All triathletes swim, but few triathletes come from a swimming background. Understanding pool etiquette and lane lingo can give you confidence and help you feel more at home in the pool. What are the do's and don'ts when sharing a lane? How do you use the pace clock? How do I adapt to a master's swim session? In this week's episode, TriDot coaches Jeff Raines and John Mayfield answer these questions and many more! And Triathlete Magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Kelly O'Mara, shares her swim stories from around the world.
TriDot Podcast .43:
Essential Pool Etiquette and Lan Lingo Every Triathlete Should Know
This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the TriDot podcast, throw on the speedos and light a chlorine scented candle. Today we are talking lap lane swimming. Swim center culture is real, pool etiquette is real, and making yourself at home at the pool can really help you nail your workout with confidence. Joining us for this conversation is coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Master's of Science in exercise physiology, is a USAT level two, an Ironman certified coach, and was a successful D1 collegiate runner. He's qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and raced over 120 triathlons of all distances. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes for over 11 years. Jeff, welcome to the show today.
Jeff: Thanks, Andrew, can't wait to dive in and splash things up a bit here today.
Andrew: Terrible puns. Terrible puns. Always a crowd pleaser, though. Next up is coach John Mayfield, a successful Ironman athlete himself. John leads TriDot athlete services ambassador and coaching programs. He's coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, are you ready to not get wet recording this podcast?
John: Ready to not get wet, yep.
Andrew: That's good, as opposed to getting wet recording the podcast, which never happens yet.
And who am I? I'm Andrew. The average triathlete voice of the people and captain of the middle of the pack. After our warm up, we'll talk about navigating the experience that is lap lane swimming. And then we'll cool down with a special treat. We have the triathlete magazine editor in chief Kelly O'Meara is going to drop by and share a dramatic reading of sorts of one of her salty triathlete columns. So stick around for the end. It's going to be great. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: We often receive feedback from athletes with kind of specific questions or topics they're interested in hearing about on the podcast. But today we have a TriDot podcast first. An athlete reached out and left us a podcast voicemail specifically with a warm up question. So here is David with today's warm up question for you guys, our coaches.
David: Hi there, podcast crew. I'm David from New York and a fellow TriDot ambassador with a warm up question for Andrew, John and Jeff. With the recent attention around charitable giving initiative surrounding the all-in challenge. I was wondering what your ideal once in a lifetime triathlon related prize would consist of. I'll kick it off by saying perhaps it would be an all expense paid trip to Kona and the chance to compete with all new gear included. Interested to hear what you think as well.
Andrew: So quick context if you haven't heard of the all-in challenge, this is a new wave of fundraising campaigns, where all the proceeds go towards organizations working to end food scarcity. Organizations and or celebrities will post usually an experience up for auction and the amount of money you pledge towards winning that experience buys you entries towards potentially winning it. So, for example, at the time of this recording Harley Davidson, the motorcycle company, is partnering with American Actor Jason Momoa, famous for Aquaman, recently, and you can bid to win the opportunity to ride Harley Davidson motorcycles through the California countryside on a Harley Davidson of your choosing. And when it's all over, that Harley Davidson is now yours. So for more information about the all-in challenge head to fanatics.com and click on any of the banners on their homepage for the challenge. At the moment this movement has raised over $58 million to feed folks in need worldwide. So, fellas, with this in mind, David is asking what triathlon based experience would get your attention and make you want to bid to potentially win on a triathlon all-in challenge? Jeff, we'll start with you.
Jeff: Maybe you could ride any brand of tri bike of your choosing alongside your favorite pro of all time. Maybe even on the Kona bike course like as a fun training ride or better yet, actually, how about you get to race an Ironman event of your choosing. The whole thing alongside your favorite pro like, for me, maybe I could have Craig Alexander pace me right for like Ironman Arizona next year or something like that.
Andrew: I would just feel bad that for the pro they're just chilling, like they're just relaxing the whole time next to you and you're giving it your all. I would feel bad that I'm holding this guy back from performing how he could, but I know that's not the point of the challenge for him. It'd be, you know, a way to give back and be a part of something. I do like that if Ironman partnered with some brands and said hey, you know, pick a road bike you like we're going to fly out to Kona and let you ride the course alongside a pro, that that would be a really neat experience. So, John, what's yours?
John: So I've been very fortunate in that I've gotten to do a lot of really cool stuff in the triathlon space and go to a lot of races including Kona, but one thing I always travel relatively light. I kind of get in town, I get out. I travel as cheap as I can. So I think it'd be really cool to do something like an overseas trip, fly first class, and stay in some sort of luxurious resort and really just make it a fancy trip. That's something I've not done a whole lot of.
Andrew: An all expenses paid fancy trip to a race.
John: Yes, like first class to Germany and check out challenge Roth and stay in some five-star hotel and just kind of wine and dine, and do it first class. So I think that'd be really cool.
Andrew: I think it would really get my attention is if you had the chance to just do a training ride with one of the pro tour cycling teams. And so if you got flown out of, you know, for us in the States, if we got flown over to Europe, or for our European listeners, if they got flown to the training location of one of the big name tour teams, you know, movie star in [inaudible], you know, whichever one was going to partner with the challenge, and just for the day, when they go, they go out and just being on a bike on a tour caliber bike next to those guys, you know, rubbing shoulders and, obviously, for them I'm sure the day that you would be with them would be a relaxing recovery ride, like a very easy, very flat day. But just to get to see some of the scenery that those guys train on in the mountains or whether it's France or Italy or Spain or wherever they've set up camp. That would be a really cool experience to me, and that would get my attention and I would love to win something like that.
John: It would also be really cool to ride in those mechanic cars that roll up next to them and they have the mechanics hanging out the window with [inaudible] at 30 miles an hour. That'd be cool.
Andrew: Maybe being the guy who's on the back of the one of the little mopeds on a Tour de France race day.
