Every triathlete has their strong suit as well as a discipline that causes concern. If swimming raises your heart rate, help is at hand.... quite literally. There is no room for wasted energy in triathlon so it's a good idea to look at the intention of each stroke. Imagine you are pressing water backwards with every stroke. Thanks to that old rule from physics class - “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” - pushing water backwards means you will be pushed forwards. Looking at it this way hammers home how any hint of pushing down, up or to the side is wasted effort.
FINIS engineers equipment to help athletes improve technique and get more out of their training.You can fast track your technique with FINIS Freestyler Paddles. They are specifically designed for freestyle training. The patented skeg design provides instant stroke feedback so you can make improvements every time you swim. The design also reduces shoulder stress by preventing hand entry crossover that causes shoulder injury.
The FINIS Agility Paddle is designed to help every swimmer, no matter what level, fine tune their technique every time they swim with them. Unlike traditional paddles, the Agility Paddle is convex and doesn't have any straps. Many swimmers opt for more conventional paddles because they are unsure of the strapless design. The lack of a strap is in fact it’s secret weapon.
This paddle leaves no room for mistakes or excuses. The palm positive paddle will only remain in place if early vertical forearm position is maintained (commonly called “high elbow catch”) making it a golden tool for coaches to teach good technique. The Agility Paddle is truly nothing short of genius - it has even received the Reddot Design Award.
Another tool that can elevate training is the Tempo Trainer Pro. It's the secret weapon that fits in the palm of your hand - or more accurately, that fits underneath your swim cap.
This swimming metronome will "beep" your target stroke rate so you don't have to event think about it let alone count it out. Set the Tempo Trainer Pro and it can manage your stroke rate while you focus on more important things.
It makes every lap and stroke count by sitting underneath your swim cap and transmiting an audible tempo beep. Match the tempo and watch your training accelerate. There are three different training modes to select from and the tempo is fully adjustable by 1/100 of a second so you can customise your training programme.
Tools are one way to get race ready, developing the mindset to deal with open water swimming conditions is another. As Forest Gump's mum pointed out (nothing beats mums for solid advice) “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get” and the water will always keep you guessing.
Open water swimming is a distant relative of pool swimming - like a cheeky second cousin. Open water is older, almost always cloudy with chop or waves and there are no sides, ends or lines to keep things tidy.
GO LONGER TO BE STRONGER
Try to hit a rhythm similar to your training pace and get your reach going. Being able to stretch out and hit a familiar tempo is the point at which many experienced triathletes will say they feel like they settled into the race. If it doesn’t come, stay calm and focus on breathing. Aim for consistent, deep breaths in and out. If your breathing is relaxed, your body and mind will follow.
If your open water swim will be 800 meters, become good at swimming 1,000. Because there are no lanes and the pack can move off course, many open water swims end up being longer than the specified distance. Psychologically it also works wonders to know that you can easily do the race distance.
SIGHT YOUR TARGET
Swimmers struggle with how monotonous laps can be. Following the black line from one end to the other is taxing on the mind, body and soul. So you’d think it would be a blessing that swimming in open water scratches that persistent line but it also introduces the challenge of staying on course.
“Sighting” is where you lift your head periodically to fix on a point of reference. Most often that is a buoy in the water but veteran competitors swear a prominent landmark is far more helpful if there is one handy. The action isn’t natural and is out of step with stroke technique so it pays to practice.
It's also a good move to invest in a pair of good quality race goggles. Some swimmers swear by having brand new goggles on race days as they don’t fog as much as older ones. Bolt and Lightning competition goggles are comfortable, light, low drag designs that deliver fog-free vision and are built to withstand regular open water outings.
YOU NEED TO SWIM BEFORE YOU CAN RACE
It’s easy to let swimming technique slide when battling race nerves, conditions and the chaos of the pack. Try to block that out and focus on your form, breathing and tempo.
Keep your head down. You will need to pop up for sighting but don’t be afraid to put your face in the water and swim. It is the only way to have good swim posture and generate speed.