Athletic-Minded Traveler’s Blog delves into all things active and healthy. Here you can find recipes, training advice, “best of” lists, travel tips, yoga insight and more.

You are here

Swim training in the pool. Improve technique now.

Carrie Jesse, a USAT certified Triathlon coach & US Masters Swimming coach, contributed this article.  Carrie specializes in helping beginner athletes conquer the open swim. 

I admit it. When the outside temperature rests in single digits for multiple days in a row, the last thing I want to do is jump into a pool. Even when the pool is inside, heated, and a hot tub is readily available, I can’t quite commit to leaving my warm bed for an early morning swim. 

Do it. Skill work now will lead to a future race payoff.

Spring is nearly here, and a few races have already earned a spot on my calendar. Now is the perfect time to commit to some quality swim skill work in the pool. Technique is a key component for swimming, biking, and running, but because swimming tends to be the weakest link for most triathletes, skill work can have a big impact. So even though you might still be scraping ice off of your windshield every morning, maybe you should be doing that on the way to the pool. :)

Don’t let travel break your swim stride. Did you know that in nearly every city Athletic-Minded Traveler covers, we recommend legitimate lap pools!

The Plan

Once you’ve made the commitment to work on your swim technique, you need a plan, a specific workout. And in my experience, it’s best to have that plan in place before you get to the pool deck. The plan will keep you from procrastinating and will help you maximize your efficiency. 

I have been swimming my entire life, and without fail I will shorten a swim set unless I have it written down on an index card. That index card goes into a plastic sandwich baggie for protection; I can’t pretend that I couldn’t read my own handwriting when the paper gets wet.

Bottom line, have a plan and bring it with you to the pool.

If it’s been a while since you’ve swum, you may feel a little “off.” Like your right side of your body has disconnected itself from the left side and is now swimming in a different lane. Not to worry. However you feel when you first get in, just know that it’s normal and that ease that you used to know will find its way back into your lane. Patience. 

The Workout

So what should the workout entail? You’ll need a warm-up, swim drills, a little interval work, and a cool down. As I mentioned, right now the focus should be on technique. The volume and yardage will come later on in the season. By including quality swim drills in your workout; you can improve your body position, efficiency, and speed in the water.

I have quite a few freestyle drills in my repertoire, however there are two drills that I use continuously as a re-set button for my stroke. Both of these drills can highlight differences between your right and left sides, and really give you something to work on.

Single Arm Kick

This drill helps you create and maintain balance in your stroke. Start with one arm extended and the other hand loose at your hip. Kick with your arm outstretched, palm facing down, and your body at about a 45-degree angle. Keep your head tucked into your outstretched arm, turning only to breathe. You should be looking toward the bottom of the pool or just in front of you.

Single Arm Freestyle

Basically, this is swimming one-armed freestyle. Swim with your non-working arm extended (palm facing down). Use the same timing and rotation that you would use if you were swimming with both arms. Roll your body with your head as you breathe, and make sure you're breathing to the stroking side.

Remember, it’s best to have a plan before heading to the pool. Here’s a sample workout you can use which includes both Single Arm Kick and Single Arm Freestyle.


100-300 yards of easy Freestyle swimming.

Drill Work:

6 x 50 - each 50 is 25 drill (described below), 25 swim

            #1,3,5 = 25 Single Arm Kick on the right side, 25 swim

            #2,4,6 = 25 Single Arm Kick on the left side, 25 swim

            -Rest 20-30 seconds in between each 50

100 easy swim

6 x 50 - swum as 25 drill (described below), 25 swim

            #1,3,5 = 25 Single Arm Freestyle with the right arm, 25 swim

            #2,4,6 = 25 Single Arm Freestyle with the left arm, 25 swim

            -Rest 20-30 seconds in between each 50

100 easy swim

Short Intervals:

6 x 50

            -Swim #1,3,5 at an easy pace and work on balance in your stroke

            -Swim #2,4,6, at a slightly faster pace and work on maintaining good technique

            -Rest 20-30 seconds in between each 50

 Cool Down:

100 easy

Total: 1300-1500 yards

As the lakes begin to thaw and you’re pulled away from the chlorinated pool to open water, make sure that you still spend some quality time in the pool and that technique work remains a part of your swim workouts. 

Happy swimming!

Wordpress category: 


Add new comment