Jeff: Yes, I wouldn’t want to be the guy driving that car.
Andrew: Just to watch the race on the moped.
On to the main sets going in 3, 2, 1.
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A common multisport joke is that it's always easy to spot the triathlete at the pool. Compared to the pure swimmers that live for chlorinated bodies of water, we just don't always 100% look like we fit in down at the Aquatic Center. Well today our coaches will answer all of my swim Aquatic Center related questions and help us all make the most of our time down at the pool. So guys, let's start from the top when we enter a swim center, you know whether we pay a few bucks, or just sign in or whatever we have to do to get into the pool, the very first thing we have to navigate is which lane we belong in for our workout. What should we consider when choosing which lane to jump into?
John: So it's really going to vary by the venue so there's going to be several different experiences that the swimmers will see. So a lot of folks are swimming at their gym. Oftentimes these are kind of small, usually two or three lanes. So depending on the time of day, it could be crowded, they could have it to themselves. Others will have the opportunity to go to more of a natatorium with typically larger pools, more lanes, which that in itself can pose some decisions and—
Andrew: It can be a little intimidating at first—
John: Especially if it's crowded. So now what do I do? Which lane do I belong in? So it's kind of knowing what's going on there at the pool. Is it pretty free, kind of up to the individual? Or is it more structured? Oftentimes, the pools will have lanes labeled as slow, medium, fast, or they'll have even numbers that are assigned to those paces. So really, I think kind of a theme for the day in all of this as we discuss pool etiquette is just be courteous and play nice with everyone else. And I think that's what's—
Andrew: Don’t be afraid to maybe ask.
John: Absolutely. Talk with the people and what's going to produce the best swim session for everyone is if everyone just—
John: Right and gets along and just plays nice and yes. So find out what is the culture of the facility that you're swimming in. And do what you can just to play nice with the other swimmers.
Andrew: So Jeff, you worked at a multi sport Aquatic Center for a long time on deck as a coach. And so someone's walking into that environment. I think that's the more intimidating environment, right. We can all kind of ask some questions, navigate the local gym a little bit better. But when you walk into that natatorium for the first time, it's a little intimidating, especially when you don't have a swimming background. So coming from that kind of coaching, what if someone's walking into a swim center, there's coaches on deck, there's classes going on, what's the best way to navigate that kind of a scenario?
Jeff: A lot of it is kind of like, what John was saying know the venue, but some aquatic centers don't ever allow open swimming. You can only swim in their pools during a coached session. And then some are both--you have master's classes and then you can share the pool when there aren't master’s classes. Then you can use the pool. So there will be instances like if you're at your local gym like John said two or three lanes, you might, you know, want to have the mindset of, you're probably going to have to share a lane in that session. But if it's an aquatic center that is outside of a master’s swim class, you're probably going to have more lanes to choose from 10 or 20 lanes, and most likely, you'll get a lane to yourself, but sometimes you'll show up and there will be a class going on or the only way that you get to swim in the next few hours is if you participate in one of their classes. So there's always different scenarios so know what they're offering the time of day. If you want a solo lane, a solo unique your own, let's say TriDot workout then know the hours where that entity has an open lane, but even before all of that a few things to consider kind of right off the bat is, is the pool that session long course or short course and even yards or meters—
Andrew: And make sure you change the settings on your watch to yards or meters according to what the pool is, right?
Jeff: Happens all the time--like man I just was super slow that day but really your watch… And so kind of a good rule of thumb is that yards are shorter than meters and a general rule of thumb is to add about eight to 10, seven to 10 seconds to your yard base time for meter pools. Just know the facility and know what they have.
Andrew: I think the other scenario that I can think of that I know people face and I heard of this you know where they'll label the lanes based on how fast you can swim, right. And so some places will actually put like, hey if you are tracking between 140 and 150 average pace for the for the length like jump in here and sometimes they just say hey this is a slow lane this is the medium lane, this is the fast lane and I'd heard of that. And I heard people kind of joke about which one do I jump in. I never faced that until I flew to New Zealand, kind of a little 30th birthday trip with my wife and I, I did a half Ironman in New Zealand. And where we were staying in Auckland, when we first arrived to the country, right across the street on the wharf, that little apartment complex we were staying in, there was a swim center right across the street. It was awesome. And so I went, I found out what time open swim was I went down there, I paid my $6 or whatever it was to get in. And I walked in and for the first time ever, I had to face the decision. They literally just label the lanes. These two were slow, these two are medium, these two are fast. There was no one else swimming at the time for me to like make a judgment call on. Okay, which one are they in, and how fast are they going? There were some other people like some classes getting ready to start and some other people they're about to jump in. And so I'm the first one about to hop in the water, trying to make that decision of oh man, where do I belong. And I just jumped in the medium and hope it worked out and thankfully not a lot of other people jumped in the pool that day and it worked out. But what would you advise a swimmer to do in that kind of a scenario where they're picking a lane based on where they think they would land in relation to everybody else?
Jeff: That's where kind of base interval comes in. You may have heard that but knowing your base interval and it's kind of like establishing your threshold based off of a 5k or 20 minute FTP bike test so base intervals so a lot of times you can ask the front desk or even if there's coaches around you know typically how they divide the pools right. Usually they will have swimmers come in and self-seed right according to your goal base per 100 for intervals, right. So faster swimmers are typically in those first few lanes and then progressing down the pool with kind of less aggressive base interval times. You might hear it say like, hey, you know, these first three lanes are, you know, swimmers that are typically about a 120 and faster base interval, right, and then lanes four through six are those medium lanes, maybe 130 base swimmers, and then lane 7, 8, 9 or whatever you are, in your case, you know, 140 to 145.
Andrew: So that's where I should have been.
Jeff: But if you're unsure, always start in a more conservative lane. And typically also if you're in a class or there's other swimmers, you kind of get the feel for it. So don't be afraid to move up or down a lane.
