Old Style

In all my years of triathlon, there was really only a very short period where I have been truly happy about my swimming. Most of the time I have been a middle-packer. On the rare occasion I have been able to get into the front group. My current approach to training is to get back to what has worked in the past.

I swim like a runner. Always have, and always will to some extent. I accept that I will never set national or even state level times in the pool. My body isn't built to excel in the water. Stiff ankles, short, levers not at the best ratio and a centre-of-gravity to centre-of-buoyancy mismatch. That's okay since I know I can do well enough in the water during a triathlon.

What has worked in the past?

Unfortunately the simplest answer is volume. The more volume I did in the water, the better I did in the first leg in races. Swimming fives times per week at 3-5km per session worked. On the odd occasion I even managed to up that with a couple of double swim days when the legs were recovering. It was a big investment. The return was okay, but certainly was in the area of diminishing returns.

What about now?

Put bluntly, "I am not going to swim high volume." It doesn't fit into my life. Plus I am really enjoying swimming a little bit. To swim a lot more is likely to become a chore.

What should I do now?

Get good at race specific fitness. Taking the rocket science out of swim training should help. This leaves me with needing the endurance to last the race distance, the strength and skill to hold a decent pace in the water and the extra ability to be able to handle changes in pace or extra exertion on entry and exit of the swim.

Separate to volume for volume's sake, I have achieved the above with three key aspects of training:
1. Over distance with long repeats, mainly comfortable intensity and short rest periods. The overload is based on distance.
2. Sustained speed. Around race pace, anaerobic threshold for moderate length repeats with short to medium rest periods. The overload is comes from the difficulty in maintaining the same speed through the back end of the set.
3. Small amount of fast and power based swimming when fatigued. Rarely would form a main set. Often performed at the end of the main set as stand alone or as an increase in speed at then end of the main set.


Overrated. My take is removed from the popular regurgitation of drill, drill, drill. It's become common practice for age group triathletes to put in plenty of drill time without substantial improvement in their races. Why this happens is for varied reasons. This post is better served by dealing in how I incorporate drills.

Drills are only worth while if:
1. They serve a required goal
2. They actually benefit that goal
3. They are performed well

If including a drill then it's use must benefit the training and be more useful than other training. Therefore my drill work or technique is never far removed from my actual stroke. Rarely would I perform a six-breath-single-arm-catch-up for 12x50m. Instead I am more likely to focus on ensuring I maintain my non stroking arm out front until my other hand exits the water during the repeats of a main set. Towards the end of a faster set I might shift my focus to ensuring I push through the end of each stroke to eliminate early pull outs when fatigued. That is how I combine maintaining and maybe improving technique for race specific training.

Overall the swimming isn't fancy. It could even be described as blue collar. It covers the basics. Has guidelines for progression and by recording times for most main sets I maintain a good dose of accountability.


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