Core Training in the Pool
by Chris Hague
Over the past week, you may have understandably eaten a bit too much (I definitely did this one), skipped a few workouts, and become “lazy” in your training, but that does not mean you should give up completely and leave your speedo on the hook.
The most important thing now is to get back in the water, hop on the bike, and re-lace those running shoes.
However, before you dive back in the go straight into heavy training by cranking out intense sets of 100s,
for now, I actually want you to slow down. Yes, you read correctly, I want you to slow down so that you
can focus on the last part of your “core,” core training. When I refer to core training, I am talking about the
foundation of your training as we build your strength and endurance leading up to your “A” race(s) in the
late spring and summer.
When it comes to swimming, this core is comprised of two equally important and dependent parts: drills and comfort in the water. Regardless of whether you have been swimming for one season or several, returning to these two components at the beginning of the season is essential. Without doing so and rushing straight into speed work, you will lose this valuable opportunity to become more efficient with your stroke and thus become faster later on when it really matters during your racing season. Unfortunately building your swimming core requires a lot of time, patience, and humility. Doing drills in the water does make you slow down, look slightly silly, and may not be as glamorous as cranking out 100’s on 1:20, but doing them and doing them correctly will make you a better swimmer so that you can those 100’s at a 1:10 base (eventually)! The important thing to remember is to perform them with complete concentration and focus on form.
Practice does not make perfect doing drills; rather, perfect practice makes perfect. Consistency is also key. I do drills every time I hop in the pool and do at least 500-1000 yards of them. On recovery days, I sometimes even dedicate whole practices to them. Even if you have only 10, 15, or 30 minutes free to workout, getting in the water to do drills is well worth it. Here are my top five favorite drills that I do almost every workout:
1. Finger tip drag
3. Side to side
4. Swim Golf
The second component of core training, comfort in the water, requires just as much patience, time, and commitment as doing drills, but it is much simpler to practice. All you have to do is dive in. Just by spending more time in the water, doing laps and drills, you will automatically become more comfortable with the feel of the water; your muscles will remember proper positioning as your brain “programs” itself with what to do and how to swim. However, this makes drills even more essential because if you program your stroke incorrectly, then you will have to go back, break the improper form and habits that you have practiced, and then reprogram it again.
Getting in once or twice a week may be enough to sustain and maintain gains but is not enough to develop a true feel. For beginners, I advise at least four times a week even for just 15 minutes or 500 yards but getting in as much as you can even if its just for a short time will optimize your chances of becoming a better swimmer. Just like when you were first learning to ride a bike, you may have felt wobbly, ungainly, and uncomfortable, but the more time you rode the better you got and the more enjoyable it was. The same goes
for swimming. Moreover, more time in the water will also help you overcome your fear of and sometimes dislike for the water. Many triathletes focus and spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on running and/or biking because they are good at it and feel comfortable doing them while neglecting swimming because they are not. By improving your comfort in the water, you begin to see that swimming is not that bad and that there is nothing to fear. If you feel like a “fish out of water” when you first get in the pool, then
simply “get back in.”
You may get frustrated during this build phase or that you are not getting in a real workout, but realize that even the pros were once where you are. Everyone has to start somewhere, and there is no point in denying where you are or your current abilities. Swimming takes time and consistency but by creating a stronger core through drills and a better level of comfort you will inevitably become a better and stronger swimmer and triathlete later on.
Chris Hague is the assistant coach for triswimcoach.com and competitive triathlete in both the half and full Ironman distances. For more, check out http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/about/