Incorporating Triathletes Into Masters by Scott Rabalais, Michael Collins, Mel Goldstein (2002)


Incorporating triathletes into your Masters swim program has been a topic that has come up before- usually in the questions at the end of presentations, either given by myself or other coaches.  How you fit these athletes into your whole philosophy of Masters swimming (they always want to do freestyle), and the issues they present in terms of coaching them -differently than regular Masters swimmers -need to be looked at.


I believe that you first have to define what your program is about, and what groups you want to include in your program.  If it involves including masters then you need to have a plan of how you are going to train them to achieve success. I am going to start with showing you some potential negative effects of including triathletes in your program.  Oftentimes they have a fear of the water.  They can’t kick well, have poor ankle flexibility, and they tend to only want to swim freestyle.  They often got a very late in life start in swimming, and the swimming component of their racing is a pretty low priority.  They will many times just want to start to swimming a few weeks before their race, then as soon as the race is over you don’t see them for a while. They have poor awareness and poor pool etiquette – once again because of their late start in swimming- so they are quite are clueless as to what is going on.  However they want instant success- to become a good swimmer just like that- get the quick fix and be on their way. Often your other swimmers don’t really like them for some of these reasons (and their poor lane etiquette) so there are other group issues to deal with as well for the coach. It’s good to define these potential problems and find ways to work around them if that’s what you want to do.


There are also good reasons to have them in your program. They are pretty motivated to improve.  Most of them start out with poor swimming skills so it’s not hard to help them improve, and they are often motivated to compete.  They are usually training for something, which I enjoy seeing.  I prefer to work with an athlete that has a purpose for being there.  Another reason to have them in your program is to generate additional income without filling up your pool too much- triathletes may only swim about three times a week. This is how health clubs make money, they depend upon members to pay, but not show up frequently, otherwise it would be too crowded. I like the three -time a week person.


In terms of special needs of triathletes – you don’t need to spend a lot of time kicking with them.  Their kick often is not very good and they think they need to kick more to make it better, but that is really not the case.  When they do a triathlon more often than not they will be able to wear a wetsuit, which really negates the need to kick a lot, and in distance freestyle there just isn’t a huge need to have a bionic flutter kick. We spend a lot of time teaching them how to not use their legs and save them for the other portions of the race. They will need to learn these specialized techniques because most triathletes sink like rocks.  They have fairly dense, muscular legs due to their training, fairly low body fat (in a lot of them) so they tend to be sinkers. Additionally they do not have the natural understanding of how their body works in the water, so they will want to kick a lot to try to keep their body up.  This vents a tremendous amount of energy and saps them fast.  As a coach you need to understand that, and find ways to teach them how to balance with techniques so that they won’t kick as much.


However you will want to use some drills that involve kicking, and fins are an outstanding training tool to help your triathletes learn the skills and drills.  You do need to watch out for CFD (or chronic fin dependency) -these swimmers will just want to wear them for all the sets all the time.  Then they become just crutches, not really using the fins as a training tool.  Sometimes you’ve got to hide their fins, and make them do sets without them, but the fins can be definitely beneficial.


They need to develop their swimming technique more than they need to develop their training because they are getting a lot of training/fitness through their other sports.  They can be out on a bike for three or four hours a day, and running and doing all this other stuff – they are getting their aerobic fitness already.  Their biggest problem is usually in their skill development and technique, so you don’t have to train the heck out of them.  They are also usually quite tired from doing other sports as well, so you need to spend time working on mechanics, keeping the distances reasonably short so that their strokes don’t break down.  It’s also important to communicate with them – important because they are thinking  “well I got to swim a mile or I have got to swim 2.4 miles, so I need to be doing some distance- I need some 500’s and some 1000’s and stuff like that”.  That’s not what will make them successful in an open water swim situation.


They need to learn sprinting skills because every race starts with a sprint – whether they like it or not – the adrenaline is there – everyone else is going to go out fast – it’s going to happen.  So many triathletes have horrible swimming experiences because they didn’t warm up enough.  They got in water that was cold, they are anxiety ridden and their heart rate wasn’t up there yet – they weren’t warmed up enough. They sprint right off the bat to begin with, and when you combine all of those factors together you end up with a mess.  Some of them drop out of the swim after the first 50 yards because they are so panicky and revved up – others they make it through the swim but they are just dog meat after the first 100 or after the first buoy because the went ballistic – they don’t know how to sprint with what we call easy speed. Easy speed is learning to sprint- to go fast but not go hard.  That is a skill that you have to teach them.  Have them swim fast 25’s repeatedly, but with recovery and learning how to do it without being toast after a few of them.


