "A" race
> Tip of The Month #2 - Build Mileage (Runners)
> Tip of The Month #3 Build Mileage (Triathletes)
> Tip of The Month - for runners - Base Phase
> Winter Training Workshop - Handout
> Winter Training Workshop - powerpoint
> Tip of The Month #5 Strength Building (LT)
> Tip of The Month #6 Lactate Threshold
> Tip of The Month #9 - Warm-up
> Tip of The Month #10 - New?
> Designing a Training Plan That Works ppt
> Designing a Training Plan That Works forms
> Designing a Training Plan That Works forms
> Plyometric Exercises
> Planks
> Achieve Your Resolutions - HR presentation
> Achieve Your Resolutions - HR Training handout
> Achieve Your Resolutions - Try a Tri presentation
> Achieve Your Resolutions - Try a Tri handout
> Central Park Training Etiquette and Safety
> Tire Changing
> Bike Tune-up Time
> Bike Maintenance
> Bicycle Maintenance Checklist
> Tip of The Month #4 Bike Fit
> Bike Gear Chart
> Tip of The Month #8 - Hills (Cycling)
> Tip of The Month #11 - Pedaling
> Cycle Tip Sheet
> Cycling Tips Lanterne Rouge Standing on Climbs
> Cycling Tips from Lanterne Rouge - Aero Bars
> Brake Levers
> Tips for Winter Riding
> Winter Riding
> Cycle Training - Introduction
> Cycle Training Clinic
> Route Sheet: Central Park to Nyack via Rt. 501 NJ
> Gold Coast Tri Training Program - Presentation
> Gold Coast Triathlon Training Program - Handout
> Gold Coast Tri Strength Phase - Handout
> Gold Coast Tri Strength Phase - Presentation
> Gold Coast Clinic Skills for Triathletes
> Gold Coast Tri Skill Sets - Handout
> Gold Coast Tri Building Speed - Presentation
> Gold Coast Tri Speed Building - Handout
> 2005 Grand Rapids Marathon Training Plan
> Grand Rapids Macro & Micro Periodization
> Grand Rapids Training Plan
> Grand Rapids Pre & Post Marathon Tips
> Gold Coast Tri Getting Ready to Race - handout
> Gold Coast Getting Ready to Race - presentation
> Marathon to Ultra-Marathon
> Swimming to Manhattan

My SLBCoaching.com
Client Login:
username:
password:

Triathlon Swimming

Triathlon Swimming

Neil L. Cook – Head Triathlon Coach, Multisport Program Manager

                                                                           Asphalt Green Tri Club                      

Website & more tips: http://www.AGTri.com e-mail: Coach@AGTri.com

Introduction

"The basics of athletic activity can not be taught. They are part of us all. We just need to discover them for ourselves and develop them to our best ability."

Of the three sports in Triathlon, swimming is both the easiest and the  most technical.  Swimming is easy in that it requires the least amount of energy, you will not get your heart rate as high swimming as you do cycling and running.  As the most technical it creates a problem for more Triathletes.  And, it’s in a hostile environment – open water!

Proper swimming technique and especially triathlon swimming technique is not a natural movement.  Our natural instincts are counter productive in the water.  It takes practice and time to overcome these instincts and learn proper technique.  Even experienced swimmers need time to adjust their technique to triathlon swimming.

Most of the activities we do are done both in opposition – right leg forward, left leg back – and rhythmical – our right arm moves at the same speed as our left arm.  Swimming, and especially Triathlon swimming is not done in opposition – one hand should always be in front of your head.  In addition, one arm is held still as the other arm moves, creating an arrhythmic movement.

Then you have the water.  We are not designed to be in the water.  We need air to breath and many of us can not even float. 

Swimming in a pool is not as difficult.  You can see the bottom, you have a line to follow, the walls are only a few yards away and the water is relatively calm.  Open water adds to our problem – we typically can not see the bottom, there are no walls and we usually are swimming away from the land for at least half of the swim portion of a Triathlon.  Then the wind, tide, currents, temperature and all those other Triathletes add to the difficulty and may cause confusion and anxiety. 

Triathlon Swimming Technique

The goal of Triathlon swimming is to complete the distance in the water as efficiently and effectively as possible.  Many people feel that the race does not really start until they get on the bike.  They use the swim as a warm-up for the hard stuff to come.

You still need to know how to swim and you need to swim fast if you want to finish before they take the finish line down.  Most of your Triathlon swim training should focus on perfecting your technique and getting used to the distance you need to swim.  As your technique improves and you gain experience in open water you can begin to focus your training on increasing your speed. 

But, your greatest improvements in speed will occur as your technique improves.  The more efficient your swimming is, the less energy you need to complete the distance and finish in a faster time.  Water provides a tremendous amount of resistance or drag.  When you attempt to move through the water you must overcome that drag and use it to your advantage.

Since most of us have not learned to swim efficiently and with proper technique, we get out of breath quickly.  Being breathless in the water is not a comfortable experience.  There, you have a primary source of anxiety.  Our experience has been that we will be gasping for air after a short swim, so when we start a triathlon our level of anxiety is sky high. 

This level of anxiety creates muscle tension and makes it harder to be efficient and to use proper technique.  Practicing proper technique and learning to be efficient will greatly reduce anxiety levels. 

Relaxation

Water is a foreign environment to us.  Fear is a natural reaction to being in water.  Open water may increase this reaction in some people.  With proper instruction and practice this fear can usually be overcome.

One of the two keys to triathlon swimming is relaxation.  The ability to swim long distances and remain relaxed is key to successful triathlon swimming.  Unlike competitive swimming in a pool, you will need to learn to conserve your energy and relax during your swim.  It is possible to swim long distances surprisingly fast and keep your heart rate low.

Even before you begin working on your stroke technique, you must learn to relax in the water.  You need to gain confidence in your ability to survive and move through the water.  If you are not relaxed, your heart rate and respiration rate will escalate.  This will cost you energy, increase stress and make it harder to be efficient and effective. 

