Improve your strength to get better mileage in the water

Improve your strength to get better mileage in the water

On this episode of The Kona Edge we chat with Sarah Thomas about swimming and how she works on her swim techniques to improve her efficiency in the water.

(Read the transcription of our chat here)

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome to this edition of The Kona Edge and it’s time to chat some swimming today as we head back to Cairns in Australia to catch up with Sarah Thomas. Sarah, welcome back onto the podcast. Thanks for joining me today.


SARAH THOMAS:  Thanks for having me.


BRAD BROWN:  Sarah, let’s talk a little bit about your swim. In our first chat we didn’t touch on it at all. Out of the three disciplines which would you say is your weakest? Is the swim your weakest?


SARAH THOMAS:  Definitely, yes.


BRAD BROWN:  Tell me why?


SARAH THOMAS:  I did a little bit of swimming as a kid, but I don’t feel like I was ever really taught how to swim properly and when I got into triathlon and I started trying to swim as an adult I often felt like the more effort I put in perhaps the slower I’d go and it was really quite frustrating just seemingly flogging myself for very little gains. I eventually found myself a really good swim coach that taught me basically how to swim. We worked on technique and really dramatically improved my efficiency in the water. I’m still not at all very fast especially over shorter distances but I think now that I’ve got more of an efficient swim stroke I seem to be a lot more efficient and therefore faster over the longer distances which obviously suits Ironman quite well.


BRAD BROWN:  Are you finding that it’s something you have to constantly work on or once you have those basics down you’re almost in maintenance mode or is it something you have to keep working on?


SARAH THOMAS:  No, the swim for me is something that I definitely have to keep working on all the time and I always found that. As I said, when I feel like I eventually did learn how to swim, which was probably a couple of years ago now, since I’ve had my new coach they have very quickly worked out that the swim is my weakness and that’s something that they want me to continue to work on. I’ve basically been given the instruction to just swim the shit out of me. So there we go.


BRAD BROWN:  That’s fantastic. Tell me a little bit about what you’re struggling with as far as the swim goes. Is it a case of just not doing enough mileage or is it still stroke and efficiency in the water?


SARAH THOMAS:  Apparently it’s a strength thing. So I’m doing a lot more mileage in the water now and working on trying to improve my strength is what I’m doing at the moment. Previous to that working on technique and efficiency made a massive difference to me, but yes, from where I am now it’s more just doing more swimming and building my strength.


BRAD BROWN:  The building the strength, is it just in water stuff or are you doing stuff on deck as well, strength training, to improve that?


SARAH THOMAS:  No, it’s all in the water. So yes, just basically a lot of work with the pool buoy and band and pool buoy and paddles and just swim, swim, swim, just keep swimming.


BRAD BROWN:  Are you one of those people who swims once or twice a week but does a big volume in that set or do you try to get into the water as much as you can in a week?


SARAH THOMAS:  Yes, recently under the new coach it’s pretty much in the water most days and not so much huge volume in one session, but probably shorter sessions rather than one or two big really, really long ones.


BRAD BROWN:  I know its early days, but have you seen much improvement doing that?


SARAH THOMAS:  I don’t know yet. I haven’t had a test yet. I have a race in a couple of weeks’ time. So we’ll see what my swim is like there in that race, but yes actually genuinely have no idea. I haven’t done a time trial or anything, so to test it it’s going to be see what happens in the race.


BRAD BROWN:  That’s cool. As far as favorite workouts in the water, what do you love doing?


SARAH THOMAS:  I really like ocean swimming and in Cairns we obviously have quite limited options for that because of things like crocodiles, stingers and other things that go on up there, but yes, if I get the opportunity. I’m actually down on the Sunshine Coast at the moment and to be able to swim in the ocean is absolutely fantastic. So if I get the opportunity, my favorite swim set to do is an ocean swim.


BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant and as far as managing the rest of your race in the swim, are you one of those people that just goes hell for leather in the swim and see what happens on the bike or do you hold back big time in the water? Tell me a little bit about your strategy approaching a swim in a race.


SARAH THOMAS:  My strategy’s pretty much the same for anything. I’m never hell for leather with anything at all because I will just completely blow up and die. So my approach for any kind of race really, obviously you know it’s slightly different with Olympic distance or half Ironman, but yes, pretty much I always go out easy and try to gradually build. So yes, if I went out hell for leather I wouldn’t last very long and it wouldn’t be very pretty.


BRAD BROWN:  If you could go back to the start of your triathlon career knowing what you know now about your swim what would you change, what would you do differently?


SARAH THOMAS:  Yes, probably swim more than I ever did. I probably feel like maybe I could’ve improved a little bit more up until now having done perhaps a little bit more. But then again I think that you have to have a balance and I don’t think more the better. I think that I’ve improved well up until this stage and now that I have the base that I have, now it’s appropriate to go ahead and start smashing myself a bit more.


BRAD BROWN:  Awesome. Sarah, thank you so much for joining us on this edition of The Kona Edge. I look forward to talking about your bike, but we’ll save that for next time.


SARAH THOMAS:  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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