Top Tips,  Training Sessions

Last hurrah – session 3

A training session to keep you mentally and physically fresh for a great end of season performance. By Fiona Ford

Just because the racing season is coming to an end doesn’t mean you need to slow down. It’s just a case of doing the right training to keep you firing on all cylinders while holding fatigue at bay. The sessions in this issue are therefore aimed at extending your summer performances into a winter training block. If you’ve been focused on endurance training and distance freestyle events through the spring and summer, it can leave your technique in need of a refresh and your system in need of a gear change. To achieve this, and to keep you mentally and physically fresh at the end of a long season, there is nothing quite like using some new (or even old) equipment or training aids. These sessions help you incorporate any swim training gear you have already and suggest some recommended items, to put your training through its paces and add some variety. Your motivation and performance for any late season events should therefore move up a notch or two as a result!

There are four sessions to try. Aim to do one per week alongside your other training. Choose the number of repeats in the main sets to suit your current training aims and fitness level.


You will need the following to train with through this series of sessions:

Pull buoy. Helps maintain a high hip and leg position. Use a very light flutter kick if you swim with the pull buoy between your thighs or no kick at all if you have the pull buoy between your knees or ankles. The latter works your deeper core muscles to rotate along your long axis, as you swim.

Long, flexible training fins, or try floating fins if you experience drag from a low leg position when swimming. I prefer the long fins as they help you develop proper kicking technique from the hips with a straighter leg whereas short fins allow swimmers to kick using their quads or a bent knee. Excessive knee bending compounds drag behind the body, particularly if you also do land based sports (particularly cycling and running) as you may have developed leg muscle movement dominance.

Technique paddles for improving catch and pull mechanics. Ideally use paddles that have few or no straps. You will gain much more feedback about how you push water behind you using smaller shaped paddles on these sessions. We are aiming to use the lats and back for propulsion, due to these being large muscle groups as this helps avoid shoulder injury.

Ankle band. Buy one or make your own using 30-40cm of old bicycle inner tube. Wearing an ankle band when swimming will help you identify any pause and glide at the front of your stroke caused by a lack of rhythm or slow cadence as you swim. If you have sinky legs from tight hip flexors or a weak core, this will also become obvious when you use an ankle band!

Front facing snorkel. Allows you to focus on technique and consistent breathing as you swim.

Surf or swim drag shorts. Wearing swim drag shorts increases the effort with which you need to swim efficiently and for many swimmers helps to highlight the extent of drag in their stroke and whether modifying their kicking technique (ie, straighter leg and kicking from hip) can help.


Warm up (800m, all session)

200m FS, 200m pull, 200m with paddles, 200m FS

Main set

200m pull with paddles and (optional) snorkel working on propulsion through catch, pull and finish phases. Tap thighs on hand exit.

30 sec rest while removing kit and then into:
2 x 100m FS @ CSS / threshold pace. Maintain excellent technique and note how propulsion on leading arm may change on breathing strokes (dropped wrist, elbow or side sweep as you turn your head to breathe). 15s rest after each.

2 x 50m with paddles only. Work on maintaining lead arm with perfect technique when breathing. Finis Freestyler or Agility paddles will help identify a dropped wrist or elbow. Any showing of the palm forward on catch or lateral sweeping movements implies a loss of efficiency. Maintaining a good rhythm will help. 10s rest after each.

Repeat main set 2 to 3 times.



Cool down (400m each session)

50m FS, 50m sculling or doggy paddle with fins. Repeat four times. Focus on propulsion.



To keep you mentally and physically fresh at the end of a long season, there is nothing quite like using some new equipment or training aids


FS = Freestyle (front crawl)
BS = Backstroke
BRS = Breaststroke
CSS = Critical Swim Speed or threshold pace (roughly the pace you can sustain for 1500m).

Swim Smooth Squad training and Video Analysis sessions

Triathlon Europe provides weekly Swim Smooth squad training in South West London. The squad enjoy training all year round in fabulous indoor and outdoor 33m pools. Fiona offers swim training plans, 1-2-1 video analysis sessions and stroke correction sessions on weekday mornings and weekend Swim Smooth workshops.

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