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Hi, Mike Walker from the Gold Medal Swim School. Let’s talk about triathlons. I often get asked for help from my buddies who want to get involved with activities for fitness and want to try triathlons, from students at our school who want to go for our beginning program into triathlons, and from triathletes who want to become faster at their sport. Our approach to swimming at Gold Medal is unique, but I can say with absolute conviction that when I work with my friends, our students here at Gold Medal, and triathletes at any level, our approach works.
There are two ways to approach improvement as a triathlete. The first is to perform the same speeds you already are, but with a lower heart rate. The second is to simply swim faster but with the same heart rate.
Remember, the swimming portion of the triathlon is disproportionately smaller than the running and bicycling portions. So, essentially, you need to be able to finish the swimming portion at a level where you can still really hammer the running and bicycling portions. Triathlons are not wonin the swimming phase, but they are lost in the swimming phase.
This is why the approach we have here at Gold Medal works, why it is unique, and why it is a little bit on the cutting-edge side. It’s all about relaxation and breathing.
As you know, air is the fuel of your car. If you don’t relax and breathe, you have no chance. Basically, the idea is the more relaxed you are, the lower your heart rate will be. The lower your heart rate will be, the more you can put that energy into the run and the bike. Conversely, the ability to breathe and regulate air is intertwined with relaxation. So, no matter what level swimmer I am teaching, even when I am holding private lessons for some of the best athletes in the world, I always start with relaxation and breathing.
However, sometimes there can be an intermediate level swimmer who thinks they have “got” relaxation and breathing down, but they don’t. When they add in the stress of speed, racing, cold water, shark-infested water, oceans, lakes with dark bottoms, or people kicking them in the face, their stress level goes up, their relaxation goes down, and they tend to lose their breath. Instead, they need to focus on firmly exhaling from their mouth and then turning their head to the side. If they do not get a complete exchange of air, their carbon dioxide level goes up and their stress level goes up.
So, the next time you come in to the Gold Medal Swim School, really pay attention to the relaxation and breathing and then add that to your already advanced swimming skills. Think about relaxation and breathing the next time you come to class, at your next competition, or at anything else that happens in your life. I look forward to seeing you around the pool.