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Intelligent Triathlon Talk, Issue #010 -, Get Back Into Swim Training
December 04, 2012

Intelligent Triathlon Talk

4th December 2012, Issue No 10.

Welcome to Intelligent Triathlon Talk.

In this issue:

  • News Update: World Championships Trip
  • Training Advice: Getting Back Into Swim Training

Mark's Squad News

(Mark is Performance Coach for British Triathlon’s High Performance Centre in Loughborough.)

Since our last newsletter Mark has been away on a 5 week trip to Japan (for the Yokohama World Championship Series race), Australia and New Zealand.

In Yokohama, Mark’s 2 athletes involved had a good race. Adam Bowden had his best World Series result to date with 6th place, and Aaron Harris finished 15th, also his highest place finish at this level.

From Japan, Mark then went to Australia. For the past 12 months his athletes having been using artificial altitude - ie tents and generators. In anticipation of an early start to the World Series in the southern hemisphere next year and with a desire to explore altitude training further, he went to look at a training venue in Australia – Falls Creek.

This is a ski resort in winter and a popular training venue for cyclists and runners during the summer. It is a fantastic little place, quiet when Mark was there due to it being the transition from the ski season to summer season.

There is great running and riding here, with lots of climbs, and a lake. However the nearest swimming pool is 35K away on twisty roads. So we have to factor in whether a 45 – 50 minute drive each way to the pool is worth it with the amount of time required for training on such a camp.

Next, it was on to New Zealand in preparation for the World Championships.

The British team chose to base themselves in Hamilton, which was a great camp with most of the juniors and U23 athletes joining the seniors. They then moved into the official race hotel in Auckland 4 days before the race.

The course was one of the toughest raced on in the last few years – lots of hills on the bike. It was good to see such a hard course and also proactive racing on the bike in all races.

This is something the sport can benefit from – a wide variety of courses producing different racing styles.

The results of the Championships are well known – notably in the men’s race a well deserved world title for Jonny Brownlee, and a well deserved win on the day for Javier Gomez.

Mark then had a weeks holiday – who could resist the opportunity to see some of the fantastic NZ scenery! After a long year, it’s not just the athletes who need a break, the coaches do too!

He took the opportunity to indulge his photography hobby, so here’s a holiday snap for you of a classic NZ landscape!

Mark’s athletes then had a month off training. For most of them this was a complete rest, whilst some got back into some light exercise over the last week or so.

Training Tip Of The Month: Swimming

After time off at the end of the season, when you’re probably at your least fit and most vulnerable to injury and illness, it can be tempting to jump straight back in wanting to get fit quick. We would encourage you not do to this!

There’s plenty of time until next season’s racing comes round, so take some time to try to iron out bad habits in swimming and focus on technique whilst slowly building your fitness back up.

To develop technique we use a combination of drills and coach feedback to try to refine the stroke and make it more efficient.

We keep the training load of a set down so that the athletes are not put under lots of training stress whilst trying to think about movement patterns.

Drills must be used in conjunction with the full stroke as you need to be able to take the movement pattern or skill the drill is teaching you and apply it to your full stroke.

Typically we will use 25m of drill with 50m of full stroke (although this will depend a little on the drill).

Our group would normally swim 28 – 32K per week in competition and pre-season training phases, and could swim up to 40K per week during swim specific blocks.

In the first 6 weeks of the new training year we won’t swim more than 28K, building up to this over 6 weeks.

Training frequency is as normal, but sessions are 50 – 70% of usual volume, building to 100%.

With reverse periodisation (if you missed the last newsletter with an explanation see here: ) one of the key sessions at this time of year is a technical threshold (critical swim speed) development session:

Session For Elite Triathletes:

30 x 50m, in 30 – 36s (which is VO2max pace), on a 60s cycle – in other words nearly a 1:1 work:rest ratio. The aim is to concentrate on keeping time and stroke count constant from the 1st to the last rep.

The purpose of short reps with relatively long recovery is to allow the athletes to swim fast but without too much fatigue.

This is a set Mark does with his squad – athletes have threshold speeds ranging from 68s – 75s/100m.

Over the next few weeks we will reduce the cycle down to 50s, swimming the same times with the same stroke counts. This puts a greater physiological load on the athlete as well as a greater technical stress, but is not so much at this early stage that the athlete becomes fatigued and inevitably fails to maintain stroke integrity.

In 6 – 8 weeks this might become 20 x 75m and again starting with a long rest and reducing the cycle over a period of weeks. This is now becoming much more of a physiological training session as the athletes are getting fitter and more able to hold their stroke together under high training stress.

How To Adapt This Session To Suit You:

You should still aim for reps of roughly 30 seconds. More than 40 seconds at this intensity will inevitably mean you are unable to hold the stroke integrity.

This can be difficult in a pool, but you could swim to a marker (say at 37m) and float in the rest of the length - you get a slightly longer rest with some of it active.

Aim to start with a slightly greater than 1:1 work:rest ratio.

So if you’re swimming 50m in 35s, start on a 75s cycle. If you find this manageable reduce the cycle the following week, but if your times are dropping off or your stroke counts are increasing as the session goes on, either repeat it the same next time or go on a slightly longer cycle.

Over the next 4 to 5 weeks aim to reduce the cycle gradually by ~5s when you are able to maintain speed and stroke count throughout the whole session.

You then have several options for moving on:

1) Go back up to the longer cycle and swim faster – to improve fitness

2) Reduce stroke count - to become more efficient at that pace if it is a pace you are happy with.

3) Increase rep length up to 75/100m – to increase training load or endurance at this speed.

Just to put this session into context for you, Mark’s squad are doing one other quality swim session per week (a power session), the rest is just steady volume, short reps of 100 – 200m, which will build over time to reps of 400 – 800m.


Our race review competition to win a Blueseventy wetsuit was won by a review of the Celtman! Extreme Scottish Triathlon (an event which coincidentally won the title of Race Of The Year at the recent British Triathlon Annual Awards).

You can read the entry here:

Runner up and winner of Endurance Shield sunblock was the Scheels High Cliff race which you can read here:

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See you next time!

Rhona & Mark

© 2012, Intelligent Triathlon Training, published by Rhona Pearce. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.

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