How To Track Your Swims on A Garmin Watch

How To Track Your Swims on A Garmin Watch

By Rory | Training & Coaching



Questions or problems with this process? Let me know in the comments below so that future athletes can learn too 😊.
~ Rory


How To Share Your Garmin Swim Data With Me

How To Share Your Garmin Swim Data With Me

By Rory | Training & Coaching



Questions or problems with this process? Let me know in the comments below so that future athletes can learn too 😊.
~ Rory


How To Feel Your Pace Without Looking At Your Watch

By Rory | Training



What’s helped you feel your pace without looking at your watch, any secrets I can learn from you? Let me know below, I’d love to hear it.
~ Rory


Factors Affect Your Race Day Swim

Factors Affect Your Race Day Swim

Why A Slower Time May Be A Better Swim & Faster Times Aren’t Necessarily The Goal

By Rory | Race Day



It’s all relative 😊 Remember that. ~ Rory


Race Day Warm Ups

Race Day Warm Ups

Why, How & What You Should Be Doing

By Rory | Race Day



What’s the biggest reason why you haven’t warmed up well in past races?
~ Rory


Understanding Why Technique Falls Apart

Understanding Why Technique Falls Apart

Identifying Your Stroke Limiter

By Rory | Training



So what’s your biggest limiter?
🔸 Knowing what you are doing vs what you should be doing?
🔸 Physically being able to hit the positions?
🔸 Holding the positions under fatigue and stress?
Once you know your limiter, you know where to put most of your attention.
~ Rory


The Four Stages of Progress A Guide to Going From Beginner To Advanced

The Four Stages of Progress

A Guide to Going From Beginner To Advanced

Written by Rory | Technique Advice


There is a process to making progress in swimming as an Age Group Triathlete. As you improve, you will move through distinct stages in this process. Each stage building on the one before, giving you new skills and abilities. Enabling you to swim faster and more efficiently.

Over the years I’ve developed and refined a framework for explaining this process. I did it to help me better guide my athletes towards achieving their goals. This framework is now the foundation of my coaching process.

This guide is an attempt to give you an overview of the stages in the process.

It explains the typical trajectory of an adult learner wanting to race triathlons. In it you will see the steps that a majority of my clients go through, the same steps you’ll go through (or have gone through) too. As well as the initial guidance and direction I give them at each stage. I’ve included the hurdles and roadblocks that stifles progress along the journey too.

The guide will help you if you are new to swimming or triathlon and have questions like

“Can I be ready for a race in 16 weeks”

It will also be useful if you want to know what it will take to reach a specific goal time.

For the more experienced triathlete; the guide will help you identify what stage you are stuck on. And then figure out the hurdle that might be holding you back from moving forward.

Identifying where you are in your journey will help you know what you should focus on. What skills you should be developing. And how you should be training.

There is no way to give exact time lines on how long you will take in a stage. The number of variables that go into your rate of progress are far too many. But if you know what you need to work on and put in place a plan, you will see progress.

If you have comments or questions on this, I’d love to hear them. Leave me a note in the comments below.

Alright, let’s get into it!


Stage 1. Getting Confident & Learning To Breathe

“The water is your friend”

You have to be comfortable in the water before you can learn to swim. To develop any fundamental swimming skills you must be able to relax.

If you didn’t grow up around water or had limited exposure to the water through your life this can be a challenge. If you’ve ever had a traumatic experience involving water, relaxing can feel impossible. That’s because your brain processes the water as a threat to your survival.

This perceived threat can happen consciously or subconsciously. Either way, when you see the water as a threat to your life you’re going to struggle to learn how to swim. Here’s an analogy that will help explain why.

Imagine you need to study for an exam or need to learn a presentation that you’re giving to your boss.

To learn the material, you’ll find a comfortable spot in a library or lock yourself in the conference room at work. The place you settle into allows you to focus all your attention and energy into learning. It’s a distraction free zone. The temperature will be just right, you won’t be hungry or thirsty. In other words you won’t be preoccupied with anything other than what you have to learn.

Now imagine the building you that are in gets taken hostage. Things get messy. There are bullets, yelling and screaming too. You feel unsafe, your life is being threatened. You become completely preoccupied by your surroundings and survival! To hell with learning for the exam or presentation, you just want to get out alive.

The learning process will be slow and frustrating if you’re panicked. If you see the water as a threat to survival you’ll need to overcome that belief first. Get comfortable in the water, then you’ll master the skills you need.


Getting Through Stage 1

Firstly, recognize that it’s ok to be afraid. The fear & anxiety are protection mechanisms designed to keep you alive. It’s normal to feel uncomfortable and scared when you can’t breathe with your face submerged.

The more experience you get in the water, the more comfortable you will get. Some people take longer than others. But I’ve never had a client that hasn’t overcome their fear and anxiety with time and consistent exposure. Without getting too philosophical, time heals everything!

Play More

To speed up your progress through this stage, I encourage you to play in the water.

As adults (that are short on time) we tend to be very process oriented. We get mechanical and want to know exactly what to do and how to do it. So we follow a set routine, go through the same motions and try to force ourselves to get out of our comfort zones. This might help you learn how to execute a skill. But it does very little to change the way your brain processes the threat of the water. To do that, you need to have fun.

So spend timing splashing around with your kids. Head to the water park and hit the slides. Take a water aerobics class or a float-fit class. Do things that help build your comfort and confidence in the water. As that happens you’ll begin to see the water as a friend, not a threat.


The Stage 1 Hurdles

Skipping it completely!

The biggest mistake you can make here is skipping Stage 1 completely. For some of you, Stage 1 may only take 20 minutes to get through, for others it might take months.

It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get through the stage. What’s important is that you actually complete the stage and don’t skip ahead.

Too often I’ve had clients in Stage 3 come to me because they’ve plateaued and can’t get any faster. They think it’s a technique issue and it turns out they never got completely comfortable in the water. Their brain still processes th water as a threat to their survival. The brain shuts down muscle recruitment and activation to proctect itself. As a result it won’t allow them to truly put forth the effort they are capable of. It’s not a technique or training issue, it’s a comfort and confidence problem.

More Articles on Playing In The Water:

🔸 http://www.h2oustonswims.org/articles/dont_be_a_grup.html
🔸 https://www.slowtwitch.com/Training/Swimming/Thoughts_on_Swimming_6700.html

adjust your swimming mindset

Stage 2. Building Your Technique

“Technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you”

Your swim technique will set the limit on where your fitness will take you. You can train harder and get fitter to shave mere seconds off your best times. Or you can improve your technique and save minutes.

Simply defined, good swimming technique is your your ability to:

  1.  Reduce resistance
  2. Increase propulsion

That’s it.

Reducing resistance is your first priority.

Resistance (also known as “drag”) is a force that slows you down as you move through the water. As you swim forward you push water out of your way, as you do so, the water pushes back on you. The less resistance you have to work against, the faster and more effortlessly you will swim.

I’ve seen triathletes  drop 10+ seconds per 100 in less than 30 mins. They didn’t get any fitter during that time. They learned how to reduce their resistance and get into good balance and alignment. This is why it’s your first priority.

Increasing propulsion is secondary

You have a limited supply of energy. You will get tired and slow down when you start to run out of energy. It doesn’t matter how fit or strong you are. It  may take minutes or hours, but at some point your energy will run low. Water will never get tired or stop pushing back on you.

Pulling harder and plowing through the water uses more energy. Balancing your body and reducing resistance uses less energy.

For this reason it makes more sense to first learn how to balance your body in the water.  Then to learn how to increase propulsion.

More Reading on Building Technique: The article is technical but it reinforces the point.

🔸 https://www.usms.org/fitness-and-training/articles-and-videos/articles/power-versus-efficiency


Getting Through Stage 2

Work on Your Balance

The first focus of stage two is learning to float and balance in the water.

We sit, stand, walk and run every day and have done since we were children. As a result we have a foundation in movement that easily transfers into other land based sports. We know how to balance, how to move forward and how to breathe on land.

But moving through water is different. Balance is different. How you breathe is different. How you propel yourself forward is different.

To get really good at swimming you have to re-learn and then master each of these skills in the water. That starts with floating and balance. Just as learning to stand up and to balance is a prerequisite to learning to walk. Similarly, learning to float and establish your balance is a prerequisite to effective swimming.

Develop Your Propulsion

You’ve learned how to float and got good handle on your balance position? Great! Move into learning how to put the rest of the stroke together. Your next steps are focusing on Breathing Mechanics, Kick Rotation, and Pulling.

