Let’s be honest, the swim portion of any triathlon for most, is by far the most daunting. The training time it takes to prepare for the swim discipline is a big part of any triathlete’s make-up, especially for the novice and lesser experienced athletes. A number of factors combine to ensure that training time becomes rather tricky when we talk swimming. Most of you will have jobs, families and other outside influences that make training for the swim extremely difficult. This article will hopefully contribute to you maximising your swim training time and delivering the best possible end result for you personally. We go in search for the tricks of the trade for the poor swimmers with little to next time to spend on swim training.


No 1.

Dry-land training.

It may sound rather daft, but you can maximise your swim training time and performances by spending less time in the water. Impossible you say? To swim better, I have to swim more. Not necessarily! The correct gym and proper technique dry-land training methods can contribute to a stronger athlete which in turn will contribute to faster swim times when racing. You don’t need a gym membership either to make this happen. Stretch Cords (rubbers) are the easiest and most economical method to enhance one’s swim performance standing on terra firma.

You wrap the rubbers (cords) around a secure attaching and literally start dry-land swimming. Stretch cords will come with instructions and a little technical help from some experienced triathletes or swim coaches will get you up and running immediately. Done the correct way, a couple of hundred pulls per day or per week will increase your strength and contribute to you swimming faster. The stretch cords can be used any time of the day, at home and at work. Trust me on this one, with a proper technical pull, you can cut down swim time in the pool and swim faster.

No 2.

Butterfly, Butterfly and some more Butterfly.

Before you panic, relax. We don’t need a technically sound stroke in this instance. In fact, it will work no matter how ugly the end result is. What we are looking for is the effort it takes to get the arms out of the water during the butterfly stroke. If you have attempted butterfly before, you will know how much harder it is to swim than freestyle. If not, try it for 1 length and see for yourself. So you don’t have much time to spend training in the pool? Swim more butterfly. You don’t need to swim miles and miles of it either to get the full benefits. Start off slowly with a few 25m repeats per session and gradually build up the distance over the course of a few weeks. Butterfly swimming is great for building your endurance and will most certainly improve your swim times on less mileage. You can also use zoomer fins to assist you if you’re not that adapt to swimming butterfly. The Z2’s work a charm with this

No 3.

Swim faster!

Yes that does sound pretty daft. That’s the end result we are all eternally after and lots of training time will produce this result. Not necessarily! Far too often you find triathletes swimming miles and miles in the pool at a low key intensity only to see the end result remain constant. Train slow and you will swim slow, no matter how many miles you manage to cram into your busy daily schedules. Hit the pool and swim hard and swim fast. A quick warm-up and then some high intensity repeats ranging from 25m right up to 400m will boost your swim performance no doubts on less training time. You still need a base and swimming long has its place but you got to mix it up a little and swim faster to maximise the gains. Swim fast and you will race faster! I use the FINIS SwimSense or GARMIN 910/920 to take splits and assess each training session as I increase the speed work over the course of a few weeks. This allows for me to check the data and analyze the exact gains from a specific speed workout

Energy SPEED session sample.

200m easy swim/100m easy kick/200m easy pulling

8 x 25m maximum sprints, resting 15-30 seconds after each

100m easy recovery swim

2 x 400m repeats (swim the 2nd one faster than the 1st and take a 2 minute rest in between)

200-400m recovery choice.

No 4.

Swim more often!

Once again, this statement appears to contradict what we are aiming to achieve from reading this editorial. Swim more often when time allowance is at a premium? Yes indeed. Provided you have access to a swimming pool nearby your work or home, swimming more times per week but swimming less miles at the same time, will boost your swim performance. What exactly do I mean? It would be more beneficial for you if you were able to swim 5 times per week and do 1- 1.5km per session than swimming 3 times per week with sessions totalling 2-2.5km per session. Same mileage more or less but the consistency and frequency will enhance your swim performance over the long term. Combined with points 2 and 3, swimming more often (if possible and based on your own personal circumstances) and not necessarily swimming more miles will most definitely aid your swim performance in competition.

No 5.

Toys for Boys (and Girls)

Triathletes love gadgets and they do tend to spend a little extra cash on triathlon toys. Swim training is no different, so adding an arsenal of essential swim tools to the training bag can assist in making you a better swimmer with limited time availability.

Zoomer Fins: A must for the novice and “sinker”. Not to be used all the time, these fins are a definite advantage when starting out with swimming training and in the early stages of your base training. They most certainly will help with your butterfly stroke technique and can add some essential training drills to your program in the form of kicking that boost the overall swim stroke.

Freestyler paddles ( give you a greater reach in the water through the arm pull stroke and assists in your technique. Unlike other paddles that look like painting pallets and are huge in size, these paddles actually improve the stroke form.

Swimmers Snorkel ( Not just for scuba diving, a snorkel allows you to concentrate on watching your arm through the pull motion by keeping your head and eyes firmly on looking ahead without the need to rotate the head to breathe. A “still” head also improves your posture and body position in the water. An added advantage of using the swimmers snorkel is the restriction of airflow into the lungs (it comes with an adapter to limit air flow) which builds your oxygen capacity in the lungs by forcing you to work harder on less oxygen supply. Also really cool for when you go on holiday and want to just chill in the ocean and watch nature go by!


Swimming for most will always be hard but you can improve over time. Hopefully the above 5 pointers will make it somewhat easier to improve your swimming based on your busy lifestyles. Triathlon and swimming in particular are meant to be fun. Try and keep that attitude when you go out and put in the miles and the progress will follow..