The swim leg is often dismissed or underrated and this blog explains why I think you should give your swim the attention it deserves regardless of whether you are a fast swimmer. The benefits of swim sessions in contributing to fitness while preventing injury and promoting recovery should not be underestimated.
Swimming is a great way to recover after a big weekend of training sessions or a race. You get in the water and your muscles will thank you for loosening them up. You still tick those arms over and maintain a feel for the water even when you are not doing a high intensity session.
Swimming is a non-weight bearing activity. Even a high intensity swim is less of a strain on your body than a run or a ride. If you are swimming in the water rather than pounding the pavement or working your legs out going up a hills then it makes sense that that there is a reduced impact on your body. A swim in the pool is still a decent aerobic or higher intensity training session but with a lower risk of injury. If you are injury prone, swimming can be substituted in rather than a extra run/ride or weights session and with no adverse effects to your race results if planned correctly.
You can also regularly test your progress in swimming with time trialling without it having an impact on your training or your recovery.
I often hear athletes, dismiss the swim as “not important” or “I can’t swim well, so what is the point, I would rather concentrate my training on the ride and the run’ or “I’ll only be a few minutes behind on the swim so if I work harder on the ride or run, I will soon catch up to those that are better swimmers”.
I tell my less swim speedy athletes that they may not be fast (yet) but they can be the fittest athlete they can be at their current pace and this will equate to better overall race results. Don’t get me wrong, technique is critical but if we all waited until our technique was perfect, none of us would ever race.. In the meantime, we swim to the best of our fitness and keep on working on technique!
Swimming consistently will lead to swim fitness and natural pace gains. So you may not be as slow as you think! You just need to train regularly. As your swim fitness grows, you will be able to hold your form for longer and do those drills that you hate but are really good for you, each session.
You may be a terrific rider and runner and a poor swimmer but aren’t you better off getting out of the water slow but off the back of some consistent swim training so you can complete your better legs to the best of your ability? A fresher fitter swim means a faster bike and happier legs off the bike into the run which means a better overall time.
Contrast this with an athlete who does very little swim training. They come out of the water feeling exhausted and perhaps a bit ill. Regardless of how well they bike or run, they are going to be on the back foot if they are exhausted after struggling in the water. It is very hard to come back from that no matter how good a rider and runner they are.
Being swim fit gives you the opportunity to complete the best race possible, you don’t have to be a fast swimmer to benefit AND just because you are a fast swimmer it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to get in the pool either… Don’t train and that ride and run is going to hurt you too!
The moral of the story is, get swimming…. Be swim fit regardless of your swim speed.. Keep on working on your technique but make sure you train consistently.. There are three legs in triathlon and often the outcome of the last two will depend on how fit you are in the first one! Use the pool, not only for your training but for recovery and injury prevention.
Your body and your triathlon times will thank you for it!
See you in the pool!
Peta from Energise Coaching is a Triathlon Australia Development Coach and an Athletics Australia Intermediate Recreational Running Coach. She offers personalised training programs for triathlon/swimming/running, generic training plans and structured run sessions for all levels and abilities. Contact Peta and ask what she can do for you!