Our sympathetic nervous system links our respiration with our heart rate.  As our heart rate increases, our respiration rate increases.  This is usually a good thing – an increase is usually a sign that we need more oxygen to fuel our muscles for the activity we are doing.  There are times though that this adds to the problem.  When our heart rate rises, not due to physical activity, but due to stress or anxiety, the increase in respiration rate creates problems – like hyperventilating.  The first thing you will need to do is to practice breathing.  That probably sounds strange.  We breathe all the time and never have problems.  But, once in the water that changes.  In stead of breathing deeply and slowly, we increase our respiration rate abnormally high.  In order to do that our breathing become shallow.  This leads to hyperventilation.  Hyperventilation leads to anxiety and anxiety leads to … rapid, shallow breathing!

Before we can change the way we swim, we need to learn to relax.  In order to relax in the water we need to learn to breath.  Developing our own breathing rhythm allows us to relax and move without changing our technique. 

If you can exhale underwater, turn you head – not lift it, rotate your chin towards your shoulder – and inhale, without disrupting your arm movement while swimming, you are on the way to being relaxed.  If you can do this while pushing your effort level to high gear, with 100 other people trying to swim in the same spot as you, and the wind slapping waves in your face, you are ready for triathlon!

Breathing

Being able to survive in the water, much less swim half a mile or 2.4 miles, is dependent on our ability to get oxygen.  Anything that disrupts our breathing will cause our stroke to change and become less efficient and less effective. 

Breathing while swimming is usually the most difficult part of swimming technique.  During triathlon you have the added difficulties of wind, waves, other swimmers and the need to sight.  Proper technique, the ability to bi-laterally breath and practice will provide the skills necessary to breath properly during triathlon swimming.

Before we can inhale, we need to exhale.  If we wait until we turn our head to the side to exhale, we will interrupt our arm stroke so that we can exhale and inhale.  You should be exhaling underwater, before you turn your head to the side.

Form

These are the keys to having an efficient and fast swim:

Front Quadrant

This means always keeping one hand/arm in front of your body.  Here’s a test to show how important Front Quadrant swimming is:  Float face down in the water (horizontal), with your hands at your sides.  Count the number of seconds it takes your legs to sink to the point your body is vertical.  Now, do the same thing, but with your arms in front of your head.  Again count how long it takes your legs to sink.  You’ll notice that it takes a longer for your legs to sink with your arms in front of your head.  Since it’s more efficient swimming in a horizontal position than with your legs hanging down, keep one hand in front of your body as you swim.  A good drill for this is called the “Catch-up” drill.  As you bring your hand forward to catch the water, don’t begin the pull with the opposite hand until your recovering hand touches your forward hand.  Repeat this as your recover your opposite hand, always waiting to touch hands before beginning your pull.

Streamline

You should look like a torpedo in the water.  Displace as little water as possible – as small a frontal area as possible.  You should practice streamlining during every workout, so it will be effective when you race.  Making your body long and streamlined helps reduce drag.  Reducing drag makes you a more efficient swimmer.  The key to being streamlined is to keep your arm next to your ear as you reach forward and glide.  Remember to keep the arm straight, next to your ear and to reach forward.

Horizontal

The ideal body position is horizontal at the surface of the water.  Use just as much of a kick as necessary to keep your legs and feet at the surface.  Here’s another test you should do:  Floating face down with your arms in front of your head, use an easy and slow kick to keep your feet at the surface.  Kick just enough to keep your legs and feet at the surface.  You don’t need to use your legs to propel you forward, just to keep your body in a horizontal position.

Body Roll

This is how your body moves as you swim. It is a roll that starts at the hips.  The shoulders move with the hips as you stroke.  It is a side-to-side movement.  Instead of stretching out your arm to glide, roll onto your side.  Your arm will extend naturally as you roll and complete the opposite arm pull.  A key element of open water technique is your body roll.  You should be rolling onto your side with each stroke.  This reduces drag, makes your stroke efficient and helps reduce the energy needed to recover after each stroke.

Pull / Power Phase

The key to a powerful and efficient arm pull is to have your palm facing backwards through as much of your pull as possible.  The first movement you should make as you begin your pull is to flex your elbow, pointing your fingers down and your palm backwards.  As you pull, keep your palm facing backwards, keep your elbow above your hand and let your hand lead your elbow/arm through the pull phase of the stroke.  Speed comes from a powerful pull, not from a powerful or fast arm recovery. 

Body position is a key –

One of the keys to being efficient and using proper technique is body position in the water.  Your body needs to be as long and straight as possible.  Your shoulders and hips must move together.  Many inefficient swimmers have their hips moving in one direction as their shoulders move in the other direction.  Besides greatly increasing the amount of drag, this reduces our ability to apply force in the proper direction.  We use our arms and legs to balance our bodies in the water instead of using them to move us forward.  A typical flaw is allowing your elbow to drop below your hand.  This creates a great amount of resistance.  Always keep your elbow higher than your hand!

Swim efficiently –

That’s somewhat different for each of you.  But, generally you want to be streamlined – torpedo like.  You want all your energy going towards propelling you forward.  You don’t want to waste energy.  Wasted energy occurs when your body moves out of a streamline position.  Drag in the water is far greater than on the bike.  So, every time your legs come apart, or your kick is too big, or when your hand pushes water forward or sideward (instead of backward) or your hips swing sideward, you’re creating drag.  Drag that will slow you down and cause you to use more energy than you need too. 

Keep your stroke relaxed –

Apply force only when your hand is pushing you forward.  All other movements are relaxed and slow.  Your kick needs to be very easy and short.  Basically, it’s used to keep your legs in the proper position.  Do not use up a lot of energy with your legs.  Save them for the bike and the run.

