Simple steps to improve your Ironman swim with Tom Ward
Simple steps to improve your Ironman swim with Tom Ward

Simple steps to improve your Ironman swim with Tom Ward

Simple steps to improve your Ironman swim with Tom Ward

Improving your Ironman swim time is not that difficult. Tom Ward shares the simple steps he took that helped him qualify for Ironman Kona in Hawaii.

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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:  Welcome back to The Kona Edge. It’s great to have you with us. It’s time to chat some triathlon swimming. We welcome back a guest who has been on before and shared his incredible story with his buildup to Ironman Kona, Tom Ward. Tom welcome back on, nice to chat again.

TOM WARD:  Thanks Brad, nice to be back.

BRAD BROWN:  Tom, in our previous chat you mentioned that you had done a bit of running and a little bit of swimming in the buildup to getting into triathlon.

The swim in triathlon is something that really does intimidate a lot of people who get into the sport for the first time. Were you pretty comfortable from the get-go in your triathlon career in the water?

Tackling your triathlon swim training to reach Ironman World Championships

TOM WARD:  Yes Brad, I was actually. Well yes and no. I’d done a bit of swimming in my early teens, but only basic pool swimming. It all happened at my local club. Just some 50m sprints in galas, that kind of thing.

So in terms of actually being able to swim, I was confident and comfortable. I’d never really swum anything much over a 100m in a race, so that didn’t intimidate me. I was fairly comfortable in terms of starting the swimming phase of my training.

BRAD BROWN:  When it comes to improving your triathlon swim. A triathlon is never going to be won in the swim. But you can lose a lot of time if you’re not competent in the swim. You fall behind.

What’s one thing that you’ve done in your triathlon career that you think has made the biggest difference to your swim and your performance in the water?

Take yourself out of your comfort zone to swim faster

TOM WARD:  Swim with faster swimmers. I took myself out of my comfort zone and I started swimming with better swimmers. Ideally ex swimmers. Swimming with actual swimmers isn’t always ideal because they do train differently and they’re obviously training for a different discipline really.

It’s swimming, but it’s not exactly the same. But swimming with guys that were faster than me made a huge difference to me. Last year I actually managed to find a significant amount of time that I didn’t think I’d be able to find, by really taking myself out of my comfort zone in my swimming.

BRAD BROWN:  Did you join a swim squad or did you just find guys and girls, locally that were swimming?

TOM WARD:  I found two guys locally. I’m a member of a health club and I managed to find out a couple of people that were also members. That was when I discovered that they were pretty strong ex swimmers. I just asked them if they’d be happy to train with me and they both were.

Find yourself a group to swim with for your Ironman swim training

We just organized ourselves. A couple of times a week, every week, I was able to get myself in the pool with them. I mean, it was hard, the first session was a real shock to the system.

It was just about going out there and trying to find some local athletes. Ask around the triathlon community for people that they knew and then go out there and train with those guys.

BRAD BROWN:  That obviously helps with the swim. But that’s great advice across all three disciplines, is it not, finding people who are better than you to train with?

TOM WARD:  Yeah, absolutely. My weakest area is the bike and I’ve made some progress this year too. I did that through joining a chain gang at my local store that do also sponsor me. They run a chain gang on a Tuesday night from their store, Leisure Lakes in Cheltenham.

That was definitely an interesting experience. Even more so than the swimming because there are some quick boys there. Again, that took me out of my comfort zone, but it made a huge difference.

It forces you to train way beyond the level that you perhaps find on your own.

Swim sets to improve your Ironman swim

BRAD BROWN:  Tell me about the swimming, your favourite workout.  For a lot of people, swimming can be mindless and boring. What do you do to mix things up and what do you do to make it more enjoyable?

TOM WARD:  Right, so, I’ll be careful not to talk too long on this subject because it’s probably one of the areas that I feel most passionate about. My favourite session is 30 to 40 100’s. So, I basically get in the pool, I warm up and I swim between 30 to 40 100’s. That’s it. I swim virtually flat out with a short rest at round about 5 to 10 seconds.

I do it in a short course pool, on my own, and I guess everybody would think, how does that actually make it interesting? Because it’s possibly the world’s most boring workout.

Brad, for me, it’s about how you tackle the session. It’s all about your mindset going into the session. You need to be clear on what the goal is for the session. What it is that you’re trying to achieve and through every single 100. It’s simply not just mind numbingly and blindly getting in and swimming 100m hard. It’s actually thinking about what it is that you’re doing when you’re doing it.

Make sure your Ironman swim sets are deliberate

Maybe it’s counting strokes or concentrating on different parts of your technique. Make sure that you hold your form when you get tired. Getting your pacing the right. All those kinds of things.

For me, that’s my favourite session. I love doing that, I do it nearly every single week. It really hurts, don’t get me wrong, but I love the feeling of it hurting because I know it’s doing me good. My wife likes watching me do it because she likes watching me hurt, so that’s my favourite session.

BRAD BROWN:  You sound like a bit of a masochist Tom.

TOM WARD:  Yeah, maybe.

BRAD BROWN:  I love it, there you go, thanks for sharing that with us here on The Kona Edge, we look forward to catching up again soon, thanks for your time.

TOM WARD:  No probs Brad, my pleasure.

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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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