More Reading: Learning & Practicing Efficient Technique in the Fundamentals of Triathlon Swimming Guide

🔸 http://icanswimfast.com/fundamentals/#technique


The Stage 2 Hurdles

Not Enough Repetition

Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.

The secret weapon to making stroke changes through Stage 2 (and Stage 3) is repetition.

If you only practice something once or twice it’s unlikely that any change will take effect.

Competitive swimmers will spend 20-30 hours a week in the pool training. This volume isn’t entirely related to getting fitter. Much of that time is spent on developing great movement patterns. That come about through endless repetition.

You don’t need to be swimming that much. But you do need to understand that doing a drill once won’t bring about any permanent change in your stroke.

Consistently working at it will.

Focusing on Too Many Things At Once

Swimming is complicated. There are a lot of moving parts… Your breathing is limited… There are 1000 things to think about to achieve the “perfect stroke”. Hips up! Point your toes! Don’t bend your knees too much! Get the Kick timing right! Turn earlier for your breath! Get your hand entering in line! Keep your elbow up! All things I might tell a swimmer to do! There’s way too many moving parts and it’s too overwhelming to get everything right all the time.

So pick 1 thing to focus on and repeat it until it goes on autopilot.

Too Many Drills, Not Enough Swimming

It’s true, the best swimmers and triathletes in the world do complete drill sets every day. But drills alone are not your answer to getting faster.

While swim drills are crucial to learning how to swim fast, they can also waste your time. Or worse… harm your stroke mechanics. Used in the wrong way without the intended and required focus, drills will hurt more than they help.

Drills should always be taken into full stroke.

Getting good at swim drills for drills sake is no use to anyone. You can be the best side kicker in the world, but if it doesn’t transfer into your full stroke it’s pretty useless!

Good drill sets or drill progressions should have some full stroke swimming mixed in. This will give you the chance to practice the piece of the stroke you just worked on, in the place it actually counts.

Transferring what you feel from drill to full stroke is THE key. If it doesn’t transfer it’s a waste!

If your stroke looks exactly the same before and after the drill you’ve missed the point. The changes may not always be revolutionary. But the smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference in the water.

Read: Building Rock Solid Technique
🔸 https://icanswimfast.com/rock-solid-technique/

Not Swimming Enough

We don’t move through water in the same way we move on land. We need to develop “feel” for the water to swim faster.

“Feel” is a swimming term that describes how well our body works with the water.

You’ve learned how to work with laws of gravity and friction on land. You can think of “feel” for the water as learning how to deal with resistance, propulsion and breathing.

It’s very difficult to develop feel for the water by swimming once or twice a week. You need to be swimming at least 3 times per week. Ideally you’ll want to be in the water every 48-60 hours or every 2-3 days.

The less time you have between sessions the better the job your body does at remembering the “feel” for the water. AND the less chance there will be for bad habits to creep back in!

Racing Through Every Length

You will definitely want to be doing some fast swims at this stage of the learning process. But you shouldn’t be trying to do everything fast.

You can’t build technique or endurance off of speed!

Speed will give you some feedback on the efficient or inefficient parts of your stroke. It will help you get more comfortable and confident breathing hard and heavy in the water. But covering up your inefficiencies with speed will not accelerate your learning.

Slow down to swim fast. In this Stage focus on movement quality, body position and comfort rather than how fast you can go.


Stage 3a. Building Your Engine

You are in Stage 3 when you’re comfortable with your stroke and are able to start getting after distance and speed.

This stage can be a bit of a grey area for a lot of triathletes. It’s common to be confused about what exactly you should be doing to improve. You know your technique isn’t perfect, but is that why you can’t swim 1500m? Or why your pace is stuck at 2.20/100m?

Should technique be the focus as it is in Stage 2? Or should you be building your endurance and speed?

The answer in Stage 3 is, you need to be focused on both.

Focus on refining your technique and correcting your stroke mistakes. This is a never ending process as you will always have something to work on.

At the same time you should be working on building a solid training base. This means doing interval sets. These sets should be focused on:

  • Building your endurance
  • Increasing your speed
  • Growing your tolerance to swim longer distances.

The other key focus points of Stage 3a is learning to pace appropriately.