Andrew: That's normal.
Jeff: And coaches will even pull people out, hey, move up this lane. Okay, you know, you're tapping his feet, she's tapping yours. So why don't we move around or stuff like that.
Andrew: So sometimes the pool is quiet and we score a whole lane to ourselves, and sometimes we find a packed house. Talk to me about lane sharing etiquette. How do we know when it's okay to share a lane with someone and how to be a good lane mate when we do?
John: So I mean, there's no hard and fast rule here. But kind of as I said earlier, we all are going to have a better swim set when we play nice together and we are courteous and considerate of the other. So my rule is, I always want to be invited or at least get permission, when possible from someone that if I have to share a lane if I show up and the option to swim by myself is not there. I want to ask that person and at least you know at least let them know that, and maybe you know if they're like in the middle of a real important set if they're about to do a time trial or something like that and they may say, hey look, give me 10 minutes and I'll be good or maybe I’m almost done. I have no problem with that. Or you know, if you do maybe move on to the next lane. Fine because there's going to be some tension there anyway now that that you didn't have a great connection to start you don't want to swim with that person. Chances are the next person is going to be super cool and saying yes, come on. So I always want to at least have some communication there. I always kind of hate if I'm in the middle of lap and all of a sudden, there's somebody and that just kind of throws me and that right there can off the bat sets like, you know, “Why is this guy just jumping in my lane?” Especially if you know I'm in the middle of doing an assessment or something like that. And then once you have that initial communication, it's important to know whether you guys are going to be splitting the lane. So basically swimming on one side so one takes the right side one takes the left side of the stripe or are you going to be swimming in a circle and different people have different preferences I think kind of rule of thumb is to split the land. So again, one person will have basically from the rope to this center stripe. But you know, you may hop in and you may notice they're swimming in circles. So you're always staying on the right are always on the left ending on where you are. But that's really important to know because you may get down there and make the first turn and if one person thinks you're splitting and the other things you're circling that's going to be bad.
Jeff: Nobody wins in a head butt.
Andrew: Yes, I think people need to you need to realize that because I didn't look at it this way at first like I was always willing to share lane with somebody and I would but I never preferred it, right and no one does. But I came to realize like, man, when you're in a run race day, like whether it's a pool, swim, open water, swim like swim ocean swim. Like, you're out there, you're building people like you're, it almost gives you a chance to practice being aware of the people around you being aware of how your arms are interacting with where their arms are you know kind of kind of staying in a smaller space, it almost becomes good practice for some of those things.
John: Yes, and I'll say another courteous tip is if you're there with multiple people, and you see the lanes are filling up, go ahead and make those kind of proactive moves to join up in there. You control who you're getting to swim with. And so again, it's just all about allowing the best use of the space for everybody there. So you know if you and two buddies are taking up three lanes and there's people sitting on the deck waiting to get in, you all pile into the same lane and open up those for other folks.
Andrew: Also while you're sharing a lane, there's kind of talking etiquette and whether or not you're going to dialogue with somebody because like for us we go and we're doing our TriDot workout. And if someone splits the lane with me and they maybe notice all you know, are you triathlete you have your swim cap on it's from a certain race and they want to talk about it and you know people strike up a conversation and you're in the middle of a set it's like buddy I got 20 seconds to the wall and I'm supposed to do another 200. How do you navigate kind of when to talk to somebody, when to cut them off, when to you know what I mean, kind of the chatting etiquette of sharing a lane?
Jeff: A lot of that you will get in more of your kind of box gyms, right. The pools that have two or three lanes and maybe some aqua joggers in lane one or something like that. A lot of times I approach that on is today kind of a slower, longer, easier set day, then I don't mind necessarily you know, kind of sharing lane with anybody, you know, I'm cool with it. But if it's a day, kind of like you're saying like I want to get up a little bit, you know, I got an assessment or maybe I'm going to do some non-free and I'm going to do some butterfly and I'm just going to be wailing in that lane. I'm not going to pick a lane that has somebody who is rehabbing an injury in that lane or somebody who looks like maybe they're wearing a hairnet, they don't want to get their hair wet. So, you know, know your workout I would say and kind of pick a lane or pick a caliber athlete that you know may understand sharing a lane with more intuitive swimmers, let's say.
Andrew: Okay, so you guys have us in the lane, ready to swim, a staple of every swim center is the clock. And whereas triathletes you know, we're known to get to the wall and immediately check our watches, pure swimmers, get to the wall and immediately check the pace clock. What are the next level tips and tricks to help us utilize the pool clock like a swimmer?
Jeff: So this is something that is called send offs. And whether you're participating in a Master's class, a guided class with a coach, or whether you're doing your own individual workout and there's just multiple people in your lane. I will say that most people tend to want to split the lane like you if you're not at a true Aquatic Center you will pretty much very rarely see circle swimming.
Jeff: And if you are going to circle swim, you always do it in counterclockwise so you're always swimming down on the right hand side. So just good etiquette is counting—
Andrew: Do you yell on your left under the water if you're passing somebody?
Jeff: Is that what that is?
Okay. Awesome, I like that.
But send off so typically, if multiple people are in the same lane, and it's a short course pool, right, it's a smaller pool, less distance—
Andrew: Less space to spread out—
Jeff: Less space to spread out, exactly. Typically, you will find or choose a base interval that is the same for everyone in the lane. And kind of adopt a five second send off right where the first swimmer may start on the top of the minute using the clock and then each follower right behind on the same interval just following—
Andrew: Every five or 10 seconds later.
Jeff: Exactly. Now short course pools are smaller right so if there's five swimmers, they're sharing the lane on the same base interval. And they're, you know, approximately the same fitness level of all the athletes. And if the send off is 10 seconds apart, the first swimmer could essentially finish a lap before the last one even starts. And so typically long course pools 50 meters, you will adopt a more of a 10 second send off, and then short course pools kind of follow that five seconds send off. So another trick that you can do is utilizing the clock and kind of knowing where you're at inside of each set is kind of deciding which side you want to breathe on. And are you going to kind of glance at the clock once per every 25 or, you know, you're going to look at a clock for different times inside of each 100 is the clock only on the one side of the pool or is there a clock on both sides of the pool?
