Lesson: Do not ask a former Ironman if he can help you swim faster.
Result: A swim training plan that looks more like a cross channel training programme.
So, this year saw me compete in several Aquathlons. That for those who don’t know, that is a triathlon without the bike. Usually you have a swim either in open water or in a pool, followed by the run. Sometimes the organisers get nasty and make it a swim-run-swim.
Now I would like to point out that it is actually much harder for the body to cope with the transition from swimming to running, than it is from cycling to running. For a start you are horizontal and completely non weight bearing whilst swimming. Gravitational forces are pushing downwards on the anterior part of your lungs, and the body’s blood flow is working in a different plane. That would explain the dizziness and inability to use ones legs when exiting a swim into the run! Blood rushing downwards to the feet and away from the head, makes for an interesting stagger to transition.
My swim was always weaker than my run, and I was aware that time was ticking by meaning I had more work to do on the run leg. I wanted to improve on my swim time, so that I could have a better overall finish time. My goals were to be able to swim 750m in 13-14 minutes, 800m in 14-15 minutes and 1k in 17-18 minutes.
So I asked a former Ironman to help me achieve this.
Previously I had been swimming a grand total of 1k a week. Now I was faced with 3 training sessions, swimming an average of up to 6k a week. That was quite a shock.
The swim sessions were structured into warm up laps, drills, timed laps and warm downs. Hidden in the training plan was a Critical Velocity Test. Three different distances, timed and with heart rate monitored. Not too hard you may say, except I had to sit and wait by the side of the pool for 30 minutes in between each distance. Yes, half an hour. I did think coach was taking the p*ss to be honest and was this a massive wind up. When he told me to take a dressing gown into the poolside I did wonder if this was all a joke. But, no, it wasn’t.
I am nearly at the end of the months training plan, with one swim left to go. My technique has vastly improved thanks to the video swim analysis that I took part in earlier this year. Where I was snaking my way down the pool, and swimming on average a further and unnecessary 5 or so metres with the ‘snaking’ style I had, I now am swimming straighter, more relaxed and with less rotation. I’m still no Phelps, but with the “glide and thumbs” “zipper” and “flexible ankles” ringing through my ears, I hope when it comes round to race season next year, to be able to exit the pool in a quicker time than before.
I spent quite a while cursing the ‘coach’ whilst endlessly going up and down the cold pool, but when I see the changes made and feel how different my swimming actually is, it’s worth it.
I await next month’s plan. I expect it to be more ‘interesting’ and varied. Maybe swimming with leg weights or swimming blind fold? Who knows!
The last session of this month’s plan is today, so I better leave you now and get the bag packed! The plan sees you swim for three weeks out of four. A whole week of no swimming. No. A few ‘easy’ swims I have been told will be expected of me. That doesn’t seem like a week off to me, but then I trust the coach.
If you’re thinking of taking on a training plan, you have to be dedicated to spend a lot more time than you had imagined in the pool. When it gets a bit grim, and it will, stick with it. I would advise though you regularly send berating text messages to ‘coach’ reminding him that whereas he may have done full Ironmans in the past, you are not of that league and therefore please consider that when planning the schedule!