Learning to pace is critical to your success in swimming. Especially because you don’t have immediate feedback from a computer or watch like you do when you ride or run. Do you know what 70% feels like? Do you know what 100% feels like? Can you maintain a speed for a set distance or time? Do you have the gears to descend your pace from easy to fast?

Learn More: Swim Intensities
🔸 Listen to Shock The System: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUUrovos_20&t=141s


Getting Through Stage 3a

Get A Video Analysis Done

What are your biggest stroke faults? How can you better refine your technique?
Getting a video analysis done is the most effective way of figuring out what you should be working on. You’re looking to fix the biggest issues first before moving to the smaller ones.

Hire a Coach

The best way to make progress through this stage is to hire someone that knows what they are doing. You’ll want to look for a coach that has experience working with triathletes. There is a big difference between specialist swim coaches and triathlon swim coaches. A good coach will ensure you have the appropriate balance of technique and fitness work. They will hold you accountable and keep you on track.

Follow a great program

If you are able to hold yourself accountable, you might not need a coach. In this case I recommend you follow a carefully designed program.

Self coached triathletes tend to make some mistakes with their swim programing. Either they repeat the same workouts over and over. Or they google completely random workouts or just swim long straight workouts. You’re wasting your time if you are doing any of those.


The Stage 3a Hurdles

Don’t Swim Straight Workouts

You will build real endurance and confidence far more effectively with intervals. Swim fitness is a combination of cardio and how well you are are able to hold good technique as you fatigue. Intervals allow you to maintain technique for longer because of the rest periods.

They also give you the chance to swim at your threshold pace. Threshold intervals give you the best return on investment on your time. Meter for meter, they will make you fitter than any other type of swim workout.

In this post, I looked at the swim pace breakdown for the Average Age Group Triathletes. In the breakdown you’ll notice that the pace swum at for a 70.3 race and a full Ironman race is almost identical. Once you tap into your aerobic system your pace will steady out. You can tap into your aerobic system with intervals. There’s no purpose to do long straight swims.

Overusing Swim Tools

Swimming tools can be a great addition to your swimming training.

Used in the right way the toys will help develop your technique. It will accelerate your learning process. They add variety to your workouts and are a lot of fun to use.

BUT

Swim tools get abused by triathletes. Too many triathletes rely on tools to cover up weaknesses in technique. Or think that they might be able to shortcut the journey to faster swimming by using them.

Over using tools is going to give your an inflated sense of your swim fitness/ability. And it never workouts out well on race day.

You should use tools to enhance and further develop your existing swimming stroke. Use them to help build on the basics – to improve your technique or help you learn something new. Don’t rely on them to get you through workouts or cover up your weakness.

Read more on what tools I recommend here.

Getting the Technique Fitness Balance Right

Work technique & fitness in every workout. Regardless of your triathlon swimming ability, you need both to improve. If you can’t swim well, don’t ignore your fitness and focus on technique only. If you are a seasoned swimmer, don’t ignore your technique (and the bad habits you’ve picked up) but focusing only on your fitness.

Read More: How Much Time To Spend On Technique Vs Fitness

🔸 http://icanswimfast.com/fundamentals/#technique-fitness


Stage 3b. Hitting The Open Water

Stage 3b happens at the same time as 3a for most of my athletes. It’s a different focus and skill set but we run them in parallel.

Through Stages 1 and 2, a majority of your swims will have happened in the pool. But all triathlon race swims happen in open water. You’ll be swimming in rivers, dams, lakes and oceans, so you need to get comfortable in the open water.

Your ability to transfer your skills and speed from the pool to open water will determine how successful you are on race day.

In stage 3b you have two goals.

1. Get comfortable in the open water.
2. Establish a handle on the skills you’ll need to navigate through your race swims confidently.


Getting Through Stage 3b

Get in Open Water Practices

This is exactly the same as the Stage 1 process. You will gain confidence through exposure (and fun) in the open water. The more experience you get the more confident you will feel.

Your ability in any given moment is a direct reflection of your understanding about it. If you panic, it’s because you don’t know how to deal with the perceived threat to your survival.

You brain has a funny way of protecting you. When you are unfamiliar with a situation your brain will find any way to get you out, as quickly as it can.

