Swimming Efficiency

I finished my weekend with a good bike ride on sunday. The wind was coming from the North East so I headed North, and then east, for the beginning of my loop. I did 3 x 2.5 mile hard effort intervals with .5 mile spin. I thought about doing more intervals but with the first 28 miles of my ride in almost straight headwind, I feel I did double the work with only 3 intervals. I rode hard to get to the point where I would start heading south and it felt good. I finished the ride with 53 miles and an average of 17 mph. Since I wasn't keeping track of my speed and just trying to be as efficient as possible with my pedal stroke (I LOVE my new DMT carbon shoes..oh, they are great!!!!) and aero position. After the ride I was really pooped and since Karel was off in San Antonio I had no excuse but to study for the rest of the morning. In the afternoon, Karel and I did two videos for Beginner Triathlete (plyometrics and changing a tubular) and we had a lot of fun putting those together in our backyard. It was Karel's first time on video so he was a bit nervous but opened up in no time. As for me, I always get nervous but the bigger the crowd the better for me. As for talking to yourself on a video, you kinda feel silly at first but when I think about my audience (BT.com) I feel much more comfortable. My spring break is over and done and now back to sitting in class for three days in a row. I guess it could be worse but I always have a million things on my mind and it takes a full day to squeeze them all in. This morning I coached an older man at the Clearwater Y. He is in the 65-70 age group and his goal is "to win!!!" I quoted him on that :) I LOVE working with the older triathletes because, believe it or not, they are just as competitive as us young kids :) And you 35-45 year olds...you are just too fast!!! :) hehe Anyways, when I coach atheletes in the water I first and foremost understand that most triathletes aren't swimmers when they start the sport. Therefore, triathletes don't only have to learn how to swim properly but learn how swim and then bike and run. In graduate school I really found the topic of efficiency so important to triathlon training, or any endurance sport. Efficiency is using the least amount of oxygen possible during exercise. It is easy to think about efficiency in running..if you jump up and down as you are running or fling around your arms you are wasting energy. If you are huffing and puffing because you didn't train properly and you are running too fast you are using too much energy for your body to handle. Ultimately, you are costing your body too much oxygen usage and you have to slow down because you don't have enough fuel. Without going into my soapbox, this is why so many athletes feel like they have to constantly fuel for all workouts no matter the length. I believe in training the body to use the least amount of fuel possible by being as efficient as possible with your oxygen. Just a note, you use fuel in the process of cellular respiration. Therefore as you breath and inhale Oxygen and rid your body of CO2 you need to metabolize the proper fuels (mostly carbohydrates and fats). Depending on the intensity, certain fuels are used at different times..all becuase of how much oxygen is given to the body. OK, back to swimming..wow, how I get off track!!! So when I was in the pool this morning (just like when I coach all athletes) I was focusing on ways (drills) to become a more efficient swimmer. One of the most important concepts for triathlets is distance per stroke for swimming. If you are taking a lot of strokes to get to one side of the pool you are wasting energy compared to if you reached a bit more and were able to cover more distance with one stroke. I have a project for my blog readers. Next time you are at the pool, count how many strokes it takes you to swim a 25. I suggest warming up for 300-500 yards and then doing 4-5 50's by counting your strokes. Try to use the least amount of strokes possible without losing form. Try not to just kick underwater until midway and then just glide with each stroke until the end :) Then do 2-3 100's and see if you can keep your stroke count as low as possible and try to be consistent. OK, so after you get your stroke count (I'm guessing around 20-25) for most intermediate triathletes) I have a set for you..and easy set. 4 x 25's. You may need a partner cause this involves lots of thinking. On the 1st and 2nd 25 I want you to go as FAST as possible. FAST, FAST, FAST!!! Get your time AND count your strokes. Then for the 3rd and 4th 25, I want you to be as long AND strong as possible and try to reach and get to the wall quickly but efficiently. Get your time and count your strokes. Here's my hypothesis.. you will probably take 5-10 more strokes on your FAST (first 2 25's) compared to the 50's and 100's you did earlier in the workout. However, you will have a quick time. For the distance per stroke 25's (#3 and #4) you will probably be 3-5 seconds slower but you will have a distance per stroke around 3-5 over the number you did in the 50's and 100's. So how does this all have to do with triathlons? Imagine you are swimming a 400 meter swim before a 10 mile bike and a 5 mile run (sprint tri). You are use to taking 20 strokes per 25 in a pool but come race day you want to go fast and you hope to set a PR. YOu go out swimming hard and fast but come out of the water kinda tired. YOu expended a lot of energy in the swim but you had a best time. So if you normally took 20 strokes but in your practice FAST set that I gave you, you took 30 strokes (but went super fast) that would give you 120 strokes per 100 or 480 strokes for a 400. And because you went 5 seconds fast per 25 on the fast compared to the Distance per stroke 25's (even though you took MORE strokes on the FAST) you would save 20 seconds per 100 or 1 minute and 20 seconds on the 400. Hummmm....is it worth it to take more strokes??? I think will tired legs during the bike and lactic acid buildup on the run you will ask yourself if it is was worth saving 1 minute and 20 seconds to go FAST during the swim. When you swim in practice, think efficiency. Long and Strong is the best advice I can give. Please post on my comments thread how things go!!!! :)
*Drills: Catch-up drill. Focus on reaching far and not letting the outstretched hand sink as you are following through with the pulling hand. Try to keep that outstretched hand close to the surface of the water.