Coach Kevin might fire me for writing this blog. But it’s a New Year, new me, so what the heck, right?
I am going to tell you the secret to how TSC has made our athletes (and we are reaching well into the thousands) more efficient, faster, and–most importantly–more confident triathletes. It is actually quite simple and can be boiled down into 4 small but powerful steps.
Before we get into the actual steps, “step zero” is having our athletes send us their swim videos for analysis. We would certainly not be as successful as we have been without this crucial step. Moreover, without it, we would be guessing at what you need help on. And as a formal math teacher, I am not a fan of guessing.
Instead, we prefer to test not guess. We break down each part of your stroke from your toenails to your outstretched fingertips and create a list of everything that you need to work on. However, we don’t share everything with you. That would be overwhelming. Instead, we focus on these four steps in order of importance.
- Getting comfortable in the water and getting to the pool. The first area that we focus on is whether you are comfortable in the water. Comfort is what many programs leave out. Without comfort, everything else in a swim program will be that much harder. Instead, we introduce you to drills that will allow you to start to relax while exhaling with your face in the water and rotating to breathe. We want you to get to the level at which you feel being in the water is second nature. This steps also aims at getting you comfortable going to the pool consistently and building that habit up.
- Balance in the water. After you feel good in the water, we focus on your body position in the water. We introduce drills that allow you to not only become more balanced in the water but also your ability to feel how your body is in the water. Building this “proprioception” is essential so that later on, you can feel when you need to get back to proper body position. The reason why we focus on this aspect of your swim before areas like endurance and stroke is that you can have a cardiovascular engine of a pro cyclist and the perfect high elbow catch but you will not become an efficient swimmer until you are no longer dragging your feet and rotating properly especially when breathing.
- Propulsion. After we see that the athlete is comfortable and balanced in the water, we can now start addressing the kick and the catch and pull. Yes, unlike some programs we believe kicking is important in triathlon because if your kick is weak chances are your body position and balance in the water is too. Don’t believe me? Bind your ankles together with a towel and try swimming. Good luck getting to the other end of the pool without struggling. If steps 1 and 2 were done successfully and given the proper attention, then this stage is actually quite easy.
- Endurance and speed. Finally, we get to the sexy stuff. We leave this to last because triathletes do not need as much work on this. Their “engines” are already quite developed. However, their ability to express is lacking because of stages 1-3. The hardest part is maintaining what you built up in stages 2 and 3 over longer and longer distances. So this stage takes time and patience as well as revisiting steps 2 and 3 periodically.
Of course, we do not focus solely on one stage except for Stage 1 because that is the most important. After you have built up your comfort so that you are not freaking out after a couple strokes, we mix in some aspects of stages 2, 3, and 4. But the ratios always favor the fundamentals (i.e. balance in the water and proper propulsion) before anything else.
There it is: Our secret sauce to getting you to the level where you are emerging from the pool or running into T1 with a smile on your face and laughing at the water.
Coach Chris, Tri Swim Coach