Your brain doesn’t care much for your ultimate goal when it perceives a threat to your survival. If returning you to “safety” means stopping, your brain will make it happen. If it means breaststroking or calling the life guard over, you’ll do whatever you need to find safety! This doesn’t help you crush your swim goals.

Get comfortable in the open water. You’ll make better decisions when your brain stops perceiving a threat.

Read More: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day

🔸  http://icanswimfast.com/open-water-swim-panic/

Practice Your Sighting

The key open water skill you’ll need to develop is your sighting.

In the pool you have the benefit of a line on the lane lines and the lines on the bottom of the pool. That luxury doesn’t exist in the open water! For many of you it results in a lot extra swimming on race day. It doesn’t matter much how fast you are, if you swim further than you need to you will finish with a slower time!

Swimming a straight line is the easiest way to improve your swim time. Covering the shortest distance around a course and you’ll finish faster.

Read More: How To Swim Straight In Open Water

🔸http://icanswimfast.com/swim-straight-in-open-water/


The Stage 3b Hurdles

Not swimming in your wetsuit

If you will be racing in your wetsuit you need to be practicing in it.

Swimming in a wetsuit can feel very different to swimming without one. So the first time time you put yours on (ever or after a long break) it may feel a little weird.

If you use your wetsuit correctly it can cut minutes off your time on race day. But they can also limit your shoulder rotation and make it hard for you to breathe. If you’re not used to a wetsuit or yours doesn’t fit, you may have a problem. It could end up causing your technique to change and affect your breathing rhythm. Both of which will lead to a slower swim!

Read More:

🔸 http://icanswimfast.com/wetsuit-tips-for-open-water-swimming/

Doing too many open water swims

You absolutely need to be getting into the open water prior to a race! But don’t make the mistake of ignoring the pool completely. You can’t work on your technique in the open water like you can in the pool. And he way that most triathletes swim open water workouts (long straight swims) doesn’t build your fitness either.

I’ve watched triathletes lose fitness if they swim too much open water. Combined with developing poor stroke habits they end up much slower!


Stage 4a. Optimizing Your Engine

Stage 4a is where you begin to experience the law of diminishing returns. The possible improvements you can make will begin to decline. And the time investment needed to make small improvements increases.

My athletes in Stage 4 have a solid grip on their technique. There will always be points we can work on in their stroke. But for the most part they hold good position and maintain decent propulsion in the water over most sets.

Seeing fitness improvements in Stage 4a comes down to a very simple factor. Your willingness to get very uncomfortable. You have to push your body hard during your key swim sets. You’ll need to discover your “breaking point”, the point where everything falls apart. Then you’ll have to develop the mindset to deal with it and push through.

Unless you have a strong “why”, it can be a struggle to maintain your motivation through Stage 4. As a seasoned triathlete you may find yourself asking if the juice is worth the squeeze. Could you be making more progress by spending your energy on the bike and run? It’s a legitimate question to ask, and the answers will vary from athlete to athlete.

adjust your swimming mindset

Continuous Progress Through Stage 4a

Swim consistently (Year Round)

Swimming consistently will be a no brainer for most of you during the race season, but what about the off season?

In the build towards a race, your bike and run volume will limit and mask the progress of your swim. In Stage 4, big breakthroughs are made in a focused swim block during the off season.

You don’t need to be doing massive volume year round. Follow a well designed year round swim plan. It will make sure you’re doing the appropriate amounts of work when it counts.

Identify weaknesses

On the technique front continue to ask;
● What are your biggest stroke faults?
● How can you better refine your technique?

Schedule in regular video analysis to answer these questions. Identify where you can be making changes and put in focused time to making the adjustments.

On the fitness front;
Perform a range of swim fitness tests. They will help you identify which areas or types of sets will give you the best return on your energy. Do you need more distance tolerance? Are you missing good top end speed? Or is your ability to suffer through threshold sets lacking?

Avoid Injury

Nothing will derail progress quicker than an injury. Take care of your recovery, flexibility and health. If you’ve built up your volume it’s important that you take care of your shoulders in particular.

Get your Mindset right

The mind has ultimate control over your body. If you believe you’ve reached your genetic potential in the water, chances are you have. But if you believe there is more in the tank, there will be. Train with the mindset that you can break through to the next level. You might surprise yourself by getting better than you thought you could.


