Make your Ironman Swim a constant work in progress to swim faster
Make your Ironman Swim a constant work in progress to swim faster

Make your Ironman Swim a constant work in progress to swim faster

Make your Ironman Swim a constant work in progress to swim faster

What does it take to get better in the water and improve your Ironman swim? We chat to Arlene Ayoub about what she has done to get faster in the water.

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Swim faster without spending more time in the water

Discover the 4 most common swim killers and how to fix them so that you can shave minutes off your swim time.


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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge. I’m Brad Brown and it’s time to chat some Ironman swimming today. We head to a chilly Montreal in Canada. When I think snow, I don’t think swimming. Massive respect for everybody who trains in icy cold conditions, particularly when they have to get into the pool. It’s a great pleasure to welcome back onto the podcast, Arlene Ayoub.

Arlene, welcome. Thanks for joining us today.

ARLENE AYOUB: Nice to talk to you again.

Ironman swim – a new kind of crazy

BRAD BROWN: Arlene, massive respect to you. I struggle at the best of times in the middle of summer to go and swim. I don’t know how you do it when it’s icy cold. That is, for me, a new level of crazy, to be honest. Is it challenging for you or is it par for the course? It’s normal.

ARLENE AYOUB: It’s immensely challenging for me because we have to get up at 5am and it’s dark, and it’s probably something like minus 20 outside. You get to the pool and it’s still cold and dark. We’re finished swimming by 7am, then your day starts.

So, swimming is definitely my least favorite part of the training and I have to talk to myself a lot of mornings to get out of bed when the rest of the family are under the sheets.

BRAD BROWN: Some severe negotiations to get to go to the pool. What are some of the things that you’ve done over time that you think have moved the needle and improved your swim?

There’s no magic to improve your Ironman swim

ARLENE AYOUB: I don’t think there’s any magic to it. I need to swim more. We tend to do the things we like the best. Running is my favorite, then the biking and then the swimming comes last unfortunately. So, I need to get it into my head that I need to swim more often. If my swim coach could hear me she might be very happy for me to say that.

The other thing about the swim is, I make a point in my warm up to swim with either bands on my feet or a low pool buoy. Then it really gets me thinking about rotating and keeping my core strong. I’ve noticed that I’m not equal on each side so that seems to be beneficial for me.

Get back to basics in your Ironman swim

BRAD BROWN: Just getting it in your head at the start. Even though it is something you’re aware of all the time, it’s just a reminder before you start that session.

ARLENE AYOUB: Yes. It’s a reminder and it’s in the heat of the training. If I haven’t completed where I’m supposed to be in terms of location, you sort of get going with the speed and forget about the basics. That kind of exercise brings me back to the basics.

BRAD BROWN: What are you struggling with in the water right now? What are some of the things you’re working on?

ARLENE AYOUB: I learnt to swim very late in life so I’m not terribly comfortable in the water. In fact, I started with quite a big fear of the water. Having got through that and swimming in the pool, the biggest struggle for me is that it’s not terribly enjoyable. It feels like work.

Overcome your fear in the water

It’s so subtle. You change one little thing and it will make a huge difference. But you look at other people and you think you’re doing the same thing as they are, and you’re not. Obviously, because you’re not swimming at the same speed.

So, I think I’m struggling with what my own body is doing. I have to be more perceptive of my stroke, of my body position, of my kick. When I’m running I can just enjoy it and get into that bubble. With swimming I can’t. It’s a constant awareness of where my arm is, where my hips are, am I breathing both sides? I’m constantly working.

BRAD BROWN: You mentioned your swim coach so you’ve obviously got some help there. Have you found it helpful having somebody on deck to point things out to you? Have you done any video analysis in your career?

A triathlete swim coach is super helpful

ARLENE AYOUB: Yes. And we have a great swim coach who’s got the eyes of a needle. She watches each and every one of us. We’re strictly triathletes so we’re not doing all of the strokes. And she’s a triathlete. Which is super because she’s been in the races and she knows what we’re up against. She can pinpoint what we need to be doing on an individual basis and that’s hugely helpful.

The video swim analysis is very humbling because as I said, you think you’re doing one thing and then you look at yourself on the video and you’re doing something else. That’s a great tool.

BRAD BROWN: The amount of people who have said to me they think they swim like Michael Phelps until they see themselves on television. It’s mind blowing. Arlene, as much as you say it’s hard work getting in the pool and swimming, are there certain workouts that you love doing?What are your favorite swim workouts?

Isolate problem areas in your Ironman swim

ARLENE AYOUB: I love using paddles. Anything with the paddles. I like the upper body work because we don’t do much upper body work otherwise. I just feel like I can really isolate my stroke. Where my elbow is and my pull. So, anything to do with paddles is great.

We also do a lot of sculling. Sculling on our front, on our back and that is a challenge for your body to find where your arms are supposed to be to keep you moving forward.  It’s a great proprioception exercise. Those are fun type of exercises that challenge you and helps your body with different things in different ways.

BRAD BROWN: It mixes things up a bit and makes it interesting which is important in the pool to alleviate that boredom and break things up a bit. But you’re getting great benefit from it too.

Arlene Ayoub, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge. Much appreciated. I look forward to chatting about your bike next time out.

ARLENE AYOUB: 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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