For many of us, September is a chance to take a breath, relax, and look back on a successful summer race season. We have worked hard throughout the summer training, racing and spending lots of time in our wetsuit in the open water. Awesome, right? We’re triathletes, not pool swimmers, and the hours we spend in the fall and winter months in the pool are done so that we can enjoy and perform in the lake and feel great getting on the bike to continue the journey.
At this point in the year however, the lake simply becomes too cold to have a quality swim, and it’s back to the pool we go. As a swim coach, I will often get the familiar question after the first few swims in the pool that prompts me to write this blog this week, when we are set to enter the pool once again.
“Hey coach, I was swimming so well in the pool in June and all during the summer, and now I’m 10-15 seconds slower per 100m. What’s going on??”
It is completely natural for all of us as triathletes to return to the pool and experience some loss in speed and technique. Here are just a couple:
1. We’ve just come off of the race season, where we raced hard and then likely relaxed with family, swam for fun, and enjoyed the rest of the summer. Good for you! The last thing I would want to see as your swim coach is you swimming 5 days a week in the pool when you could be outside!
2. During the summer, we’ve done our share of swimming in the lake, but the bulk of our training is on the bike and run, where multi-hour rides and runs are much more easily done in the warm weather. This is important; as triathletes we have to constantly balance 3 sports.
3. The pool and the open water are different! Your wetsuit, navigating, drafting, and your peaking fitness all contribute to performance gains in the water. This is the way it should be. Returning to the pool is the equivalent of running on a treadmill for most. A loss of speed or technique is to be expected.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with this. You SHOULD be slower in the pool at this time of the year. Think of this time as one where you turn the effort and intensity way down, and go back to the basics of breathing, stroke work, and building base fitness. Give your body a change to ease back into lane swimming and tell yourself that you are building a foundation once again that will carry you through the winter and into next year’s race season.
I look forward to seeing you all back in the pool again. I promise to do my best to guide you to another awesome race season.