On this edition of The Kona Edge we catch up with Hans Christian Tungesvik who improved his swim time at Ironman Kona 2016 by 10 minutes. We chatted to him about his strategy to improve and discover that cross-country skiing has helped in his swim because the arm movements are similar and it helps to coordinate your body, improves your stability and also adds strength in the upper body.
Swim faster without spending more time in the water
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BRAD BROWN: Welcome onto yet another edition of The Kona Edge. It’s great to have you with us and we head back to Norway now to catch up with Hans Christian Tungesvik. Hans Christian welcome back. Thanks for joining us today.
HANS CHRISTIAN: Thank you. I’m having a pleasure.
Does a sub one hour swim make you a good swimmer?
BRAD BROWN: It’s good to have you back. You mentioned in our first chat that you were never a strong swimmer. Out of the 3 disciplines it was definitely your weakest. Have you had to work really hard to get to where you are? You swam a sub hour swim in Kona 2016 so you, even though you say you’re not a great swimmer, times wise you are.
HANS CHRISTIAN: Yes, if you see how much I’ve done swimming over the last 3 years I have to admit it came quite easy but I still have a way to go to the best guys but I think I got it relatively easy. But I have done quite a lot of swimming the last year, maybe 3 to 4 sessions a week so it’s an important part of the training week, of course.
BRAD BROWN: I know you mentioned you cross-country ski quite a bit as well and swimming is one of those weird disciplines that a lot of it’s got to do with coordination and movement and getting everything working at the right time and doing the right thing. Cross-country skiing is very much like that too. You’ve got to have that coordination right, otherwise you’re in for a very long day. Do you think that’s helped your swimming at all?
Other sports can enhance your swim technique
HANS CHRISTIAN: Yes, that’s probably one of the reasons it’s been quite good because the movement of the arms is quite similar and also as you say to be able to coordinate your body, stability and also strength in the upper body comes quite a lot from cross-country skiing so that has definitely helped, yes.
BRAD BROWN: What are some of the other things that you’ve done that you feel has improved your swim?
HANS CHRISTIAN: Maybe, at the start I felt like I was drowning so, then again to be patient. Just try again and again and again and after some time it gets better. But the most important thing with the 10 minute improvement from 2015 to 2016 was maybe I increased the number of sessions during the week and I just made the sessions a little bit shorter, but more often. So, that way I maintained the feel for the water and didn’t forget how to swim between each session. I think that really improved my swimming. So, I would say that’s a good tip. It worked for me.
Shorter sessions boost your swim performance
BRAD BROWN: It’s interesting you say that. I think it’s Jeff Fejfar who we had on the podcast just a couple of weeks ago was saying exactly that. Particularly when starting out to do those shorter sets. Because when you’re fatiguing and you’re getting tired that’s when you get lazy and you lose the feel of the water but those shorter ones where you’re really focussing on your technique and form in the water doing that really does help and yes, that fitness long term endurance fitness will come later, but it’s important to get those basics right and getting in the right habits from the get go.
HANS CHRISTIAN: Yes that’s a really good point. Even though in the full distance you’d swim 3800m it’s not required to do that every time. Just the shorter 2000m 3 to 4 times a week instead of 1 or 2 major sessions. That’s worked for me.
BRAD BROWN: Did you get any help? Did you find a swim squad, did you find a coach?
HANS CHRISTIAN: No I’ve taken some courses every now and then, and I have some team mates as well that helped me with the swimming. I took some tips from here and there but I don’t have a coach, no.
BRAD BROWN: As far as favorite workouts in the water, what you do absolutely love doing?
HANS CHRISTIAN: I really think, well love is maybe the right word, but I really like the session 10 x 200m with quite short breaks, maybe start at 3 x 30 or something like that. It’s a really good test of your shape in the water. It’s a tough session but I like it and it’s really comparable to the earlier sessions as well.
BRAD BROWN: Give us some motivation help here. For people who live in very cold climates who need to wake up early in the morning to go for a swim when it’s hard to get out of a warm bed. What do you do to get yourself up and getting in the water when you really don’t feel like it?
Get your session in early – it’s a positive motivator
HANS CHRISTIAN: It’s the feeling of being finished with your first session at 8 o’ clock when you know everyone else has been sleeping. That’s a really good feeling. Then you have the whole day ahead of you and you really wake up that’s also a positive thing. That’s what I use to get up early.
BRAD BROWN: As far as open water compared to swimming in a pool, what do you prefer?
HANS CHRISTIAN: For me, I am much better at open water so of course I prefer that and it’s really nice to get outside. See something other than those tiles. The open water season in Norway is not that long so I’m using it for all it’s worth. If I can I do all my sessions outside.
BRAD BROWN: In Norway, you mentioned the swim at the Norseman, it’s cold but it’s beautiful. Absolutely beautiful and you’ve got lots of really clean bodies of water and it’s just an amazing place to swim if you can actually get out in Norway.
HANS CHRISTIAN: Yes, that’s right. It’s stunning. The scenery, the nature, mountains. And you have small little lakes everywhere in the mountains where you can swim. Everyone can swim where they want. There are lots of possibilities if you’re okay with not having like 22 degrees, because that’s not normal.
BRAD BROWN: Well that’s fantastic. We’re going to chat about your bike next time out. Hans Christian Tungesvik, thanks so much for joining us today on The Kona Edge, much appreciated.
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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