You know that old sayings: “Work smarter, not harder” and “changing is hard”? I think these saying ring especially true in the winter season for triathletes. I think that most triathletes would agree that changing is hard and would like to work smarter not harder, but unfortunately I don’t think many triathletes believe it enough to influence their actions/training in the off season.
Humans are creatures of habit. We love getting into our routine and getting comfortable. Triathletes take that to the extreme by making certain days of the week swim days, or bike days, or cross training days. Or, even worse, triathletes get stuck doing the same old workouts day after day, week after week, and year after year, and then expect better results. Aimlessly logging miles for the sake of logging miles (which I think the club challenge by USAT triathlon over the winter months encourages to do. Ironically, at the same time, USAT sends out several emails to work on form, strength/conditioning etc. over the winter season). This is not only asking for injuries, but it also the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results). So, I’m challenging all my readers to stop repeating the same routine as years past, but slow down and get faster this winter, like the Lakeside Seahawks have done with me last month.
About a month ago, the coaches at Lakeside Seahawks Senior group (Nate, Gord, and Lee) stopped us from doing 100’s and 200’s for about 30 minutes and worked with us on form. The drill they had us do was to body balance in the water and then hang our arms at the elbows over the lane lines then pull the water to bring our body to the other side of the lane. Sounds silly, right? I thought so too. But at this point, I’ve learned to trust that everything we do in practice (whether I know why we are doing it or not) has a good reason behind it. That drill… that simple drill, finally made things click that we have done in several over drills in the last year I’ve swam with them. Everything clicked and I was instantly faster because I slowed down, worked on technique and listened to the coach’s advice and guidance.
Then just last week, they were doing underwater video taping for kids. The kids were doing starts from the block and analyzing their entry into the water and efficiency of their dolphin kick. I approached Nate and asked him to video my stroke from under water at the end of practice and give me a couple pointers. I waited around for about 15 minutes, and then it was my turn.
Nate saw things I would have never seen to improve my stroke even more. He told me I was over rotating in the hips and shoulders. He told me the hips should only rock back and forth every so slightly like in running (he has found that comparing things to running for me helps me understand better) and that my shoulder rotation should only be about 30 degrees. This would allow everything from the shoulders down the core and into the hips to act as one and provide a lot more power.
The next swim I completed I had to do on my own because I couldn’t make it to swim practice with the Seahawks due to plans that evening. I focused on what Nate told me to work on. Swimming slow at first getting the feel for the change. Then slowly increasing the effort. I eventually worked down to what felt like race pace and did several 100’s. Just a few months ago, I would average about 1:18-1:19/100 meters. Now, with a little tweak in my stroke, I’m holding 1:15/100 meters at the same effort. Those 3-4 seconds will really add up over the course of a 1.2 or 2.4 mile swim. Plus with drafting off faster guys in open water, I could probably hold 1:12-1:13.
I’m really looking forward the 2015 season. This change will definitely make a different. I think this will be a game changer not only for the swim, but also for the bike. I will now be able to get out of the water with the faster swimmers and bikers and be able to pace off them.