Pool Etiquette and Unsolicited Advice

This is a 50 meter, long course pool or Olympic Pool

With pools opening back up, here are some useful reminders about pool etiquette in case you didn’t know. And if you don’t know, now you know.

Many triathletes come to the sport by way of running or cycling, and there seems to be a knowledge gap when it comes to the pool with most triathletes who generally train alone. Here’s some swimming etiquette if you haven’t had the benefit of ever swimming on a team or didn’t grow up around a pool.

As a triathlete, the pool is a chance to recover from the long days on the bike or run, so first things first: know the pool size. Most pools in the States are 25 yards long, one way, or short course yards (SCY), but some are 25 meters (SCM), and others are a whopping 50 meters long, otherwise known as an Olympic pool or long course meters (LCM). Your swim activity app on your watch should have a option for you to select the pool size for proper counting. If you’re not sure if the pool is 25 yards or meters, just ask.

That leads me to another issue: the definition of “lap” as it refers to swimming. Some swimmers say a “lap” is two lengths of the pool for “there and back”, others will argue that it’s one length of the pool. Avoid all debate and just say “length” instead of “lap”. Problem solved.

Lane lines are important too. Lane lines are solid 5 meters out from the wall (flags are placed above where the solid color ends and the broken colors begin). This is so you know how far you are from the wall while doing backstroke since you count your strokes to the wall before turning. When breathing to the side for freestyle, you’ll also know that the wall is coming up is you see a solid color. There is also a red colored marker on all lane lines 15 yards out from the wall, which is an long as you can legally stay under water after pushing off the wall. Everyone swims faster under water and good swimmers use this to their advantage, so streamline and get that free speed off the wall.

We haven’t gotten our toes wet, but before entering a lane to swim in, get permission from the swimmers already there. Hopping in and assuming they will see you is not a good idea because more than likely another swimmer won’t see you until they swim into you. Not a good day in the pool. If there are only two of you, decide if you will circle swim or split the lane. If you split the lane, you will stay to one side of the lane at all times. There is no need for a collision resulting in a concussion.

When circle swimming, swim counter-clockwise, keeping to the right of the black line. If you need to pass, tap the swimmer’s feet. Once at the wall, the swimmer you are passing will move to the far right to let you turn and keep swimming. Do not pass up the middle since the swimmer you are passing might not see you, and if you both get to the wall at the same time, that’s not OK. If you are doing the same workout and leaving the wall at the same time, give the swimmer in front of you space. Wait until their feet are past the solid color on the lane line to provide for adequate spacing while swimming.

When swimming in a masters group, talk to the coach and find out what the swimmers are doing, what the sets are, and where they are in the set. Take turns leading and give a few seconds in between swimmers to prevent swimming at their feet the whole time. The lead swimmer should know the sets, times to leave, etc. If you switch leaders in a lane, the new leader should understand all of this. When arriving late or leaving early, talk to the coach and the other swimmers in your lane so everyone knows what’s going on.

Wall know-how: if turning or finishing at the wall, move over to the far left to leave room for other swimmers to turn and push off and stay clear of the T on the wall. Lead swimmers start on the right and enter the swimming lane on the right of the line. All other swimmers will follow the lead swimmer and enter from the right of the lane.

If possible, swim with swimmers who are close to your speed, leave enough distance between you and other swimmers, and make sure you talk to everyone to ensure smooth swimming. In other words, know your pace per 100 yards–the pace you can swim for a long time. If you’re in a meter pool, add 5-10 seconds to that time, and in a 50 meter pool, add a few more seconds. So, if you are swimming at 1:30 per 100 yards, but the swimmers are at 2:00 per 100 yards, it will be tricky to circle swim with them. Find swimmers closer to 1:40 or 1:20 per 100 yards or +/- 10 seconds from your pace.