Andrew: So you’re strategically breathing so you can look at the clock while you're in mid swim.
Andrew: So for a TriDot athlete you know you're in the pool, you know, let's say you have the lane to yourself, right. So you're not worried about, you know, a certain send off that the rest of your teammates are doing. You have the lane to yourself and TriDot is going to tell you okay, your next set is 200, 100, 50, 75, whatever it is, and then it also tells you how long to rest in between.
Is there any advantage in utilizing the clock to guide that workout over your watch at that point?
Jeff: Absolutely, you know, picking clean intervals, it's easier to use the clock, it's easier to stay on pace, and kind of stick to really close to what those rest periods are. So if you're swimming a 100 and your base pace is somewhere around two minutes, then kind of round it all into a clean two minute base interval so that you know maybe each time you touch the wall, you make sure you're at those clean 30 second splits, right if it's short course [overlap].
Andrew: So leave at the four minute and 30 second mark instead of the four minute and 32 second mark and that way you're going to stay on those even numbers.
Jeff: Exactly. Now also what you can do is sighting to glance at the clock if it's at the end of the lane, or maybe you know spacing out that breathing pattern to where when you take a breath you see the clock there. But if you're not good at using the clock or you're not going to glance at the clock, maybe every single 25 or every length, stroke counting is another way. Kind of knowing that I'm, you know, after 15 strokes, I'm usually one or two close to the wall. And then maybe using the T or the end of the black line at the end of the pool and there's also multicolored lane lines, why is essentially every pool in America or arguably the world. Why do they have multicolored lane lines?
Andrew: To tell you where you are in the lane?
Jeff: A couple reasons. One is for coaches to be able to see okay, you're getting you know, one and a half yards DPS distance per stroke on the left, but you know, you're getting one yard on the non-breathing side or something like that.
Andrew: So you can see how far into the white, red, white, red that length they're going with one stroke.
Jeff: Exactly, or maybe doing a swim analysis. You can, you know, slow-down that footage and see are you getting more distance per stroke on one side versus the other or stuff like that.
Andrew: So now that we understand the power of the pace clock, a question I see from athletes is, how do I know if I'm swimming at the right pace when I'm looking at a black line on the floor and not a clock while I'm actually swimming? Are there any strategies to kind of leverage the pace clock or our time of our intervals to kind of know that we're swimming at the right paces?
John: So it's important to be intentional in learning pacing. So as we execute these sessions, it actually comes pretty quickly where you'll learn what these different paces feel like. And from there, generally what you can do is dive in really within a second or so very quickly, you'll learn exactly what those smooth paces feel like, what does that threshold effort feel like what is fast.
And once that proprioception is dialed in, you can do those on a regular basis and again, arrive at the wall within a second or so. So you come less dependent on those intermediate checkpoints. But as Jeff mentioned, you know, it's it can be as simple as taking a peek at the clock as you turn to breathe or you make the turn at the end of the wall.
Jeff: I think that's a great helpful tip that I've never usually if I peek at the clock on the wall, like well, I'm mid swim, it's to see what time it is to see if I’m almost done today. It's not to judge my pace.
John: And it makes having that clean interval that much more important, you know that you know, you're not you're just looking for that number you're confirming I'm right on pace, or maybe I need to pick it up I may need to back off a little bit. So you're getting that little instant feedback and you know, the time between each link to the pool is right relatively short. So, make those minor adjustments, dial it in learn what those efforts feel like. And this is really going to be beneficial on race day. So having a good feel for what an effort feels like, what a pace feels like is going to pay dividends on race day. Because if you, it's very easy to go out too hard. And if you don't know what that hard effort is, it's easy to get caught up in the excitement and what everyone else is doing. But you really need to know what your pace feels like. So this is a great opportunity to dial that in and have that skill available for race day.
Andrew: Yes, John, what that reminds me of is something that I've done before like if I have an assessment and I bumped the dot up one or two, and so my thresholds change. So what I'll do is I'll write down the paces for my new threshold, my new interval, my new smooth like all the different zones I need to know, I'll write down what I'm shooting for, but knowing that I swim in a 25 yard pool, also right down. Okay, every 25 yards, so say it was two minutes just because two minutes is easy on the math, right. If I, if my threshold is now two minutes, I'm going to make sure that every time I hit the wall at 25 yards, I should be to 30 seconds. And so I do the math that way you break it down into quarters, and suddenly, not only do you know what your threshold paces for whole 200 but you can do the math on what your threshold pace should be for each 25. And for me that's helped me stay on pace for some of these workouts is knowing you know what my pace should be every 25 yards. So typically, our swim sessions have a little bit too much detail for us to memorize.
What are some creative ways for us to kind of keep our workout for the day accessible to us poolside so that we can remember what intervals and drills we have up next?
Jeff: You know you could memorize, that's very hard. There's lots of specificity in swim workouts. You can, I typically print them out or screenshot my TriDot workout, and then I print that out and put it in a sandwich bag on the side of the pool.
Andrew: Exactly what I do, my man.
Jeff: Yes, I have I have one sandwich bag that has tons of them all because that I once I'm done I just throw it in there and yeah, a lot of you know coaches will have dry erase boards just kind of laying around. So maybe you could borrow on or bring your own something really, really cool, if you really want to nerd out. I have to throw this out there. My buddy Brendan Hansen, who is on episode 21 and 22.
Andrew: Great podcast episodes [overlap].