Body movement is another key –

In order to move our bodies through the water in the most efficient manner we need to remember a little physics.  Short lever arms are more efficient than long lever arms.  We can apply more force with a short lever arm than with a long lever arm.  So, bend your elbows!  Shorten the lever arm and gain force!

Bilateral (or alternate side) breathing –

It means breathing every odd stroke (third, fifth, etc.), first to one side and then to the other.  Roll your head away from the arm that is extending in front, and at the same time take a breath.  The head lays very low when it rolls.  DO NOT PICK THE HEAD UP (remember One Eye Goggles).  Be sure to blow air out while your face is under water.  This breathing pattern should be used at all times. It helps you swim a much smoother stroke.  While it may seem hard at first, you should learn this pattern. 

Kick –

Although the kick during triathlon is of minimal importance, you need to learn to kick efficiently and effectively.  Point your toes and picture that your kick is almost straight-legged and you are using your upper leg muscles so that the kick comes from your hips.  Once you feel your body moving, you may notice a slight, almost uncontrollable, bending of the knees as you press the upper part of your legs down.  The kick should not go much deeper than your body.  The kick is sort of like dancing – a relaxed and flexible leg is necessary for an effective kick.

Arms –

You need to picture that your hand is entering at about the same width as your shoulders and extending straight out from your shoulder (not across your body).  Your hand needs to move from in front of the shoulder down to your thigh in a smooth manner, making sure that you can feel water on the hand and forearm.  Your hand should not be closer than 12 inches from your chest and your elbow should always be bent and higher than your hand.  Once your hand reaches your thigh, the elbow starts to leave the water.  The elbow stays higher than the hand during the recovery and through the entry.

A key to swimming is efficiency and comfort – learning to swim efficiently and producing as little drag as possible is the key to successful open water swimming.  As you reduce drag, you swim faster with less effort.  As you become more relaxed and comfortable in open water, you expend less energy.  These are the keys to open water swimming.

Efficiency – efficiency is a skill and needs to be practiced every time you swim. 

Long – making your body long and streamlined helps reduce drag.  Reducing drag makes you a more efficient swimmer.

Glide – learning to glide and to take advantage of your glide helps you become more efficient in the water. 

Slow Stroke Turn-over – reducing the number of stokes you take during your swim helps you be more efficient. 

Minimal kick – save your legs for the bike and run.  Your legs are used primarily for balance during open water swimming.

Body position – proper body position will reduce drag and improve efficiency.

Body roll – a key element of open water technique is your body roll.  You should be rolling onto your side with each stroke.  This reduces drag, makes your stroke efficient and helps reduce the energy needed to recover after each stroke.

Elbows – the position of your arm – elbows high – will improve efficiency and produce more power with less energy.

Open Water Anxiety

“I can’t  see the bottom!

Hyperventilating & Anxiety During Swimming

Athletes that do open water swims and triathlons in particular are frequently plagued by anxiety attacks and hyperventilating.  Many excellent swimmers and water people experience anxiety attacks and hyperventilate during competition.  These same people are perfectly comfortable swimming at other times under the same water conditions.  Experienced triathletes may also experience these problems during their first event of the year.

I’m an experienced open water swimmer – open water swim instructor and surfer – with over 40 years of experience.  My first job was as a swim coach.  When I did my first triathlons I experienced these problems.  I was perfectly comfortable in the water, I just couldn’t breath properly.  I wound up doing the side stroke, breaststroke and back stoke, and was the last person out of the water! 

Typical Causes

Anxiety attacks and hyperventilating are typically caused by improper breathing, forgetting to exhale with your face in the water.  The excitement of the race and your competitive instincts add to the level of anxiety.  The shock of cold water will also cause or contribute to this problem.  Even while wearing a wetsuit, the initial shock of the cold water on your chest causes your ribcage to constrict and tighten.  This restricts your breathing, escalates your respiration rate and can lead to hyperventilating.  Tight wetsuits will also have the same effect or exacerbate the problem.

Breathing

Most cases of anxiety result in breathing problems.  If you do some breathing drills: bobbing and one arm swimming with a kick board, you will begin to relax in the water and your breathing will become easier.  Practice your breathing while doing your kick sets with a kickboard.

To prevent hyperventilating, warm-up well before you start the swim.  If the water is cold, warming-up is even more important.  Remember to focus on your breathing during your warm-up – exhaling underwater.  Open water, a wetsuit, the crowded and fast start of Triathlon all contribute to your anxiety and need for a good warm-up.  It is surprising how hard people swim at the beginning of a race that will take so long.

Even the best swimmers are susceptible to anxiety attacks.  You need to take conscious control of your breathing.  It is fine to let your respiration rate increase as your effort increase – in fact it is desirable.  But, when your heart rate increase due to stress or anxiety, you need to control your breathing to prevent hyperventilating. 

Remember, you have swum thousands of yards in practice.  Hold your breath for a few seconds – 10 to 15 is usually enough and that will help you relax.  It seems counter intuitive, but it does work.  Remember to warm-up well.  A 10 minute run and about 10 minutes of swimming should be sufficient for most triathlons.  The longer the triathlon, the shorter the warm-up should be.  Finally, check the fit of your wetsuit.  If the chest is too tight it will contri

If you wear a wetsuit, it may be too tight in the chest.  A tight wetsuit will both restrict you’re your breathing and add to your anxiety.  Be certain your wetsuits fits properly.  Also, make sure that the neck is not too tight.  Make sure that you have put the wetsuit on properly and have pulled it up as high as you can.

Exhale

In the excitement of the race and the nervousness of open water swimming many people forget to exhale underwater.  If you do not exhale before you turn your head to inhale, you will disrupt your stroke and shorten your inhalation.  This will lead to anxiety and hyperventilating.  Do not forget to exhale under water!

