Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Interview with Tim Floyd of Magnolia Masters

In this podcast, we discuss USRPT application for triathletes with Tim Floyd of Magnolia Masters.

Do-it-yourself Aquathons

Gordo shares ideas on building your own aquathons.

Top Triathlon Swimmers Share Key Workouts

The EC swim module (part of our coaching engine) has been built from my (Gordo's) travel around the world and is heavily influenced by Monica Byrn's approach to open water swim training.

If you happen to get to Boulder then Monica (as well as Jane & Dave Scott) coach at Flatirons Athletic Club and that's where you can see her swims in action!

In traveling around the world, I get to bump into a lot of accomplished swimmers -- this article will be where I place swim ideas from these athletes.

Benchmarking Your Swimming

Because our competitive event is so long (even a sprint tri is over an hour for most of us), triathlon swimming is different than fitness swimming.

First up, I think a common misconception about the swim leg is pacing. What’s optimal pacing? My recommendation would be a pace that you can build from for the bike, and then build again for the run.

So consider what your best-case heart rate average is for the run… then knock off 20 bpm for a reasonable swim benchmark.

You will be amazed at the performance benefit from being able to lift effort across an entire triathlon.

To get the best bang for your swimming buck, I recommend that you focus on the following milestones:

#1 – the ability to swim your race distance in a single workout
#2 – the ability to swim your race distance in a single workout using three-stroke breathing
#3 – the ability to swim your race distance continuously using three-stroke breathing

Why three-stroke breathing?
When we learn to swim, we have two speeds “on” and “off”. The quickest way to learn relaxation, a proper breathing pattern and a balanced stroke is to use three-stroke breathing. I would also recommend that you get yourself videotaped – even if you don’t review with an expert, you can learn quite a bit from watching yourself and comparing to your goal technique.

Once you have mastered the ability to swim your race distance comfortably, and continuously, it is time to develop the ability to change speed while swimming. While the bike and the run are mostly individual time trials, an open water swim is the aqua equivalent of a road race – drafting, pace changes, group tactics.

Our Shorter Endurance Swims

Key Things To Remember:
#1 - relax, pace is less important when you are building endurance

#2 - all your freestyle should be three-stroke breathing // the faster work can come once you've built the necessary endurance

#3 - take your time progressing through the workouts

To make progress, you need to swim a minimum of 2x per week -- 3x will result in better swim progression... BUT... triathlon is THREE sports... so... 2 of each swim/bike/run plus 1 general conditioning (strength/core/yoga) should be your benchmark for each week.

Our Swim Workouts

Our Swim Workouts are outlined in the attached Word file. If you have any suggestions, questions or amendments then please let us know.

EC-S1_12345 Swim
4x50 Easy on 10s rest
4x75 Steady on 10s rest
100 Easy on 10s rest;
200 Steady on 10s rest
300 as 100 Mod-hard, 100 Steady, 100 Easy on 15s rest
400 Alternate 100 Mod-hard with 100 Easy on 20s rest
500 Steady
Optional Additional Main Set
Reverse the first main set, swimming from 500 down to 100
Cool Down

EC-S2_DB Swim
Distance Builder
This entire swim is Easy to Steady effort on 10-15s rest
2x25, 50
2x25, 100
4x25, 2x100
4x25, 2x125
4x25, 2x150
4x25, 200
4x25, 250
4x25, 300
Focus on relaxed swimming with three-stroke breathing.
Swim can be extended by continuing the progression with an extra 50 or 100 added to the continuous swim.

EC-S3_Build Up Swim
This entire swim is Easy to Steady effort on 10-15s rest
2x25, 100
2x25, 200
2x25, 300
2x25, 400
2x25, 500
2x25, 350
2x25, 250
2x25, 150
Focus on relaxed swimming with three-stroke breathing.
Swim can be extended by inserting “2x25, 450” immediately after the 500.

EC-S4_ESE Swim
Early Season Endurance
25s are Easy effort on 5s rest; 100s are Steady effort on 10s rest
4x25, 100
4x25, 2x100
4x25, 3x100
4x25, 2x100
4x25, 100
4x25, 200
4x25, 300
4x25, 200
4x25, 100
This swim can be extended by increasing the top of the 100s pyramid and adding a corresponding increase to the continuous swim. For example:
4x25, 100
4x25, 2x100
4x25, 3x100
4x25, 4x100
4x25, 3x100
4x25, 2x100
4x25, 100
4x25, 200
4x25, 300
4x25, 400
4x25, 300
4x25, 200
4x25, 100

EC-S5_4321 Swim
4x100 Easy, then 400 Steady
3x100 Easy, then 300 Steady
2x100 Easy, then 200 Steady
100 Easy, then 100 Steady
All done on 10s rest
12x50, on 15s rest
Odds are Easy
Evens are Mod-hard

How to Use Swim Cords

The learning progression for any new skill or movement pattern follows this order...

