Head Coach Chris Bagg working the coaches at Swim Smooth in Carlsbad, CA

Head Coach Chris Bagg working the coaches at Swim Smooth in Carlsbad, CA

Swim Training

Most triathletes come to us saying “I feel pretty good about the bike and the run, but I just can’t seem to get faster in the water.” Sound familiar? That’s because swimming is a lot more like golf than cycling or running—it’s a technical sport involving many different movements that have to occur in a correct order. Think about it this way (since this is how we talk to many of our athletes): if you didn’t know how to play golf, or how to hit a baseball, would your first priority be going to the driving range and hitting 1000 golf balls? Probably not. You’d end up frustrated at best and injured at worst. That’s why an swim analysis is part of every athlete’s coaching package at CBCG. We have to know what you’re doing before we can fix it. Local athletes are easy, of course, but we can manage with remote athletes, too, given how easy it is to get video footage these days. Here’s an example of one of our athlete videos, below, discussing her stroke and describing the steps we’ll take to improve her technique.

Technique, however, isn’t everything. Unlike cycling and running in terms of technique, swimming responds to training stimulus similarly to the other sports of triathlon. At CBCG we believe that technique is important, but technique work must take place along with endurance, speed, and race-specific training, too. Otherwise you’ll be so tired by a short technique session that your body won’t accept the changes you’re trying to make. One of our greatest strengths at CBCG is that our coaches all come from strong swimming backgrounds, so you know that you’re working with someone who both knows how to swim and how to get faster at swimming. We’ll use a variety of techniques, from a variety of influences, but here are some of the intensities that most often show up on CBCG athletes’ training schedules:

  • Strength swimming with buoy and paddles, designed to make you a more powerful swimmer
  • Sub-threshold endurance intervals from 200-1500 meters that generate the distance-specific endurance necessary for sprint/Olympic/70.3/Ironman racing
  • Threshold pace intervals intended to improve an athlete’s ability sport specific speed
  • Pace change workouts that mimic the chaotic demands of open-water racing
  • Sprint workouts that improve your raw speed
  • Technique sessions to make you a more efficient swimmer
  • Open-water sessions (both in the pool and out in lakes and oceans) that familiarize you with the kind of swimming you’ll experience in triathlon

Many triathletes treat the swim as something “just to get through,” but we don’t agree with that at CBCG. We believe that the swim is an opportunity to get you the result that you’re looking for. Trained properly, a good swim will:

  • Leave you ready and primed to hit the bike with a near-full tank of gas (instead of exiting the water gassed!)
  • Put you farther forward in your field than you usually find yourself (by using proper drafting and open-water skills and by improving your swim speed)
  • Contribute to your bike fitness (swimming and cycling complement each other nicely in terms of aerobic development)
  • Give you a mental edge, since you know that you’re more prepared than the others around you who are simply hoping to have an incident-free swim.