Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Triathlon Training: Taking a Swimming Class

Happy Tuesday!  A couple of weeks ago I talked about my triathlon training plan so today I thought I'd delve into a class I took to prepare for the swimming portion of the triathlon, which will certainly be my weakest sport of the three.

I took years of swimming lessons as a child and grew up going to the lake so I am very comfortable in the water.  However, all of my swimming has been recreational, so I decided to take a class to work on my endurance and swimming technique.  I took a triathlon swimming class at my local YWCA which taught us the Total Immersion approach to swimming.  I'm still new to it so I can't really succinctly explain what it means, but my take away is that it helps improves your efficiency and form.

Here are some of the main takeaways I got from this class:

1.  I learned an efficient stroke technique for the front crawl.  Since I took many swim classes as a child, I knew how to do the front crawl, but I can't say I was efficient at it.  At this class the instructor gave us a lot of feedback on our stroke and helped us improve our technique.  The class was extremely technique centric so the first 3 out of 6 classes were not exactly a "good workout" as we'd focus on one aspect of the stroke for 25 meters, get feedback, focus on another aspect of the stroke for 25 meters, get feedback, etc.  She also took videos of us individually at two different classes so we could see what our stroke looked like.

2.  More strokes doesn't necessarily = sustainable speed.  In my mind I thought that I would get further by taking more strokes, but that is not really the case (at least for me - I am sure that it's different for strong/seasoned swimmers).  By taking the class I learned that power/speed comes from using your entire body, especially your core.  My goal is to get through the swim and have enough energy for the bike and run so it was helpful to learn that I could slow down my stroke, improve my form, and still finish in a shorter amount of time than I would have if I had just increased my strokes/minute.

3.  The tempo trainer is my friend.  For those unfamiliar with a tempo trainer, this is what it is:

The tempo trainer is basically a metronome that you can put in your swim cap.  I HATED practicing piano with a metronome when I was a kid but it turns out that I love swimming with one. It makes me feel so much more calm and in control and it helps me control my breathing as I breath on the beeps.  Plus it keeps me from rushing my stroke speed.  You are allowed to use these on race day.

I'm so glad that I took this class as I feel much more prepared for the swim portion of the triathlon.  And if nothing else, it motivated me to get into the water once a week in the early portion of triathlon training and since swimming is the least convenient of the three sports BY FAR, it helped to have that motivation!

Did you take swim classes as a child?  Are you a strong swimmer? 


Gracie said...

I just took adult swimming lessons myself - but just to learn the basics. I'm still pretty shaky, but it was a safety thing I felt I had to do.

Jeanie said...

Never heard of the tempo trainer. I suppose for tri it makes a difference. I just love to be in the water. Right now can't swim with my right arm due to PT (can't bring it over my head for crawl/backstroke) -- but the left is getting a work out!

missris said...

I took swim lessons every summer for years as a kid but like you, I mostly did recreational swimming until a few years ago when I started swimming for exercise. I haven't done much of that in the last year or so, partially because the pool at D's school is closed for renovations and we don't have another (free) pool we can use. I like the metronome idea a lot though! I've used that some for running and it's soooo helpful.

Stephany said...

I don't think I would call myself a strong swimmer, but I know the basics. I can't remember when I learned to swim but I was probably around 4? It's really a safety thing when you grow up in Florida! And I was pretty fearless in the water when I was a kid. I do love swimming as a workout, but it's not convenient for me (unless I use the pool at my apartment complex...) I'd also really love to take a swimming class to learn how to do the different strokes better. My back stroke is laughably bad!

Amber said...

Not only did I take swim lessons throughout my whole childhood and swim on the swim team I was also a lifeguard/swim instructor for about 5 years and that was my job in the summer between university! So yes I would consider myself a pretty strong swimmer. Despite all of that I still got very anxious during the open water swim portion of the triathlon I did so I think it's great you did this swimming class and also have been practicing lots of open water swims!

Marlys said...

I remember Abby complaining about the triathlon swim event because she said she got kicked and swam over by the over zealous swimmers and it scared her! Hope that doesn't happen for you!
I think it is great that you are taking these classes and what you learned in your youth wasn't much compared to what they are teaching you in this class!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I took swimming lessons as a kid, and we had a pool until I was 7 years old (my parents ran a summer camp, and our house was at the camp). I am a decent swimmer, but not strong enough to do a triathlon.

Carolina John said...

I love TI and use some of those techniques regularly. TI and what the swim coaches will teach you is to move through the water more efficiently. Rocking side to side, driving shoulders and hips, feeling the body level with the top of the water (think about dry butt cheeks) will all make you more efficient. Triathlon is all about balancing between the 3 sports, so you want to finish the swim with enough energy to ride. If you finish riding with jello legs, your run time is going to be horrible.

Try counting how many strokes it takes to get across the pool. Most pools are 25 yards long, and a year ago I needed 17 to 19 strokes to get across. Now it's more like 12-14 so I'm really flying.

Abby said...

I have never heard of using the metronome for swimming! What a neat concept! This sounds like a great class!! Wish I had that! I swam on the masters team from June-November last year, and while it was an INCREDIBLE workout - I learned very little on technique! Our coach was move of a pusher. But I will say I still learned a lot with the drills.

Still never learned how to bi-lateral breath! Urk! Can you do that?

Jenny said...

I'm a terrible swimmer - I was once used as an example of what not to do in high school swim class - mortifying! I did take a short course of classes as an adult because I thought about doing a try-a-tri and I certainly improved my front crawl but nowhere close to being efficient!

Your class sounds really good and beneficial and that metronome thing is a cool idea! Thanks for sharing your experience!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

I loved swimming as a kid! I really need to get Isla in lessons but I keep putting it off. The last few years I did it I focused on form and I would like to get back to that!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't know there's so much to know about swimming. I wanted to take swimming lessons as a child but my hometown was so little that there wasn't anything like that available. Sadly.

Keep up the great training. It's so amazing!

Stella Hammond said...

I regularly run and cycle but have never been much of a swimmer. I have recently been thinking about taking up the challenge of doing a triathlon so I read your blog with interest. I think that I would need to relearn my swimming technique if I want to be able to swim faster and for longer periods of time.

Stella Hammond @ Palm City Pools