Tagged: swimming technique

3 Key Open Water Sighting Tips for Triathletes

Sighting is a seemingly small element of a long open water swim. However, when not performed well, poor sighting carries a significant cost. Watch the following video to see how much extra distance the highlighted swimmers go:

I coached at our team’s final open water practice of the season last weekend. It was a great session, with a lot of good, hard swimming done. However, in general the team’s sighting was poor. I watched them snake through the straight out-and-back course. I was secretly (and sadistically?) pleased as it made the workout longer but I recognize the need to correct their technique for race day.

My swimmers (and maybe you too?) have two key elements to correct:

1. Poor sighting technique

Poor form is tiring and inefficient.

  • One of the most common faults is lifting your head too long which expends energy and causes your feet to drop.
  • Not sighting within the rhythm of your stroke will cause a pause in momentum and break your cadence. Stop-start swimming is no fun.
  • Finally, don’t lift your head to sight just for the sake of it, lift and scan for your landmarks. Use it to make sure you are on course, or don’t sight, just swim normally. If you are swimming parallel to shore, there will be minimal use to lift your head up and to the front.

2. Not sighting regularly enough

  • The swimmers tended to sight too late, only to discover they had veered off track. It’s a trade-off (energy and rhythm) but sighting more frequently would have prevented them from swimming the extra yards.
Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!

Keep your head low while sighting in the open water!

 

Key tips for Open Water Sighting

  • Sighting Tip 1: scan the course pre-race for landmarks that are bigger and more obvious than the buoys, e.g. telecoms masts, distinctive buildings, boats (as long as they are not moving!), etc.Even though my fellow Coach’s guns are HUGE, it was tough to see them from the water. Swimmers had to work hard to spot him. At Coney Island beach on Saturday, rather than using Coach as the marker in the water, it would have been far easier and more effective to sight using one of the huge buildings behind him on the beach.
  • Sighting Tip 2: Incorporate sighting into the rhythm of your stroke. Lift your head only enough to spot your landmark and throw your head into the breath and next stroke.
  • Sighting Tip 3: Sight regularly, but not too often. It all depends on how ‘straight’ a swimmer you are and how much you trust yourself.  Somewhere between 3 and 12 strokes is the norm. Experiment in training to find what works best for you and your internal compass.

Review the Swim Smooth video above that clearly shows how far you can go off course if your sighting is off. Be sure to practice a little before your next race(s). You get no points for swimming extra distance!

Keri-Anne-Payne-open-water-swim-Beijing-2008_1127785 Olympic Open Water, A Seminal Event About To Occur openwaterswimmingnews

Keri-Anne Payne’s crocodile eyes – head barely out of the water

Photo credits: Flying Cloud & http://www.openwaterswimming.com/
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31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence #25: Kick!

Woah! How is it February already? Time really does fly, reminding me of the urgency to do what I can to get faster and stronger in the time that I have. In order to maximize performance gains I try to focus on efficiency and effectiveness in my training.

“31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence” is a series of tips you can apply in your daily triathlon training in order to kick your performance to the next level, without any inordinate expense in time or money. They are small, focused tips but require application in order to make them habits.

With one month down so far this year, what are you doing to improve your performance? What tips would you add to the list? How are you going to reach your goals?

Today is #25: Kick!

Work on your kick to improve your swimming for triathlon - and your bike & run

Kick past your rivals! (2thin2swim’s Flickr)

In swimming for triathlon, the goal is NOT to kick in order to save our legs for the bike and run legs. Swim efficiently, use your upper body to power through the water and let your legs trail behind.

As a result, most triathletes never work on their kick.

That makes sense, but the kick is a very important part of the stroke.

  1. An efficient kick will help with streamlining and body rotation as well as helping propel us forward. At the very least, a good kick and streamline kick will minimise drag and prevent us slowing down.
  2. Kicking also provides a great warmdown and recovery set after a long a long run, by helping eliminate lactic acid in the muscles. The days when I jump in the pool and do 500m easy swim and kick after a tough run, my legs feel infinitely better the next day.
  3. When I was a swimmer cycling really helped my kicking in the pool. In the same vein, working on my kick more regularly has helped my run and cycling. I believe it helps maintain our range of motion and flexibility, particularly in the ankles. It also helps in a holistic manner those muscles that are under-used but provide support.

There are also several types of kicking you can do:

  • Freestyle
  • Backstroke
  • Breaststroke (front or back. Double-arm backstroke with breaststroke is a great warmdown drill)
  • Butterfly (front or back – fly kick on your back is a great ab workout!)
  • Kicking on side (great drill for hip rotation)

You can do it as part of a warm-up (100m kick), a kick-specific set (6×50), incorporate it into a main set (300m swim with every 3rd length fast kick) or swim down (200m easy).

There are plenty of options  so grab a board and work that kick.

