Follow these five tips from coach Phil Mosley to increase your Ironman swim speed…
1. FIND YOUR RHYTHM
A Finis Tempo Trainer Pro is a metronome for swimmers. It’s a little yellow device that attaches to your goggle straps and beeps periodically depending on which mode you choose. For swimmers, one of the main benefits is the ability to train to a predetermined stroke count and pace. For example, you can set your target pace and then get the Tempo Trainer to beep every length so you know if you’re going too fast or too slow. Alternatively you can set a stroke rate (strokes per minute) and then swim according to the beeps. This is particularly useful for those who over-glide or who have an uneven stroke. Either way a Tempo Trainer Pro can add much needed structure and focus to your workouts.
Tempo Trainer Pro £31.50
2. TEST YOUR CRITICAL SWIM SPEED
Critical Swim Speed (known as CSS) is your current best pace for a 1500m time trial – a particularly effective training intensity for Ironman. To test your CSS you will need to swim a 400m and 200m time trial as fast as you can within the same session. Include a short warm up and warm down and include five to 10 minutes of easy swimming between each distance. Once you’re done, enter your 400m and 200m times into a CSS calculator to get your CSS pace per 100. A good example of a CSS workout is 20x100m with 15 seconds recoveries, all at your CSS pace.
3. USE A SWIM APP
Unless you’re lucky enough to be part of a coached swimming group, you’ll no doubt be accustomed to solo swimming in public lane sessions. This can work well as long as you include plenty of structure and progression to your workouts. One way to achieve this is by using the Swim Smooth Training System – an app that works on phones, tablets and computers. Designed by Swim Smooth head coach Paul Newsome, it has everything you’ll need for DIY improvement. There are simple ways to identify technique faults and intelligent pathways to help you remedy them, including HD videos, swim drills and hundreds of solo swim workouts. It’s an incredibly well thought-out app that could inject new life into your training.
4. SMILE FOR THE CAMERA
Technique is such an important contributor to overall swimming speed, but it’s hard to analyse your stroke properly without seeing it from below the surface. Underwater camera views from the front and side can highlight flaws in a stroke that may have looked fine from the poolside. There are now several options for underwater filming, including getting a friend to film you using a smart-phone with a waterproof cover or using a Go-Pro-style sports camera. Better still, hire a swim coach or attend an underwater video swim analysis day near you. To find your nearest, visit:
It won’t turn you into a gold-medal contender overnight, but it’ll put you on the right path.
5. TOE THE LINE
To be a good Ironman swimmer you need to be able to swim in a straight line. It may sound simple, but it’s actually quite tricky when there are no lane ropes or tiles to follow. If one of your hands crosses the centre line of your body each time it enters the water, the chances are you won’t swim straight. You can test this by swimming in an open water lake with a GPS unit on your wrist or under your swim hat. You might be surprised by what you find when you download the data. It’s not uncommon for swimmers to swim 500m further than the course distance. Fixing your technique is the only way to improve this. Try some drills using Finis Freestyler hand paddles to get your stroke back on track.
WORDS: Phil Mosley
Get more triathlon tips in our training section.