If you have enlisted the services of a coach and are part of a masters swim program, you will have drills as part of the weekly or biweekly classes. On the occasions when you are working out on your own, or if the swim coach isn't there for your session, you can do one or more of the following drills that help you learn proper swimming technique.
The first drill is called the “catch-up.” In this exercise, you swim with one arm. Take a kick board and hold onto it with one hand. Use the other arm to go through a complete swim stroke, from entry into the water in front of you to the push through to the back.
All the while you are stroking with your free arm, keep the other arm on the kick board without moving the arm. This is a tough drill that teaches you to keep your hands in the proper position through each stroke. Do four laps (50 yards each) for this drill.
When your arm goes forward for a swim stroke, it should stay in a straight line, not crossing to the other side of your body. There is a natural tendency to do this in swimming, but it is inefficient movement that wastes energy.
For a sideways swim, you use fins but no arm movement. Enter the pool, turn on your side, and extend one arm straight out. Put the other arm at your side or on your hip. Now kick to the other end of the pool. Turn onto the other side on the way back.
This drill helps you keep going straight when you swim. It may seem strange to create a drill for this purpose, but it won't take many swim classes for you to see how easy it is to stray from one lane to another. Even if you don't veer off course yourself, you will see others doing so. Do two laps (100 yards total) in this drill.
During your triathlon, you will be aiming for a target off in the distance — probably a buoy around which you will turn — and it will be of great benefit to you if you have trained yourself to swim straight.
Kick It Up
You will use your kick board and fins for this drill. Your aim is to practice fast turnover of your feet. Aim for quick, short kicks rather than long slow ones, and do two laps (100 yards total) in this drill.
Here's another drill that involves kicking: start your swim (using fins) and do three strokes (left arm, right arm, left arm), then turn onto your side and kick, counting to six slowly as you go. Turn onto the other side, do three more strokes, and then kick for a count of six. Do this drill for two laps (100 yards total).
Why are fins involved in so many workouts?
Fins help you get a better feel for the particular drill you are doing. For example, if you are practicing keeping your arms straight in your swim stroke, it will take away from the exercise if you are continually fighting to keep the lower half of your body from sinking. The fins take care of that for you.
For the fist drill, you will use a pull buoy instead of fins. Using the buoy, swim one lap with your hands closed and a second lap with your hands open in the normal position. This drill helps you get a feel for the role your forearms play in propelling you forward. Your hands act like scoops, grabbing the water for traction and pulling you forward as they go back, but the swim stroke is more than hands.
If you are a new swimmer, you will have learned that most of your workouts will be done with your face in the water and your head down. One important drill that seems to contradict that practice is designed to help you stay on course in your triathlon.
When you start your race, you will be swimming for a target some distance away. To keep that target in your sights, it may be necessary for you to pull your head out of the water for two or three seconds. It will often not be possible to see what you are swimming toward without looking up.
It would be a good idea to practice taking these peeks during your swim training so that sighting the buoy or boat where you will turn is not completely new to you on race day. Once or twice during your workout, simply look up from your swim and check on the other end of the pool. The better you prepare for race day, the more confident you will be when the starting gun goes off.