“31 Easy Tips” thus far:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!
#20: Do LESS Freestyle
#21: Grind it Out on the Foam Roller
#22: Engage Your Core
#23: Don’t Break the Bank!
#24:
 Be Persistent and Patient (Like Skyscraper Builders)

31 Easy Tips to Sporting Excellence: #20 Do LESS Freestyle

How is the “31 Easy Tips…” series treating you? I hope it is helping. Implement one or two things from the list (don’t try to do too much) over the course of a few weeks and track your progress.

Today’s tip is #20: Do LESS Freestyle

Phelps is a world class in breaststroke as well as his traditional fly and free, which helps his all-round game

Yes, you read that correctly – do LESS freestyle!

Most triathletes swim freestyle and only freestyle, given that it is the fastest stroke. Fair enough.

However, experimenting with the other three strokes will benefit your swimming in a number of ways:

  • Give your freestyle-specific joints and muscles a break and avoid overuse injuries
  • Make your swim practices more interesting
  • Develop your non-freestyle muscles (e.g. strengthen your legs doing breaststroke)
  • Give you options in a race should you need to switch strokes – take a breather, fix your goggles, etc.
  • Up the intensity in the pool by adding butterfly
  • Give you confidence in your overall swimming ability by mastering the ‘other’ strokes
  • Maybe counter-intuitively, a strong kick can help with sighting in open water as you can use it to get your head out of the water and maintain forward progress

Try adding a mix of the different strokes in the warm up and warm down, and go from there. Your freestyle muscles will thank you!

Previous tips in the 31 Easy Tips series include:

#1: Drink Water First Thing in the Morning
#2: Write Down Your Goals (Now!)
#3: Ask an Expert
#4: Start Stretching
#5: Track your progress towards your Goals
#6: Take a Cold Shower
#7: Incorporate Drills into your Workouts
#8: Superfoods for Superperformance
#9: Get Some Rest
#10: Cross train
#11: Reward Yourself
#12: Don’t Breathe in the Pool
#13: Take a Bath
#14: Do Squat!
#15: Get Yourself a Mentor
#16: Do Yoga
#17: Be on Time
#18:  Leave Your Bucket of Troubles at the Door
#19: Stay Healthy!

This Video Speaks For Itself

This video of Sun Yang is an example of excellent swimming technique. When it comes to technique, this is the goal.

His swim stroke is long, smooth & powerful like Alexander Popov‘s (a sprinter!), and his finish is immense.

Just today he qualified fastest for the 1500m Olympic final, and is looking good for Olympic Gold in London.

Worth watching – and replicating! When it comes to swimming for triathletes if you can swim efficiently like this, you will preserve so much energy, and outperform *supposedly* stronger athletes.

I came across the video on this great blog: Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ).

Swimming for Triathletes: Bilateral Breathing

Bilateral breathing is often under-rated, but it is a key component of swimming for triathletes. It is fine to have a stronger side, but do incorporate bilateral breathing into your workouts for open water swimming.

open water swimming breathing tips for triathlon

Three reasons you should practice your bilateral breathing:

1) Balance your stroke

Just like writing, people naturally have a stronger side when it comes to swimming, and are biased towards breathing to that side. That is perfectly fine, and stick to your preferences when racing, but practice breathing to both sides when you’re training. This will balances out both sides of your stroke and ensure you are equally strong on both sides.

2) Race day skills

If you happen to be swimming beside someone who is super splashy you will want to breathe to the opposite if you don’t want to be swallowing water every breath. Being able to breathe bilaterally will allow you to switch sides and breathe towards calmer waters. You can also track your rivals while racing – there will be no hiding for them! Give yourself options.

3) Open water navigation

Bilateral breathing will allow you to sight to both sides and ensure you are swimming in a straight line. For example, if you are swimming parallel to the shore on your left, but you breathe only to the right, you will miss out on easy sighting. Practice breathing to both sides and reduce the number of times you need to lift your head to sight forwards.

How to add bilateral breathing to your swimming

Add bilateral breathing to your swimming gradually. Breathing every three strokes can be tough on the lungs so increase it gradually.

Start with breathing to the left for one length, then breathe to the right only for one length. This will get you used to your form when breathing to both sides while swimming.

Next, add some breathing to your weaker side every 5th stroke: breathe every two as normal, and then on the 5th breath take three strokes and breathe to your weaker side before switching back to your stronger side. When that becomes comfortable increase the number of times per length that you breathe bilaterally.

To increase your bilateral breathing further, add it every fourth length, then every 3rd, then every second length, until you can breathe bilaterally continuously during a long swim. Here is a great video on how to add bilateral breathing.

Breathing to your weaker side may throw your stroke off and feel weird at first but persevere, it will soon become second nature. You will be glad of this skill when you hit the open water and on race day.