Kindly contributed by Valentina De Pascale.
Swimming is a highly technical sport and without the help of a coach it can be very tough to understand weaknesses and what we need to improve on, however there are a lot of things that we can do to support ourselves and make our lives easier and our swim better.
Learning how to structure a session and understanding why we structure them like this, can really make the difference in your swimming effectiveness.
First things first... let’s talk about the warm-up. It is wise to warm up by the pool side or by the lake before every swim session, not only because triathletes rarely have the possibility of a pre-race in water warm-up as not many race organisers allow us to jump in the water to swim before the race starts but also because it prepares our muscles and joints for the specific movements that swimming requires.
Practicing a warm-up routine before each swim is going to help structure your sessions better, help you recognise when the warmup should end before a race and if you keep the same warm-up all the time you are going to save yourself valuable mental energy needed for other Tri-matters.
A few tips for your warm on pool side/dry land:
- Never stretch statically.
- Do dynamic stretches and accelerate speed and the range of motion slowly.
- Check shoulders and hips mobility, remember that swimming is not only about our upper body but about hips rotation as well.
- Start with a few minutes of exercises like hip rotations on the floor, hip bends, arms swings, hip circles, leg swings and then start adding a light resistance (you can find lots of cheap resistance bands options online). Gradually add core exercises like plank, low plank kicks and superman. End the warm-up on pool side with a light run, star jumps or my favourite exercise to have more blood circulating in the muscles, walkouts.
- For beginners, I would also add some specific breathing exercises when doing superman to understand what happens in our lungs when we don’t empty them properly whilst swimming. The upper body creates a balloon inside our lungs when we inhale and it deflates it when we exhale, but if we don’t exhale properly, we create more drag that can slow us down, we increase muscle tension in the upper body (neck, shoulders, arms) and we lose technique.
After doing this, jump in the water and start swimming slowly by moving the joints through their full range of movements to loosen them up with different swim styles, do a few lengths of kicks as well. Focus could be on lengthening the body, bilateral breathing or improving specific technical needs. After that, it is the right time to do specific drills to fix technique issues if you have them.
It’s very important to understand that the overuse of drills or doingdrills without knowing why we do them, can be detrimental to the body position in the water and overall technique. Everyone falls into a specific swimming category as everyone has a different body, different swimming background and different injuries history.
A good thing to do in your spare time is to check the different swimming categories created by “swim smooth” and find which option is more similar to the way you swim. Once you know your category, it’s easier to understand what kind of drills you have to do to improve your technique when you don’t have a coach. On top of that, it would be great to find a friend/partner to take a video of you whilst swimming to make the process easier.
Once the two warm-ups are done, the focus of the main set of the session could be purely based on technique or could be either strength, speed or endurance. Each of these are based on what phase of your training you are in as well. After you have done your main set of your session, it’s important to slow down to allow the body temperature to cool down, especially after hard sessions. It enhances recovery and prevents against injuries.
- WARM-UP ON DRY LAND
- WARM-UP IN THE WATER followed by a few drills (if they are necessary).
- MAIN SET based on the aim of the session: STRENGTH, SPEED, ENDURANCE or
- TECHNIQUE (you can find lots of sessions online, tri magazines, you-tube or through coaches).
- COOL-DOWN in the water
Have a good and structured swim everyone! Feel free to send me questions on my Instagram @fuellingendurance or on my email: firstname.lastname@example.org