De-Mystifying Swimming

De-Mystifying Swimming

Without question the biggest mystery for triathletes in training, is swimming.  The fact that you literally cannot breath half the time can be tricky, and the fact that drowning is a real possibility probably doesn’t help.

When our breathing gets out of control on the bike or run, we instinctively know how to slow down without fear.  But slowing down in the water isn’t as natural.

In each of my first four races I slowed to either a breast stroke or started treading water to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.  There are not many feelings worse!

That’s why I made it my mission to get that anxiety-piece out of my triathlon-puzzle.  I became obsessed with learning how to relax in the water.

The biggest breakthrough came when I committed to swimming every day for two straight weeks.  I didn’t go long (usually between 1-2,000 meters) but the repetitive nature of my practice made a huge difference.

I naturally got faster, but I really think it was because I was more relaxed. Being “tight” in the water (and land for that matter) is my biggest enemy.

After about 7 straight days of swimming I noticed a very simple thing: That first plunge into the water didn’t feel cold or weird or uncomfortable.  My body had adapted, and I really think that’s the biggest win you can have as a swimmer.

In today’s podcast we go back into the water for a follow up piece to “How To Not Suck At Swimming.” Part 2 takes a closer look at swimming technique, and more importantly ways to remove the mystery.

Coach Robbie lives and breathes open water swimming and he’s back with another round of great insight to becoming faster, stronger, and more efficient in open water.  Topics covered today are:

– Proper breathing – How and When
– Body Positioning and how to get it right
– Hand entry and exit – How and When
– How to deprogram from bad advice, including workouts that get you there
– How to structure a swim week of workouts
– Should you join a Master’s Team?
– Swimming square and why you swim crooked
– A big announcement from Coach Robbie
– Which country has the second most Crushing Iron listeners

If you feel you’re getting some good information, please subscribe and review on iTunes.

Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Crushing Iron: FRIDAY FIVE | 12-9-16

Here is your first Crushing Iron FRIDAY FIVE.  Each week we will dig up enlightening reads and training strategies for Swim, Bike, Run, a Wild Card and Bonus.  We’ll also embed a motivational video.  Hopefully this helps you get through some of these long Winter training weekends.

SWIM – How To Nail Your Swim

The swim rarely gets the credit it deserves in triathlon, but it is by far the place people house the most anxiety.  I’ve been known to hold onto a few kayaks in my day, but over time that can be “cured.”  This article from Purple Patch Fitness outlines some good stuff so you can “Nail Your Swim.”

BIKE – Understanding 3 Phases of Cycling Training

So many people I know get on a trainer with their headphones and just crank out the hours.  But, like everything else in triathlon, cycling workouts should have a purpose.  Here’s a good article from Trainer Road that looks at 3 phases of cycling work, what they mean, and how you should attack them.

From the article:

Like a puzzle, there are three training phases that fit together to illustrate an image of your fitness over the entire training season. Whether you have a goal event in mind, or you’d just like to become a faster cyclist, your training plan will apply the right type of training stress at the right time to make sure you can achieve both.

RUN – The Science Of Jogging

We talked about the coaching method of Ernst Van Aaken on a recent podcast (Running Slow To Get Fast) and it is changing how I go about my runs.  Not only that, I’m really excited about running again.   Here’s a link to the article on “Science of Running.”

Ernst Van Aaken: The Pure Endurance Method

WILD CARD – Why is Kona So Tough?

In some way or another, most triathletes probably dream of Kona, and I’m no exception.  I’ve also been fascinated by the conditions and why everyone I know seems to go there and struggle.  Here’s a good story from Alan Couzens that explains exactly why racing Kona is so difficult.

From the article:

“Kona really is an incredibly tough environment to race 140.6 miles in. From the high temperatures that reflect from the lava rock to the wind that sweeps relentlessly across the barren landscape to, perhaps the toughest element of all – the saturating humidity of the place . . .”

BONUS – Free Coaching Consultation

Coach Robbie is offering a free consultation ($175 value) to one Crushing Iron fan.  To learn how to qualify, listen to our podcast 09-Break Through The Kona Ceiling.  Oh, hell, actually, just leave us a review on iTunes and we’ll randomly pick one of you.