    1. Learn the movement pattern slowly
    2. Add speed
    3. Add resistance
    4. Perform under duress

When learning the half pull, keep your movement slow and controlled with very light resistance. Then add speed to the half pull. Then add resistance to the half pull. Then add the full pull and slow it down. Then add speed, then add resistance. Same for all the exercises.

Your long-term goal should be to train the muscles so you can bring the quickness of the catch into your swim stroke.

#1 - Half Pulls -- Set cords up as for full pulls. Arms extended until cords are 'just' tight. Elbow stays perfectly still while forearm rotates forward and down. Elbow stays high and still, hand remains aligned with forearm, arm/forearm/hand all rotate slightly outwards. Elbow does not move back. All movement is done with forearms. Goal is to build very front-end strength.

Look down and slightly forward.

STEP ONE: Starting Position -- shoulders are high relative to hips, perhaps a higher tie point.
Goal should be aligment of hip/shoulder/wrist at the start.

STEP TWO: Ending Position -- very good -- head is a little too low.

#2 - Forward Rotations -- Kneel or stand with back to cords. Cords should be tied at same height as shoulders. Arms are extended straight out, bend at elbow, forearm is perpendicular to shoulders/upper arm (making an 'L' on each side). Elbow stays perfectly still while forearm rotates forward through 90 degrees.

Starting Position (left) -- text book. Ending Position (right) -- text book.

Open Water Workouts

Three different session ideas for you to try out when swimming in open water.

Session One - Aerobic session based around long intervals

Warm Up:
Easy swimming out and back totaling 10 minutes
From the shore, swim 8x40 seconds build / 40 seconds easy

How To Structure A Technique Swim

We all think that it is a good idea to work on our swim technique but we often struggle with how to get the most out of our time at the pool. This article gives you practical tips for how to structure a technique swim. Each of the following are mini-main sets.

1. 200 of each of the following
* Side Kick, arm at side
* Side Kick, arm extended
* Side Kick, one stroke, three breaths
* Side Kick, three strokes, three breaths
* Three stroke swim

Technique Progression Drills

This article outlines the drills that you can use in order to improve your balance, alignment and pull pattern.

You can get more detail by purchasing the Total Immersion book and/or video.

Back Kick
Think surfboard -- rigid spine
Push shoulders down
Only mouth and nose out of water

Swimmers Shoulder and Swim Technique

Some general tips to manage our shoulders...

1. bar hangs should be used every time you are in the gym
2. be sure to stretch your pec minor
3. when you use swim cords -- work and stretch the opposing muscle groups -- external rotators are most important
4. posterior deltoid is another key one to stretch
5. ice after every swim _and_ every run when you are concerned -- running can irritate due to arm swinging

Bilateral Swimming

The fastest way to improve your triathlon swimming is to learn how to swim with three-stroke breathing. many athletes strongly resist using this technique because it requires: an adaptation period; slowing down; learning new skills; and, most of all, change.

In the winter of 2000/2001 I had a single goal for my swimming... learn how to swim my race distance (2.4 miles) using continuous three-stroke breathing. Once achieved, this goal permanently improved my swimming.

More details follow...

Triathlon Swimming - Beyond the Basics

I have always had a bit of a bias against gear for triathlon swimming. My main reason is that triathletes don't get enough distance freestyle in their weeks to have "room" for doing a lot of supplemental training. As well, I've found that most triathletes lack the strength to maintain solid swim form when using paddles. As for pullbuoys, I don't like using them because athletes tend to turn-off their sore muscles when swimming with a flotation aid.

There are a lot of excellent coaches that approach swimming differently than me. Brent Lorenzen is one of those coaches and a short conversation that we had is re-printed below.

I think we often get confused between appropriate swim training for swimmers and for most Age Group triathletes. I got a kick out of reading a post a while back where the author was quoting the techniques of Olympic class swimmers. Well, that might be OK if you are Chris Hauth, but it's not very relevant for most triathletes.

I still didn't understand that one section of your original post that i quoted? can you try to explain that again to me?

It's a different way of saying "try to go faster by holding more water and apply more force to the water -- rather than -- spinning your arms"

Most triathletes reinforce and get away with poor technique when pulling. I see it all the time underwater. It gives them the illusion that they are training appropriately... working hard, building strength and going fast.

Get a triathlete to really understand the catch (not a Thorpe catch, a simple 'enter down' set-it-up catch) and they will have plenty of load on their swimming muscles from simply swimming correctly. The Vasa is a great tool for seeing this in action.

This is my take on the propulsive side.