Swimming Partners 101
Similar to most athletic partners, a swimming partner’s primary goal should be motivation. If you are an experienced swimmer, a good partner can challenge you to keep up on faster sets, try new drills, and push yourself over a training plateau. If you are newer to swimming, your should help you improve by constructively critiquing your technique. Your swimming partner can help you find new workouts, and encourage you to pursue your training with new challenges and goals. As a swim partner, you should be respectful of a few basic rules.
First, depending on how fast you are compared to your partner, you should decide whether you would like to swim side-by-side each other (in the same lane or different lanes), or if you would both like to circle swim. Circle swim requires that the second swimmer leaves the wall at least 5 seconds after her partner begins the set, so that she does not ‘toe tap’ her partner. If you are, in fact, faster than your partner you should either leave a few seconds later or politely ask if you can lead the next set. If your partner works at a different pace than you, just give each other encouragement in between sets and then choose one set of something short, such as 25’s or 50’s to do together as you conclude your workout, leaving you with a unitary ending. With swim partners, there is relatively little opportunity for talking in-between sets. Also the farthest you can fall behind your swim partner lies within the pool walls. In other words, your partner can’t leave you hanging ½ a mile behind or vice versa, as in running or cycling, which makes the search for the perfect partner a little easier.
Many people are intimidated by the swim component of triathlons and fear they aren’t a strong enough swimmer which will cause them to fall behind or drown. No need to fret! While you will have to fight through the crowds of swimmers during a race to maintain a lead, there are always lifeguards to keep you safe. The swim is the shortest part of the triathlon, so time lost is often easily gained during the next two segments. Tri-swim training doesn’t have to involve mile long open water swims all the time, or countless 500m repeats in the pool. While you should put in the distance, it’s best to mix up your sets with new intervals, distances, and challenges such as ‘ascending/descending’ sets, sprints, or drills. As a triathlete, you’ll want to make sure to do plenty of pull sets to strengthen your arms so that you don’t wear out your legs from kicking at the beginning of a race. Long distance swimmers (such as triathletes) often follow a two-kicks per stroke guideline. If you normally swim in a pool, try to get at least a few swims in the open water that is similar to your race day conditions to help prevent surprises. You should know what it feels like to swim against and with whatever type of current there may be. To help you improve your swimming technique, you could also join a Triathlon Group who you can train with before your first or even twentieth race.
Open Water Swimming Safety
When you've tired of swimming endless laps in the same pool lane, you should try swimming in open waters. However, unlike jumping into a pool, there are numerous safety percuations to take before you enter the water, while you are swimming and when you finish swimming.
Open bodies of water such as lakes, oceans or estuaries are typically colder than pool water, so you should consider wearing a wet suit if the temperature is under 65 degrees, a bright colored swimming cap and ear plugs. This clothing will keep your body warm and prevent hypothermia. The bright swim cap is so that boats, surfers and any other water vehicles will see you even if in dark waters. Unlike in pools, you shouldn't just dive in to an open body of water and start swimming. Give your body time to adjust to the temperature. Also be prepared to swim a shorter distance then you do in a pool; currents, swells and the cold water will add difficulty to your swim. If you are swimming on a sunny day, remember to put on waterproof sunscreen at least a half hour before entering the water.
It may seem unrealistic, but you should always try to swim with a body. A change in currents, passing boats, fog and even seaweed can present safety issues from which only another person can rescue you. Definitely learn to breathe on both sides while you are training in a pool. This will come in handy on the open water swim route, because waves and swells have no predilection for your chosen breathing side. Additionally, you should practice all styles of stroke so that you can adjust to the best stroke for the day's given water currents.
Strength Training For Swimmers
All of your swim training doesn't need to happen in the pool. Weight training in a gym can help to prevent injury, gain strength and rehabilitate injured muscles. Swimming, as a full body activity, requires that numerous muscle groups be strong. It is not just arm strength that propels a swimmer through the water. A swimmer's muscles must be long, strong and flexible. Arm and shoulder muscles have to be strong enough to push through water resistance, but also have to be flexible in order to perform repetitious stroke movements. Swimmer's legs should have highly developed slow-twitch muscles for kicking endurance. To help you gain speed and endurance, workout at the gym two to three times a week in addition to your pool practice. After every workout, be sure to stretch to help lengthen the muscles. Try this simple Full Body in an Hour workout.