Jeff: Shout out to those amazing episodes. But Brendan at our facility in Austin, Texas, he had these headphones, that he had a microphone, but his swimmers would put these little headphones on, you know, waterproof, obviously underneath their swim caps. And so they would be in the middle of a really long set and he could talk to them a while and he could say hey guys, you know you're coming to the end of the set. Just reminder, we only got 10 seconds rest we're going again, get ready. And so now that you don't have to wait and you know shake out the water at to your ears and adjust your goggles and all that and then listen for the set and then you just missed your interval, right. And so, if you're really nerding out, you'd have your coach on deck, shooting you coaching tidbits underwater.
Andrew: For those of us who are not coached by former Olympian, Brendan Hansen. It's putting in a Ziploc bag ahead of time. John, you're a dry erase board guy, right?
John: Yes, I have a small dry erase board that fits in my bag. I have some markers in there. So I take two minutes before each session and write it out. And quick and easy way to know my set.
Andrew: Yes, and plenty of people kind of how Jeff you and I will print it out or write it out and put it in as a bug bag. I've seen plenty of people print it out and attach it to a kickboard and keep that kickboard poolside. Even though it gets wet, the paper just sticks to the kickboard and you have kind of a little tombstone reminding you what your next your next interval is it's going to kill you right so. So back on episode 2 of the TriDot podcast, which to this day guys, even as our audience has grown and more and more episodes have been released. Episode 2 has how to remove eight common swim barriers to swim improvement still sits as our fourth most listened to episode to date. On that episode TriDot founder Jeff Booher and pro triathlete Elizabeth James, talk to us about which swim training aids or pool toys they recommend we use in our training. But in the terms of this conversation for making ourselves right at home in the pool, is it normal for folks to kind of cart a bag full of gear to the edge of their swim lane, or does that make us look like the gear obsessed triathlete in the crowd?
Yes, so can our tools make us look like a tool?
Andrew: That is in less words, the exact question I'm asking.
Jeff: Okay. Well, yes, and no. It's funny. It's kind of like you showing up to a bike shop ride and maybe 50 people have road bikes.
Andrew: And you're on the tri bike.
Jeff: And you roll off on your tri bike, Aero wheels, Aero helmet, and you're kind of like that guy, right. All the Roadies judge the triathletes and kind of vice versa right. So you know swim toys are to add strength and to help promote certain aspects of the swim stroke right so your technique should be improved and focused on first and then later on in your swim career, let's say, or even your season then mix in the toys later. Slowly transition into the swim gear and again it's added strength right. Fans add strength and intention to the leg and so they can create bad habits if you're using gear for too much of each set. But also if your form isn't, you know, decent.
Andrew: Which was that that tracks with so much of what Jeff and Elizabeth said back on episode 2 so I would encourage anybody if you kind of want to hear the TriDot mentality of when and how to leverage pull toys into your swimming I would go back and listen to that. But I've shown to the pool sometimes Jeff and brought my gear bag, you know with the fins and the snorkel and this and that and the paddles. And you get there and there are eight lanes, and there are seven other swimmers and none of them have anything. And you feel like I stand out, like, I have all this stuff and they're just swimming. And then I've gone to a swim center before and there are eight lanes and there's every one of them is full and I didn't take anything. It's just my swim cap and goggles, and everybody has their flippers and their own kick boards and everything and you're like, now I look like the unprepared guy at the pool. And so, is it kind of just take what you need for your own workout and don't worry about everybody else.
Jeff: Yes, you know, I, I always bring my entire swim bag. Now I may just lay it on the bench, you know, off to the side of the pool and then just grab those two pieces of gear and take it over with me to my individual lane each time and then if I decide I need or want something else, at least—
Andrew: It's there.
Jeff: It’s there. So I always I just I keep my swim bag in my car. But it's kind of funny because you won't typically see that giant swim bag with 20 different toys in there. And then someone show up in board shorts and a giant beard and they're not wearing a swim cap, right. You know, typically you're going to see a speedo, right? Uh, you know, or something like that, or someone shaved up a little bit or maybe even an Ironman tattooed on their shoulder or calf or something like that. But, yes, just, again, kind of what we were saying earlier, just kind of know your lane mates and you know, are they okay with you, you know, using a lot of gear and stuff like that.
Andrew: For something kind of a little unique to us having open water swims is you got to get some time in your wetsuit. And you got to get that experience in swimming in a wetsuit. And so some people have buoyancy shorts to kind of accomplish a similar thing. Is wetsuit and buoyancy shorts at the pool, is that is that a go or no go?
Jeff: It's definitely okay. You need to test them out. But typically, you will not do an entire workout in buoyancy shorts or a wetsuit. But there's sometimes there are just instances where you cannot get in open water with those shorts or wetsuit. And so if you're going to take those to a pool, have a specific set where you're going to try those things out and then because, really the whole point of a wetsuit is to keep you warm and if you're swimming in a pool that most of the time that water temperature is regulated in so it's unsafe to do pool swims with a wetsuit.
Andrew: For a long period of time.
Jeff: For a long period of time. So test it out but more importantly, get the wetsuit rinse it off with fresh water before you get in and especially after you get out, rinse it off again so that that that chlorine and those chemicals don't just sit on that neoprene it can wear it out over time and it will, you know, can lose a little bit of the buoyancy.
Andrew: Be nice to your wetsuit, people, your wetsuit is nothing but nice to you in return, okay. Alright, so I swim in a rec center with four lanes, and it always has kind of a few high school and college age lifeguards on duty, right. And so swimming, they are a few times a week a few of them start to recognize you and they'll chitchat with you as you're, you know, kind of coming and going. And in conversation with this one lifeguard kid in particular, he says to me, “you know, you're probably the best swimmer we have coming in here that doesn't do flip turns.” And it's like one of those like, it's a compliment that someone thinks that you're fairly okay at swimming. But then he's also like poking fun of you for not doing a foundational lap lane skill that kids all over the world do at every single turn every single lap every single day. And anyway, rant aside. Jeff, tell me why you believe flip turns are important for triathletes to master and walk us through learning this skill?