Warm-up

After your bike and run warm-up, get into your wetsuit and do you swim warm-up.  It’s a good idea to use the same warm-up you use for your swim practices.  Or, you can use the following warm-up.  First, swim for about 100 yards.  During this initial swim, it is important to focus on two things: remaining relaxed and exhaling under water.  Focusing on these things means consciously thinking about them as you do them.  Stop and review the course.  Now, swim for a longer period of time – about 5 minutes is good.  This is also a good opportunity to get used to the course – ropes, buoys and the like.

Proper Wetsuit Fit

A proper fitting wetsuit is important.  A wetsuit that is too tight will restrict your breathing and can add to anxiety and hyperventilating.  Your wetsuit should be snug, this will trap water between your body and the wetsuit.  This adds to the insulation and warmth.  But, you need to be able to take a very deep breath.  When you first try your wetsuit on, elevate your heart rate and your respiration (run around the store if you have to).  This will give you some idea of how the wetsuit will feel when you’re exerting yourself.  Take a number of deep breaths.  If there is any restriction to your breathing, the wetsuit is too tight.

Plan an Escape

“Are you sure that’s only half a mile?”

One of the most important things to do when  you arrive at the race site is to survey the course.  Make sure you know the course, which direction you will be swimming, where the buoys are and estimate the distance between the buoys.  Then, plan what you will do if you have problems.  If you need to stop and “re-group” or just catch your breath, you can not stop right on the course.  You will have other athletes swimming into you.  Know where the officials and life guards will be stationed.  There are usually people in boats, kayaks or on surf boards along the course.

The USAT rules allow you to hold onto a boat during the swim.  The people in the boat can not touch you or move you forward.  If they do you will be disqualified.  So, make sure to tell them that you are okay and just need to rest for a minute.  Ask them not to touch you or move the boat forward, so you will not be disqualified. 

You may also swim towards the center of the course or the outside of the course to get out of the way of the other athletes.  This way you can rest and re-group.  Before the race starts know where you will go to catch your breath if you need to. 

Equipment

Remember to practice with all of the equipment you will be using during the race.  That includes clothes – swim with your tri shorts and top, your wetsuit and goggles.  You should practice at least a few times swimming with your wetsuit.  It is not advisable to swim regularly in a pool with your wetsuit.  Pool water is too warm and you will over heat and dehydrate. 

You should try both swimming with your tri shorts and tri top, and cycling and running with them – when they are wet!  Riding and running with dry shorts is a lot different than spending two or three hours sitting on a wet chamois.  If you have never run with tri shorts before, they feel very different from running shorts.  And when they are wet it may cause problems.  Try all of your equipment under “race” conditions, before your first race.

Goggle / Mask

Goggles are a must in swimming.  They come in lots of different models and colors.  Try them on before you purchase a pair.  The shape and size of your face will determine which are the best for you.  When you are swimming in a pool, you probably do not need tinted goggles.  But, when you swim in open water, tinted goggles may be very important. 

Some people prefer a swim mask, instead of goggles.  This is purely personal preference.  Again, go with what fits best. 

When you go to a race, always bring an extra set of goggles. 

Anti-fogging sprays and drops are designed to keep your goggles from fogging up.  Usually, they fog due to a difference in temperature – between the water and your face.  Anything that causes the condensation to not form drops will work.  A simple alternative is to use diluted shampoo.  A drop or two on each lens will help keep your goggles from fogging up.  Just remember to rinse the shampoo off before you use the goggles.

Practice emptying your goggles of water and putting them back on while in a pool.  You do not want to have to do that for the first time during your race!

Swim Cap

Men especially need to get used to swimming with one.  They are required during races.  Since most men do not regularly swim with a cap, they should practice with one.  Not being able to hear will affect your swimming, navigation and ability to remain relaxed.

Bring an extra cap to the race.  The caps usually provide are inexpensive latex, and wearing a second cap underneath will help.  If you are allergic to latex, that is the way to avoid a reaction. 

Always wear your goggle strap under your swim cap.  That way, if your goggles get knocked off your face, the swim cap will keep them from coming off your head.

Wetsuit

Your wetsuit may not feel comfortable if you are a first time user.  It should not be restrictive, just snug.  When in the water, a thin layer of water gets trapped between the wetsuit and your body.  As long as that water stays trapped, the wetsuit insulates you.  The rubber also provides extra buoyancy.  The wetsuit must be snug enough to trap a layer of water and flexible enough not to restrict your swimming movement. 

You need to pay special attention to the fit around your neck and your shoulders.  If these areas are too tight, it will cause chafing and restrict your swimming.  This is why it is so important to get a wetsuit that fits properly.  If it is too loose the wetsuit will not insulate well and will ride down restricting your swimming motion.  If the wetsuit is too tight, it will cause chafing and restrict your swimming motion and breathing.

If there is chafing around the neck or shoulders do not move freely, pull the wet suit up more.  If this does not work, the wetsuit maybe too short.  If you cannot grab any rubber around your legs, the wetsuit is too small.  If you can pull the wetsuit on easily, it is too big.  Wetsuits will loosen around your neck when you are horizontal in the water.

Wetsuit Care Instructions

Rinse your wetsuit in fresh water after every use.  Turn it inside out to rinse.  Hang it inside out on a padded or wetsuit hanger to dry.  Store it out of the sun. 

Store the wetsuit in a dry, cool area.  It is best to store it flat, but if you must use a wetsuit hanger or fold the wetsuit for storage.  Do not use Vaseline or Pam.  The petroleum or oil will damage the rubber.  Body Glide is petroleum-free.

Fins / Zoomers

Training with fins or Zoomers is an excellent way to improve your technique.  The use of fins will make moving through the water easier and allow you to focus more on your body position, hip roll and arm movement.  They will also help with your kick, both the rhythm and the flexibility of your knees and ankles.  They will also help you relax while training.

Once you start moving comfortably through the water you can remove the fins and practice without them.  When you are wearing a wetsuit, the extra buoyancy will be close to the same affect as wearing fins.

