Ironman Swim - Boost your performance with control and balance in the water
Ironman Swim - Boost your performance with control and balance in the water

Control and balance – The keys to swimming faster in your Ironman swim

Ironman Swim - Boost your performance with control and balance in the water

According to Ironman age grouper Ben Rudson, improving your control and balance is the key to swimming faster in your Ironman swim.

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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.


BRAD BROWN: You’re listening to The Kona Edge. It’s brilliant to have you with us. Thanks for joining me today. My name’s Brad Brown. It’s time to head back to Canada now and touch base with someone we’ve to before and it’s a great pleasure to welcome Benjamin Rudson back onto the podcast.

Ben, welcome. Thanks for joining us once again.

BEN RUDSON:  Thanks for having me back. I’m glad I made the first cut.

Tips and tricks for your Ironman swim

BRAD BROWN: We still got some way to go so let’s try keep it going. Let’s talk about your Ironman swim. The last time we spoke you were talking about the temperatures in Canada.

I can’t wrap my head around having to get into water when it’s below zero. That obviously comes with its own set of challenges. You’re obviously not swimming outdoors at that time of year, but let’s talk about your Ironman swim. Is it something that’s come naturally to you?

BEN RUDSON: Yes and no. As I alluded to the first edition, when I first started triathlon I was swimming one length at a time and gasping for air. I can’t imagine what I looked like, it must have looked atrocious.

It’s been a fun journey. Frustrating, challenging, shows any kind of adult on-set swimmer can appreciate. But I made a lot of progress. Hopefully you can share some helpful tips and tricks with your listeners.

BRAD BROWN: Yes, please do. What are some of the things you’ve done that you think over your triathlon career has really given you the edge in your Ironman swim?

How to overcome challenges in your Ironman swim

BEN RUDSON: If you wanted a high approach to this, I think the big thing is to be able to have an introspective approach to how you train. It’s human nature for us to focus on the things we’re good at. If you breathe to one side, you’re going to want to go to the pool and breathe to one side. It’s uncomfortable, it’s challenging to start breathing on two sides for example.

Doing things like this and analysing your body. Understanding your swimming mechanics and working on things that are challenging and push your comfort zone. I think it’s critical if you want to see any measure of improvement.

BRAD BROWN: You also said in our first chat that you almost became a student of it. You would swim and struggle in the pool. Then go home and watch YouTube videos and try to figure out what you’re doing. And then the next day try and emulate that.

That’s been a big part of what you’ve done in the water. Just constantly trying to improve and figure out what you’re doing wrong, what you’re doing right. And do more of what you’re doing right, and try to do less of what you’re doing wrong. Is that a fair assessment of what you’ve done?

Resources to improve your Ironman swim

BEN RUDSON: Yes. Definitely. There’s always something I’m working on. In the beginning, I couldn’t see the bigger picture and just how all the mechanics work. Even today, I’m still working on body roll and body mechanics. Just seeing how my body flows through water. I think it’s so critical to always be evaluating that. I could get myself from the doggy paddle in one lane to where I am today. That is entirely because I could identify my faults and work with other people. Working with YouTube and all the great online resources out there to develop it.

BRAD BROWN: You have got a lot better. Mentioning that first triathlon you did, I think you averaged 2-minutes per 100, you said. Your swim time in Kona was just over 60-minutes. So, obviously, the threshold, if you can get under 60-minutes for your Ironman swim you are right up there. That’s considered a very good swim. You’ve made some big gains in the water.

Experiment with your Ironman swim training

BEN RUDSON: Yes. It’s been nice in a sense and has been kind of fun. The group I swim with, I’ve gone from the very slowest lane to one of the faster lanes now. So, it’s been fun to continue my improvement. It’s been a fun journey. You need to experiment. There had been no formal swim training as a child. Learning to swim at age 19 or 20 is a huge learning curve. It’s been intimidating and challenging, but I think it’s doable.

BRAD BROWN: Benjamin, what do you love doing in the pool? What are some of your favourite workouts?

BEN RUDSON: That would definitely be some threshold 100’s. A lot of us in long course racing tend to focus more on one steady state workout. Lots of long multi-minute, multi-hour sessions that aren’t at a high level of intensity, but wear you out slowly. We’re drawn to that because every session is at a high level. But it’s important not to neglect the shorter aspects of the high-end speed and how viable that could be to your workouts. Be it swimming, biking or running.

Focus on weaknesses in the water

BRAD BROWN: Looking at things you’re struggling with right now, you mentioned the roll. What are some of the things you’re working on now in your swim?

BEN RUDSON: This summer I made a lot of improvements in my body conditioning in the water. I’m hoping to share some drills with you that have helped me bridge that area. But currently I’m still battling with my catch and pull. I think that’s something I need to work on.

Hopefully I’m going to get some video sessions worked out here in Florida and start to analyse that. Then further break down my stroke. But I think I’m always looking to improve stuff. My kick sucks.

Strengthen your Ironman swim with balance and control

I still have some issues like body balance and body control in the water. As frustrating as it can be to have all these things to work on, I’m fortunate because I’ve put out some solid times that I’m happy with. And I think there’s still a ton of room for improvement to keep working on going forward.

BRAD BROWN: Talk to me about some of those drills that you do.

BEN RUDSON: When I was swimming, this summer, I was at a bit of a plateau and I wasn’t a great swimmer. I embraced the thought that this is my limit. A lot of adult swimmers tend to think about that arbitrary threshold you get to, and then you’re done. There’s nothing you can do to get past that.

How to get ahead with your Ironman swim

I was a little bit defeated and a little bit tired. There had been good improvements over 2 months and I was frustrated. And I was swimming at the pool one day and a master’s coach was on deck. When getting out the pool he approached me and said I’m not sure if you want some feedback, but your body positioning can use a lot of work. And I was like, oh really?

In triathlon, you don’t think of that, you just think of stuff happening above the water. Your hands, how hard you’re pulling. You don’t focus on how your body rolls, and the biomechanics in the water.

Are you breathing efficiently in your Ironman swim?

You’re losing all your speed when you breathe, he said. Your body rolls unsymmetrically. And I was drinking it all in and appreciative of it. I started considering it and now I understand how to do body rolls.

I devised a couple of drills, they’re very simplistic drills. Just going down the pool one side and balancing. And I didn’t appreciate how poor my balance was in the pool. The first couple of times doing it, I couldn’t do it without dropping my head, without my neck cramping up. But now I can do it effortlessly.

Improve posture and improve your Ironman swim

So, I think the big thing for me was balance and control. When you’re swimming, you don’t appreciate the balance. We consciously swim with our arms and our legs and we develop some things to compensate for poor balance and poor body control in the water. But, if you don’t handle that body control, you can’t have good posture in the water.

BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Well Benjamin, that’s some great advice. Thanks for your time today on The Kona Edge. Look forward to getting you on to chat a little about your bike, next time out.

BEN RUDSON: Sounds great. Thanks.

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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