Jeff: Here it is, this is the moment we've all been waiting for.
Andrew: The flip turn question?
Jeff: The flip turn question.
The answer to your question Andrew is there are many, many, many, many, many reasons why you do need to learn how to flip turn.
Andrew: Tell me about them, Jeff.
Jeff: We get this a lot and I have to say it but there aren't any flip turns and open water tries so why do I have to do them or I'm just as fast as touching the wall with that open shoulder turn and go and touch and go. But let me let me lead with this. Did you all know that deeper pools are faster pools?
Andrew: I did not.
Jeff: So let's just say hypothetically—
Andrew: My pool is crazy shallow, I need to get out of there and start assessing somewhere else I can bump the dock just go into a deeper pool.
Jeff: You know that the length from wall to wall might be exact. Exactly 25 yards in every pool in America, let's just say and—
Andrew: I'm furious, I'm leaving my swim center.
Jeff: Deeper pools are faster pools, right. So when you're approaching the wall swimming there is a wake of water coming behind you as you approach that wall flip turning and going back underneath that wake in calmer, stiller, deeper water makes you faster and as you rise back up to the surface of the water again, in that streamline position you avoid that wake, right and in doing that, let's say four times per 100 can make you arguably maybe four to eight seconds, even faster per 100. Just because you're not touching the wall turning around and then swimming against that wake or that current that you just created, right. And so if you if you look, and you watch a lot of these Olympic YouTube videos, their flip turns are just deep enough to where they avoid that wake. It's pretty, pretty, pretty cool.
Andrew: But even so for the triathlete that doesn't get you past John's argument and many other people's argument that you don't flip turn to even have to think about the wake in open water some triathlon.
Jeff: So let me just run down my long list of answers, right.
So first of all, if you’re flip turning now, and now you're going four to eight seconds, let's say faster per 100, you can now move up a base lane, you can change your base interval, you can swim with faster people or you can swim on faster, more aggressive intervals and focused on being a faster overall swimmer.
You know you hypoxic training improves Cardiovascular fitness.
Andrew: Hypoxic being less oxygen getting to you, right?
Jeff: Exactly. So doing that flip turn, will help build that fitness.
Andrew: I take a giant breath at the wall before I turn and go. So I understand that I should not in an open water swim, I can't take that giant breath every 15 strokes.
Jeff: And that brings me to my next point is that most people that are timid doing flip turns, they take a full breath of air. And in swimming, you always want to leave about half of that breath inside of your lungs at all times.
Andrew: Okay, wow.
Jeff: One, your stroke rate is so high that it's impossible to fully exhale and inhale, every single stroke.
Andrew: You don't need a full breath of air.
Jeff: You don't need a full breath of air and if you're gasping and fully inhaling before you take that flip turn because you're anticipating hypoxic or you're anticipating going upside down and so as a safety net, you take this huge breath right and then actually your heart rate increases even more because it triggers that, fight or flight and then when you come above the surface of the water, you gasped really, really hard, which increases the heart rate.
And so a lot of it isn't that you're not fit enough to do one or the hypoxic aspect even, it's just you need to leave, you need to control your breathing, leave about half of that breath in your lungs. So, know this too, that your greatest acceleration in swimming is the streamline off of the wall. And at your greatest acceleration, you're typically in your best efficient streamline body position. And starting every single 25 with great, let's say perfect form really helps your speed in the interval. And it also promotes better technique throughout the set. So you go run a 10 mile run your form changes a lot, right. You know, as you get tired, your form breaks down your cadence falls and all that stuff. But in swimming, if every single 25 you are picking back up, let's say perfect swim form, by flip turning, then you're keeping technique for longer in your neuromuscularly learning those motions a little bit better, right. So this sets up the first of every single link with perfect swim form.
You know, think of a boat or a ship, right. The longer the vessel that it is, the faster that it goes and the better that it rises to the surface of the water, and hence generates more speed. So doing those flip turns will maintain that.
Andrew: So john, you hear all this and you're still not going to flip turn, right.
John: I have flipped turned in the past. I've kind of had breaks and starts in my swimming career, so to speak. And, and I will say that that yes, I mean, every point that Jeff makes is completely valid. I'm not going to disagree on any of those. But I will say that you can still have a very effective swim session.
Andrew: You can execute the workout without flip turning.
John: You can. And you know, it may be marginally better if you do the flip turn and yes, you'll certainly look much more proficient in your swimming but all that said, currently, and I even thought about and we took three months off through the COVID quarantine, I was out of the pool and it's like it was one of things, I'm going to get back in to start flip turning in. I didn't.
I'm okay with that and you know I'm an okay swimmer, I'm a decent swimmer and you know I grab the wall and but that being said I am also as Jeff was speaking I was kind of thinking through maybe some rebuttals as to where I am very efficient on the wall for me it's not a big gasp. It's not a big delayed thing. It's a very quick grab the wall, I push off I think just as strong as I would, I streamline off the wall, I'm under the wake. And like a flip turn I’m at my fastest there as I come out of the streamline and start the stroke so it can be done.
And so I think some people struggle with it and it can be somewhat of a difficult skill to nail if you're by yourself, it's much easier. If you have somebody that's proficient with them, have them take a few minutes and show you how to do it. And it does. It's usually one of those things that it's kind of awkward. It's a little uncomfortable. It's not real natural. But a couple tries, and yes you're going to water up your nose a couple times and you may dive down to the bottom of the pool and you're not going to nail it the first time, but it's kind of like the clipless pedals. We all fall over our first couple times. But then once you get it, once you learn it, it's second nature it becomes very, very easy. You literally just don't think about it you just you get to the T and next thing you know, you're swimming the other way.
Andrew: So another thing kind of like the flip turn is it's a staple for a pool swimmer and for triathletes, we talk about whether or not we do it. Another thing that pool swimmers do that triathletes often don't, is different strokes. You know, the butterfly stroke breaststroke, we go in and we freestyle, right primarily. Is there any advantage, guys, to mixing in some of the different strokes in your swim sets?
