To Drill or Not to Drill?

This is the question many triathletes ask themselves at this time of year. When reading the different articles on the “off-season” at this time of year the most common advice is to work on a weakness. Most triathletes will immediately think of the swim leg. Since 2011, I have spent the months of November & December working on the “traditional” aspects of “improving technique.” Below is my short discourse on technique/swim mechanics being incorporated into practice for age group triathletes.

A couple of things to preface this article-

1-There is nothing that can replace working with a coach on deck that has triathlon or open water coaching experience. Swimming in pool events is different from coaching triathletes or open water swimmers.

2-Most triathletes and adult onset swimmers need to be careful with using power producing or drag increasing equipment. Examples are paddles, an ankle band, an Eney Buoy with any water inside or a parachute. My prerequisites for using these type of equipment are a swim history-defined as swimming consistently for at least 3x/week for 48-50 weeks per year for at least 2-3 years or swimming faster than 1:30/100 yards or having grown up swimming in high school or college. Even still, there is nothing can replace the advice and watchful eye of a knowledgeable open water swim coach.

Here is a short list of what I think the drawbacks of working on traditional technique & drills are:

1-The lack of athletic awareness of where their body is in the water as well as individual parts of their body. For example, when trying describe to people to push water with their palm towards the opposite wall from the direction they are going I frequently see swimmers pushing water upwards. No matter how I try to phrase this I cannot elicit the change in hand position that I would like.

2-Does two months of working on technique elicit the changes needed to make a difference in technique? Does three? My guess is no.

3-People expect that with “better” technique comes faster swim times or ease of swimming. *Perhaps* over time-but definitely not right away.

4-As my mentor Tower 26 coach Gerry Rodrigues has talked about endlessly, the AG triathlete simply does not have the time to swim 5-7x/week to incorporate daily/weekly technique work. And even if they could-is it the best use of their time?

5-Is there a transfer of technique/drill work to their swimming when they start swimming a set of 10×100(or insert set here) on a set interval at 80-85% or high aerobic effort or race pace effort? Again-I don’t think so. At that point, the athlete is only trying to make the interval without getting completely out of breath.

Do I see any good points about working with drills at any time during the season? The thought is that doing drills can provide a mental( a huge component) and physical break from regular training. Instead of interval training or having that Ironman swim in the back of your mind as you log swim after swim, there is a relaxation that an athlete can “just swim” to focus on one or two points of their stroke.  

Copyright © 2016 Todd Larlee