I’ve been coaching for some time now, and I’ve had great success taking existing athletes and creating great swimmers within six weeks. This is predominantly true with triathlon hopefuls. I’ve also had success in cross training athletes for their primary sports, examples are high elevation climbers, and fighters. My greatest accomplishments are helping the non-swimmers become swimmers, make their goals, and thrive in a lifetime sport. I’m at a place with my class where I have all of the above, and although it’s challenging to design a multifaceted board, I’ve learned a couple of tricks over the years. These tricks also increase the validity of pool training for open water swimming and are integral to my personal training program. Some of these are mainstays in the swimming world such as interval training, but I’m going to share with you some of my shortcuts. Then the hard part, IE motivation is up to you, but as a coach, I can provide that.
Pressure the lungs
So much of this comes down to breathing, and swimming is one sport where taking breathing for granted is impossible. Fact, in any given breath the human body is functioning on 17% of the oxygen in our lungs. This is great news for a swimmer because air is buoyancy. Getting to a point where you can retain 80% of the buoyancy in your lungs, and only cycle off the top 20% of the air in your lungs to obtain the oxygen that you actually use is a great advantage. In doing this, you increase your O2 saturation, VO2 max, and increase your ATP regeneration real time. If there is one thing you do in the off season to make an impact on your Open Water Swim season it’s to pressure your lungs.
Keep your full length
A lot of people hit the weight room in the off season, and this is exactly what you want to do if you’re are in an anaerobic sport. Swimming is an aerobic sport, and one where muscle mass makes you prone to drowning IE (fat floats, muscle sinks). The down side to the weight room is your body often tightens up via your facia, and you loose stretch. This can take a couple of weeks to loosen up while getting back into to the pool. I’m proposing that you increase the resistance in the pool, and gain your muscle there. That way you are still keeping pressure on the lungs, and staying loose, or at least packing muscle in the pool environment.
Both of the next two focus on building up the minor muscles necessary for swimming.
Up the resistance – Banding
This last year I introduced fitness bands into my personal workouts. I’ve used them in two primary ways; ankle banding in kick sets in place of fins. Cutting propulsion while creating resistance in the ankles has proven itself formidable in leg, and kick strength. Banding in the center of your quads does a couple of things, it pressures your IT Band shortening your reach. This causes you to overreach, and pull a little higher. The other piece is it forces rotation in your hips, making your breathing line more efficient over time. Once the band is removed the reach and rotation remain, and you become more efficient.
Pressure the core – Sculling
Sculling looks like the easiest thing to do in the water, but is also known as lifting weights in the water due to its aerobic qualities. My base is called bathtub, and you sit in the water; toes, and head are the only parts of you out of the water. You then move head first towards the opposite side of the pool. Most new students will move their arms flapping them somewhat like a chicken, because they are still fighting buoyancy (See pressure the lungs). Once things begin to come together the buoyancy becomes more automatic, and the movement required to scull gets more efficient.
Swim with waves – Masters
Swim with a group that makes waves. If you don’t’ have a group, share a lane. You can also swim sets near your local Butterflier. Finding a wave, and trying to breath keeps you ready for open water.
Spot the clock
If there is a deck clock available in your facility, spotting the clock while swimming is a good way to keep track of your pace, and also preparing for spotting buoys and corners. If you can read a clock while swimming, you can spot a buoy.
Change it up
You can also get most of this section with a Masters group. Change it up: Mix up your intervals between distance and sprint sets. Add in kicks and sculling.
Learn to kick
So many open water hopefuls are in a three beat or wide scissor kick. This is a challenge because those kick lines give you little for propulsion, and are generally outside of your natural streamline creating resistance. Taking the off season to grab a board, band your ankles and get the strength and rhythm necessary to kick in open water gives you great advantage in the regular season.
These will all make your off season training that much more impactful when you get back to the lake river or ocean. Happy swimming, and if you are looking for an open water race check out the Midwest Marathons. We have many options, including SwamThat, Cornhusker State Games, End Wet, and Minnetonka Challenge.
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