Jeff: I think you know my answer to that if I'm a huge advocate of flip turns. I'm also a huge advocate of learning the other strokes, but I have to say something to the last question and it has to be addressed because like John said, it is absolutely not required for you to do flip turns. But I will say please, please, please take specific sets where you're grabbing the wall with your other shoulder. A lot of swimmers have shoulder issues, shoulder pain, rotator cuff issues, and nine times out of 10. It's because they're grabbing the wall. They're not doing flip turns and they're grabbing the wall with that same shoulder. It's very hard on that, that wall side shoulder when you grab the wall, so just make sure that you're not always using that same arm.
Andrew: That ministers to me right there. I needed it. That was for me, Jeff, thanks. Guilty.
Jeff: So non-freestyle strokes as a triathlete? You know, yes, it's as many of the same reasons as above the great core workouts. You can typically learn a new stroke or even a flip turn in you know, most people will say 30 minutes or less. And a lot of times, learning some non freestyle strokes gives you confidence. It gives you added strength and flexibility and all sorts of aspects that actually help your freestyle.
John: So I will say one note here is to be careful because there are just like in freestyle, there are specific movements, and you're doing so under the resistance of the water. So it's very joint focused. And as Jeff mentioned, a lot of times, swimmers end up with shoulder issues and that sort of thing. In some of these different strokes are perhaps even more.
Andrew: Can I say the butterfly stroke looks impossible? Like I don't understand swimming, that's not freestyle. But anyway, continue.
John: So I will say, especially if you're used to going out knocking out 3K, or more in a freestyle set, don't go and do 1000 yards thousand meters of butterfly or breast or backstroke, you got to build into because you're going to be using some different joints, different muscles, to Jeff's point, and that's going to help develop your ability as a swimmer. So I would say build into it and be careful. Really focus on proper technique, good technique as true with anything, and then really look for those benefits of those other strokes. So like you mentioned, the breast and the butterfly are really accentuate the underwater catch and pull that you have to be really strong in those which you can translate that over to your freestyle. Same thing with backstroke is great for flexibility and reaching that arm around and getting those shoulders strong. So again, be careful not to injure your shoulders doing that backstroke, but build up your shoulders and use it as an injury prevention mechanism and a strength building for your freestyle.
Andrew: So if you incorporate it correctly, it can have great benefit.
Andrew: So guys, I always see flyers for kind of a local Master's class and the term Master's class has come up several times and I admittedly those years into my triathlon career before I knew it masters class was I saw the word masters and I assumed it was like an old people swim class. Not the case, right. So talk about this because I have some tri friends that do a Master’s class and they love it. They get benefit from it. They swear by it. I have tri friends that have never gone to one and just kind of lone wolf it at the pool, go and do their workout and they're plenty happy. Is there any benefit to joining a Master's class or are we maybe better served doing our optimized workout on our own?
Jeff: You're going to get your best results doing your specific optimized workouts. But just like our cycling podcast episode that John and I were on together --
Andrew: Episode 4.
Jeff: It is okay to randomly hop in your spin class at your local gym, some social aspect, stuff like that, but you know, I would recommend doing your specific optimized training, but every now and then myself every other Friday or maybe every third Friday, I do like to do a master’s swim. Any swim entity that's a real swim entity will incorporate speed work later in the week, maybe like a fast Friday, fast witch Friday is what we would call it at our Aquatic Center and even TriDot has a lot of your shorter more interval speed sets, you know later on in the week, so try to piece in those random master’s classes with what you do have kind of prescribed that day. So maybe every third Friday I like to hop into a master’s classes.
Andrew: So you don't live and breathe for the master’s class and maybe utilize it when it makes sense just for socializing, maybe getting a coach's eyes on your form kind of thing.
John: So there are a lot of good advantages great, great reasons to go. One of them is something we mentioned earlier is just having that proximity to other swimmers oftentimes, you'll have up to eight swimmers per lane and it gets crowded, but it's also crowded on race day. And that's a major issue for a lot of people in triathlon is race day, maybe the first time they've ever swam in close proximity to other swimmers. So getting in a lane with 2, 4, 6, 8 people in there, you're going to get over that or you better get over that fear real quick. Jeff alluded several times of having that advantage of swimming with faster swimmers is going to help you push your pace oftentimes we are limited more so by our desire or our ability to push as opposed to what our fitness or what our form is. But the main issue with master’s swim is they're generic. So every swimmer in the pool generally is getting the same set, they're getting the same drills, and not all drills are beneficial for all swimmers. In fact, some drills will be counterproductive for some swimmers. So depending on what your swim form is, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, the drills that are prescribed on a particular day, they may be great for you, they may be exactly what you need for that breakthrough to get faster, but at the same time, they may be counterproductive. So for example, a very common drill that is used across the swimming world is the catch up drill. If you've already got a dead spot in the front of your stroke, the catch up drill is just going to be in reinforcing negative behavior. So it's one thing if you know that you have that and you need to work on increasing the tempo of your stroke and you decide to opt out of that drill, but if you don't know that you have that—
Andrew: And a coach telling you to do it and everybody else in the lane is doing it.
John: Right, it's just going to reinforce that negative behavior and make it that much more difficult to overcome. So that's why we say specific training produces specific results, random training random results. So for all the benefits of the Master's class, as Jeff mentioned, that your best results are going to come from following that training that is prescribed specifically for each individual.
Andrew: One thing we haven't talked about yet is pool attire, goggles and swim caps. Are there any crimes against swimmer fashion we need to adamantly avoid or is swim culture just a way or whatever gets the job done kind of kind of crowd?
Jeff: A lot of that's to each their own, what their specific goals are, and how long you know, have they tried something or they didn't want to try something else which is their coach recommend something for them versus somebody else.
