How short, fast swimming workouts can improve your Ironman swim
How short, fast swimming workouts can improve your Ironman swim

How short, fast swimming workouts can improve your Ironman swim

How short, fast swimming workouts can improve your Ironman swim

On this edition of The Kona Edge we touch base with Jacqui Giuliano and chat to her about what she considers her weakest discipline, the Ironman swim.  Jacqui shares with us how she implemented the same principles she used to improve her run, to get faster in the water.

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back onto yet another edition of The Kona Edge. I’m Brad Brown and joining us today is Jacqui Giuliano. We head back to the US, Jacqui, welcome onto The Kona Edge once again. Thanks for joining us today.

JACQUI GIULIANO:  Thanks for having me.

BRAD BROWN:  Jacqui, you told me in our first chat that the swim is not your strongest of the three disciplines, it’s something you have to work on a lot. You’ve worked on it a lot in the last year. One thing you said to me was your form, your technique is probably not as good as it should be and that’s what you’re focusing on.

How do you decide if it’s a technique issue or if it’s a volume issue? Has that crossed your mind? It’s a case of maybe you think you just need to try and swim more and that’s going to solve the problem? When do you decide it’s more a technique issue than a volume issue?

How do you distinguish between technique or volume in your Ironman swim?

JACQUI GIULIANO:  For me personally, I’ve always been more of an endurance athlete. I could go run forever and bike forever, so I think knowing my body, that I’m very endurance strong. I knew right away it had to be something with my technique and I had been doing a decent volume of swimming and just not getting any better. And I remember thinking, with running, to get faster in the marathon, you need to get faster in the 5km. So wouldn’t that work the same way in swimming? And sure enough, that’s been kind of what’s gotten me to be better, is doing the shorter, faster stuff and then I can hold it for longer because I have that endurance already.

BRAD BROWN:  Let’s talk about some of the technique’y things you’ve had to change, some of the mistakes, I say ‘mistake’s but some of the little things you were doing incorrectly that you’ve changed, what are some of the things you’ve worked on?

JACQUI GIULIANO:  For some reason when I have my hands under the water, I like rotate my hands in so that my thumbs are, I guess perpendicular with the water and I don’t know where I developed that habit, but that’s not a good thing. I have to make sure, it’s almost like I’m slapping the water in a way. I think of it that way in my head, so that I don’t rotate my thumb in and it never caused me to swerve or anything in the water, but it just, it was like, I didn’t have a good catch because of it.

That was another thing that was really important to work on, is before I jump in the pool every time now, I have one of those little stretch bands that I attach to one of the ladders of the pool. And just do some, kind of like high elbow, I guess pulling the band back to really reinforce the daster muscle that needs to be working as I’m going through the water and not, I guess like keeping my elbow up more.

BRAD BROWN:  Do you find the longer you swim, the longer sessions, you get almost lazy and you end up going back to those old habits? Or is it something that you have to be conscious about the whole way through and still are conscious about?

Know when to quit an unproductive workout in your Ironman swim

JACQUI GIULIANO:  Yeah, and any time I feel like I’m going back into those old habits, I’ll give myself a minute or two minute break and try to reset. Sometimes I’ll even get out of the pool and pull out the band again and reinforce, this is how it’s supposed to feel, don’t let your elbow collapse. But if I’m really struggling, I’ll just call it and that’s actually something new that I’ve developed, is if you’re having a rough day and you’re doing more harm than good, just pull the plug on the workout. That workout is not going to define your season.

BRAD BROWN:  And sometimes you end up doing damage, not just physical, but psychological. Where your confidence, and that was something we spoke about first time out, your confidence takes a bit of a beating. And like you say, sometimes it’s the wiser decision to walk away and come back to fight another day in the right mindset.


BRAD BROWN:  As far as some of the stuff you love doing in the pool, what’s your favourite workout in the pool?

JACQUI GIULIANO:  Something I just started doing recently over this past summer. The normal warm up and everything, but the main set, for whatever reason, I really like this one. It’s 3 x 100 with 40 seconds rest, then 3 x 100 with 30 seconds rest, 3 x 100 with 20 second rest and then 3 x 100 with 10 seconds rest. It gets harder each time, but for some reason I really thrive off of that workout.

BRAD BROWN:  The more I chat to age groupers, it’s funny Jacqui, I almost find, particularly the really good ones, love the hard workouts and that’s what really keeps them going and fires them up. And I don’t want to say you have to be a masochist, but you’re almost bordering on masochism where you’re flogging yourself and you can do it in the water because your recovery is a lot quicker as opposed to doing it on the run. You enjoy the hard workouts don’t you?


BRAD BROWN:  As far as gains in the pool, what would you say has given you the biggest gain? Can you pinpoint it to one thing or something you’ve done in the water that’s really helped to improve?

Slowly build your technique in the Ironman swim

JACQUI GIULIANO:  I really think it’s just doing the shorter, faster stuff with the correct form because my body isn’t strong enough yet to be able to hold the proper form if I was to go out and swim 2.4 miles in a lake or something. But slowly building the proper form that I’ve now started to fix a little bit with the shorter stuff. Really translating that over to being able to do it, I guess, even in open water.

BRAD BROWN:  Long term goals, if I could wave my magic wand, what would you dream of? What’s the goal for the swim, what do you want to achieve?

JACQUI GIULIANO:  Oh my gosh, if I could see a 1:0 – something next to my name after a swim without a wetsuit, that would be incredible.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s the swim PR in an Ironman at the moment?


BRAD BROWN:  There’s lots of room to maneuver there, you’re definitely on the right track I’m sure. As far as coaching and you mentioned specific one on one coaching, is that something you would recommend?

JACQUI GIULIANO:  Yes, for sure, the swim is just so hard because you can’t see yourself doing it. On the bike you can put a mirror next to yourself. On the run you can use a treadmill and put a mirror next to yourself and analyze yourself or even have someone video you or do it yourself even. But with the water, it’s very hard to, in my head I look like I’m Michael Phelps but really I’m not. Having someone else have eyes on you and even if they could use a phone and put it in the water and videotape you so you can see exactly what they’re talking about, I think that’s huge.

BRAD BROWN:  I could not agree more. Jacqui, thank you so much for your time here on The Kona Edge once again, We look forward to chatting about your bike next time out, thank you.


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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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