Are there specific ingredients for becoming a better triathlon swimmer?
Renowned swim coach Gerry Rodrigues, who has coached professional and age-group triathletes to swim PBs for over 30 years, says there are four ingredients required to get better at the triathlon swim. In episode 3 of his Be Race Ready podcast, he breaks these down and explains how you can get the most out of your weekly swim sessions by incorporating them.
According to Rodrigues, the four key ingredients for all triathletes are increased training volume, improved mechanics, proper prescription (type) or workouts and having a coach or being accountable to someone.
“The average triathlete spends around two hours each week on their swim,” Rodrigues says. “By adding just an hour more of quality time in the water with the right type of workouts, you can bring down your swim times.”
Rodrigues explains in the podcast how this worked for a triathlete he coached, who in just one year brought his Ironman swim time from 1:40 to 55 minutes. This isn’t a typical case, but any triathlete who Rodrigues has seen apply the right type of increased training volume has seen results.
Rodrigues also adds that triathletes don’t need to worry about easing into added volume with swimming, as they would would running.
“You can safely jump from two hours a week to four hours,” he says.
Rodrigues says that you don’t need to spend as much time improving your technique in the water as most triathletes think.
“Mechanics are important, but you don’t need months of technical work for the right prescription of workouts,” he explains.
When it comes to technique, there are three main aspects that get integrated into every workout on Rodrigues’ swim program. These are body alignment, propulsion and tautness.
To make the most of your limited time in the water, it’s not necessary to dedicate a single workout to technique.
Prescription of workouts
Rodrigues says if he had to choose the most important ingredient, prescription of workouts would be it.
“I’ve seen reasonable mechanics at the Olympics and major technical flaws can be overcome with the right ‘dosage’ of swim workouts.”
Rodrigues says that workouts should work many different systems at once — aerobic, anaerobic, technique, etc. He gives more information on how to frame your workouts to include all this in episode 2 of the podcast, which we break down here.
Triathletes will push harder if they’re accountable to a training group or coach.
“If you’re swimming with a program where you get feedback and the coach know your goals, there’s added motivation for you.”
This means being present and engaged in your sessions. Rodrigues says that if you’re only swimming three times a week and you want to get a 20-30% time reduction on your full distance swim, you have to be fully engaged and pushing hard for the entire workout.