Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easy swimming

I'm not a real swimmer, just a mid-pack age-grouper who had to learn how to swim freestyle, because I wanted to be able to finish Ironman triathlons safely and comfortably.

My best time for the 3,800 meters is 56 minutes and 22 seconds (with a wetsuit, in Challenge Roth which might well be the fastest course in the world).

Top guys may swim good 10 minutes faster, but it's really a no-brainer as the options for me seem to come down to these two: 
  • swim comfortably in 56+ mins and save energy for the 180 km bike and the marathon run, or
  • try swimming under 56 mins and totally cook myself before the ultralong race really begins!    
My main swimming goals are: 
  • effectiveness: how to get good enough to get the 3,800 meters done, with as few swim training miles and trips as possible, and
  • economy: the more relaxed one can feel and the more energy one can save for the bike and run portions of the race, the better. 
Many of us can't have a personal swim coach. Books and videos are the second best option, but the problem is that there are so many of them available. I have gone through tons of them, and I'm going to reveal below which ones have been the most helpful for me.

Triathlon Swimming Made Easy: The Total Immersion Way for Anyone to Master Open-Water Swimming is a must-have for triathletes. It is all about how to swim easy, focusing on your technique. Previously I thought all I need is speed and endurance, but the book totally changed my attitude. It really helped me to improve and there are two ways that one can measure the improvement accurately:
  • lower heart rate (this requires a HR monitor that works under water)
  • fewer strokes per pool length (this you can easily count yourself and write the numbers down after the workout).
By the way, you can read chapters 1-3 and 9 for free here.

Freestyle: Made Easy is one of the best instructional swimming videos I've seen. It's also based on Terry Laughlin's Total Immersion method, and there are lots of free video samples on the website.

I spent the whole morning in the pool today, doing nothing but these easy exercises - and visiting the sauna frequently to stay warm. Remember: easy does it!  

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