John: So I will say the perhaps crime against swimming fashion or maybe it's just people at the pool is I have been guilty of not necessarily realizing the state of my jammers.
Andrew: See through.
John: In time all these hours in chemicals in highly corrosive chemical.
Andrew: Material starts to wear.
John: Yes, and as they stretch it becomes a little more transparent and I've had moments are like oh my god I can't believe I've been wearing these so.
Andrew: So wear what you need to wear but just keep it modest.
John: But be aware and know that there is a life—
Andrew: Don’t show off any goodies you shouldn't be shown off down at the local pool you know.
Jeff: Love it.
Andrew: So when it's all said and done, guys, you know you've gone to the pool, you've crushed your workout you flip turns like Jeff told us to and you've represented tri culture well, the takeaway from every pool session is the after effects of chlorine. What side effects can swimmers experience from chlorinated pools and how can we best deal with them?
Jeff: There was a number of months where I was swimming at kind of a local box chain gym and I was in a state of wanting to grow my hair out a little bit. And one day I walked out and my wife was like, “oh my gosh, you have a shaved head what happened?” And I said that pool turned my hair green. It's the pool that I swim in those chemicals. And you know, so there are lots of tricks that you can do but swim specific shampoo is just a go to, there are specific ones made for chlorine.
Andrew: Over normal shampoo.
Jeff: Yes. And I actually learned this I believe it was Elizabeth James on a previous podcast but getting your hair wet in the shower before getting in the pool. If your hair is completely dry, it will absorb that chlorine as soon as you jump into the pool, so getting it wet first, will help that drying out of the hair.
Andrew: Pro-tip, literally.
Jeff: Absolutely. But, you know, a lot of pools if you have multiple pool options in your area, it might be worth it to drive three, four or five, 10 extra miles to get that slightly higher end pool that is using more of a saltwater dominant mixture or even bromine, I think is another chemical that they're starting to mix in with chlorine to help those, you know, dry skin effects. But also, you could even ask or call like, maybe one of the managers like how often is the pool maintenance, are they just coming in once a week and just over killing the chlorine. And so maybe you don't want to, you know, hop in an hour after the pool was treated. Maybe you want to wait a day or two or maybe if it's maintenance too much, or too little. Maybe there's algae growing on the side of the pool. So go check out the pool, look at the nooks and crannies, the cracks. Is there algae? A lot of outdoor pools have a lot of algae because direct sunlight actually kills the chlorine and stuff grows and so ask them are they using a bromine or saltwater mixture before you buy that membership.
Andrew: Life is too short to swim in non-clean water people.
Great set, everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: To cool down from today's pool etiquette and lap lane lingo conversation we have a special treat. Triathlete Magazine is an industry leading publication producing top notch multi-sport content, all available at triathlete.com and today we have the editor in chief from triathlete magazine, Kelly O'Meara, dropping by to share from her experiences swimming in lap pools around the world.
Kelly: In Sweden, I had to rent a pool buoy by the hour. In Finland, there was a whole complicated system involving saunas and long walks across frosty grass. In Rome, I was required to wear a one-piece swimsuit and cover up in between the locker room and pool less my stomach and thighs offend someone. In China? Well, I have no idea what was happening in the pool in China because I can't read Chinese. Pool etiquette is a complicated thing. It's complicated in any language and only gets more confusing once you cross international borders, heading to the pool guarantees a quick jump into the deep end of cultural misunderstanding. But let me recommend that jump.
First off, you're a triathlete and swimming is part of triathlon, and dealing with things is part of triathlon too. Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there's no need to go off searching or paying extra for authentic international experiences. You want a real crash course and how the locals live, go to the pool. Yes, bring extra patience with you when you go and probably all your own swim gear. Don't count on things going exactly the way you want or getting in exactly the workout you want the first time, but you'll learn the system eventually and you might be surprised what else you learn along the way.
The pool is like a window into a particular country’s soul, maybe it’s something about everyone being so nearly naked. Australia has 50 meter pools in every tiny town and random eight year olds who swim circles around you. Europeans head to the pool in far higher quantities and Americans, but it's more leisurely more social, less about the exercise. Many of Latin America schools are private high end clubs and why aren't you swimming at the beach, anyway? These are vast generalizations but things I learned in between the travel meltdowns and frustration and confusion, things I learned from swimming around the world. To avoid similar complications, let me recommend practicing these questions in a foreign language before you go.
How much does it cost to swim? When is lap swimming? Where is the locker room? How long is this pool? Can we split the lane? Hand gestures help here. Is the water aerobics pool or is this the could be mistaken for Olympians pool? What do you mean there are separate lanes for kicking, for swimming freestyle, for swimming backstroke?
And let's be real anyway. It's not like every swimmer in the US understand and adheres to American pool etiquette either. Please stop talking to me while I'm on the wall for five seconds between intervals. If a foreign visitor headed to our local pool, they'd probably learn something about the us too. Why do they take their exercise so seriously and have so many gadgets? Those silly Americans, they try so hard.
Andrew: We really do try so hard. Fantastic stuff from Kelly. I hope she inspired you to give the local pool a try the next time you are on the go in another country. For more from Kelly and the other many talented writers and content producers from Triathlete Magazine head to triathlete.com . Kelly writes my favorite reoccurring column called the Salty Triathlete. Her reading today comes straight from her Salty Triathlete piece called, “Swim Etiquette as a Cultural Phenomenon.”
Well, that's it for today, folks. I want to thank TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Jeff Raines and Kelly O'Meara from Triathlete Magazine for guiding us into the world of lap lane swimming. Shout out to TriTats for partnering with us on today's episode, head to tritats.com to get everything you need to show up to that next race, ready to rock and roll.
Enjoying the podcast, have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about, head TriDot.com/podcast and click on “submit feedback” to shoot us your thoughts or leave us a message to get your voice on the show. We'll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training.
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