Small changes to your swim stroke can yield big gains in your Ironman Swim
Small changes to your swim stroke can yield big gains in your Ironman Swim

Small changes to your swim stroke can yield big gains in your Ironman Swim

Small changes to your swim stroke can yield big gains in your Ironman Swim

The Ironman swim is very often about making small changes for big wins. Michael Girard shares how small changes to his swim stroke has yielded faster times in his Ironman swim.

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BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back to The Kona Edge. It’s time to chat some swimming and we’ve got a returning guest on, Michael Girard.

Michael, welcome back, nice to have you on again. We’re going to chat some swimming today. You mentioned about your swim at Ironman Kona, at the Ironman World Championships, and how tough it was from a pacing perspective.

When you come from a swimming background, do you think that plays a huge part in your success? Having that background and the technique growing up, it came pretty naturally to you?

MICHAEL GIRARD:  Absolutely! I’m amazed at anyone that becomes anywhere near a front pack swimmer that didn’t have a swimming background. It’s so technique-based and it’s such a complex movement that subtle things make a huge difference. Absolutely, anyone who has a swimming background has a huge leg up in triathlon, for sure.

BRAD BROWN:  Is there one thing that you’ve done that’s made a major difference to your performance in the water?

Small changes to your swim stroke can gain you minutes

MICHAEL GIRARD: Yeah, it was just before Ironman Kona, maybe it wasn’t the best timing. I wasn’t looking to change my swim stroke but I knew there was something I needed to fix. Previously in the year, I guess you could say ‘found my stroke’.

When my stroke was clicking, I could do a set of 100 repeats swimming 100m, probably like a 1:22. Somewhere around that pace. When my stroke wasn’t clicking, I was struggling to swim a 1:28, so a pretty dramatic difference that 5 seconds is several minutes in an Ironman.

I actually did a 30 minute session with a swim coach. I had him take a look at my swim stroke and asked him for some pointers. Like what small things could I change without trying to revolutionize my swim stroke. What am I maybe doing wrong that’s holding me back a little bit? I think it worked, if nothing else it gave me a little more confidence on a few things I could correct.

Don’t over reach in your swim stroke

One simple thing I was doing is I was probably over reaching a little bit with my right arm. That was causing me to pull to the left. So in open water swimming, if you can swim straight and on course, it’s a dramatic advantage.

You can put your head down and sight a lot less and you’re not bumping in to people. It really helped quite a bit. I was swimming quite a bit straighter going in to Ironman Kona.

When you’re jammed into a pack it helps when you don’t ram into the guy to your left all the time. At least it doesn’t make enemies. Guys get a little ticked after a while if you keep ramming into them, that’s for sure!

BRAD BROWN:  Welcome to my world! Michael, let’s talk Ironman swim sets and sessions. Is there one particular training session or Ironman swim set in the pool that you particularly like? Maybe one you find you get a lot of benefit from? What is your favourite Ironman swim set?

Keeping things simple in the pool

MICHAEL GIRARD:  Don’t complicate things in the water.  Maybe it’s because we did it so much in high school, but 20 by 100.  it’s pretty straightforward. 20 x 100m and probably the sweet spot is maybe about 15 seconds rest.

If I’m swimming a lot of volume, maybe I can squeeze that to maybe 8 or 10 seconds rest. That’s a challenge in itself. Do you go swim a little faster or do you go for a set where you’ve a shorter rest interval?

There’s so many things you can do within something so simple. Vary your pace or the rest interval. This is the challenge; can I do this whole set without slowing down or if my swim stroke is really clicking and I actually start going faster. It can be a huge boost to confidence.

When you come off an Ironman swim set like that, it motivates you for another week or two to keep pushing. It’s helps you find that swim stroke again and maybe improve that a little bit.

As an Ironman swim set benchmark set, it is great. You can sometimes even use that to determine your Ironman swim threshold pace. Whatever you can do on a good quality set like that, says a lot about where you’re at in your swim fitness.

BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant! Michael, thank you so much for your time once again here on The Kona Edge. We look forward to chatting about what you’ve done on the bike in the next edition. Thanks so much for joining us.


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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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