The Stage 4a Hurdles

Not Enough Variation in Intensity

To swim fast, you have to swim fast. If your threshold speed is too close to your top end speed you’re not going to race faster. You have to learn to swim fast over a shorter distance to improve your longer distances at this stage.

Here’s a common mistake I see getting made at Stage 3a & 4a.

A swimmer backs off the intensity whenever you feel your technique start to fail. If you do this you won’t get the adaption you’re looking for. Your stroke will fall apart if you are pushing the appropriate intensities. It’s inevitable. Your goal is to hold the best form you can as everything falls apart.

Swimming Tired

Do you always swim tired? If you don’t swim year round and only really focus on your swim in the build towards a race, it’s likely that you do.

If this is your approach, make sure you’re at least doing your key swims as your first training session of the day. The muscular fatigue and tax on your CNS from running and riding will stifle your swim progress.

Not Being Willing To Get Uncomfortable

You have to prepare your brain for how bad a hard workout will suck. If you are not prepared for the pain, your brain will shut your body down as a way to save yourself from yourself.

Your brain has the ability to control what your body does. If it’s not prepared to suffer, your body will literally stop functioning. Your brain’s way of protecting your for yourself. You want to learn to push a little harder than you ever pushed before, but not so hard that you go beyond your reach.

Develop a structured process each time you approach a key main set. The physical and mental set up will act as a primer that gets your body and mind ready.


Stage 4b. Open Water & Race Day Tactics

As you gains in pace and speed get harder to come by you will need to look to improve other areas of your race day performance. So in Stage 4b we work on developing your open water skills and creating a solid open water strategy. Anything we can do to help you get out the water quicker and on your bike before the rest of your Age Group.

What little details can we focus on to gain you an extra couple of seconds at different points in the swim?


Focus Points Through Stage 4b

Race Start
How quickly and efficiently can you get in, dolphin dive and start swimming at the start of the race? Do you have the top end speed for a fast take out? And the control to throttle back to your race pace once you’ve found your place?

Drafting
Can you find the right swimmers to draft off of. Are you comfortable sitting close enough to a swimmer to gain the drafting benefit? Do you have the awareness to know if they are swimming at an appropriate pace or holding the best line?

Turn Buoys
Are your turns effective? Or are you slowing right down to change direction?

Swim Exit
Do you know when to stop swimming and begin your dolphin dives. Are you good at transitioning from being horizontal to vertical? Keeping your HR under control as the blood rushes from your shoulders and lats to your legs.

Transitions
Are they slick and well rehearsed? It’s pointless swimming fast if your transition times puts you 2 minutes behind when you get on the bike. Improving your transition time is WAY easier than improving your swimming time! This is something that you should be practicing and rehearsing from day one. In Stage 4b we want to find ways to make it even smoother and more efficient.

Good Triathlon Swim Time

Continuous Progress Through Stage 4b

Mastering The Elements

One of the challenges of open water swimming is that the conditions can vary from one swim to the next. There are many variables that make open water swimming more challenging. The more difficult the conditions the bigger the impact on your swim times if you can’t deal with them.

Reading Tides & Currents

You want to be able to understand how the water is moving. What direction is it pushing in? Learning to read the tides and currents will help you swim the straightest line. It’ll also give you a strategy to manage your energy expenditure through the swim.

Sighting in Swells

Have you ever swum in rough water? If you don’t time the swell, you see nothing but a wall water in front of you when you sight! It takes skill to feel out the timing and flow of the swell. The better you can feel that timing the better you will be at sighting on top of the swell.

Swimming through Chop

Your stroke can (and should) be flexible depending on the conditions. Everyone has a “sweet spot” for your distance per stroke that your body is comfortable with. But in choppy open water, the length of your stroke will need to be shorter with a higher tempo.

You will spend less time in the extended position at the front of your stroke. In choppy water you pull through into your catch a earlier. The higher tempo will reduce the effect the chop has on moving you off course.


The Stage 4b Hurdles

Access to open water

Your access to open water is one of the hurdles to your success in Stage 4b. You can work on these skills in the pool but you need to be hitting the open water master these skills.

To get the full benefit of Stage 4b you should be practicing in conditions that mimic the ones you will be racing in. The closer you can match the water temperatures, surf, and currents the better you will be on race day.

That is the basic outline of my framework for assessing the progress of my Age Group Triathletes. Now that I’ve written it out, maybe it’s not so basic.