Paddles

Paddles are a good tool to use to help develop a “feel” for the water.  Being able to “grab” the water and pull your body forward is a key to successful swimming.  The more you are aware of this feel for the water, the more force you are able to put into your pull. 

If you buy paddles, get a size that is just slightly larger than your hand.  Use paddles sparingly.  Using a large paddle or swimming with them often may lead to shoulder problems.

Tennis Balls / Fist Gloves

Using tennis balls while doing some of your drills will also help you develop a “feel” for the water.  They will also help you to position your forearm in the correct way to increase your power.  You may use any ball that fits in your hand and floats.  Or you may purchase special gloves that keep your hand in a fist.  These “fist gloves” or tennis balls keep you from pulling with your hand and force you to use your forearm to pull.

Starts

Triathlons usually have one of two types of starts: Wet or Dry.  Starts may also be Mass or Wave. 

Wet / Dry

A “Dry Start” is when you are standing on the beach (or on a dock) and run (or dive) into the water and begin swimming.  Dry Starts are tricky.  Positioning yourself in the group is critical.  Position your self in the crowd according to your ability to deal with the crowd and your swimming skills.  Move to the side and back if you want to avoid the crowds.  Wait for the people in front of you to start swimming before you do.  Find an open line and begin swimming. 

A “Wet Start” is when you are standing in the water or treading water when the race starts.  Some wet starts you are actually able to stand.  Treat these as you would a dry start.  In a true wet start you will not be able to stand.  Most people will tread water – in a vertical position for a wet start.  The problem with this approach is: you must get from a vertical position to a horizontal position before you can start moving forward, and the guy right behind you will start to swim – swinging his arms wildly – at your head!

To avoid these problems, practice sculling in a prone position.  Lie face down in the water, kick your legs gently and extend your arms in front of your head.  Scull slowly with your hands in front of your head.  When the race starts, simply begin swimming.  You are already horizontal, so you are ready to move forward with your first arm stroke.  And, your legs are behind you, the guy behind you will only be able to reach your feet, not your head!  In fact, by the time he takes his first stroke, you will be out of his reach.

You must find an open line when using this technique. Otherwise, you will be swimming into other athletes. 

Mass / Wave

Triathlon swims are either a “Mass Start” or a “Wave Start.”  In the Mass start everyone starts at the same time, similar to a running race.  In the Wave start, the athletes are divided into groups or Waves, either by swimming ability (seeded) or by age group.  Races that use a Wave start are easier and better for beginners.  Strong swimmers may prefer Mass start races.

In either type of start, be sure to position your self properly.


 

Transitions

Plan

Being prepared for your transitions is an important part of your Triathlon preparation.  You should use these procedures as a guide and starting point.  You will probably add or delete items from the list as your needs and preferences dictate.

Swim Items

  • Wet suit – check for tears or nicks at the beginning of the season and after each race.  There are wetsuit repair kits on the market or check with your wetsuit manufacturer.
  • Runner’s Lube, Body Glide, – to combat chafing and ease removing your wetsuit.  Do NOT use Vaseline or petroleum based products on your wetsuit or on your body.  They will damage your wetsuit and make it impossible to repair.
  • Swim suit – you may want to wear your cycle shorts (or tri shorts) and top under your wetsuit to speed your transition to the bike instead of a swim suit.
  • Swim cap – some races provide swim caps and require that your wear a specific colored cap.  Always have an extra bright colored cap, just in case one is required and not provided.
  • Swim goggles.  An good anti-fog treatment is diluted baby shampoo (the No Tears kind).  Get a small plastic bottle and fill half with not tears shampoo and half with water.  A few drops on the inside of your goggle will keep them from fogging.  Remember to rinse out the shampoo solution before using the goggles.  Bring a spare pair of goggles, just in case.
  • Body Marked.  Most races will require that your number, and possibly your age group, be written on your body in magic marker.  Bring a magic marker with you, to avoid long lines!
  • Nose clip & ear plugs - optional

Swim to Bike Transition

  • Towel or ground cover – this will provide a clean dry surface to stand or sit on to change and help define your area.
  • Small towel to dry your feet and body.
  • 2 liter soda bottle (filled with water) – to rinse off your feet.
  • Sun block.
  • Runner’s Lube, Body Glide or Chamois Butt’r – to combat chafing.
  • Bike shoes – avoid bike shoes that have laces, Velcro closures are preferred.  Make sure to leave the Velcro closures open so you can get the shoes on easily and quickly.
  • Bike shorts – you may want to use triathlon shorts for sprint distance triathlons.  They have a light pad that allows you to swim and run in the same shorts.
  • Socks – optional.  It’s tough to put socks on over wet feet, so if you chose, you can ride without socks.  This works well for sprint distances and you might want to try it up to Olympic Distance triathlons.  Be sure to ride a few times in training without socks first!
  • Cycle Shirt – you may choose to use a tri-suit (a one piece short and top) or ride in your running singlet.
  • Rain Jacket – just in-case the weather gets bad.
  • Helmet
  • Bike Gloves – you may choose to ride without gloves.  There is a risk – if you fall you can scrap-up your hands pretty badly.
  • Sunglasses – I don’t recommend ever riding without sunglasses.  In wet weather they help to keep water and dirt out of your eyes.
  • Water, Sports Drink, food - optional
  • First aid supplies – optional
  • Bike –
    • Make sure tires are properly inflated prior to the start
    • Floor pump – just in case your need to re-inflate your tires.
    • Extra inner tube – have one at transition, so that you don’t have to use one of the tubes you carry on your bike.
    • in proper gear for start – be sure you have your bike in the proper chain ring and cog for the start.
    • water bottles filled and on bike
    • food – energy gel – on your bike or in your bike jersey pocket (tape your pocket closed with duct tape, so that you don’t loose your gel packets when you put your bike jersey on, or put them into your pocket after you put the jersey on).
    • frame pump or a small pump in your saddle bag.  You may choose to use CO2 cartridges instead of a frame pump, but be sure you have practiced inflating your tires with the CO2 cartridge before race time.
    • spare tubes – you should carry at least two.
    • patch kit – you may choose not to use a patch kit during a race.
    • tire irons – unless you’ve got really strong hands and have practice removing and replacing your tire without tire irons!
    • Allen wrench
    • Bike number