You’ve made it this far, so here’s some unsolicited advice for ALL TRIATHLETES:

  1. Do flip turns. They strengthen your core, keep your swimming speed up with less resting which translates well for open water swimming when you don’t get a big breath of air on the wall because there are no walls. Flips turns also help with getting you under the wake you just created from swimming to the wall (free speed!), they will keep your HR steady since you didn’t just gulp a huge breath of air for an open turn, they will enforce a better breathing pattern, and, best of all, you’ll shave 4-8 seconds off of each 100. Just shut up and do them.
  2. Learn all the strokes. Breaststroke is good for sighting in super choppy water, backstroke works your shoulder flexibility and actually makes you a better freestyle swimmer, and butterfly is unmatched for upper body strength needed for open water. Do all four competitive strokes, please, but build them in gradually and do them properly. Join masters swimming while you’re at it too. You will swim faster, get used to swimming with other people, and get coaching on your form. And if you do bust out the butterfly in a triathlon, I want to see that.
  3. Sure, keep track of your swim with your watch, but use the pace clock. For example, if you are doing 6x100s on 2:00, you will leave on the top of an analog clock or on the :00 of a digital clock. Finish each 100 in 1:50 for 10s rest. If you’re doing 100s on 1:45, you will leave on the :00, then the :45, :30, :15, etc. Use the clock, not your watch.
  4. Don’t just swim forever in the pool. You’ll just get better at swimming at a stupid slow speed. Do a workout. Print it and stick it in a baggie. Or take the paper and stick it to a wet kickboard. Just clean up the pool toys when you’re done.
  5. And for the love of all things swimming, KICK. It will help you maintain good swimming form. Do a two-beat kick to keep those legs up. You’re not fooling anyone by not kicking when you say you’re saving your legs for the bike and run because you’re only wearing yourself out more by dragging those legs in your wetsuit and all. Kick, kick, kick.

Swimming Lexicon

You’re in the pool, your workout is printed, but you have no idea what all of the abbreviations are that your coach wrote to actually complete the workout. What should you do? You need a swim dictionary of sorts, and below, you’ll find some common abbreviations, words, and everything else you need to know to read a swim workout. Dive in!

If you are new to swimming, workouts are written in yards or meters. Most pools in the United States are 25 yards in length, so a 100 is four lengths of the pool. If you are lucky enough to swim in an Olympic size pool, that would be 50 meters one way, so a 100 would be two lengths of the pool.

swim

Common Swimming Terms and Abbreviations

B 3/4/5– this refers to breathing. So, you would breath every 3 strokes for one length, every 4 strokes for the second length, and every 5 strokes for the 3rd length, and then repeat.

Build– means that you will get faster within a swim distance that is within a set. For example: 4x100s BUILD means you get faster with each 25 yards of each 100, and then you repeat that BUILD for your next 100.

Catch up– hands are out in front of you for freestyle and you swim with one arm at a time while kicking. When one hand catches up to the other out in front, take a stroke with your other arm.

Claw–short-arm freestyle drill

DESC–means “descending”. This is when you get faster in a swim set. For example 4x100s DESC means that each 100 is FASTER than the one before.

DPS- distance per stroke. Focus on decreasing the number of strokes it takes you to swim one length of the pool.

DR- drill. You will be asked to do a drill for your stroke, like the fingertip drag, catch-up free, etc.

E -even. For example for a set written as 8x75s O=stroke, E=Free, you would swim the odd numbers a stroke of your choice and the even numbers freestyle.

FAP- fast as possible. You better sprint your butt off!

Flip Turn–one way to turn off the wall. Count your strokes from the top of the “T”, tuck, dolphin kick your legs over in a half somersault, push off, turn over on your stomach, streamline, kick, break the surface, and swim.

Free–swim freestyle or front crawl

IM– Individual Medley. The order for the IM is butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle.

KOB or KOS–kick on back or kick on side, without the kick board

Lap– two lengths of the pool.

Length– one length of the pool

Long Course Pool– 50 meters in length

N/S– negative split. This is when the second half of a swim is faster than the first half. For example, in a 200 N/S the first 100 is slower than the second 100.

