Swimrun Strength Endurance
Strength Endurance pretty succinctly summarise what swimrun swimming is all about. Dragging yourself in your wetsuit, race bib, pull buoy, shoes and socks through large expanses of open water for stints that can stretch to well over a kilometre. And if you are looking to go fast you will almost certainly want to use hand-paddles. All of these factors lead to a massively increased load on the shoulders during swimrun swimming when you compare it to normal laps in the pool. So Strength endurance is key.
How to Build Up to Race Day
Hand Paddle Selection
Like with so many things in life, start small and work your way upwards, Rome was not built in a day and your upperbody strength wont be either. To much to soon = sore shoulders, injury and set back. If you have some experience using hand paddles then by all means use the ones you have, provided they are not to big. If not, i suggest starting with finger paddles. Here are some you can easily get online: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/speedo-biofuse-finger-paddle/ As you can see by following the link, hand paddles are pretty cheap so growing into larger sizes is not going to break the bank.
If you are new to swimrun and are using hand paddles for the first time you may find the hand paddles slipping off while swimming. If this is the case there is a strong possibility that you have an issue with your swim technique. One very common thing is dropping the elbow during the catch part of the stroke. If this happens the paddle can start to slip off meaning you will really struggle. If this is happening its time to get some help as you need to have a half decent stoke to use hand paddles. A good test for this is to use a hand paddle that has no straps. This means you must keep pressure on the paddle in the right direction during the stroke, if you don’t they will slip off. These particular paddles are great for technique and come in different sizes: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/finis-agility-paddle/
Building Up Over Time.
Now (January) is the best possible time to start building up swimrun strength endurance. Start incorporating the hand paddle swimming into your sessions now and build up that strength endurance. Like anything your body and muscles will adapt, but it takes time. Gradually you will be able to increase the load and duration, so by the time the season comes around you will be ready for the open water sessions in a wet suit….. and Shoes!!
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
If you have ever raced or seen a race over in Sweden (the home of swimrun) you can’t help but notice some Swedish thoroughbreds using bloody great dinner plates they call hand paddles. Yes this might work for them, but everyone knows a tiny chassis cant support a huge engine. If you weight 50 kilos then dare i say monstrous sized hand paddles are not going to do you any favours. Use the pre-season to find your suitable hand paddle size. You must be able to maintain technique, keep a decent stroke turnover and most importantly not overload your shoulders. If in doubt stick with the smaller paddles for this season and re asses next year.
Ankle Bands & Drag Pants.
As your swimrun training progresses its worth incorporating some kind of drag into your training. This will go some way to simulate what it is like to swim with your trainers on. Start off with a pull buoy and strapping on an ankle band (simply ties your ankles together to stop you kicking, very easy to home make) and doing some lengths like this. If this becomes easy you can try removing your pull buoy which will cause your feet to start to sink, increasing drag. Another option to use drag is ‘drag pants’ which catch the water as you swim. A cheaper alternative to buying drag pants is just to swim with baggy board shorts on!! Either way it makes life harder and increases the load.
Finally doing some on land strength work is going to really help set you up for getting the best from hand paddles. Press ups and wide arm pull ups are a great start to building up some upper body. Then if you want to add in a little more; some triceps dips along with some resistance band work will really help, especially if you have limited pool time. Check out this specific band work out article: 9 Stretch Cord Exercises To Improve Swim Strength And Technique
Constancy, perseverance and discipline. Want to improve rapidly and successfully then stick to the plan. Don’t skip sessions, keep working at it. There is so much literature out there pointing to success coming from dedication to training/practice more than any other factor. The most ‘talented’ performers are simply the most dedicated trainers. Building up your strength endurance ready for the swimrun season requires focused training and consistency. Start this week and build to the summer!