Improving your Ironman Swim: As easy as time in the water?
Improving your Ironman Swim: As easy as time in the water?

Improving your Ironman Swim: As easy as time in the water?

Improving your Ironman Swim: As easy as time in the water?

On today’s edition of The Kona Edge we chat to Michael Harvey who comes from a strong swimming background. We find out what he thinks average swimmers need to do to get better in the water and improve their Ironman Swim. We look at his swim workouts and why he believes in keeping things simple.

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome onto this edition of The Kona Edge, it’s awesome to have you with us, I’m Brad Brown and let’s chat some swimming now and a returning guest, we head to Melbourne in Australia, Michael Harvey. Michael welcome, thanks for joining us again.

MICHAEL HARVEY:  Thanks for having me back Brad.

BRAD BROWN:  Michael, you know that you probably upset a lot of people, in your first chat with us about coming from a swimming background because there are a few people who, when they get into triathlon, the swim is the scariest thing that they’ve ever had to do. And guys like you really irritate the living daylights out of them because it comes so easy to you!

MICHAEL HARVEY:  Yeah, it can be frustrating for a lot of people and it’s funny, I do coach myself now and a lot of people come to me specifically. If they want one thing, it’ll be the swimming side of things. It’s a very relevant and a common thing amongst everyone.

BRAD BROWN:  It does level the playing field a bit, because it doesn’t matter how good you are at the swim, it’s the shortest of the three disciplines, so you might have a bit of an advantage, but it’s not a long advantage at that.

MICHAEL HARVEY:  That’s right, I keep on saying to everyone, you spend 4.5, five, maybe six hours on the bike and 3.5 to 5 hours running. But even the people at the back of the pack are only swimming less than 2 hours. So we need to beef it up, maybe it needs to be like a 6-8km swim.

Get in the water and be consistent

BRAD BROWN:  I love it. Michael, let’s talk about some of the things that you’ve done from a swimming perspective. I don’t want to say it comes easy, you still need to put in the hours and the hard work in the pool. But it’s something you enjoy doing, it’s something you did growing up. What would you say are some of the things that you do in the water that you feel have given you the biggest gains over your triathlon career?

MICHAEL HARVEY:  Good question Brad. I’ll lay it out with the obvious one and probably the elephant in the room for most people, when I say to them, they ask me, ‘what’s the one thing’ and I say to them it’s just time in the water.

A lot of people, they look at me and they think, you just do it so easy and yes, it’s true, probably time-wise and session-wise I don’t need to do as much as the other disciplines. But I also look and go, I did 10 years of swimming where I spent 10 sessions a week in the pool. If you do that time and you’re willing to commit the time, people get on the bike and do stupid K’s and same with the running, but they have the hesitation to get in the water.

That’s what I would say is the first one, is just get in the water and be consistent in doing it.

BRAD BROWN:  It’s unfortunate because often people want the silver bullet, the magic wand to make it better, but at the end of the day, it’s paying school fees. You’ve got to do the work and it boils down to one word again, it’s consistency.

Do the work in your Ironman swim and the results will come to you

MICHAEL HARVEY:  Absolutely. I say to people, not in a cocky way, I say if you want to swim like me, you need to swim for 25 years, that’s how long I’ve been swimming. Just like some of the people you see at those Ironman events and they’re incredible runners. They just get off and they run these phenomenal times, but they might have been athletes back in school and doing that, so they’ve just done their time. Like I said in the last interview, if you can just embrace that, hurry slowly, just do the work and the results will eventually come.

BRAD BROWN:  Michael you coach, as you mentioned, and we’ll pop the details if people want to get in touch with you in the show notes, but you obviously do your own work in the pool. But you work with a lot of people in the pool as well. For you personally, what’s your favourite workout in the pool and what do you love giving to athletes as a favourite workout?

Keep it simple with your Ironman swim training

MICHAEL HARVEY:  I’m a big believer in keeping it simple and that’s my model across all three, swim, bike and run, but with the swimming in particular, paddles, pool buoy.

Getting a good body position in the water so that people are actually using the muscles that are the big dominant muscles that are going to help you move better in the water, rather than trying to fight your way without a pool buoy and your hips and dragging through the water and you’re not actually developing the muscles that are going to help you swim better. It’s quite often the case, you can get someone who people go, oh, you should be getting rid of the pool buoy and you don’t need to do it.

Getting strong in the water is your number one priority

I find 99% of the time, if people do the right work with the pool buoy and the paddles, they get stronger. You remove that pool buoy away, you’ve actually got enough strength to swim better than what they used to in the first place. Where if you’re trying to shortcut that and do all these fantabulous drills, unless you’re willing to spend a lot of time, six sessions a week in the water to do all these drills to get a feel for the water. Getting strong in the water is your number one priority to help you swim faster.

BRAD BROWN:  I love that, I couldn’t agree more. I know a lot of people would disagree, but I think that’s fantastic and let’s chat some biking next time around, but thanks for your time once again here on The Kona Edge.

MICHAEL HARVEY:  Not a problem Brad, 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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