By Coach Troy Jacobson
If there were a way to improve your swim times without spending endless hours in the pool, would you do it? I think I heard a resounding “YES,” throughout the airwaves! The truth is that getting adequate pool time is a challenge, particularly for the busy triathlete! Business trips, family obligations, travel time to and from the pool and inconvenient lap or Masters swim hours can negatively affect your performance. It’s a good thing there’s dryland training to save the day. Here are a few ideas for all busy triathletes to consider as a way to round out their training program:
1. Invest in elastic tubing.
Elastic (or surgical) tubing offers a variable resistance throughout any given range of motion, and in this case the pull phase of the freestyle stroke. Simply attach the tubing to a door handle or other stationary object, place your hands in a swimming position, step back a few steps, bend at the waist and start simulating the freestyle stroke. The further you pull away from the anchor point, the more resistance there is in the band. Focus on using good technique (i.e. Early Vertical Forearm) and vary your tempo. The beauty of elastic tubing (of any brand) is that it’s affordable, convenient to pack in your travel bag and is an effective means for drilling proper stroke mechanics and building sport-specific strength. I recommend that business travelers always carry tubing with them while on the road and complete several sets of 15-25 reps every day. And better still, bands are a great tool to use for warming up, especially prior to staring a tri where getting in the water is not allowed.
2. Swim bench
The swim bench concept has been around for years and there are a few brands on the market. While all are credible, the one that most triathletes are probably familiar with is the Vasa. In recent years, Vasa has introduced the Vasa Ergometer. This clever bench, steeped in technology, not only provides the swimmer with a great workout that enhances both swim conditioning and technique (without getting wet!), but it also details the data, including stroke count, power per stroke, speed, etc. If you find it a challenge to get adequate pool time and you have the financial means, a swim bench in your basement is the ultimate in dryland swim training specificity.
3. Pump it up!
While elastic bands and swim benches offer very specific movement patterns for swimmers, let’s not forget the value of good ‘ole strength training! Most competitive swim programs have their swimmers undergo a steady regimen of core work (abs and lower back), stability training and explosive power training (e.g. box jumps, medicine ball work, etc.).
While there’s ultimately no substitute for quality time in the water, it’s possible for the busy triathlete to maximize their swim by incorporating a clever combination of ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ swim training.
Coach Troy Jacobson is the Head Endurance Coach for Life Time Fitness. A former pro triathlete, he’s also the co-author of the book, Triathlon Anatomy, a guide to strength training for triathletes, published by Human Kinetics.