As winter starts the only refuge we triathletes have is our indoor swimming pools. Squad swimming provides many benefits over swimming in the public lanes. A good swim squad will engage you in a swim program that keeps you interested and keeps you fit. You will get the benefits of having a coach poolside to keep an eye on your technique and make sure you are swimming as hard as you should. There are things you can do to make the most of your squad experience, here are three of them:
1. Put yourself in your place
Make sure that you have seeded yourself correctly in the squad. This means knowing what lane to swim in and knowing where in the lane to swim. Be conscious of the fact that you may have to seed yourself to the back for certain drills (say kicking) but you may need to put yourself at the front for different skills (say freestyle). There’s nothing that disrupts a squad (and gets on a swim coach’s nerves) more than a swimmer out of place. Generally, swimmers should leave the wall five seconds apart and maintain this difference over the set. If you’re closing the gap over the distance, then make sure you start in front of that person next time. By not putting yourself in the right place, you only hold yourself back. If you keep yourself swimming on someone’s toes you’ll be swimming at a lower intensity than you should be and you’ll slow or stop your improvement!
2. Ask the coach for advice
Your coach is there for your improvement. A good swim coach will make his way around the squad trying to spread his time amongst each swimmer, perhaps spending more time on someone that is finding the skill more difficult to cope with. But at the end of the day, swim coaches will give more time to those that demand it in a squad! This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that when swimmers open themselves up to improvement by asking questions, coaches will usually take this as evidence that you are ready to make a change and an opportunity to make a difference in your stroke. (These opportunities don’t come up as often as you would expect!) If you are aware of something that feels wrong in your stroke, ask the coach! Keeping your mouth shut and waiting your turn will only mean that you are practising a poor stroke for longer! Coaches appreciate it when you ask questions, it’s not a hassle, it’s what we are here for!
3. Push yourself
Just because you are in a squad doesn’t mean that you’ll improve. You can’t just turn up and expect changes to happen. You have to do it yourself. This means when a coach says ‘Sprint!’ you should sprint! Coaches know the tricks of the trade – we are swimmers too. I know when a coach asks me to sprint, I can do two things: I can swim just hard enough to get him off my back or I can really sprint and nail myself. Your coach may not know the exact times you are capable of, but you do.
At the end of the day it’s your swimming on the line. You’re the one who has to swim the race. Your coach can’t do it for you. Keep yourself honest when you swim in a squad and you’ll improve.
Originally published in New Zealand Multisport and Triathlete Issue 70, July 2009.
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