Do you need more time in the water to make greater Ironman Swim gains?
Do you need more time in the water to make greater Ironman Swim gains?

Do you need more time in the water to make greater Ironman Swim gains?

Do you need more time in the water to make greater Ironman Swim gains?

On this edition of The Kona Edge we touch base with Dr. Daniel Plews and chat some swimming today.  We discover that spending volumes of time in the water gives you very small gains when it comes to your Ironman swim.  He shares his views on why you need to have an above average swim to be in the front group at Kona and why he feels you only need to be spending 30% training time in the water.

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back onto The Kona Edge, I’m Brad Brown and we head back to Auckland, New Zealand now to catch up with Dr Daniel Plews. Doc, welcome back, nice to chat again.

DANIEL PLEWS:  Yes, great to be back.

BRAD BROWN:  Doc, let’s talk some swimming. We didn’t touch on your swim at all in the first chat that we had. Out of the three disciplines, the swim, bike, and the run, which would you say is your weakest?

DANIEL PLEWS:  Yes, we didn’t talk about swimming for a good reason. I would say now it’s swimming. Yes, I would say I’m pretty even across the three, but I think just too much time out of the pool has meant my swimming’s probably not as strong as it once was. I actually come from a bit of a swimming background. I swim at 18:05 for 1500 and a 4:38 for a 400, so I can swim, but I’m certainly not, you know but that was in my mid-twenties and I’m certainly not at that level anymore, so yes, I find swimming the least enjoyable of the three in terms of training as well.

Is swim training a necessary evil to get to Kona?

BRAD BROWN:  Yes, funny, I feel exactly the same way, it’s almost a necessary evil and unfortunately, we have to do it for the sport but is it as simple as that, not spending enough time in the pool and not doing the work?

DANIEL PLEWS:  I think, like the swimming, to get small gains you have to swim a lot and I know from experience that when I was younger, swimming was an area that I had to work on and I was swimming like 25-30 km weeks to get very small gains, I mean my swimming did get better but the gains were very marginal, but that’s the kind of thing that you have to do to get something. It’s all about feel for the water. Obviously technique plays a huge part and I do think that some swimming background of when you were younger is very important. I think it’s quite difficult to learn to swim properly once you’ve passed the age of 25-30 unfortunately.

BRAD BROWN:  Yes, it does make such a big difference. I was lucky as well, I also grew up swimming fairly competitively and it does, it’s almost like riding a bicycle. Once you’ve learnt how you’ve got the basics and it’s pretty easy, but let’s talk about the actual sort of, what you do, what you love doing as much as you’re not a huge fan of it, what’s your favourite workout to do in the water?

DANIEL PLEWS:  I’m a big fan of more strength endurance, if that’s a good word to use, sets which would consist of combinations of swim, pool paddles and band only, especially if, well in  swimming it’s really important to be able to have a high arm turnover and that kind of going from paddles to band only definitely helps with keeping that arm turnover up and it’s quite good for the strength in the arms. That’s always a good go-to for me.

Making small gains – spending time in the water

BRAD BROWN:  You talk about the, to make small gains in swimming you need to spend lots of time in the water, where do you draw the line, almost with that law of diminishing returns where you could be spending that time better spent possibly on the bike or on the run because you could make up more time, where do you draw the line and go “Okay, cool enough’s enough, I’m done focusing on this one”?

DANIEL PLEWS:  Yes, and I think it’s very different for age group athletes than it is for an elites, so for a professional, for example, it’s very important to have a good swim, because if you’re not out, even at Kona, if you’re not out in that front group, it’s pretty much game over unless you’re a freakish rider like Sebastian Kienle, who can catch up, but for age groupers, it’s never going to be a main focus because it’s such a small portion of the race compared to the biking and running. So I think if you’re spending more than 40% of your time in the pool then you’ve got to be drawing the line there. I think normal is around 30% from what I understand, I think it’s more like 30/50/20 is the kind of the normal segregations of swim, bike swim.

BRAD BROWN:  Is there such a thing as normal in triathlon?

DANIEL PLEWS:  Yes, exactly, okay the average.

BRAD BROWN:  Excellent. Dan, thank you so much for your time, once again looking forward to catching up about your bike next time out, but we’ll save that for our next chat. Thanks for your time today.

DANIEL PLEWS:  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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