Procedure

  • Peel your wetsuit off, you can remove the top half as you’re exiting the water and heading to your transition area.  Remove the lower half when you get to your transition area – do this SITTING DOWN!
  • Rinse your feet off using the 2 liter bottle of water.
  • Dry your feet, and body.
  • Apply Body Glide, Runner’s Lube or Chamois Butt’r as needed.
  • Apply Sunscreen as needed.
  • Put on bike shorts and shirt – if you’re going to wear them and you don’t have them on under your wetsuit.
  • Put on bike shoes (and socks) – while sitting down.
  • Re-hydrate and eat energy gel.
  • Put on sunglasses.
  • Put on helmet and bike gloves.
  • Run bike out of transition area.


 

Checklist

Use this checklist to prepare for your triathlon.

Swim

 

Wetsuit

 

Runner’s Lube, Body Glide

 

Swim Suit

 

Swim Cap (spare, race usually supplies)

 

Swim Goggles (or mask)

 

Spare goggles (or mask)

 

Body marked / Magic Marker

 

Nose Clip & Ear Plugs

Swim to Bike

 

Towel or Ground Cover

 

Extra Towel

 

2 liter soda bottle ½ filled with water

 

Sun Block

 

Runner’s Lube, Body Glide or Chamois Butt’r

 

Bike Shoes

 

Bike Shorts

 

Socks

 

Cycle Shirt

 

Rain Jacket

 

Helmet

 

Bike Gloves

 

Sunglasses

 

Water, Sports Drink, food

 

First Aid supplies

 

Bike

 

Tires properly inflated

 

Floor pump

 

Extra inner tube

 

Bike in proper gear

 

Water bottles filled and on bike

 

Food / Energy Gel

 

Frame pump

 

Spare Tubes

 

Patch Kit

 

Tire Irons

 

Allen wrench

 

Bike Number

 


 

Practice

It is important to practice your transitions before you race.  And remember to do a dry run before the first race of the season, even if you are an experienced triathlete. 

Gather your equipment in your living room and setup a practice transition area.  Practice your two transitions – swim to bike and bike to run.  After each practice review your list of items and your procedures.  Then modify the list and procedures to meet your individual needs and preferences.

Remember speed is important and practice will make your transitions faster.  It is important to remember that comfort is also important.  If you don’t get your socks on right in the transition you can develop blisters and ruin you race.  So, get it right before you leave transition. 

Review your checklist before you leave for your race and practice, practice, practice!

Wetsuits

Putting the Wetsuit on

1.       Put your wetsuit on dry.  You may want to wear socks or plastic baggies on your feet to easy getting your feet through the legs.

2.       Never pull the wetsuit by grabbing with your finger tips – your nails will cause “nicks” in the wetsuit.  Always grab a handful of the suit when pulling it on.

3.       Start with your lower legs – one leg at a time.  Pull each leg up over your knee.  The bottom of the wetsuit leg should be above your ankle, part way up your thigh.  Better to pull it up too high.

4.       Pull the legs up slowly – a bit at a time. 

5.       Roll the wetsuit up your leg – one at a time.  Work the wetsuit high up the leg.  The wetsuit should be snug / high into your crotch.

6.       Next, pull the wetsuit over your hips.  Again, snug the wetsuit high into your crotch.

7.       Roll the wetsuit up your chest, put your arms in and slide your arms completely into the wetsuit.  Pull the arms up so that it is snug in your arm pits.

8.       Again, pull the wetsuit snug in your crotch. 

9.       The neck should be slightly loose.  Close the Velcro at the neck and then pull the zipper fully up.

10.   You may want to use a product like Body Glide around your neck to decrease chafing.

11.   Get into the water and again snug the wetsuit into your crotch and your arm pits.

Taking the Wetsuit off

1.       It is easiest to take your wetsuit off while it is wet.  You may want to begin taking it off before you exit the water.

2.       Pull the zipper down fully.

3.       Roll the wetsuit off your shoulders and down your arms.

4.       Roll the wetsuit down your chest and torso.

5.       Exit the water and run to your transition area with the wetsuit pulled down at your waist.

6.       When you get to your transition area, peel the wetsuit off inside out.  Continue rolling it down your legs, one at a time. 

7.       You may want to sit down to complete the process of pulling it off inside out over your ankles.  If you have good balance, you can step on one leg and pull your opposite leg out, then switch and step on the second leg and pull it out.  You should be standing or sitting on your transition towel as you complete the process.

8.       When you are done getting the wetsuit off, it should be completely inside out.

Fuel, Hydration and Electrolytes

Since you were not able to fuel, hydrate or take in electrolytes while swimming it is critical that you do that when you reach your transition area, before getting on the bike.

Warm-up

"It's all right letting yourself go as long as you can let yourself back." – Mick Jagger

Why Warm-up?

Lactate Threshold and why is it important to warm-up

There have been many reasons given for warming up prior to a race or hard workout.  But, what’s the physiological reason to warm-up.  Lactic Acid!

When you start a hard workout or race the lactate levels will increase.  This will occur even if you’re not working that hard.  This is because the blood flow to your muscles is not yet sufficient to provide the necessary oxygen to complete the Krebs cycle and complete the breakdown of pyruvate into carbon dioxide and water (and releasing huge amounts of energy). 

As the pyruvate accumulates in your muscles it is converted to Lactate and begins to enter your blood.  Studies have shown surprisingly high levels of Lactate even when working at a fairly moderate rates.