O — odd. For example for a set written as 8x75s O=stroke, E=Free, you would swim the odd numbers a stroke of your choice and the even numbers freestyle.

Open Turn–one way to turn on the wall, grab the wall, tuck yourself into a ball, throw one arm over your head, and push off.

OWS– open water swim. Swimming that’s done in a natural body of water and not a pool.

Perfect– concentrate on good form and not speed

Pull– use a pull buoy, paddles are optional, but not necessary

Repeat– repeat the preceding set as specified. No extra rest unless noted.

RI– rest interval or the amount of time to rest. Sometimes this is written as :30 RI or 30s rest.

RLR- red line run. Swimming drill where your run from the wall in the shallow end to the line that divides the shallow end from the deep end.

Short Course Meters Pool (SCM)– 25 meters in length (slightly longer than a 25 yard pool)

Short Course Yards Pool (SCY)– 25 yards in length

SI– swim interval, usually a slow, recovery swim in between sets.

SKIDS– stands for swim, kick, individual medley, drills, stroke. An example would be 300 SKIDS, so you would do a 300 of each: swim, kick, IM, drill, swim for a total of 1500 yards.

SKIPS- stands for swim, kick, individual medley, pull, stroke

Streamline– arms over your head, and you are as straight as an arrow leaving the wall.

Stroke–any stroke such as butterfly, backstroke, or breaststroke, but NO Freestyle

Times– written as :30 (30 seconds) or 1:30 (for 1 minute, 30 seconds). Some sets are written as 4x100s on 1:30. That means that you need to swim each 100 of the set FASTER than one minute thirty seconds if you want to get any rest.

T-pace– this is the pace per 100 that you swam in your time trial.

TT- time trial. This is when you swim for time. It’s like a test.

W/D or sometimes C/D– warm down or sometimes cool down, depends on where you live. This is at the end of the workout to slow your heart rate down.

W/U — warm up. Gets your heart rate up before the main set.

U/W– underwater recovery. The recovery phase of your stroke is done underwater instead of bringing your arm out of the water. This helps with your arm turnover and speed.

Pool Toys 

Fins–help develop your kick. I recommend short fins that will help you flex your ankles for more effective kicking.

Kick board–use this floating board for kicking and other drills

Paddles–help you catch the water, but are not necessary

Pull Buoy– goes in between your legs so you can focus on your pull. They also make pull buoys that will lock your ankles in place so you don’t have to focus on squeezing your legs to hold the buoy.

Snorkel–when you are concentrating on your stroke and head position while swimming. This way, you don’t have to turn your head to the side to breathe.

If you know of any other swimming terms or abbreviations, please add them in the comments below. Thank you! 

Why You Should Join Masters Swimming

masterspool

Upper Dublin High School Pool in Fort Washington, PA 

Into the the great wide open. / Under them skies of blue.  That’s what open water swimming is like–no walls, no lane lines, no cold tile, no chlorine, no flip turns, nobody around. Just you and the open water. There may be a shark or two lurking near the dolphins, but that doesn’t bother you. Jellyfish? Smellyfish. You’ve got vinegar in your swim bag. Tangled up in seaweed? Whatever. It’s the great wide open water. You’re a rebel with a clue and a swim buoy. Maybe you’ve got a few friends nearby as you wave to the fish nibbling your feet.

Open water swimming makes you feel invincible and vulnerable at the same time. I know I don’t belong in the ocean or lake because I have lungs, but I swim there anyway to prove that I can enter that wide open world–and that’s when I feel vulnerable. I’m a tiny human barely breaking the surface of the vast ocean as I swim, tossed aside by waves and pushed off course by currents larger than my understanding. It’s awesome. But, you can’t swim in open water year round if you live in a colder climate.

