Preparing for the swim

Pro athlete nicole walters talks us through her pre race swim session

When it comes to off road triathlon the swim is the section of the race that remains largely consistent across different races. You can expect a swim of around 1500m with the differences coming from the number of laps and the body of water you are swimming in (i.e. lake/sea/river). But when you compare that to the variations you get in bike/run courses, not much really changes. As a result, my swimming routine before races doesn’t really change much.

In an ideal world I will do my pre race swim set 2 days before the race, so for a Sunday race, this will be the Friday. Other than this session, I will spend the rest of the day recovering with my feet up! Sometimes this doesn’t always happen depending on when I have travelled to a race venue so it is good to be flexible in the days leading up to a race.

This set takes me around 45-50mins to complete so is shorter than my usual swim session. If you are not a natural swimmer then I would perhaps recommend shortening this set to make sure you don’t end up more tired than when you started. The aim of the session is to freshen up before the race. I like this session because it allows me to wake my arms up with a few sprints that help prepare for the start of the race. And then goes into a bit of strength work, making my arms work at a similar effort to what I will need during the race but without stressing my body aerobically.

Warm up; 5 x 200m as swim/ not f/c / pull / drill / kick

Build; 8 x 50m build 1-4, 5-8 off + 20sec rest

100m easy

Main set; 8 x 50m as 25m sprint/ 25m really easy backstroke + 20sec rest
5 x 100m pull and paddles + 10 sec rest

Warm down; 200m choice

Total: 2600m

This set takes me around 45-50mins to complete so is shorter than my usual swim sessions. If swimming isn’t your strongest discipline then I would perhaps recommend shortening this set to make sure you don’t end up more tired than when you started. To shorten the session, start with 4-800m warm up and then do 4 x 50m build followed by 4-6 sprints and 2-3 x 100m pull and paddles. You can even do 10m sprints if 25m feels like a long way or you start to lose the quality in your stroke.

I like to do this session in the pool but if there isn’t one nearby or I haven’t already had chance to recce the swim course it can be done open water. If doing the session open water I won’t bother trying to measure distance or time, I will count strokes for my 25m sprints (about 15) and estimate the rest. If there are 2 bouys that look approximately the right distance apart you can also use those. Although I will do front crawl for recovery rather than backstroke!

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