Two Truths and a Lie about Swimming

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Two Truths and a Lie about SwimmingIf you ever did a team bonding activity back in school (or some corporate environments) you might have played the corny game “two truths and a lie.” Participants would gather round and each would say two truths about them (e.g. I coach for Tri Swim coach, I like swimming on a Vasa more than in a pool) and one lie (e.g. I enjoy swimming backstroke) and the other players are supposed to guess what the lie is and what the truth is.

In principle, it is supposed to help you get to know your peers better and test your knowledge of your friends. So let’s play a round of “Two truths and a Lie–Tri Swim coach edition.” Can you spot the lie?…..and no cheating by scrolling to the bottom.

  1. Doing drills will make you slower
  2. Triathletes do not need to do dryland because they bike and run, which doubles as dryland.
  3. Triathletes neglect the kick because they need to preserve their legs for the bike and run

So which two are fact and which one is fiction?…………

The truth is they are all myths!

Drills are important for swimmers during certain parts of their swim career. For the entry level swimmer, the majority of practice (but not all!) should be spent doing drills so that you can develop a better and proper feel for the water.

The critical concept to remember though is that drills are only beneficial if the swimmer translates that feel and position into their actual stroke which is why we still include intensity or cruise swimming in all of our swim programs. As a swimmer improves though it becomes more and more important that the yardage ratio of swimming:drills shifts towards swimming (and swimming at intensity too). Once a swimmer has achieved a good level of efficiency, then drills might only be done in the warmup for 100-200m just to “wake up” the muscles.  So drills will not make you slow unless you do them mindlessly and without purpose.

Onto lie two: dryland is not important. This is also a myth. While you can skip dryland–which I will define here as core work, mobility, and strength—and still get faster, that speed might be short lived because you run the risk of injury especially repetitive use injuries, shoulder strains, rotator cuff tears, IT band syndrome, piriformis strains, psoas tightness, and lower back pains. Moreover, including “swims” on the Vasa Ergometer will actually improve your swim directly.

Including a structured and progressive strength and mobility program like what I outlined in my series “How to Bulletproof your Shoulders” (here and here) is important to building strength in muscles and preventing overuse injuries not to mention help you look good too. For masters athletes, it becomes even more important.

I have talked about the importance of yoga in the past and will restate it here. Yoga helps you as a triathlete and swimmer because in “unlocks” tight muscles like the psoas and hip flexor, that when tight can impede power output on the bike and give you that achy feeling when you get off. A weak core, which yoga will strengthen and goes well beyond six pack abs to include glutes, obliques, and the spinal erector muscles, will prevent you from rotating properly and holding yourself “up” in the water.

Swimmers and triathletes do not have to spend a lot of time in the gym and yoga studio but a little–2 to 3 sessions a week goes a long way.

Finally the myth about not kicking. If you have ever tied a band around your ankle and tried to swim, you quickly realized how much your legs sink; you needed to focus on keeping your lower body up. While triathletes do not need to focus on their kick like pool swimmers, who can win or lose because of their kick, it is still important. An efficient kick will keep you balanced in the water, help with rotation, and propel you forward instead of laterally, but don’t reach for the kick board quite yet.

For a triathlete to improve his/her kick, the 6/3/6 drill which will also help with rotation in the water and vertical kicking–a TSC success program staple—beats straight kick sets.

If you spotted that they were all myths, major brownie points–you know your swimming!