Ironman Swim Hack: Spend time working on your strengths
Ironman Swim Hack: Spend time working on your strengths

Ironman Swim Hack: Spend time working on your strengths

Ironman Swim Hack: Spend time working on your strengths

As athletes we tend to focus on trying to improve our weaknesses but Desi Dickinson believes we should double down on our strengths if we want to become better ironman triathletes.

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BRAD BROWN: We head back to the East Rand of Johannesburg and a town where a few big names have come out. One of them is Charlize Theron and another one is Desi Dickinson who is joining us once again. Desi welcome back onto The Kona Edge. Thanks for joining us.

DESI DICKINSON: Great. Thanks for having me Brad.

Your Ironman  Kona swim can deliver a PB

BRAD BROWN: Desi, you mentioned in our first chat that your swim, out of the 3 disciplines is your weakest. You’ve worked hard at it and in Kona you swam a  PB on the swim.

Even though you spend a lot of time in the water and work hard it’s not something that really stresses you out because as you said to us, Ironman is a long day. The swim is the smallest part and you can make up the time on the bike and the run.

DESI DICKINSON: When I first started that was really my philosophy. We live in a remedial world. It’s like a child coming home with a report card to say they’re doing great in English and Afrikaans and maybe not doing so well at maths. And our first reaction is that they have go sort out that maths.

Too little or too much effort in your Ironman swim

I think what happens is you put a lot of effort in to get a mediocre result. Whereas if you put your efforts into your strengths, the gains are exponential. And I think that’s what happened with me.

So, I popped the swim a bit, not to say that I didn’t work on it because I consistently swam 3 times a week. I’ve swum every week since 2013 so the consistency pays off. But it was the work that I did in the bike and run that made me better. It was really taking my strengths and making them the best that they can be.

The same amount of time I think having spent in my swim would have given me marginal gains. That’s my thinking.

BRAD BROWN: I love that, and that’s the best way I’ve heard it articulated to be honest. And the example of that report card. I think that’s going to be a major breakthrough for people which I think is awesome.

But as far as the swim goes, you have made gains. Let’s not beat around the bush. Your swim has improved since you got into the sport. What are some of the things you’ve done in the water that have improved your swim?

Time in the water makes you think about your Ironman swim

DESI DICKINSON: As I say I swim consistently, that’s the thing. It’s not like I swim and then I take a break. I’ve been swimming consistently.

You’ve got so much time to think in the water, so I do think about my stroke a lot. I do try and concentrate on my form but I have to say that it has clicked recently. And I can’t even explain it, I think it’s the hours spent in the water and I’m now starting to feel something.

I felt like such a beginner in the beginning. Like my legs didn’t work with my arms. It was like I had 2 parts to my body. In fact since Kona. So, it’s quite a recent thing that I’m starting to feel some synergy with my body. I can feel the whole thing working together. Like my kick is working with my pull, with my body position.

Correct your swim technique then spend time in the water

So, I think you do need to correct your technique but once you’ve had that, it’s just time in the pool. Time and time and time in the pool. And then we do swim a lot with paddles for strength, that type of thing.

I do a lot of speed work in the pool; I do supplement that with strength training in the gym. So those are the kind of things I put together to try and get the swim better.

BRAD BROWN: Let’s talk about the time in the gym. The strength stuff. It’s something we don’t touch on often and with the video background as well; I know you’ve done some personal training too.

How big a role does that play in improving your swim? Getting the core strengthened up and that sort of thing?

A strong core is vital to a strong Ironman swim

DESI DICKINSON: I think core particularly is vital and I think it also goes to where you are in your season. Pre-season I like to do a lot of heavier strength work. But as I come closer to racing season and when I’m in racing season, it’s really just lighter stuff and more of the plyometrics. That type of stuff that’s more functional to swimming, functional to running and to riding. As opposed to pure strength work.

So, I do add that in and I think the closer you get to racing season, there isn’t really a substitute for a good run. I can’t substitute that in the gym so for me it becomes more important about doing the quality sessions in each discipline, as opposed to the gym. Whereas in off season I will do more gym.

BRAD BROWN: Desi, then as far as workouts in the water, what do you particularly love doing?

Mixing your workout with toys in the water

DESI DICKINSON: Getting out! No, I love swimming with paddles and pool buoys. We do get those kinds of sets. And I do enjoy the speed work, the 50’s and the 100’s. Then that 1600 test that we do. I read something of Brett Sutton’s recently where he said, ‘Don’t be scared of the toys. If it’s the thing that’s going to get you into the pool and get you swimming, then do it.’ Because the most important thing is that we’re in the pool and that we’re swimming.

So, we do mix it a lot with the toys. And as I say I enjoy the speed work. I like a lot of variety in a set because it’s just boring for me.

BRAD BROWN: Desi thanks for sharing your swim tips with us today. We look forward to chatting about your bike next time out.

DESI DICKINSON: Okay, great. Thanks.

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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