Email us: CrushingIron@gmail.com
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Crushing Iron Podcasts are now on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.  They are also under the “podcast tab” at CrushingIron.com.

Happy Training.

Video of the Week:   Ironman Chattanooga 2015

Three Off-Season Triathlon Training Myths

Coach Robbie and I recently recorded a podcast on off-season training myths.  Here’s a taste of the discussion in outline form.

Be sure to subscribe to the Crushing Iron podcast on iTunes.  

THREE OFF SEASON TRIATHLON TRAINING MYTHS

 1 .  You Need to Do an Off-Season Marathon 

•  Marathon training during Ironman training is a surefire way to ignore swim and bike fitness.
•  A marathon is harder on your body than a 70.3 and will cause more downtime for recovery.
•  Exception:  If you do a 2016 late summer, early, or late Fall Ironman, you can carry over the fitness to your marathon.

2.  You Should Do Drills And Kicking In Every Workout

•  Most triathletes have bad ankle flexibility and/or kick from the knees which makes kicking a waste of time and energy.
•  Why spend 10-15 percent of your time reinforcing bad habits when conditioning and arm fitness isn’t there?
•  Most triathletes simply aren’t strong enough to maintain good form.

3.  You Should Cycle With Watt-Crushing Intensity

•  Take a polarized approach.  80% of training should be at level one/level two zone.  The other 20% on high intensity.
•  Find ways to keep riding enjoyable instead of over-trained and fatigued.
•  Think recovery for next workout AND long-term versus just this season.

Here’s the full podcast, which discusses everything above in more detail, plus simplifying swim workouts and post-Ironman Blues.  If you have topics or questions, email us at CrushingIron@gmail.com.

IMWI 010 – Breaking Down Ironman Wisconsin Swim Course

IMWI 010 – Breaking Down Ironman Wisconsin Swim Course

I raced Ironman Wisconsin in 2013 and spectated (and made a tribute video) in 2014.  Today, I break down the swim course with race video to show:

– How much time you need to get into the water pre-race
– The mysterious HELIX transition
– Sighting
– The energy of the crowd

Till this day the Ironman Wisconsin swim is probably one of the favorite memories of my three Ironman races.  I loved the energy, the fan support, and the spectacle of a mass start.

This video also reveals the first guest in my upcoming podcast series and offers you a free t-shirt.

Follow Crushing Iron on Facebook and @crushingiron on Twitter for tons of Ironman training updates.

Ironman Louisville Swim Start 2015 (Video)

Ironman Louisville Swim Start 2015 (Video)

Here’s a glimpse of the scenery surrounding the Ironman Louisville swim start.  Spectating an Ironman is almost as enjoyable (and painful) as doing one.

I have tons of stuff still on the way and hope you follow this blog by email or Crushing Iron on Facebook so you don’t miss them.  And please feel free to share this stuff!  Hope it brings back good memories.

Music City Triathlon – Race Preview

Music City Triathlon – Race Preview

I’ve had a lot of requests for a Music City Triathlon Course Preview so I thought I’d drive down to the river and take care of business.  Now, I raced the old course, so my information might not be totally accurate, but really the only information you need is that it is supposed to be 100 degrees that day.

I’ve compiled three expertly crafted videos, one for each portion of the course: swim, bike, and run.  Regarding the swim, I think you swim up about a 1/3, then a full length with the current, then 2/3rds back into the current… but please double check when you get there!  The bike and run videos are about 5 minutes long, and I know that’s time consuming, but those minutes could save you seconds on this course!!

Please share with your friends who are racing.  (That goes for you too Team Magic 🙂

Music City Triathlon – Swim Course Preview

Music City Triathlon – Bike Course Preview

Music City Triathlon – Run Course Preview

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9 Things That Are Improving My Swim

Three years ago I could barely swim and vowed to get to respectable levels before IM Wisconsin. Last year, with Louisville a non-wetsuit race, I got even more serious.  I put a lot of time, study, and reflection into swimming and this is a list of stuff that seems to be working.

1.  It’s easy to forget how to swim.  Before my 10-day vacation, I was dialed in pretty good, but this morning it was a flopping baby.  After 1,000 or so meters, I “sorta” had it back, but why can’t it be just like riding a bike?  When I’m not on vacation I swim shorter distances more more frequently.

