Calling Aussie Triathletes: there's tools to help you train smarter
If swimming raises your heart rate, help is at hand.... quite literally. Triathlon leaves no room for wasted energy so it is a good idea to look at the intention of every stroke. Imagine you are pressing water backwards with every stroke, which, thanks to that old rule from physics class - “every action has an equal and opposite reaction” - 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 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.
FINIS Agility Paddles are designed to help every swimmer fine tune their technique every time they swim. Unlike traditional paddles, the Agility Paddle is convex and doesn't have any straps. 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 to teach good technique.
The Agility Paddle is nothing short of genius, it even received a Reddot Design Award, but many swimmers opt for more conventional paddles because they don’t get the design and what it offers. The lack of a strap is it’s secret weapon. Keeping the paddle in place means maintaining perfect technique every time you train.
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 twice removed. Open water is often colder, almost always cloudy with chop or waves and there are no sides, ends or lines to keep things tidy.
If you find ocean swimming daunting, try using fins for extra flotation and a snorkel so there is air on tap while you build your confidence. Breathing in choppy water can be hard to adjust to and the Original Swimmers Snorkel will help remove some of that stress while you get the feel for swimming in different conditions.
Try to find 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.GO LONGER TO BE STRONGER
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
“Sighting” is where you lift your head 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 do 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.
Lift your arms out of the water on the stroke. Focus on clearing the water as you reach forward and keep your elbows high. This means a stroke that won’t be the same graceful one you sport in the pool but it will get you through chop and churn and that is what counts.
Kick, but only a little. It’s not that you need to kick hard or fast, but kicking helps create the body roll that is part and parcel of good swim rhythm. Sometimes in rougher race conditions there is a temptation to kick harder with a bigger range of motion - resist the urge! This will burn a lot of energy for little gain.
Whatever the race, stay strong and swim YOUR swim. See you at the FINIS line!