Your questions about swimming as a triathlete, answered by coach and professional triathlete Sara McLarty.
Q: Any suggestions on how to warm up and keep my heart rate elevated while I wait for my wave to start? –Debra Gray Rusz
A: Warming up before the start of a triathlon is often overlooked, but a short pre-race routine on dry land can make the swim much smoother. Do a short run as a warm-up if you’re at a race where athletes aren’t allowed into the water before the start. Bring an extra pair of run shoes and wear them leaving transition to keep your feet warm, dry and protected.
Start with a light and easy 5–10-minute jog to get your muscles moving and warm. Find a clear stretch of pavement to execute 3–5 x 20-second strides that will elevate your heart rate without creating fatigue. Take 1–2 minutes between each stride to walk, stretch, drink and perform other pre-race tasks. Finally, find a quiet place to sit, relax and get focused while you wait for your wave to be called.
Q: As a swim coach, how do you recommend my triathletes and open-water swimmers train for spotting/sighting in an indoor pool? –onFaresKsebati
A: Sighting is one of the easiest open-water skills you can perform in a pool. Practice the action of sighting to strengthen muscles and improve position by doing Tarzan drill (swimming with your head above the water, also known as water polo drill) or a short set where you sight 3–4 times each pool length.
Sometimes I will wear a brightly colored shirt and have my athletes sight for me on the pool deck. I walk back and forth along the deck to create a moving target and teach my athletes to scan the horizon for the buoy instead of just looking forward.
Q: As soon as I’m in a race I struggle to maintain bilateral breathing. Any tips to maintain my rhythm? –Jennifer Begg
A: I tell all my swimmers that the breathing pattern they use in training will not always carry over to a race. However, the pattern they fall into during a race-effort main set is the pattern they will likely resort to in a triathlon swim.
A beautifully balanced bilateral breathing pattern is typically only maintained at slow to moderate efforts. Training with a bilateral pattern is good for developing an even and balanced stroke technique.
During a hard set or a race, your body will need more oxygen and you will need to breathe more often. Don’t fight the desire to breathe! Getting oxygen to your screaming lungs takes priority even if this causes you to breathe predominately on one side. Make an effort to switch sides every 6–8 breaths to keep on a straight course.
Pro triathlete and swim coach Sara McLarty has 25-plus years of experience and knowledge about swimming mechanics, efficiency and technique. Get your swim questions answered by Sara McLarty by Tweeting to @Saralmclarty.