The swim leg of the triathlon.
Still a huge source of frustration for many triathletes.
And understandably so.
For swimming is by far the most difficult of the three tri-sports to improve upon. For some there is a genuine fear of the water. Others never learned as children and are swimming for the first time. And there are many who can swim forever, but never seem to get any faster.
Fortunately, the fundamentals of swimming and the drills used to help improve one’s freestyle still remain the same and are still used today with enormous success.
One of the main reasons why swimming continues to be a source of frustration throughout the sport of triathlon is due to a real shortage in swim coaches. Most of us are forced to fend for ourselves and swim alone. And most of us who do not come from a strong swimming background, do not have the knowledge and experience to create workouts that will help improve our swimming technique and speed.
Putting the Swim Leg in Perspective
Furthermore, most triathletes only spend an average of three days per week in the pool swimming an average of about 1500-3000 yards/meters or 30-60 minutes per workout. And while that is ample to time to improve stroke technique and swim speed, in no way will it ever match that of the “ex –swimmer” swimming next to you who spent most of his/her life swimming twice a day, 5 days per week, averaging around 5000 yards per workout…year around!
Therefore, it is important to keep things in perspective, to understand that improvement does not have to be drastic to be successful, and that like any sport, improvement in swimming is a slow building process requiring a little intelligence, patience, discipline, and good ol’ fashioned hard work.
So DO NOT get frustrated when that “ex-swimmer” swimming next to you blows by you during a workout. Because, the chances are, you will never be able to keep pace with him/her. Nor, should you try! Keep your goals realistic and keep your swimming as simple as possible. Remember, we are training for a triathlon, not a swimming event.
Wonderfully, freestyle and all that is associated with swimming this stroke, hasn’t changed that much over the years. Yes, competitive swimmers are getting faster and may incorporate a few tricks of the trade into their stroke to gain an edge (ie…underwater dolphin kick when pushing off the wall).
Below we will discuss four very basic and simple freestyle drills the WILL make you swim faster and that you can do on your own. These drills have been used for years and with tremendous success. And if you ask any top high school or collegiate swim coach you will discover, they too will use some or all of these drills at some point during their workouts and training season.
The drills are presented in “building block” order. However, you can pick and choose whichever drill you wish to use based on your own needs. I do recommend incorporating some or all of these drills into your regular swim regimen.
The four drills we will be discussing below are:
View any of the four drills:
Thumb to Thigh
Touch and Go (aka Catch-up Stroke)
Balance and Rotation
IMPORTANT NOTE: I suggest using fins while learning to perform these drills correctly. The fins will help ease the stress of kicking and allow you to focus on the specific drills. I do not recommend using a pull buoy however.