Sighting skills is another thing that they really need to learn – how to navigate.  If you don’t know how to do this it will ruin races. This is something that you can start to do in a pool.  Have them swim a 25 with their eyes closed and see if they don’t go crashing into the lane line about 17 times going down the pool – they breathe to one side, curve their whole body and all this mess happens.


I have my triathletes do a set where they go six strokes off the wall and sight, then put their head back down, then swim those six strokes with their eyes closed- then lift, look and sight – then go six strokes again.   They repeat this until they can do that at slow speed pretty comfortably, obviously it is only 25’s (otherwise you are running into people going the other way) but when they can do it comfortably with six strokes I will push it out to eight strokes, or ten strokes or twelve strokes – with their eyes closed before the lift and look.  If you develop this skill in the more controlled environment of the pool versus the open water it works much better.  If you take them out to open water and try to teach them to navigate where they are freaked out already  they are not used to it.  Teach them the skill in a much safer environment – a comfortable environment where they will get decent at it. Then when they take it out to the open water they will be better at it.


Drafting skills is something that you don’t have to go out of your way to teach.  Most swimmers end up leading two seconds apart anyways half the time in your practice, but really – what is the purpose of drafting in swimming or cycling?  Actually in triathlon drafting in cycling is supposedly not allowed.  So what is it? A free ride?  Some say it takes less effort, you have to use less effort.  What is another quality of drafting? Is somebody else doing your navigating?  Okay.  What’s another one?  Are you going faster?  Yes, you can theoretically go faster with drafting using less energy.


Those are basically the two benefits of drafting – faster with less energy. But in practice that’s not what’s happening out there when a lot of people draft.  If you have bicycled in a pack of people, with people you know, and you do it all the time – then you can get right up where you are almost bumping elbows with somebody next to you.  There’s a wheel in front of you, a wheel over here and over there, you can just ride and turn corners and everything is fine.  But if you’re inexperienced on a bike or riding with people you don’t know it can be tense just avoiding people, and you expend more energy.  Your anxiety level is much higher – this is what also happens to people in open water when they have people all around them.  Someone has told them that drafting is good but they are not really sure why, and they are trying to follow someone’s feet and it’s scary, so what do they do?  They pull back you know and then they swim more uphill with their head further out.


There was that speaker here yesterday- the one talking about energy – did anyone go to that?  He brought out this one point – that some swimmers kind of pull back a little bit, it’s a horrible thing to have happen.  You always want to be leaning forward. Why do people pull back?  Well it’s a human instinct in the water – we want to breathe so we are going to lift up and push down.  When you have darkness or something out in front of you as well it makes you pull back even more.  An example – if I asked Janet back there to walk to the front of the room fast she can do it well.  But if I had her go back and try it with the lights turned off, it’s pitch black and a few people are standing up and in the way, then she would be timid and would pull back a little bit.  She wouldn’t be as aggressive as she doesn’t really know what’s out in front of her- this is what swimming is like in open water.  We have to teach our athletes how to lean in and how to be more comfortable – not just two or three seconds back, but almost right on the feet of swimmers in front of them.  You can do little sets that actually teach that comfort level, they also don’t also get freaked out or vent all their energy when getting tapped on the feet (which can be very annoying and really unnerving to some people) but you have got to deal with that.


Having your triathletes doing a little bit more pulling is probably a pretty good idea because they are not going to use their legs that much in the race.  They will be wearing wetsuits and their legs are kind of fried from cycling and running.  For all these reasons I think pulling is good and they like it, plus we have to consider as giving them things they enjoy doing.  For a lot of them the swimming is their least enjoyable of the three sports so we want to try to make it a little bit more enjoyable. We can get them through a little more yardage without escalating the heart rate, and getting that balance – this is a good way to do it.  Mike (Collins)- do you have any other special needs to add to that?  (no)


Conversion to becoming a Masters swimmer – I think this is something that I have as a goal with triathletes.  When they come into the program they think of themselves as a triathletes or as a non-swimmers and they just do it because they have to.  I want to gradually transform them to consider themselves to be a Master swimmer.  I think that it’s a really healthy sport and something that I want them to stay in for a long time.  They may end up at some point just being a master swimmer, not even being a triathletes – they may not have the time for it anymore because of life changes or they get injured in some way.  I think it’s important to get them more committed to our program and to what we doing, gradually introducing skills to make them a more well rounded master swimmer.


