Coach Suzie Richards details some really useful ways that you can use simple but very effective techniques to rapidly improve your swim times.
I was coaching a Leeds Bradford Triathlon Club swim session last week.
One part of the session was 9 x 100m off 2 minutes.
This was to be done as 1- 3 descending, repeated 3 times.
1st 100m to be easy (below css/ threshold
2nd 100m to be medium (css pace/ threshold)
3rd 100m to be hard (above css/ threshold)
"What time are you aiming for on your easy 100m?" I ask
"Oh I don't know, I don't check the time" was the common response
I was saved by Tony.
"I think I did that one in 1.45"
Great, so if your easy 100m was 1.45, then I suggested Tony make the medium 100m a 1.40 and the hard 100m a 1.35 .10 seconds minimum between the easy and hard 100s is a nice clear distinction in different paces.
There is a big wall clock at the pool, ideal for timing reps. I asked all the athletes to use it.
After using the clock Tony who had hit 1.45 for his easy rep, then hit 1.44 for the medium rep and 1.44 for the hard rep.
After reiterating that the aim is to hit different paces for each 100m, Tony decided to aim for 100m as 1.55 (easy rep), 1.50 (medium rep) and 1.45 (fast rep)
Bingo, the next set of 3 x 100m saw a clear distinction between easy, medium and hard.
As the athletes left the pool, I suggested they write down their times in whatever training diary they used.
More blank looks.
Why is recording your times in a diary a good idea?
The number 1 reason is to keep track of progress.
If you swim 9x100m in January and then every other week or do a similar session then you can see if you are improving.
A training diary that shows your times and distances is useful to show you if you are improving. If you are swimming the same times in July as you were in January, you must be doing something wrong.
Example 1 (part of a diary):
Jan 10th: 9 x 100 as 1.55, 1.50, 1.45 x 3 off 2 mins
Jan 21st 12 x 100 as 1.54, 1.48, 1.45 x 4 off 2 mins
Feb 24th 15 x 100 all best pace 1.48 off 2 mins
Example 2 (part of a diary)
Jan 10th: 9 x 100 as 1.55, 1.50, 145 x 3 off 2 mins
Jan 21st 12 x 100 as 1.56, 1.50, 1.48 x 4 off 2 mins
Feb 24th 15 x 100 all best pace 1.56 off 2 mins
The athlete in example 1, can see good progress in their swimming. So can take confidence in what they are doing is working and is likely to be motivated to continue.
The athlete in example 2 can see that in over a month, they have made limited progress. They can step back, reassess their training plan and make changes.
One of the athletes at the Triathlon Club swim told me he logs all his training on Strava. I was intrigued to know how he logged his swims. He told me he puts total distance swum and time.
Now I use Strava sometimes, mainly for uploading rides, I think it has some good benefits, comparing your hill rep efforts or 5 minute reps on the same segment each month is useful. But for swimming, I struggle to see the benefits, outside of logging time/ distance swum.
You could have a Strava diary filled with 4 swims/ week but over 3 months your 100m times in a 16 x 100m session maybe the same and that is not transparent to you.
That is why I use Training Peaks with all my athletes. The screen shot bellow shows the detail you can input in a single swim entry
A useful function of Training Peaks is the search tool, that allows you to search through different work outs and allows you to compare them. I like to title work outs, in a way that allows me to easily find them using the search tool, which allows me to compare them.
Here is an example. If one swim each week, is a distance rep session then you can compare how you are progressing, through using the search tool and viewing them in a list, such as bellow.
A really simple, but key, component to improving your swim times, is to use the clock and record your times. Just by recording your times, you'll focus your mind on improving. What gets measured gets improved!
Suzie Richards coaches triathletes for all distances, from sprint through to Iron distance races. She currently has some limited availability for 1 -1 coaching. If you're serious about improving your performance, you can contact her direct via email: