Monday, January 27, 2014

Triathletes and training the other strokes

Recently I was asked if triathletes should train the other strokes from time to time and my answer was YES!  Swimming is the most technical of the three sports in triathlon and requires the athlete to learn to be one with the water.  Often times you will hear coaches talking about "the feel" of the water and one way you can enhance this feel is by training the other strokes from time to time.  In case you don't know what those other strokes are they would be butterfly, backstroke and breastroke.  If you do those three strokes in order and then add the freestyle, you would then being doing an Individual Medley or IM for short.

Typically the best all round swimmer is usually the 400 IM champion at Nationals (yearly) World championships (every 2 years) and Olympics (every 4 years). Interesting note 400 IM in swimming is a combination of doing 4 different strokes the fasted and a IM distance triathlon is a combination of doing 3 different sports the fastest.  

Where to start? If you only know freestyle, then I suggest the next stroke you learn would be backstroke.

  • Great for recovery swimming between sets stretching out the chest and shoulder muscles.
  • Helps connect the core to the pull as your body rotates and shoulder shifts similar to freestyle
  • Teaches the swimmer to kick with long legs and loose ankles
  • In the open water sometimes 4-6 strokes on your back in a long swim will give your freestyle muscles just enough of a break to maintain a good solid pace when you roll back on your stomach.  Lastly, if you are swimming an ocean race and have to come thru surf to finish, you can roll on your back for a couple quick strokes to check the waves behind you and possibly catch a free ride into the beach.

If you are feeling good about your backstroke, then next up would be butterfly. 

  • The pull pattern is similar to freestyle except now you are pulling with both arms at the same time and your body is moving through the water in an undulating motion like a dolphin instead of rotating from side to side.
  • Great stroke for helping swimmers develop power when repeats are done in short increments like 4 strokes,  12 1/2 or 25 for advanced athletes that can hold form.
  • Using the undulating motion of butterfly is great for dolphin dives at the beginning of a swim (beach start or shallow water) and exiting the water. 
Breastroke rounds out the other strokes.  A challenging stroke to teach as there are different ways to swim this stroke and swimmers knee, hip and ankle range of motion will determine the best kick.

  • Great for loosening up the hips, knees and ankles.
  • Because of the difference in the kicking motion, be careful when swimming breastroke and make sure you are warmed up before trying any harder kicking. 
  • The arm pull on breastroke outsweep and insweep, is a great way to enhance feel for the water and really give the forearms a good workout.

A simple set you can do to incorporate the other strokes would be 3 rounds of

4 x 25 Stroke
1 x 200 Free

The first round the stroke is butterfly, round two backstroke and round 3 breastroke.  As you progress you can bump up to 6 or 8 x 25's before the 200.

Not only does training the other strokes help feel for the water, it gives the freestyle muscles a break which may help decrease potential injuries from overuse.  Plus, it is a great way to add variety to a work out and keep the heart rate elevated as changing strokes and muscles groups frequently will challenge any athlete.

Have fun with it and don't be afraid to try something new in the pool the next time you go for a swim.

Make it a great week,
Coach Eric

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bike Workout + Time Crunched = Tempo Time

Cruiser bike works good in snow with tires at about 10psi

I decided to stay with the cycling theme after last week as many people are having to ride indoors this time of year.  Multisport athletes are usually time crunched between the training and everything else that occupies there waking day.  So, when time is short, get some bang for your buck with some tempo work.  Tempo pace is what I like to call "comfortably hard".  You are working but it is something you could sustain if needed for close to 60 minutes.

Here is a great workout I like that takes about 60-65 minutes depending on how long you cool down.

Warm up 5 minutes easy spinning focussing on smooth pedal strokes

3 minutes alternating 
20 seconds single leg right
20 seconds single leg left
20 seconds spin up to 100+ Cadence
repeat 2 more times.

Main set
1 x 10 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
2 1/2 minute easy spin
2 x 8 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 4 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between

5-10 min cool

That works out to 38 minutes of tempo pace work during the session.  The goal is not to go harder on the shorter repeats, but just hold a good steady pace.  A progression from this after 3-4 weeks may have you going

Main set
1 x 15 min Tempo (use first 3-4 minutes to build up to that then hold)
3 minute easy spin
2 x 10 minutes Tempo
2 minute easy spin between each
3 x 5 minutes Tempo
1 minute easy spin between

The training benefits from tempo work on the bike as well as running and swimming will continue to teach the athlete how to properly pace themselves.  Learning to measure ones effort for a workout is critical to getting the most out of each session.  For example, some days 6:30 pace running may come at  an easy effort other days, it is a monumental effort.  Or cycling if using power you know some days cycling at or near FTP comes easier than other days.  So, learning to measure your perceived effort for that particular day is critical because that is all your body/mind may have for that particular training session and you have to accept that.  

Make it a great week of training,

Coach Eric

Monday, January 13, 2014

Triathletes and Group rides

As a triathlete, joining a group ride from time to time can have some great training benefits.  But, joining a larger group for the first time or a group you don't know can be a bit scary.  I came across an informative article today by Katya Meyers, professional triathlete and coach.  She points out 5 things that are just good common sense not only for triathletes joining a group, but anyone riding in the group to help keep things safe while getting a good workout.

Check out this link when you have a minute


In the meantime, keep having fun with your training, sticking to any resolutions for 2014 and as always, make it a great week.

Coach Eric

Monday, January 6, 2014

Swimming, keep it the work!

This morning at Masters swim practice, I had the swimmers do one of my favorite freestyle sets:

1 x 400
2 x 300
3 x 200
4 x 100

Quick math tells you that is 2000 and there is no hiding one's aerobic fitness level in a set of that length.  

The goal was to pick a base per 100 for an interval, stick with that and remain steady all the way through the set.  This makes them get realistic about what their aerobic swimming pace is because if you go out too fast at the beginning, there is usually a slow down as the set progresses.  

From a coaches view, a great time to make corrections to stroke biomechanics as the set progresses.  Easy to hold good form when fresh, but good form 1200-1400 into a set is even more important.  I can see who is good at pacing or who goes out too fast and fades.

A set of this length is a great reference set to use from time to time.  Maybe early in the season you can handle the set on a 1:30 per/100 base.  With some training, in 3-4 weeks you may try it again one of two ways: bring that down to a 1:25 base per 100 or keep the base at 1:30 per 100, but try to swim at a faster pace than the first time.  If you can achieve either of these, then chances are, your swimming fitness has improved.

Along with some longer endurance sets this time of the year, consider one workout every week or two that you devote more time to swimming the other strokes.  This will help your feel for the water, provide a great workout using muscles a bit differently and giving your freestyle muscles a little break.

Keep blowing bubbles and have a great week!

Coach Eric