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Your Twitter questions about swimming as a triathlete, answered by coach Sara McLarty.
Q: How is use of a snorkel beneficial for swim training?
A: Front-mounted swim snorkels are a great tool for training. The small tube creates a hypoxic training effect by limiting the air intake to the swimmer. There are plugs and caps, sold separately, that cover a percentage of the opening and make breathing even harder. Wearing a snorkel also allows the swimmer to focus on stroke technique without having to turn his or her head to breathe. This allows athletes of all levels to relax and make changes and improvements in their technique.
Q: I live in Canada and am training for my first open-water event in March. Any tips for pool open-water training?
A: Add sets and drills into your swim training that mimic open-water conditions: no lines, no lanes, no walls. Practice lifting your head and sighting your water bottle or coach on the deck. Use the Tarzan Drill and swim 25s with your head out of the water to build neck and lower-back strength. Learn to swim in a straight line across the pool with your eyes closed, which will give you confidence to swim more strokes between sightings. Finally, do long swims without touching the wall to remove the short rest you get during streamlining. Instead, turn at the “T” on the bottom of the pool and improve endurance by building up your lost momentum each time.
Q: What can I work on in the off-season to get faster?
A: Analyze your strengths and weaknesses and truly commit to improving in the areas you were lacking. Did you fade halfway through the swim leg? Focus on endurance this winter. Do you have shoulder pain during practice? Get a video analysis to find issues with your stroke. Maybe you always swam off course—practice sighting correctly and swimming straight.
Q: I’m a 2nd pack swimmer. What can I do during the off-season to keep up with the front pack next year?
A: Use the off-season to work on your start speed and endurance. The front-pack swimmers usually break away at the start because they can sprint 100–200 yards at a sub-1:00 per 100 pace. Once you are able to hang with this group off the starting line, you will need endurance to stay in their draft zone for the remainder of the swim.
Q: Which dry-land workout will give you the most bang for your buck during an open-water swim?
A: Core strength is the most beneficial and overlooked aspect of swimming fast. Maintaining good form—especially during long open-water swims—is directly related to keeping your core strong and engaged. Commit to a core routine a few times per week.