Diepkloof Athletics Club - Empowering the Youth

Take the brrrr out of Swimming


There is already a nip in the air and before we know it we will be
wearing sweaters and struggling to get out from under the duvet! And we will
put swimming training on hold, as we mostly perceive it as cold, unpleasant and
unnecessary during autumn and winter. Well, think again! Here are just a few
advantages of winter swim training:

Honing your technique will not only impact on your
swim time, but in all likelihood your bike and run, too.

It’s much warmer in the gym than outside!

The pool is safe on dark mornings and evenings.

It gives you the opportunity to focus on technique
without the pressure of a looming event.

You get the chance to include a significant other who
is left out during the season because your pace and goals don’t match.

It is the perfect time to wean yourself off swim
‘toys’ that are illegal for triathlon anyway!

It will build your confidence so that you don’t have a
panic attack at the thought of a non-wetsuit swim.



When you get into the pool this
winter, remember to change your mindset. Every session must be about improving
technique and have specific focus points. Many swimmers believe that
improvement in technique is achieved from swimming more. The problem with this
plan is that you will quickly plateau and just become good at struggling. The
key is to think about improving efficiency, because that is what makes you fast
in the water – and what saves energy for the bike and run.

Use metrics other than time and number of laps
completed to measure your improvement.

Aim to reduce your strokes per length at a variety of

Do drills, but only if you know why you are doing them
and what the specific outcome will be.

Think of your sessions as practice, not training. Practise
the ability to focus for longer and to execute good technique, no matter what
the effort.



1. Count your strokes: Work on
increasing the distance covered per stroke to improve your feel for the water
and stroke efficiency. Take as few strokes as possible from wall to wall
without using more effort. If you are at 30 strokes or above for 25m, try
decreasing your stroke count by one or two per 25m 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. Multiply these stroke savings over a 1.5km
or even 3.8km swim and you’ll see how much energy you will save!


2. Golf drill: This is a fun drill to do with
stroke count and speed. Count the number of strokes you take over 50m and add
that number to your 50m split time. Now, as in golf, try to decrease your score
by either swimming faster or taking fewer strokes.


3. Seamless breathing: Think about
performing the breast stroke with the least disruption to your balance.
Efficient swimmers rotate to breathe rather than lift. Practice swimming while
focusing on ‘hanging your head’ – relax your neck and allow the water to hold
your head. Proper head alignment is key as our legs drop to counter-balance a
lifted head, ultimately creating more drag and a slower swim.


4. Increase your ability to focus: When
swimming, notice how long it takes before your mind wanders and you stop
focusing on your session. Switching off from the purpose of the session is
counterproductive. Improvements in technique only happen when we train our
neuromuscular pathways to execute the stroke accurately every time. If we lose
focus, our stroke deteriorates and we are practising and enforcing poor
technique. Extend your ability to focus until you can focus for the length of
time that your proposed triathlon swim is going to take.



These swim sessions are simplified versions of Total Immersion workouts.
To make serious gains and lifelong improvements, consider signing up with a
Total Immersion coach and doing a workshop. These workshops will help you
become the swimmer and triathlete you strive to be. For more info, e-mail georgie@totalimmersion.co.za