Whether your goal to build confidence and endurance for your upcoming race or to build more speed in an effort to crack the podium and qualify for World Championships, we should all have one common goal in the water:
To move through it more efficiently.
What Exactly Is Swim Efficiency?
I’ll define swim efficiency as “generating the greatest amount of speed with smallest energy cost”. Think about it, if you could significantly increase your speed with half the effort you’d be smiling from ear to ear, wouldn’t you?
The best triathletes in the world move efficiently. There’s only one way you finish an Ironman in 8 hours or run a 30min 10k off the bike… Efficiency.
Setting up a great ride and run on race day starts with efficiency in the waterl.
So, Are You Building Efficiency?
A lot of age group triathletes go about building efficiency in the water in completely the wrong way. They focus all their attention on the “greatest speed” part… But little to no attention on the “smallest energy expense” part.
Let me ask you this: what is your primary goal every time you hit the water?
Is it pulling harder, sprinting faster or building more shoulder strength?
If it is, there’s a chance you’re focusing on the wrong thing. You’re trying to maximise speed but you’re likely wasting a lot of energy as you do.
Change the Way You Build Efficiency
Shift your focus to minimizing resistance rather than generating more speed. The less resistance or “drag” you swim against, the less effort and energy you will need to move forward.
Imagine this for a second:
Two cyclists with identical ability and fitness level go out for a bike ride on a windy day. One of the cyclists hops on his aerodynamic TT bike while the other rides a beach cruiser bike. Both cyclists ride for 40km at the same pace.
I’m sure you’ll agree that at the end of the ride, the cyclist on the TT bike will have spent WAY less energy. The cyclist sitting upright like a sail in the wind on the cruiser will have worked MUCH harder to keep up the pace.
What’s the difference between the TT bike and the beach cruiser?
The TT bike allows the cyclist to get into a more aerodynamic position. Which means less resistance or drag and so less effort to move forward at any given pace.
Now apply that thinking to how you move through the water.
It’s exactly the same.
When you get your body into a position that is more “hydrodynamic”, you’ll work against less resistance. Less resistance means less effort to move forward at any given pace.
How To Reduce Resistance
My number 1 go-to drill for reducing resistance in the water is Balance Drill. It teaches you to get your body in a good hydrodynamic position.
Here’s a video explaining how to do the Balance Drill.
Remember, efficiency means “generating the greatest amount of speed possible with smallest energy cost”. Most triathletes focus on trying to generate speed. But it’s far more effective to reduce your wasted effort and cut your energy expense.
Next time you hop in the pool, do 4 x 25 Balance drill as part of your warm up. Take it slow, focus on aligning your body, being as narrow and streamlined as possible.
The better you can limit your resistance, the more efficiently you are going to swim!