Winter Swim Training Tips for Triathletes

Kick boardsThere’s no doubt that winter swim training is never as pleasurable than swimming during the warmer months.  It’s particularly not much fun if your training session runs over and you have to rush out into the cold air with wet hair to get to your next class or appointment.  But the winter is a very important time for making improvements to your swimming performance as summer swimming success is created through winter training.   This is particularly important for tri-athletes who usually prefer to train outdoors, weather permitting of course!

A further reason for swim training in the pool is because it's difficult to consistently focus on improving your stroke while you're also working on building endurance during the racing season. What’s more, you can bring the intensity of your swim training down a notch and focus on technique.

Improving Efficiency in the Water

The more efficient you are in the water, the less energy you'll expend, leaving more energy for the bike and the run during a triathlon. Developing your feel for the water, or learning how to optimally position your body, teaches your muscles and nerves to adapt by repeating specific actions over and over. The winter is the perfect time to work on these adaptations because they'll be fully engrained when spring arrives and it's time to focus on developing speed.

The more you practice the fundamentals of the movements, the more refined they become, reducing the need to concentrate on performing them perfectly.

Take the time now to improve your technique, so you don't even have to think about it when you are working on building your stamina and speed later in the season.

Winter Drill Recommendations

To help improve your swimming technique in the pool, we’ve come up with some swimming drills for you to follow:

  • Drill 1: Count your strokes: work on increasing the distance covered per stroke to improve your feel for the water, your strength and stroke efficiency. Take as few strokes as possible from wall to wall and try to elongate each one. If you are at 30 strokes or above for 25 meters, try decreasing your stroke count by one or two per 25 each week. Decreased stroke count means increased efficiency, so a stroke count of 12 to 15 is far more efficient than a stroke count of 35.
  • Golf drill: This is a fun drill to do with stroke count and speed. Count the number of strokes you take over 50 metres and add that number to your 50-metre split time. Now, as in golf, try to decrease your score by either swimming faster or taking fewer strokes.
  • Rotate to breathe: Place a tennis ball under your chin. Swim freestyle, but as you turn to breathe, keep your head down and try not to let the tennis ball pop up. This drill is difficult but is very helpful for proper rotation and breathing technique. Keeping your head down in order to keep the tennis ball in place maintains proper head positioning, particularly in the breathing phase of the stroke. Proper head alignment is key as our legs drop to counter-balance a lifted head, ultimately creating more drag and a slower swim split. By keeping the tennis ball tucked securely under your chin you will ensure proper head positioning and minimise any leg drag associated with lifting your head to breathe.

Pull buoysUse swim aids:  using swimming aids like kickboards and pull buoys. Kick boards help to keep your body in the right position when training, strengthening the legs for improved performance.  They are ideal for swimming drills to improve stroke technique and strength. Pull buoys are swimming aids designed to isolate the arms when swimming. Pull buoys are used mainly for practice sessions to improve arm drills to improve stroke and efficiency in the water by keeping your legs afloat and in a streamlined position.

Check out the video below showing the benefits of our own, new brand of Sharks kick boards and pull buoys.


Keeping Motivated During Winter

If you are serious about keeping motivated during winter, you could consider joining a group swimming session.  By competing with swimmers in the pool as you do during a race, then your instinctive winning streak will come out, making your swim training more fun.

Alternatively, try training with three swim partners.  Having two training partners instead of just one increases the chances that you'll have someone to swim with. Even if one person can't make it, there's still another buddy waiting for you.


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