So, instead of hitting the pool by yourself, which can be incredibly boring, I highly recommend you jump in with a US Masters swim team. Here’s why:

  1. You will get faster. In the few months I’ve been swimming with the masters group, my 100 yard repeats have dropped by 15 seconds! Crazy, right? I’m not too far off of the times from my competitive swimming days either.
  2. You’ll befriend like-minded swimming buddies. Maybe on the days you don’t have practice, you can meet your swim friends at the local pool?
  3. You can compete in swim meets. Even if you love the open water, there’s something about going fast, really fast. All you do is enter a meet, enter times for your events (or not), and swim! Heck, you’ll even get a t-shirt just like in running. You’ll be inspired by all of the different ages and levels of swimmers at a meet.
  4. You will be a better all around swimmer by swimming all of the strokes in a structured workout: butterfly, backstroke, breast stroke, and of course, freestyle. If all you ever swim is freestyle, you’re missing out on being an all-around strong swimmer.
  5. You’ll have fun. Group workouts with red line runs, jumping jacks in the pool, fun stroke drills, diving off the blocks, practicing drafting (which you’ll use in an open water race)–you’ll feel like a kid again.
  6. You’ll realize that this is truly a sport you can do for the rest of your life. In the video below for the 50 yard freestyle, I’m in lane 5, but look at lane 4–that guy is 72 years old, and he almost beat me! He is on my team and kicks my butt on most days for our masters swim workouts, but still. He’s not stopping, so I won’t either.

Swim on and swim happy on a masters team! Here’s the link to find a masters team near you in the US. Keep in mind that there are masters teams all over the world.

Click here to find a US Masters Team by you.

 

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Tri it Forward

TriSwim

The 2018 Triathlon Race Season is almost here! If you have friends who are interested in the sport of triathlon, or if you are new to the sport yourself, click on the link at the bottom of this post and tri it forward!

And, if you’re like me, you like free stuff. Who doesn’t? To get two free weeks of triathlon training, message, email, or call me at 610-241-4164 to get started. You have to be brand new to the sport of triathlon or have competed in a few races at the sprint distance and want to improve.


Tri It Forward

 

Training for the Swim in Triathlon

 

Swimming is the shortest segment of the triathlon and typically the weakest for most triathletes. Many athletes only want to survive the swim so they can move on to the bike and run; however, if they spend a little more time on the swim in training, they can greatly improve their overall time and maybe even make it on the podium for their age group.

A structured workout is key every time you enter the pool and even for open water. Whatever workout you choose to do, it’s important to remember to train like a distance swimmer. As a triathlete, you are a distance swimmer. Got it? Good. By that I don’t mean to hop in the pool and swim 2000-3000 yards continuously because that will only make you good at swimming long and slow.

Distance swimmers train the all of the body’s systems by doing different workouts and sets within the workouts: endurance (aerobic), speed (mostly aerobic, but some faster paces), form (aerobic with a focus on drills), force (pulling or using paddles with the buoy), muscular endurance (lactate threshold), distance (half IM or IM race pace), and anaerobic endurance (very fast swimming or all out swimming). Source: Swim Workouts for Triathletes by Gale Bernhardt and Nick Hansen.

So, what does all of this mean? It means that each swim workout has multiple moving parts. Here’s an example of a good distance swimmer’s workout for triathletes:

Warm Up: 400 easy, 200 pull, 200 kick, 8x25s 1/2 FAST 1/2 EASY on 30s

This warm up gets the muscles moving and focuses on form with the kick and 25s. The pull is the force part of the workout. 

Main Set:

12x100s descending

#1-4 are on 2 min or less, and for each set of 4x100s, drop 5 seconds from the time you will leave on. So if you start at 2 min, the next set of 4 will be on 1:55… Rest for 30 seconds after these 4x100s.

#5-8 are on 1:55 or 1:50. Rest for 30 seconds after all 4x100s.

#9-12 are on 1:50 or 1:45. Rest for 30s.

This set is all about muscular endurance to anaerobic threshold near the end. Be sure to use the clock to keep track of when you are supposed to leave for the next 100.  

2x300s at IM pace. Rest for 20s in between. This is the distance part of the workout.

