We are joined on The Kona Edge by Hayden Armstrong to talk about building strength and endurance in your Ironman swim.
Hayden shares the secret on how to build confidence in your Ironman swim sessions.
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: Let’s chat some Ironman swimming now. We head to Hobart in Australia, Tasmania to chat to Hayden Armstrong. Hayden welcome back onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for joining us.
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Thanks for having me.
BRAD BROWN: Hayden you confessed your bike is probably your strongest of the 3 disciplines. Where would you rate your swim?
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I reckon the swim would have to be number 2.
BRAD BROWN: Ok, and Aussies generally like you say, they’re pretty outdoorsy. But living in Tasmania, is water a big part of your life growing up?
Confidence makes your Ironman swim easy
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Yes, absolutely. I was a beach kid growing up. Good confidence in the surf and good confidence in open water and swimming was just part of a kid growing up. So confidence was always there.
BRAD BROWN: That’s half the battle won, isn’t it. Swimming is such a confidence thing particularly open water, and particularly in a mass start.
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Yes, absolutely. Mass starts, I actually enjoy them. There’s trepidation by people that get in. They’re nervous, they’re worried about it and there’s so much energy expelled by just worrying about what’s going to happen to them.
BRAD BROWN: It’s probably not a fair question to ask you, because it sounds like you were born with it. But is there a way to develop that confidence over time?
Racing more will develop your Ironman swim confidence
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I think there is. I think the more racing you do the better you become. I think you can employ some strategies around your training making sure that you’re confident in the water as well. I was lucky growing up surfing so I picked the conditions. And personally the rougher the water the better I am. I love it rough.
BRAD BROWN: As far as getting better in the water over time, what are some of the things you’ve done that you think has improved your swim performance in an Ironman?
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Definitely joining a swimming squad. A proper swimming squad, not a triathlete squad. A club swimming squad where you’re jumping into the pool with people that are consistently better than what you are over that journey.
Join a swim squad and become a stronger Ironman swimmer
There could be 100m specialists or 400m specialists but if you get in there and you get coached and you just put yourself amongst them, you’re going to want to rise to the occasion and become a better swimmer. I certainly found that that really assisted me with my swimming over time. It took a while to get there but I learnt that way. So if you can swim with a squad I think it’s much better.
BRAD BROWN: I was going to say it’s pretty humbling too. You get in there as a pretty decent triathlete but when you’re racing against people who are specialists like you say, 100m or 400m stars, it’s hard work and it’s tough in the beginning. You’ll taste a bit of blood in quite a few sessions I’m sure but again, it’s consistency and seeing it through. And the improvements will come.
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Oh absolutely. Having a squad that supports you and knows that you’re a little bit weaker in that area, I think that’s great. They still treat you as one. As a swimming individual they might realise that you hit a bike session or run session before you jumped in the pool but you just train as an equal and that’s all you want.
BRAD BROWN: As far as having somebody on deck to help with stroke correction and that sort of thing?
Hone in on your technique for a better Ironman swim
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: That’s one of the reasons why I joined the squad as well. They’re going to pull you up and give you some technique. I think that is one area where, especially in Tasmania some triathletes miss out on, unless they’ve come from that club swimming background.
I’ve been really lucky to be involved in a couple of good squads where they’ve really given you the time to hone in on your technique. The better you can be on your technique, the better your swim.
BRAD BROWN: As far as open water versus pool, what sort of percentage of your training would you do in open water compared to in a pool?
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I’d have to say 75% of it is done in the pool. Obviously we’ve got the summer months where you can get out, sort of between December and March, for open water. I will try and swim a fair bit of open water on my own and I think swimming open water on your own just helps you with your confidence as well. Bang out the elements but most of it is done in the pool.
BRAD BROWN: Favourite workouts, what do you absolutely love doing in the pool?
Mix endurance with speed for a strong Ironman swim
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I’d have to say that I really enjoy 100m sets. I think that just focusing on a bit of speed endurance is really great so that 20 or 30 x 100’s. It hurts but it certainly does give you the endurance and it also gives you that confidence. It’s probably a session that really hurts me but once you’ve got through it you know you’re pretty well ready to go.
BRAD BROWN: As far as swim times and that go, a lot of people talk about the magical 60-minute mark. What does it take to dip under 60?
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I think you have to focus on some speed, endurance. I’m a big fan of making sure you have some strength training in the pool but if you can mix endurance with speed I think that certainly assists you in dipping under 60. I’m probably consistently hitting anywhere between 52 and 54. Turbulence makes a big difference to someone in an Ironman. He can get out on the bike and get up the road 10 minutes ahead of your nearest rival.
BRAD BROWN: Gear wise in the water, what do you use wetsuit wise, goggles, that sort of thing?
Simple toys in the pool to build strength in your Ironman swim
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: I’m a pretty simple bloke. A pool buoy, a few flippers for recovery sessions. Always just the old DT stick toys in the pool. Open water, I’m pretty lucky to have some good support there so I just use the Arena wetsuit. I’ve found that a really good suit over the last sort of 18 months. I’ve just got the simple tools, the pool buoy, the pool paddles and also the band. Don’t ever underestimate the power of the band.
BRAD BROWN: Absolutely. Hayden thanks for your time today on The Kona Edge. Much appreciated. Look forward to chatting about your bike next time out.
HAYDEN ARMSTRONG: Thanks a lot, cheers Brad.
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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