Issue 23 of Triathlon Plus is now in shops, and we have a teaser of our main feature here for you. We asked three single discipline experts for their best tips for triathletes, and here’s what world 10km swimming champion and Olympic silver medallist Keri-Anne Payne had to say.


1 Don’t Train Alone

It’s always better if you have other people to train with. I do all of my swimming with a club. With the best will in the world I would really struggle if I had to swim on my own every day. I sometimes do 8km swims, and doing it alone would be extremely difficult.

My coach sets the sessions for the club, and he’s always there timing us and looking at our strokes. When I do backstroke he’ll watch me and he’ll always say something like, “Keri, make sure your palms are facing the bottom of the pool.” And when I’m doing freestyle he won’t hesitate to ask me things like, “Why is your hand going funny?” He’ll always give us the feedback we need, especially if we’re doing drills.

Triathlon Training - Swimming2 Feel the water

Swimming is all about taking it back to basics and making sure you get your skills right. Swimming fitness is swimming fitness, so don’t expect to go running every day and become a good swimmer. It’s all about swimming regularly and feeling the water. I’ve just had 10 days off swimming after the Commonwealth Games, and now I feel terrible in the pool – like an alien. It’s only by getting in the water regularly that I develop my skills and build up a great feeling for what makes me swim fast. The philosophy we have in swimming is that every day you’re out of the water it takes two to get it back, so bear that in mind.

3 Go the distance

It’s so important to make sure you practise swimming the distance that you’ll actually race over, and I mean without stopping! You should even do some overdistance sessions – double the distance you intend to race; for example you should build up your swimming to three kilometres if you’re training for an Olympic-distance swim. You should also have a session where you work purely on skills and drills.

4 Don’t just swim up and down

It would get very boring if you got in every time and just swam for an hour. Using kick-boards, pull-buoys and finger paddles changes the emphasis and makes it more fun. The first part of your sessions should be about warming up, and then you should work on drills and skills. You could try some hypoxic stuff, breathing every three, five and even seven strokes to help keep your stroke long. I also like the fingertip drill, where you drag your fingers along the water’s surface on your recovery arm.

5 Establish a routine

There’s nothing wrong with repeating some of your sessions. For us, Monday mornings are always 10 x 400m going every five minutes. It’s the same each week, so mentally I’m always ready for a tough workout. It’s good to have a speed session where you do 25m or 50m sprints. The beginning of any race is fast, and also in the middle of a race you need to know how to change gear if you need it. You’ll lose far more energy in a race if you haven’t practised it.


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