I started swimming late, when I was 20, it’s my weakest discipline. At first I progressed quickly, but then improvements were much slower. The more time and effort you put into it, the more you improve. But there are two other disciplines in triathlon and you have balance the dedication you put into each.
I’m progressing each year, but I’m far from a level I consider competitive: I lose aprox. 8′ to the leading swimmers in ironman. When I first started swimming I was told that a good technique is the most important factor, so I worked on it. I was constantly reminded on that, so I worked on my stroke, my position, with lots of drills… and although it’s very important, fitness plays a huge factor in swimming and is too often underrated. As I see it, working on a good body position and a correct stroke should be the main focus until being able to swim at a certain speed, and once that is achieved fitness should be the goal. In my pool I see some swimmers that used to swim at a competitive level. They don’t train as hard as they used too and are much slower, I’m able to beat many of them. They did not forget how to swim, they just are not as fit as they were. I also swim alongside a swim team and when I swim easy my speed is similar to their easy speed, but when they go hard they really go fast, while my easy speed and hard speed is very similar. Why is this? I lack upper body power to properly accelerate my stroke underwater.
I think this is the main reason to swim fast, the key to a good stroke is the ability to accelerate the arm underwater. The faster the arm moves the higher is water force , so propulsion is bigger. This is difficult to achieve specially for us who started swimming at a late age. I’ve tried different strength training methods and no good results so far, but I realized that I’m swimming best when I train cross-country skiing as well. I find that it’s much easier to work on upper body power in skis. I don’t ski that much to have a big impact on my swim but it led me to find a similar exercise I can work on the whole year, the ThoraxTrainer. It’s a ergometer based on skiing movements but the difference is you don’t move forward and thus, the amount of muscular groups involved is much higher than skiing.