Active recovery and your Ironman Swim - What's the deal?
Active recovery and your Ironman Swim - What's the deal?

Active recovery and your Ironman Swim – What’s the deal?

Active recovery and your Ironman Swim - What's the deal?

Using her swim training as active recovery, Jen Koester shares some of her favourite Ironman swim workouts and what she has done over time to improve her swim.

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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. We head back to California and it’s a great pleasure to welcome Jen Koester onto the podcast. Jen, welcome back.

JEN KOESTER: Thank you. I’m glad to be back.

BRAD BROWN: Jen, I’m interested to chat about your Ironman swim, because you’ve told me your swim is rubbish. You’re obviously working hard at it. Out of the 3 disciplines, I’m guessing it is your worst. But one that you do feel you can get some big gains on.

Mental strength gets you through the Ironman swim

JEN KOESTER: Yes. I think with swimming, again, it’s such a mental thing. And I think the lack of experience have a huge improvement on that.

Also, the other thing to improve on big time too, is the run. Because I feel great in it, and right now I think it’s my strength. But when I compare myself to the field on the run, I feel like I’ve got light years to go to keep up.

BRAD BROWN: As far as the Ironman swim goes, what are some of the things that you’ve done in your career? You don’t have the longest of careers, but you’ve done some things to improve your swim. What are some of those?

Patience gives you perspective in your Ironman swim

JEN KOESTER: One of the main things that I’ve been working on is just patience. Long, steady workouts. Clear the mind and just get used to a long swim with no breaks. Feel the pain, feel the burn. Put the head down and keep going and I think that’s going to be the huge difference maker. Also, with the patience comes perspective.

The swims aren’t a mile long anymore. We’re going 3 to 4-mile-long swims, so that 2.4 on race day, seems like a breeze. So, it’s just a lot of patience and with patience comes a change of perspective.

BRAD BROWN: In our first chat, you also mentioned you use a lot of your swims as active recovery. Tell me your thinking around that.

Using swim training as active recovery in your Ironman training

JEN KOESTER: The thinking around that is, if you look at the race and you break it down, you have the most time on the bike and the run. And with how I race naturally is, I start the worst on the swim, and move up a couple of spots on the bike.  I then move up a couple more on the run, to hit the podium. So, obviously, you can’t just let the swim go to the wind and not swim at all, and just focus on the bike and the run.

What we are doing right now is this, I focus mainly on the run and the bike as the main workouts, and then the swim is just active recovery. For example, Saturdays and Sundays, the weekend, I’ve got no work. I can get all the volume that I want on the run and the bike. Usually on the Saturday I’ll do a long bike or a long run. And then in the afternoon I follow that up with a long steady state easy swim. It’s weightless so you’re not having any impact on the knees or the hips, which are usually my problem areas.

Focus on Ironman swim technique with active recovery in the water

But still getting a workout in and still focusing a lot on technique. Like do small, little kicks rather than the big, messy kicks that I always do. Rotate the body with the arms. Keep the head looking down. And it is constant reminders of those things, but using it as active recovery rather than completely focusing on it.

Every now and then there will be a day when it’s just a swim and it’s a speed work. Because you can’t just expect to do long swims and then have the story of your life being erased. Using a little more as recovery and then that way when I get to a race, I look at it as a little more than a warm up.

It doesn’t matter where I come out or what place I’m at in the swim, because I’m using it to get ready for the bike. So, using it more as a tool, rather than a final answer.

BRAD BROWN: What sort of stuff do you love doing in the water? Workout wise.

Long Ironman swims make you think about your technique

JEN KOESTER:  Honestly, and this is going to sound boring, but I like just a long 5km swim on a nice day. No one in my lane. Because it forces you to think and feel more. With the drills, I just want to get it done. 4 sets of 4 x 400’s and I’m tired, and I just want to be done with it.

But with the long swims it forces you to think, I’m not following through on the back end of my stroke. I can feel it. So, maybe for the next 1000 yards I’m going to follow through.

Look at the watch and see if it makes a difference. Then if it did, keep doing that. More so than the drills, the long, steady state swims force me to think more about technique. Which is nice because it gives you the time to make changes.

BRAD BROWN: Do you get to do much open water in training, or is it mostly pool stuff?

Train in your wetsuit before your Ironman swim

JEN KOESTER: It’s mostly in the pool. I have done open water a few times. We have a little area near home, it’s by the Stanford Rowing course. So, still a little bit of that rowing connection. But it’s nice.

There’s jelly fish, so I always come out with stings all over my face and my arms and my feet. Sometimes if it’s a night swim and the pool’s going to be cooler, I’d put on that wet suit. Just to get used to that feeling that I’m going to suffocate to death in this wet suit. I hate the wet suit with a passion. Mostly pool swims. Not as much open water swims.

BRAD BROWN: Fantastic. Well Jen, thanks for your time on this edition of The Kona Edge. Look forward to getting you on to talk about your bike next time out.

JEN KOESTER: Awesome. Thank you.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.


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