April 24, 2017

Make a Big Splash in Triathlons this Summer

By Lois Marquart

After the 1993 Seattle Danskin Triathlon I was hooked. It was my first multisport competition and while I loved the sport, in the early years I was also terrified. I didn’t know where to begin so I trained randomly the first year of competition, which garnered equally random results.

I began focusing on training and within a few short years became nationally ranked, racing around the United States with Team USA and later for XTERRA.

Whether you are new to triathlon racing, or a veteran, there are plenty of tips and tactics to learn for successful racing. The swim portion of a triathlon can be a success when you plan and train appropriately.

Here are swim tips for triathlon training that have helped me prepare and win over the years.

Create a Plan

Start by choosing races you want to compete in. Create a training plan and then get started, begin training as early in the year as your schedule allows. Finding a good coach helps with setting and following a productive training schedule. A coach will also help you work on proper stroke form.

Focus on Three Phases

Whether you train in a pool or open water, building these three phases is key to a successful swim race.

Base Phase

Throughout the Base Phase, your goal is to apply easy effort and build more distance to your swims.

Example interval training: Schedule twice-weekly swim workouts at a specific distance, set a goal of adding 200 – 400 yards each day of swimming.

Build Phase

In the Build Phase, your goal is to build anaerobic endurance, or in other words, get your body used to breathing harder for longer periods of time. In this phase you’ll want to increase your weekly efforts by adding more intervals with shorter rest periods after each.

Example interval training: Complete 15 –20 sets of 100-yard laps, with 20-second rests between each lap.

Race Phase

In the Race Phase, your goal is to swim at race-speed during one weekly swim practice.

Establish this by lowering the number of fast intervals during practice, but also take longer rest periods between intervals.

Example interval training: Swim at high intensity for five 100-yard laps. This phase is recommended between one to four weeks before a race.

Vary Workout Intensities

Regardless of the length of the race you’re training for, continue to work on speed, distance and endurance. During weekly swim-training sessions, it is important to have a workout schedule that supports your race performance.

Example interval training for a short sprint race:

•    Speed: 10 fast 50-yard laps, resting 20 seconds between each lap
•    Over distance: 2–3 easy 500-yard sessions, resting 30 – 45 seconds between each session
•    Endurance: 5 – 8 medium-paced 200-yard sessions, resting with 30 seconds between each session

Open-Water Conditioning

As the triathlon race season approaches, begin to increase your weekly swimming routine.

Open-water swimming is more challenging than pool swimming due to the water temperature and how rough the surface can be in windy conditions, or when swimming with crowds of people.

Enlist a coach, join a group, participate in a clinic or find a swim buddy to help you build a routine and promote safety and accountability. The other benefit of a coach, group or clinic is learning how to sight your position in the water (to help you swim straight), and practice breathing, drafting and being aware of your head position.

Adaptation to the water temperature is important and depending on where you live and what time of year you’re training, wearing a wetsuit for warmth and buoyancy may be necessary.

Always wear a brightly colored swim cap for visibility and safety. Consider purchasing an International Swimmers Hall of Fame (ISHOF) SaferSwimmer Float for even better visibility.

If you are new to open-water swimming during a triathlon, it is important to become comfortable swimming in unpleasant or rough water conditions. Also practice exiting the water after swimming, unzipping your wetsuit and moving toward a transition stage (imaginary or real) every time you finish an open-water swim.

Lastly, visit the route for your race a few days or hours before the start to learn where the buoys are located, establish landmarks to use while swimming to help you sight during the race. Also, research the distance between exiting the water and the next stage of the race so you can anticipate the amount of time you have for a transition.

Gear to Get You Going — Swim Goggles — By Kris Parfitt

Whether swimming in a pool or open water, a high-quality pair of goggles will not only last a long time, but also provide needed comfort and eye protection from damaging ultraviolet rays while offering clear visibility in the water.

Aqua Sphere Kayenne Goggles

Weighing just 4 ounces, the Aqua Sphere Kayenne Googles feature ultraviolet-protected oversized lenses for a wide field of vision as well as anti-fogging technology. Designed for secure comfort, the hypoallergenic and hydrodynamic one-piece frame is leak-proof and easy to adjust even while wearing. Retail: $25

Zoggs Predator Flex Polarized Ultra Goggles

Polarized curved lenses provide 180-degree vision and glare elimination when swimming outside or in open water. The comfortable and enhanced Zoggs Flex frame offers an excellent fit and the silicone strap is easily adjustable. Retail: $35

Rosa Schleife Goggles with Siamese Ear Plugs

Featuring mirror-coated, ultraviolet ray-protected, anti-shatter and anti-fogging lenses, the Rosa Schleife Goggles come equipped with attached earplugs to prevent water entering the ear while swimming. Ergonomically designed to reduce pressure around the eye, the lenses are also leak-proof and the adjustable headband makes it easy to fit any head size. Retail: $20

Lois Marquart has a Sports Science Degree from Indiana University. She is the founder and president of Trisport Coach and is a USAT and Saris® Certified Coach for beginning to elite multisport athletes. Offering open-water swim clinics and practices beginning in May, Marquart welcomes all levels who “want to tri,” to those who are interested in getting to the podium. Visit Marquart at www.trisportcoach.com