2.  Form isn’t everything.  While form is definitely something, once you get it “close” upper body conditioning is the key, and that too seems to fade fast.  Paddles really seem to help me relax and focus on using the strength of my lats, and I also use a pull buoy 80% of the time.

3.  Flexibility matters.  Today, there was a girl next to me with fins doing that crazy on-your-back thing up and down the pool.  She looked like she was made out of rubber and when she turned around to swim freestyle, she was unbelievably smooth . . . and fast.

4.  Work on your turnover.  For the longest time I was all caught up in my reach and glide and thinking about all kinds of BS, but if you get decent extension and turn your arms faster (with comparable catch and pull) you will pick up several seconds in your 100.  Of course, you need to build conditioning to do that.

5.  Relaxing isn’t always easy, but . . . it is crucial.  When you’re relaxed, your form and flexibility improve because you’re not thinking about it as much.  So much of relaxation is repetition, but I often repeat mantras like, “breathe, relax,” on each stroke and it puts me in a better state.

6.  Don’t hesitate.  My left arm doesn’t have the same range of motion as my left (nor is it as coordinate) so I’m constantly telling myself to “let go” with my left arm.  Just let it flow in a rotation that is perfectly timed with my right arm pull.

7.  Clear the fog.  I used to have problems with foggy goggles until I started letting them soak to adjust to the water temperature before I swim.  I just lay the pull buoy on my strap and do arm circles or whatever for 5 minutes and my goggles are gold.

8.  Pull yourself.  A lot of people refer to it as pulling yourself over a barrel or a wall instead of pushing water backwards.  When my hand enters the water, I try to find that pressure from my wrist to my elbow (the wall) and literally pull it back.  The key here is pulling with your lats, but also using the other side extension as leverage.

9.  Drink.  I never used to have a water bottle at the pool, but now it’s mandatory.  It definitely keeps my energy level a little higher and, maybe more importantly, lowers risk of dehydration/exhaustion, which I always used to battle after long swims.  I typically put a scoop of some kind of electrolyte powder with the water because it’s easier on my stomach.

I have fallen in love with swimming because it used to scare the crap out of me but it’s morphed into a fun challenge I chip away at every day.  For the record my IM Wisconsin swim was 1:20, IM Louisville was 1:06, and I fully expect the Chattanooga current to whisk me under an hour.

Creative Workouts For Triathlon

Our coaching staff is continually thinking about ways to make training more effective and enjoyable, so Crushing Iron will now be adding creative workout ideas if you feel like breaking up the monotony.  We only have a couple now, but hope to add one or two a week for each discipline.  They can be found under the “Workouts” tab at the top and broken out by sport.  Here’s an example for the pool:

Band On The Swim

Warm Up
200 easy cruise
100 kick with board hard

Main set:
400 pull/paddles high tempo
3 x 100 BAND around ankles
200 t-shirt swim AND clenched fists high tempo
100 SPRINT

: 45 rest throughout

2 rounds – Beginner swimmer
3- rounds- intermediate swimmer
4 rounds total – advanced swimmer

200 Warm Down

 

My Swim Coach Tied Me Up

I recently wrote about how I’m becoming a better swimmer, but apparently I have a ways to go.

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After our warm up swim, my coach walked toward me shaking his head and said, “I’ve gotta get you to stop your hips from shifting around so much, and your head is coming too far out of the water when you breathe.”

Then he through me a race belt.

“Tie that around your ankles.”

Uhh…. okay.

So I wrapped the elastic band around my ankles, then hopped back into the water and started swimming.  My legs immediately sank straight below me and I was cranking my arms at ridiculous speed to stay afloat.

I was in a mild state of panic, and of course, that is the last thing you want to experience as a swimmer.  I struggled out to the buoy and held on for dear life before sucking it up to swim back in.

Not gonna lie, it wasn’t easy, but by the time I got close to shore I was much more relaxed.  My stroke was longer and felt more powerful, which subsequently kept my legs and feet higher in the water.

Coach also told me that one eye should still be under the water when you breathe, which took me a while, but eventually I “sorta” got it down.  I was also swallowing less water . . . which was nice.

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In summary, this is a great way to work on body position and keeping yourself higher in the water.  In fact, I loved it so much I’m thinking about trying it with a potato sack down at the YMCA.