Swimming workouts that Ironman AG world champions use to build speed
Swimming workouts that Ironman AG world champions use to build speed

Swimming workouts that Ironman AG world champions use to build speed

Swimming workouts that Ironman AG world champions use to build speed

We chat to Ironman Age Group World Champion Lucy Charles about the swimming workouts she uses to keep her Ironman swim as competitive as possible.

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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 onto The Kona Edge, I’m Brad Brown and we’re joined now all the way from London in the UK by Lucy Charles. Lucy, welcome back onto the podcast, thanks for taking the time to chat to us today.

LUCY CHARLES:  Hi Brad, it’s great to be back, thanks very much.

BRAD BROWN:  Lucy, I wanted to chat to you about swimming, in particular around an Ironman. You come from a very competitive swimming background. Your swimming splits are incredible.

You swam a 52:20 at Ironman Kona in 2015, obviously coming from that competitive swimming background, it definitely helps doesn’t it?

LUCY CHARLES:  Yeah, it’s a big help, especially as I was an open water swimmer. I’m not fazed by the Ironman swim starts and things like that. In fact, I actually thrive off that sort of stuff. That is a big help for me.

BRAD BROWN:  Have you found that you’ve let your Ironman swim slide? Knowing that you come from that sort of background that in order to be up with the top girls in your age group, you probably don’t have to put as much work in the water as they would?

Keeping your Ironman swim as your strength

LUCY CHARLES:  Yeah, I think, I mean my Ironman swim is certainly not where it used to be. I have had to let it slip and I’ve had to really push on with my Ironman bike and my Ironman run. However, I feel that I’ve started to work on my Ironman swim a little bit more again because I really want to keep that as my strength.

I do like coming out ahead, that’s how I like to race. So, I definitely want to keep working on it and keep it at the level that it is.

BRAD BROWN:  Swimming has been a part of your life for such a long time. If you have to think throughout your swimming career, is there one thing that you’ve done that has made a huge difference and improved your swim big time?

Competing against Ironman World Champions

LUCY CHARLES:  I mean I got to compete at the top level, so I got to compete at some World Cup events against the best open water swimmers in the world. That really did push me because I wasn’t really coming anywhere in those races. It was getting used to competing right at the top. That did spur me on and it did make me train a lot harder in the pool as well.

BRAD BROWN:  Just as a sort of ordinary Ironman age grouper, you could almost emulate that by getting involved in swim squads. By making sure you’re swimming with better people than yourself, as often as you can?

LUCY CHARLES:  Certainly, that is definitely a big help, swimming with swim squads. I do occasionally nip in and out of swim squads and do some of their sessions. However, I’m very lucky to have Reece to train with. We do push each other quite a bit in the pool, to say the least!

BRAD BROWN:  Reece Barclay, your boyfriend, also qualified for Ironman Kona in 2015. He also comes from a competitive swimming background. Do you find that that could be to your detriment? You obviously race each other quite hard in the pool and in training, is there a danger in doing that?

When your Swimming training partner is very competitive

LUCY CHARLES:  I mean we’re both very good at listening to our bodies. So if one is not feeling the swimming workouts and one of us is, then we’ll just let the other one take the lead on that swim session.

We are very competitive. I was always a distance swimmer and Reece was always a sprint swimmer. So, for him, he’s come a really long way to upping his swimming endurance and distance stuff.

Sometimes I find that quite hard, that he’s right on my toes or even ahead of me in the pool, but it’s good. I wouldn’t say it’s a detriment, we do really help each other out in the pool.

BRAD BROWN:  As far as swimming workouts go and swimming sets, what are some of your favourite things to do,? What do you feel gives you the best swimming workouts?

Tough swimming workouts make for easy Ironman swims

LUCY CHARLES:  In the pool, out of all the free disciplines, swimming is the one I would probably like to give a miss in training. I think just cause I’ve swum them for so many years, I find it quite boring.

I’ve probably done most of the swim sets that I can even think of. But if I’m going to get into the pool, I like to do a fairly tough set of 100’s or 200’s. The swim session is at least 3km, really working at the threshold. We try to push ourselves on and then the session seems to go quite quickly.

BRAD BROWN:  Then, the gaps that you would take between those, if you’re doing 100’s or 200’s, you’re doing large amounts in that set, what sort of break would you be taking between each one of those?

LUCY CHARLES:  Yeah, I mean we take fairly short rest intervals, even as little as 10 seconds.  We try to keep that threshold up and keep the heart rate up while we’re working. It can be quite tough.

The mistakes Ironman age groupers make in their swimming workouts

BRAD BROWN:  Coming from that competitive swimming background, what are some of the common mistakes Ironman age groupers make in the water?

LUCY CHARLES:  Yeah, it’s quite easy to sort of look at people’s strokes and see, actually, if you just neaten that up. A lot of triathletes, especially Ironman age groupers, do tend to miss the catch phase on their stroke. If they were just adding that in, it would make a huge difference. That definitely does help.

BRAD BROWN:  And it’s also a case of, you know what, get help. We spoke about coaching the last time we chatted. A lot of triathletes don’t really value what a swim coach could do for them. You talk about that fixing little things in technique, it can make a huge difference and definitely worthwhile doing.

LUCY CHARLES:  Oh yeah, definitely and something like swim video analysis has a massive, massive effect. Sometimes you can think you’re doing something or you think your stroke looks a certain way and when you see it back on video, it certainly doesn’t.

Get help on deck to improve your Ironman swim

When I was an elite swimmer, I was convinced I had the neatest, most perfect stroke. I can assure you, I most definitely do not, it’s just that’s what works for me.

BRAD BROWN:  You also get into bad habits. The longer you do this and the better you think you get, the easier id is to pick up bad habits. Often the way to pick those up and stop doing them is by having someone else look at your stroke or do some video swim analysis.

LUCY CHARLES:  Definitely yeah, it’s got to be the biggest thing you can do to help correct your swim stroke.

BRAD BROWN:  I love that. Lucy, thank you so much for joining us once again here on The Kona Edge. We look forward to catching up again next time to chat about your Ironman bike.

LUCY CHARLES:  You’re very welcome, lovely to be on here.

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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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