Monday, May 16, 2011

Tri Training: Schuylkill River Bound

The Philadelphia Insurance Sprint Triathlon (Philly Tri) on June 25th is less than six weeks away and I’m kicking my training into high gear for the next few weeks! This will be my second triathlon ever and first of the season. Last summer I did the SheRox Sprint Tri which has a very similar course to the Philly Tri

Clear pool with ropes and lane lines
Most triathletes dread the swim portion but I’m very confident in the water, even the murky Schuylkill River.  Swimming is my strongest of the three sports but I need to focus on it the most if I want to shave at least one minute off my time.  I’ve always loved swimming even as a kid.  My parents signed me up for swim lessons at the YMCA around the time I was learning how to walk and it’s debatable if I swim better than I walk. I’m much clumsier on land than in water!  It was not until High School when I began to swim competitively on a team and then I went swim at Cabrini College’s Division III swim team.   

Now, I’m back at it but this time in open water.  No matter how well trained I am in the pool, an open water swim is still a challenge for me.  Anyone who has ever swum laps in a pool knows that the lanes are easy to navigate with ropes, a black line on the bottom of the pool and a T on the side of the walls.  The open water is not nearly as easy to navigate because the only guidelines are the occasional buoy and lifeguards on surf boards around the course.
My focus has been on swimming drills that help simulate race day in the open water.  It’s unrealistic to just swim traditional free style the entire time during the open swim because there will be a lot of people in the water with me and I will need to be aware of my surroundings.  Below are my top 3 drills that I have being doing while preparing for the half mile swim in the sprint tri. Use these at your next pool workout and let me know what you think! 

Swim Drills to Prepare for Open Water Swimming:

Finish line of SheRox Philly Tri's swim portion
Tread Water: This sounds simple but it’s important that you can tread water for at least 10 minutes at a time.  Each triathlon is different but many have an in-water start.  This means that the packs of swimmers are all in the water the same time waiting for the official start. You may only need to tread water for two minutes before the start but it’s better to be more prepared so that you don’t tire yourself out before the clock starts. Practice treading water at the deep end of the pool close to the wall at first in case you get tired you can grab the wall for relief. One you feel stronger move away from the walls so that you can really simulate the open water experience. 

Lifeguard Swim: No, you don’t need to be trained in CPR to swim like a lifeguard swim. This is also known as open-face swimming and it’s all about spotting. Lifeguards are trained to do this so that they can always keep an eye on their victim while swimming out to them. Try it by swimming freestyle with your face out of the water.  This drill helps build strength to lift your head when sighting during your triathlon all while keeping the rhythm of your freestyle.  Start out by just doing the lifeguard swim half of the pool length and then work yourself up to swimming the entire length at least 3 times in a row. 

Swim Without Lane Ropes –This creates a chop and will be the closest thing to an open water swim you will experience in the pool.  Not all pools have this feature or option but if you notice that there is a section of the pool without lane ropes, and there is no "free" swim going on, do your workout in the open portion of the pool. Make sure you double check with the lifeguard on duty first because all pools vary with rules and regulations. Often times the open area of the pool is reserved for swim classes or free swim so take note of the schedule and plan your “pool- open water” swimming. 

Do you have any triathlon training tips to share? Let me know what you do to prepare for the open water.

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