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What are Some Swim Workouts for Triathletes?

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  • Written By: Micki Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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Swim workouts often play a vital role for triathletes. The swimming portion of a triathlon is usually the first of three events, followed by cycling and running. Swim distance varies by type of triathlon, including sprint, half-Ironman, Olympic, and Ironman. An important aspect of swimming in a triathlon is teaching one’s body to work efficiently, saving energy while moving further, faster. Swim workouts for triathletes often follow a plan lasting at least 12 weeks to achieve optimal results. There are three main categories of swim workouts on which triathletes normally focus: the technique workout, the speed workout, and the endurance workout.

Technique workouts or drills may help form. Over time, this training could translate to the efficiency in movement, which can be very helpful to triathletes. Most triathletes prefer the freestyle stroke and, sometimes, the backstroke during races to save leg muscles for the cycling and running events. These styles also require less space in the crowded water. For technique workouts, most swimmers start with a series of six to eight 50-meter swims, focusing on the form of the stroke and kicks. Counting the number of strokes required for each per pool length and striving to decrease this count can help improve efficiency and speed. If swim form starts falling apart, slowing down may help. Resting for 30 seconds between each swim is recommended, especially at the beginning. Increasing the length and number of these technique drills as race day approaches can help a triathlete prepare.

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Speed or “interval” swim workouts for triathletes are intended to improve pace over time. Many swimmers start with six to eight 50-meter swims. The first 25 meters are normally at a hard pace, meaning as fast as possible, followed by a 25-meter swim at a moderate pace. Resting for 30 seconds between drills is recommended. Some swimmers end workouts with three to four 100-meter swims at a constant, moderate to fast pace. Training swimmers normally try to ensure the 50-meter and 100-meter swims are timed consistently; sprinting for the first swim or two and then falling far behind may not help a swimmer improve. As training progresses, swimmers typically try to decrease the time for each 50- and 100-meter swim, increase the number of swims per workout, and decrease rest time between swims.

Endurance swim workouts for triathletes are meant to enable one to swim further without growing tired. A consistent, moderate pace is typically the best way to approach endurance workouts. Most swimmers start with 300-meter swims, with a minute of rest in between and aim to cover about 1,500 meters total. As training progresses, increasing the distance of each swim every week by 50 to 100 meters and decrease rest periods between swims can help athletes improve.

Swim workouts for triathletes consist of varied distances and paces, which depend on the type of triathlon; sprint distances typically require less endurance work than Ironman distances, for example. However, three swim workouts per week — alternating between technique, speed and endurance — with a day of rest in between workouts is generally the most popular way to improve swim skills before the big race. Swimmers also should remember to warm up and cool down to help prevent injury.

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Laotionne
Post 4

@Sporkasia - There are sometimes so many swimmers close to one another and fighting for position that it is almost impossible to find a comfortable swimming stroke and stick to it. You need a way to simulate these conditions when you are training.

Sporkasia
Post 3

I think the article hits the nail on the head when it talks about the need to be efficient with your swimming stroke during a triathlon. You want to get the most out of your stroke without over exerting yourself. This can be particularly difficult to do when you are in the water and trying to out swim the competition.

You want to remember that you don't have to win this first stage. You just have to keep yourself in the running until you reach your stronger stages where you can makeup the time you lose in the water.

Drentel
Post 2

@Feryll - I have never run a triathlon, but you might want to consider hydrating more before the first stage of the race. When you are riding the bike and when you are running you can take drinks along the route to help keep your body hydrated.

The same can't be said of the swimming stage of the race. During the swimming you are unable to get a drink, so it makes sense that this is when your body is more likely to become short of liquids. And once you start to dehydrate and cramp you're probably too far gone to recover.

Feryll
Post 1

I really enjoy biking and I have been a good distance runner since I was a little kid. As you can see, I have two of the three triathlon stages under control. However, the swimming is very tough for me. It's not that I am not a decent swimmer. I am a good swimmer, but triathlon swimming exhausts my body.

The swim section of a triathlon takes so much out of me that by the time I get to the final stage, my muscles are revolting. I start cramping up before I get half way into the run.

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