This is due to two physiological actions.  First, your heart rate will not yet be high enough to deliver sufficient blood to your muscles.  Second, the capillaries will not be dilated fully, further restricting the amount of oxygen rich blood being delivered to your muscles.

As you continue to work at a moderate rate, your heart rate increases and your capillaries dilate delivering large amounts of oxygen to your muscles.  The pyruvate and Lactic Acid will then be fully oxidized for energy.  Your blood lactate levels will then drop!

If you continue to work hard or increase your effort, the Lactic Acid levels will begin to rise again.  The limiting factors in the complete breakdown of Lactic Acid is not the lack of sufficient oxygen.  It is the lack of sufficient enzymes to handle the pyruvate oxygenation process or because your muscles lack enough mitochondria (these are the structures in your muscles that are involved in the Krebs cycle).

When the speed at which you can complete the breakdown of Lactate falls behind the speed at which you are producing Lactic Acid, you have reached your Lactate Threshold (LT).  The speed your are swimming, cycling or running at when this happens is your LT velocity.  This is the speed at which Lactate begins to again appear in your blood.

You of course could start off slowly and use the beginning of your workout or race to allow these physiological processes to get up to speed.  Or you could do a good warm-up to get your physiological systems fully active before you begin your hard work or race.

The warm-up is equally important in hot weather as it is in cold weather. 

How to Warm-up

There are two parts to a proper warm-up.  The first is getting your physiological systems going – raising your heart rate, body temperature and dilating the capillaries.  The second is increasing the levels of Lactate in your blood to begin the process of breaking them down and releasing large amounts of energy.

The first part of the warm-up is an easy jog.  You should jog for 10 to 20 minutes.  This will begin the process – a slight increase in your heart rate above resting, an increase in your body temperature – you should be sweating and dilating of your capillaries.

The second part of the warm-up is a series of hard efforts or strides.  These should be done at a moderately high effort.  While jogging, sprint for about 100 yards and then return to a jog.  Repeat this process 5 to 10 times.  This will activate the mitochondria and release of the enzymes needed to break down Lactates.

You should complete your warm-up about 5 minutes prior to the start of your race. 

Warming-up will prevent that awful feeling during the first mile – tightness in your chest, a feeling of not getting enough air and a feeling of heavy legs.  These are the signs that you haven’t warmed-up properly.  With a good warm-up you will avoid these feelings in the first mile and be able to run a better race.

When you start a hard workout or race the lactate levels will increase.  This will occur even if you’re not working that hard.  This is because the blood flow to your muscles is not yet sufficient to provide the necessary oxygen to complete the Krebs cycle and complete the breakdown of pyruvate into carbon dioxide and water (and releasing huge amounts of energy). 

As the pyruvate accumulates in your muscles it is converted to Lactate and begins to enter your blood.  Studies have shown surprisingly high levels of Lactate even when working at a fairly moderate rates.

This is due to two physiological actions.  First, your heart rate will not yet be high enough to deliver sufficient blood to your muscles.  Second, the capillaries will not be dilated fully, further restricting the amount of oxygen rich blood being delivered to your muscles.

As you continue to work at a moderate rate, your heart rate increases and your capillaries dilate delivering large amounts of oxygen to your muscles.  The pyruvate and Lactic Acid will then be fully oxidized for energy.  Your blood lactate levels will then drop!

If you continue to work hard or increase your effort, the Lactic Acid levels will begin to rise again.  The limiting factors in the complete breakdown of Lactic Acid is not the lack of sufficient oxygen.  It is the lack of sufficient enzymes to handle the pyruvate oxygenation process or because your muscles lack enough mitochondria (these are the structures in your muscles that are involved in the Krebs cycle).

When the speed at which you can complete the breakdown of Lactate falls behind the speed at which you are producing Lactate, you have reached your Lactate Threshold (LT).  The speed your are swimming, cycling or running at when this happens is your LT velocity.  This is the speed at which Lactate begins to again appear in your blood.

You of course could start off slowly and use the beginning of your workout or race to allow these physiological processes to get up to speed.  Or you could do a good warm-up to get your physiological systems fully active before you begin your hard work or race.

The warm-up is equally important in hot weather as it is in cold weather. 

Sprints and Olympic distance events:

Bike: spin on your bike for 10 to 15 minutes.  Use a high cadence and an easy gear.  Check out your bike – be certain you can get into every gear, your brakes are functioning properly.  Ride briefly in your aero position.  Make sure everything is tight and race ready and leave it in the gear you need to start the bike leg of the race. 

Run: jog for about 5 to 10 minutes.  This is an easy jog – don’t do any pick-ups.  Finally, get your wetsuit on and get in the water. 

Swim: there are two goals in the swim warm-up.  First is to raise your heart rate and warm-up your muscles.  Second is to relax and calm pre-race jitters.  Focus on exhaling underwater, your breathing rhythm and a smooth long stroke and a good glide.  Spend 10 to 15 minutes in the water swimming and working on your stroke technique.  Make sure your wetsuit is not binding or chafing.  Get out of the water less than 5 minutes prior to the start (or the start of your wave).

Half and full Ironman distance events:

The warm-up should be a bit shorter. 

Bike: spin on your bike for 10 minutes.  Ride briefly in your aero position.  Don’t forget to checkout your bike and leave it in the gear you need to start the bike leg of the race. 

Run: jog for about 5 minutes to 10 minutes. 

Swim: swim easily for 5 to 10 minutes.  Focus on exhaling underwater, your breathing rhythm and a smooth long stroke and a good glide.  Make sure your wetsuit is not binding or chafing.  Get out of the water less than 5 minutes prior to the start. 

Start each leg of your race a bit slower than goal pace and after about 5 minutes begin to pick-up your pace. 

Sighting

“Where did that Buoy go?”

