Poor swimmers or new swimmers will often make the wrong choice when it comes to their swim training options. These incorrect choices usually result in poor swimmers remaining poor swimmers, even though they are training hard and logging swim hours.
How many of these logical swim choice errors have you ticked off?
Swimming only accounts for about 10% of the triathlon so that is how much of my time I will swim train.
This sounds logical enough. However, every single top-level triathlon coach completely disagrees with you. All top-level coaches including Siri Lindly, Brett Sutton and the majority of Training Peaks coaches will usually allocate an average of about 20-25% of their training time to swimming.
There are many reasons extra time is dedicated to swimming. First, is that swimming is an ideal recovery session. Swimming also builds your aerobic engine, which is what all triathletes need, regardless of their chosen triathlon distance. Swimming also works as the perfect brick session with other sports.
If I can improve my biking or running I will make a bigger overall improvement to my total time.
This is another seemingly logical decision. The truth of the matter is quite different. If you can swim a half-ironman 5 minutes quicker and get out of the water fresher you will be cycling with groups that are better cyclists. Cycling with these better groups will let you cycle faster and use less energy to do so.
Because you are cycling with better and faster cyclists you will not need to spend your energy catching and passing every rider in front of you. You can just focus on your own riding.
Because you have been able to ride more conservatively you are now able to run at your potential. You can now use your run training and put together a solid running race at the end of the triathlon. Thus your bike and run race times will improve because you improved your swim.
I’m not a good swimmer so I will join a swim squad to get better
Again, sounds logical. However, squad swimming can be the worst possible environment
to improve your swim. To swim faster you need to improve your technique. To learn any technique or skill you must learn it slowly first.
Instead you will likely settle into a pace that will reinforce your poor swim technique. You will swim more laps with poor technique. This will simply reinforce your poor stroke.
I am training for a long race so I will swim long
Many poor swimmers feel like they need to swim long distances. They see their friends and training partners swimming two and three kilometer sessions and believe that by doing the same they will swim better.
Unfortunately as they swim longer their technique worsens. So they end up swimming longer and longer with poor technique. Further reinforcing the slow, bad form swimming.
Check out these great short swim sessions focused on technique:
It is so important to develop your different pace levels. Most poor swimmers fail to comprehend the value or the purpose of having different pace levels in their armory. As such they swim every lap of every session at the same slow pace and then wonder why they can't get any faster.