Use it to identifying where you are in your journey. And to know what you should be focusing on to improve. What skills you should be developing. And how you should be training.


The Variables That Influence Your Progress Through The Stages

1. Time in The Water

We’ve already talked about how moving through water is so different to anything we do on land. Because of the differences you need to spend time in the water. As far as your swimming improvements* go, the more the better.

I know I am guilty of wanting to shortcut the processes that will get to many of my goals. But I’m yet to find any shortcuts in the sport of swimming. It’s one of the reasons I love the sport. Because to master it, you actually have to put time into the water.

*More time in the water may not be the best use of your time in the grand scheme of overall performance on race day. Especially in Stage 4.

 

2. Consistency Of Your Workouts

Especially for the adult learner, swimming is a “use it or lose it sport”.

The less time you have between sessions the better the job your body does at remembering how to swim. Becuase the water is so different, we forget quickly. Swim once or twice a week and you’ll be taking two steps forward and one step back, every week. You’ll spend at least 50% of every workout remembering what you forget since your last swim.

Especially in Stages 1-3 you need to be swimming at least 3 times per week. That’s if you want to improve at a good rate. In general I suggest my athelets are in the water every 48-60 hours or every 2-3 days.

Of course you can still make progress if you swim less than this. You just won’t improve as fast as if you swam more.

 

3. Skipping Steps

I get it. You have limited time and big goals. It’s easy to want to shortcut the process and skip stages completely. But it doesn’t pay off long term.

The trouble is, most of us aren’t willing to accept the Stage we’re currently at becuase it’s not where should be. At least in our minds we usually believe we should be better than we actually are.

So we attempt to focus on advanced skills before grasping the fundamentals. It may make you feel like a more accomplished swimmer. But it’s not the most appropriate use of your training time. When you skip ahead, you’re likely to perform advanced skills poorly. And as a result engrain bad habits that you will have to break and reprogram when you do actually get to that stage.

To make sustainable progress, focus on the right thing at the right time. If you’re still in the early stages of building your technique, don’t spend time working on the Stage 4b points.

 

4. Being Unrealistic With Your Goals

Motivation is the cornerstone to your long term progress through the stages. Progress comes down to consistency and time in the water. Losing motivation will directly impact both of those variables.

If I’m too optimistic about what I achieve in a short period of time, I usually fail. That’s when my motivation takes a hit and I’m tempted to skip workouts.

When my goals are appropriate, I achieve them on schedule. That’s when I get really fired up to keep working hard and being consistent with my training.

Set unrealistic goals. But don’t set unrealistic timelines to those goals.

Set goals that scare you. Then break them down into smaller goals with short term timelines. As you tick off the short term goals you’ll move closer to the ultimate “unrealistic” goal.

 

5. Racing

I like my triathletes to be in Stage 3 before they race. If they start racing in Stage 2, we are trying to shortcut the process. It tends to lead to bad habits that we have to fix further down the road.

I’m certainly not saying you shouldn’t be racing. The whole point of training is to race. So get out there and get competitive.

What I am saying is that by racing at the wrong times you may be impacting your progress. Particularly in Stages 1 & 2.


11 Pieces of Advice For Becoming A Better Athlete

11 Pieces of Advice For Becoming A Better Athlete

A Reminder I Can Use From Time To Time!

By Rory | Mindset




Triaging Your Swim Stroke

Triaging Your Swim Stroke

Focusing on What’s Important, Selectively Ignoring What’s Not

By Rory | Technqiue




How To Manage Your Swim Training When You Travel

How To Manage Your Swim Training When You Travel

Three Key Options To Keeping Your Swims Consistent When Away From Home

By Rory | Open Water



Swimmers Guide Pool Database

Search the cit you will be traveling to and it will list a number of available options for hotels, public pools and private gym facilities. It’s not always up to date, so call or email before you make any firm plans.

Swim Bands

Elastic cord connected to two ankle straps that you can connect to the pool’s ladder or gutter, allowing you to swim “in place” in a pool that is too short to do laps in.

Swim Cords

The best option if you can’t get to a pool. These cords allow you to work on your catch and pull by buildimg muscular endurance in your shoulders, chest, lats and triceps. They will also help reinforce muscle memory and develop the movement patterns you want to replicate in the catch and pull phases of your stroke.