My son and I run The Race Club in Islamorada, Florida Keys. It is a technique camp for swimmers of all types and ages. I have trained triathletes for the swim for several years but am recently decided to team up with Lee Zohlman in Miami to do the swimming part of his triathlon clinics. The first will be in April.
If I gave you the option of doing the swim leg with a drag suit or a wetsuit (assuming the water is not 85 degrees) which would you choose? If I gave you the option of getting through the swim leg with 27% more oxygen, would you take it? Of course.
As obvious as the answer to these questions are, nearly every swimmer (even some really good ones) use bad techniques in freestyle that add so much drag, they are the equivalent of throwing a drag suit on in practice. Why? Because reducing drag is tricky. It requires sacrificing both some power and visibility for reducing resistance and involves putting the head and arms into a 'not so obvious or friendly' position. Where you feel most comfortable with your head and arms doing freestyle is, unfortunately, where they produce more drag, ultimately causing you to fatigue much more.
As for the oxygen, most swimmers will breathe to one side only. In other words, they breathe either left or right and take a breath for every two arm pulls. For every ten pulls, they get 5 breaths of air; not enough for most of us.
Oxygen is our lifeline for ATP production. With it, we produce about 30 molecules of ATP for each molecule of glucose. Without it, we produce 2 molecules of ATP and lactic acid. Ouch. As fast as we are using up ATP in our swim, we need all of the oxygen we can get. So to remedy that, learn to bilateral breathe (unless there is such a strong wave coming from one side that forces you to breathe to the opposite).
Bilateral breathing means breathe left, then right; one breath for each arm pull to each side. Then i recommend holding for one stroke only then bilateral breathe again. That means you get 2 breaths for each 3 arm strokes, rather than one breath for each 2 arm strokes. Or 26.6% more breaths. That is a big difference. I first saw this done by Kieren Perkins of Australia when he demolished the field in the 400 meter freestyle in the World Championships in Rome in 1994. So don't tell me world class swimmers never do this.
When you first try this, you may get dizzy, turning so often, but you will get over that. It also forces you to rotate your body more which is a good thing.
With regard to your head and arms, come to the clinic with Lee in MIami or read the blogs on our website http://www.theraceclub.com. where i teach 3 fundamentals of fast swimming (none of them obvious).
Finally, try starting your tri (30 minutes before race time) with Liquid oxygen and Thunderbolt (ATP), which you can find on our website. Should help your VO2 Max and reduce lactic acid production. Our swimmers (50 in the past 3 Olympics) have used it successfully and swear by it. The combination of both products is key. Take two capsules of Thunderbolt and then 20 drops of liquid oxygen under the tongue, hold for 30 seconds, then swallow. Then, off you go.
Yours in Swimming,
Gary Hall Sr.
68 72 76 Olympic team