Getting Wet

For those who have taken an interest in my ramblings for any length of time may notice that I don't write much about swimming. The reason is probably because it may be my least favourite of the triathlon disciplines. It usually is my weakest leg, and also the training session I am most likely to miss. Maybe the two are related?

Most of my swimming I tend to find boring. This isn't through a lack of trying to mix things up and create interesting sets. Just that I find my mind and body seem to get over swimming around the 2000m mark. Most days, going past this mark just isn't enjoyable, and I do this sport, supposedly because I enjoy it.

In order to get my swim up to a descent standard, I decided I needed to find a way to change things. Unfortunately I find I am unable to commit to a squad due to shift work. Plus the times of the local squads aren't to conducive to my family life. I would have to find another way.

Recently I got onto reading about the Crossfit training methods through Catra's blog. There are quite a few concepts from these guys that I find interesting, and I am likely to explore some of these after this Ironman thing. However, I decided to try following a style that seems common in a number of the crossfit workouts. Quite simply, this style is start out hard and complete the designated workload as quickly as you can. If this means you have to slow down a bit, or add in a few breaks, then so be it. But work hard, and keep going until is done.

This is how I put it into practice in a couple of recent swims. Instead of a group of 50s swum very easy as my warm up, I put in a few 100s at a moderate effort. At the end of these I was already feeling like I was going to have a better swim. Instead of a big slab of easy drill work, I alternate 25s and 50s of drills with the same distance of solid freestyle. My mind wasn't feeling too taxed.

Now I was warmed up with a few extra hundred metres already in the arms. Time for the main set. No more 50s and 100s focussing on so-called good form for 1500-2000m. Instead it was belt out some fast 200s. By the end of the first repeat my shoulders were burning and my lungs weren't too happy they had to wait for the mouth to exit the water to take a breath. Minimal rest and straight back in. My times were looking so much better, but after 5 or 6 of these suckers and my form was starting to fall apart.

What to do now? Simple, drop the intervals down 150m and start each one with 25m of butterfly, that should wake my arms up. For some reason it worked. I gasped for air, but my arms and shoulders seemed to get stronger. Then eventually I couldn't get my arms up out of the water during the fly. Time to put in the pull bouy and strap on the paddles and belt out a few 50s before finishing up with a combination of polo swimming and dolphin dives just to stay in the triathlon frame of mind.

3400m down and its all over. My arms are shaking, my upper back kept burning for a good hour afterwards, but my swim speeds were so much faster. Best of all I loved the swimming. I now have two of these swims behind me and am looking forward to the next one. Looks like I may forget about all the so-called intensity controlled training, forget about being in the correct zone and not focus as much on technique. If I can get a longer and harder workout just by finding a different style that is basically just a whole lot of fun, then looks like that's what I have to do.


  1. After spending 7 weeks deep water running and attempting to swim I can certainly say that if I was a tri person the swim leg would not be my favourite either.

    Maybe you need to hook up with a squad, though that could be tricky with your shift work.


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