if you didn’t catch the triathlon beginner post PART 1, and you want to add more triathlon distance, then you may want to check that out.  In part one, I mentioned three key aspects of being comfortable in the water, and dealt with some of the psychological aspects of water comfort.  Today, we will deal with my specialty, the physical aspect of swimming ease.

Not all bodies are they same in the water.  You may have noticed that fish and rhino’s have different bodies, which makes a tremendous difference in the two species swimming abilities.  So what makes a human body do well in the water?  Certainly strength and endurance play a part, which a good conditioning program can help us with, but what other factors are there!

Would you believe me if I told you flexibility?

A flexible triathlete? Can you do this?

Well you should, because it’s huge.  Flexibility can affect stroke length, kicking technique, plane of your body in the water, power generation, ease of breathing, and water balance/ agility.  Wow right?  Who would have thought.

So those stiff as a board endurance athlete bodies don’t really help you swim like a dolphin, get over it because flexibility can change like Gaga’s fashion statements.  How to change your bodies flexibility is too big a topic for this post, but I can tell you which movements will help.

It goes without saying that shoulder movement is key, but what most people don’t know is that shoulders often lack the outer 25 to 30 degrees of motion that would make a big difference for swim success and safety.

Trunk rotation is huge for water balance, breathing, and developing an efficient kick.  About the efficient kick, don’t underestimate the importance of your legs in swimming.  Another leg motion that can help is Abduction, or out to the side flexibility, especially for breast stroke and treading water.

Flutter kick needs decent mobility of the structures on the front and back of the hip joint.  Finally, backward bending of the spine is really helpful to being at home in the water.

You see, to move in water we need to move like water, with flow.  Flow is only possible with technique and flexibility.  We will cover some technical aspects in the next triathlon beginner post and help you add even more triathlon distance (part 3).

Training your body takes time, doesn’t it?  And we’re up for that.  We’re tough enough to pay our dues, and put in the miles.  But wouldn’t it be nice to find a way that we can give ourselves an instant advantage, right now!?  Hello yeah!

The concept of power in athletics is, in my opinion, viewed somewhat incompletely.  The basics are easy. Exert a great deal of force (strength) over a short span of time (speed), and the result is power.  So in other words:

       Strength      +     Speed     =     Power

So we develop power by developing strength (muscle size), and by working on speed.  There are other factors as well, but lets keep this simple for now.  Okay, why would an endurance athlete want power?  In short, because power moves your carcass well … As opposed to not well.

If you can’t generate power, you cannot swim, bike, or run with efficient and proper technique.  You see, sports are about power.  The people that are good at sports are those that have learned to produce and utilize power.  Often the easy way, is the powerfull way.  Consider olympic weight lifting, the most successful athletes at lifting that bar, are the guys or girls that lift it fast and powerfully.

I know what your thinking, triathlon is about endurance right?  Wrong.  It’s about what strength and conditioning coaches call speed-endurance and power-endurance.  The fact is that champion endurance athletes have done a honkin’ pile of speed work.  It is fairly accurate to say that they first develop a fast running stride, swimming stroke, or bicycle pace and then they learn how to sustain it.  I say fairly accurate because in reality, that is still too simple.

Okay, enough about power.  Now you know enough to value it, so let’s move onto the instant advantage that I alluded to earlier.  Let’s see, which one should I share …

... Okay, got it.  We’ll talk about Positions of strength, that’s a useful topic.  What if there was a joint in your body, (a joint which you are ignoring right now), that when it’s in the right position, it makes your arms stronger and your lungs function better.  Strength in your arms could add up to power generation in cycling (imagine hill climbs as an example) as well as in your freestyle swim stroke.  

So what’s the position?  Essentially, the position is good posture.  This position of stability with your shoulder blades down and drawn together is referred to as Power Position of the shoulders.  This position can be optimized for your sport activities relatively quickly with the right exercise protocols ( 2-5 weeks), and the resulting changes in your performance can be exciting.  Is that fast enough for you?

So get your triathlon beginner butt over to Total Outcomes Physio Surrey site  and read more about posture in the coming weeks!

Thanks for reading … Oh yeah, and power to the people, right on.

Here’s a smattering of triathlon beginner advice for surviving mass starts.  When you’re just learning to compete in triathlon, it may be wise to take some precautions during mass starts so that your victory photo after the race doesn’t get you mistaken for an NHL hockey player in game 7 of the Stanley cup final.

Here’s my advice, if you are just starting out, find a place in the back of the pack and ideally towards the outside of the first turn to start your race from.  It’s true, starting from that position in the pack isn’t the closest pathway to victory, but it has the advantage of allowing you to avoid the mosh pit that a mass start creates where you get kicked, clawed and sportingly abused. 

Your going to want to stay on your feet for as long as you can as the water gets deeper, then transition to swimming efficiently once the water is deep enough.  Don’t try to swim too early in the shallower water

I would recommend that you learn to breath on both sides when you swim so that you have options if there are waves or splashing racers to one side of you.  Don’t panic, the mosh pit will dissipate soon.  Keep yourself calm so that it doesn’t throw of your pacing and gas you out later in the race.  Ideally you fall into your comfortable stroke as quick as you can, and if you’re on the outside of the first turn, you just might have the space in the water to do that.

Don’t worry, it gets easier.  Let me know if you think this advice seems practical to you.