Cool Down:

200 stroke, your choice, but NO FREESTYLE

Total Distance: 3000 yards

Each workout should include a warm up of 500-1000 yards of slower swimming, drills, kicks, and pulls, a main set of 1500-2000 yards to focus on speed, endurance, etc., and a cool down of a few hundred yards. Make sure to mix it up and challenge yourself, and you’ll find that you’ll be swimming faster in a few months.

For open water swimming, it’s important to warm up for about 400 yards, sighting every 6-9 strokes. After the warm up, swim the distance you planned, whether it’s 800 or 5000 yards, but vary your stroke like this:

Open Water Swim (OWS) Workout:

5 minutes warm up

10 minutes at T pace (IM or Half IM pace)

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes increase speed and build

5 minutes easy stroke with strong kick

10 minutes build

5 minutes easy swimming

This is approximately 50 minutes of open water swimming, so increase it as needed. 

 

Circle Swimming Etiquette

IMG_4710In an ideal world, my swim workouts would be in a 50 meter heated outdoor pool that is empty. Rain kept most swimmers away when I snapped this picture on a chilly and rainy early spring day before I jumped in feet first and started my swim. Light rain distorted the otherwise smooth surface and stung my skin with cold. A few leftover leaves waved from the bottom when I turned.

Since this never happens, and I mean never, here are some swimming etiquette tips for swimming and splashing nicely with others. Most pools have a few lanes for lap swimming, but may close lanes for swimming lessons, water aerobics, swim team, or private lessons. So, when you find yourself standing there on the pool deck with cap and goggles in hand, here are a few basic things to remember:

  1. Circle swimming is counter-clockwise, so keep to the right of the black line up and down the lane.
  2. Passing: tap the swimmer’s feet in front of you to pass. Once at the wall, the swimmer you are passing should move to the far right of the lane, you’ll do a flip turn or open turn on the left, and then the swimmer you passed will push off and start swimming behind you. It’s not a good idea to pass up the middle of the lane when circle swimming with others unless you want to collide head on. Lifeguards don’t like that. And, I don’t want to have to pull anyone out of the pool for a concussion. Just pass at the wall, please.
  3. When swimming in a masters group, talk to the coach and find out what the swimmers are doing, what the sets are, and where they are in the set. Take turns leading and give a few seconds in between swimmers to prevent swimming at their feet the whole time. The lead swimmer should know the sets, times to leave, etc. If you switch leaders in a lane, the new leader should understand all of this. When arriving late or leaving early, talk to the coach and the other swimmers in your lane so everyone knows what’s going on.
  4. Wall know-how: if turning or finishing at the wall, move over to the far left to leave room for other swimmers to turn and push off. Lead swimmers start on the right and enter the swimming lane on the right of the line. All other swimmers will follow the lead swimmer and enter from the right of the lane.
  5. If possible, swim with swimmers who are close to your speed, leave enough distance between you and other swimmers, and make sure you talk to everyone to ensure smooth swimming.

With these simple rules, circle swimming works well. I’ve had up to six swimmers per lane for my swim sessions at the Haverford Y, and everyone was able to get their workout completed even though none of my swimmers swim at the same speed, and they all vary in ability. Swimmers should be welcome to swim without waiting too long to start a workout. Swim happy, people! And share a lane with circle swimming.

Swim Analysis

SwimAnalysis Running and cycling efficiency certainly can be improved through an evaluation of technique; however, swimming is even more reliant on proper form to be successful.

There are three main parts of an efficient freestyle: entry, catch, and pull. Upon entry, your hand should not cross the center of your head; your arm should be almost fully extended, but not too much, and your hand should be in such a position that it appears like you are reaching into a high mailbox instead of turning your thumb. Once your hand enters the water, use a high elbow catch to maximize the amount of water you will push back, rather than down. Your elbow will hinge, using the full power of your paddle that includes your hand and forearm. Push the water back until your hand exits the water.

Think of these three things to improve your stroke and consider a swim analysis. I’ll post a video of my swimming technique soon. In the mean time, contact me if you would like a swim analysis of your stroke. Swim happy! And fast!