It’s amazing how a hard 4 foot buoy is to see when you are swimming!  Before you begin the swim, memorize the course.  Select alternate landmarks – use some object on the shore as an alternate to the course buoys.  Have a sense of how long it will take you to reach each buoy.  Have a strategy for navigating and sighting. 

Sight every 4 to 10 strokes.  If you are able to breath on the side the buoys are on, take additional glances as you breath to be sure you are on the proper course.  Be careful of using the people around you as an assurance you are still on course. 

When you take a breath, instead of turning your head back down into the water, rotate it forward and sight.  Just try to catch a glimpse of the objects you’ve decided to use as your landmarks.  Try not to disrupt your stroke when you sight. 

Be ready to make adjustments.  Change your strategy as the race progresses.  If you are drifting off course, sight more frequently and adjust your stroke to compensate.  Do not make “big” adjustments.  Gradually move back on course.  If you make big adjustments, you will wind up over compensating and go off course in the opposite direction.  If you find you are holding a good line, you might want to reduce the number of times you sight. 

Practice sighting when you’re in the pool if you are swimming alone in a lane, swim every other lap with your eyes closed.

Drafting

“Follow the bubbles”

Drafting during the swim is legal and can be a tremendous benefit.  You can swim faster or with less energy when drafting.  Try to swim in the bubbles of the person in front of you.  Do not get close enough to touch their feet. 

Drafting in open water is difficult because it’s hard to see and because people tend not two swim straight or with an even stroke. 

Practice drafting in the pool with a friend. 

You will also be able to draft just to the side of another swimmer.  So, as you begin to pass, remain close to the person you are passing, you will benefit from their draft until you are even with them.

Passing

Even if you are not trying to, you will pass other athletes.  It is the nature of triathlon.  Practice passing with a friend in the pool.  Make sure your have a lane without any other swimmers in it. 

Be Decisive

When you go to pass, be decisive.  Start by drafting.  Judge the amount of effort that will be require to pass.  Relax and rest up in the person’s draft until you are ready for the effort required.  Move slightly to the side, remember to stay close enough to benefit from their draft as you pass.  Increase your effort.

As you pass stay close and measure your effort.  Remember, you are benefiting from a draft until you are even with them.  Once you are even, increase your effort so you pull ahead.  Do not move back in front of them, you will only be giving them a draft so they can stay with you. 

When you have passed, look for bubble to find another swimmer to draft off of.

Don’t waste energy

Remember, as you are drafting, you are moving faster than if you were swimming in clear water.  It is possible that you are swimming faster than you could without drafting.  Use good judgment.  Do not attempt to pass unless you are certain you can pull away.  Attempting to pass and not being able to pull away will only waste energy. 

Being Passed

If you are being passed, move away from the person passing.  Make them go by you with out the benefit of using your draft.  Also, look for bubbles ahead of you and start drafting to make it harder for them to pass.

Crowds

During the swim most athletes will attempt to swim the shortest line to the buoys.  This causes some body contact, as two or more swimmers attempt to take the same line.  You may want to consider taking a slightly “wider” line to avoid the crowds.

Still, some body contact is inevitable.  When it occurs, re-focus, get your stroke back and continue on your way.  Most times the contact is accidental. 

Goggles – swim cap

Always put your goggles on first and your swim cap over the goggles.  This provides two benefits.  First, it keeps the swim cap from under the gasket of your goggles and causing leaks.  Second, it will keep your goggles on in the event you get hit by another swimmer.  The goggles may come off your face, but the swim cap will keep the goggle from coming off your head and being lost.

Relax

One of the most important things you need to do during a triathlon swim is remain relaxed.  Getting tense or excited will waste energy and possibly lead to anxiety and hyperventilating. 

Draft

The larger the swim field the easier it is to draft.  Keep your head down and look for the bubbles.  Remember, even when you are along side another swimmer you are benefiting from their draft.  As you swim, make minor adjustments to avoid contact with other swimmers and to benefit from a draft.

Sighting

Sight every 4 to 10 strokes.  Look for your landmarks – buoys, lines, or objects on the land.  Remember, following the crowd may just take you off course along with everyone else. 

Practice sighting in a pool with your eyes closed.  Make sure the lane is empty before you do this. 

Racing

Where to start

Remember, line up where you feel comfortable.  Unlike a road race, lining up too far towards the front will not just result in your being passed by lots of triathletes, it will surely increase your stress and anxiety. 

If you are a strong and fast swimmer, get up front.  This will give you the best chance for a clear and fast swim. 

Pacing

Remember, this is a triathlon.  After the swim, you still have to cycle and run.  Pace your self accordingly.  You should be exiting the swim with your heart rate about 10 beats higher than when you got in the water. 

As quickly as possible, get a clear line.  Settle into your rhythm and stroke.  Conserve energy – swim efficiently. 


 

Questions & Answers

I have an extensive educational background in Physical Education, Coaching, Motor Learning and Neurophysiology, as well as many years experience as an athlete and coach.  I am a Serotta certified Advance Bike Fit Professional, sponsored by E-Caps/Hammer Fuels and CompuTrainer.

I’ve been an adult athlete since 1978 – runner and triathlete.  I’ve been a Physical Education teacher and coach at all levels – elementary school through college.  I have been involved with swimming as a life guard, swim instructor, waterfront director, pool director and coach since I was a freshman in high school. 

·         BS Springfield College in Physical Education, Kinesiology, Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, Coaching.

·         MS Adelphi University in Physical Education, Motor Learning.

·         MEd – Columbia University/Teachers College in Motor Learning, Neurophysiology.

·         PhD course work in Motor Learning, Neurophysiology completed (120+ credits) Columbia University/Teachers College.

top



© 2004 - 2015 SLB-Coaching.com. All Rights Reserved
Neil L. Cook, 212-472-9281 or 917-575-1901 or Coach@SLB-Coaching.com or Neil.L.Cook@mindspring.com
"Sweet Lightning Bolt" used by permission.