The problem is a lot of Masters coaches when they see these triathletes come in feel that they don’t want these athletes to take advantage of them.  The coaches feel “I am going to make him do breaststroke and butterfly and all these other strokes” so there is this constant battle.  I just try to sneak it in on them gradually; I first introduce backstroke to them as a way to teach them muscle balance and recovery.  The triathlete may not understand – ‘why do I need to do backstroke’?  Well, sometimes you get a big mouthful of water in a race and you just need to roll over and get your bearings, get a few breaths and fix your goggles – so you need to learn how to do backstroke – a few strokes – let’s say a 25.  So we do a set of 100’s with the last 25 as backstroke.  A triathlete will try that, but if you walk over and demand something like ten 100’s of backstroke they will just resist or fight with you and start hammering out the freestyle, because you have gone beyond their comfort level of what they can really handle.  So I sneak it in – ‘let’s do the last 25 backstroke’ or ‘go three strokes freestyle, roll over into four strokes backstroke, then back over into freestyle’ – it teaches them how it helps them elongate their body and swim with a long axis.


Breaststroke – breaststroke is an excellent way to learn to sight – especially with your real novice people – its alright to go out there and when you ‘round the buoy take a few breaststroke strokes.  This helps you get a look at what’s going on and where you want to go, then you can go back into your freestyle.  Breaststroke in the front of the stroke is really similar to what we do in freestyle, it isolates some muscles to get that high elbow hold on the water which is beneficial.  Just doing a breaststroke kick loosens the legs a little bit differently than just the constant flutter kick.  You will find that some of your triathletes are pretty good breaststrokers because their feet are already turned in that way.


Butterfly teaches good strength and the dolphin kick to me is critical in learning how to get in and out of surf in beach events.  The dolphin skills – going under water, coming out – you teach that a little bit in butterfly in the pool, they understand the concept a little bit better when they get into the ocean.  Again, I do it in small doses.  Sometimes we will just push off the wall and we will go three to five strokes of butterfly, then switch to freestyle- go freestyle the rest of the 100.  Maybe just the last few strokes into the wall at the end of the 100 we do butterfly again.  This   simulates a mini- race where they have to dolphin at the start and they have to dolphin at the end.


As they become better swimmers – I do this a lot with my open water swimmers – I have a lot of people that compete in open water without the rest of the triathlon – we will do things like a 400 free with the first 50 and the last 50 butterfly.  They take it out fly, then settle into freestyle in the middle, then finish with butterfly again.  This is very similar to the energy system requirements in an open water swim, where it is very high intensity at the beginning, settles down into a more moderate zone, and at the end it gets intense again.


Do you do any special things to try and bring your triathletes more into your mainstream masters by getting them to do meets and competition like that? (answer: yeah, we do most of the things that Mike (Collins) has already mentioned – obviously we try to teach technique and we try to make them as efficient as they possibly can be).


In most triathlons the distance is not very specified – it may be advertised as 1000 yard swim -but the meet director goes out there and doesn’t always measure it –  ‘must be 50 yards off that bridge’ and he dumps the buoy – it could be 1200 yards or 1200 meters.  Consequently the triathletes really don’t know what kind of distance they are actually swimming during any particular triathlon.  So we emphasize being as efficient as they can possibly be during their race, so they can perform well in the other disciplines.


I give the example of we have a young man who is a master swimmer – he swam at the Short Course Championship in 2000 in Indianapolis and swam the 1000 in nine minutes and forty seconds.  One week later he was in a triathlon, which was advertised as a 1000-yard swim.  He was out of the water in 13 minutes and 40 seconds – so obviously it was not just 1000 yards – it was longer.  Every swimmer that came out of that race looked at their watch and said “Oh my gosh – I am already out of the race – I am now three minutes past what I could possibly do!”.  This has a negative effect on the rest of the race.  So we try to teach them to be as efficient as they possibly can – much of the same things that Mike has talked about with regards to teaching them technique, so that they can sight and know exactly how far they have gone and what they are doing in their race.  We also try to get them to calculate how they did in that swim by looking at their nearest competitor – how much closer they are catching up to that person, perhaps they are about the same speed and gaining on them.


I do try to convert them into masters swimming a little bit.  Triathletes don’t just do triathlon events – they often will do mountain bike racing or cycling races as well.  Most of them will at least do 5 K and 10 K running races to chart their progress as a track athlete.  To get time improvements in swimming they will progress much faster and learn a lot more if they swim a 500 / 1000 or a 1650 at a meet.  Or they can participate in some open water or postal distance swims-like the 3000 – those are really venues in which to get them started on trying a master competitive swimming event.  They can then establish a benchmark with which to look at for yearly progress. The hour swim is definitely one I try to get the triathletes to swim – the timed 3000 championship is another one that I think is good to do.


I also give explanations about improving not just their endurance but their raw speed too.  They are not going to swim that 22 minute mile in a triathlon that a lot of them want to do, and be in the hunt for it when they are a 30 minute- mile swimmer right now.  I tell them that if they can’t swim any faster than a 1:30.00 for a 100 free, then how are you going to get under 15 minutes for a thousand at your 1:30 pace?   You have got to get that hundred down to 1:05 or something like that – you will need to sprint more.  So I have them try a 100 freestyle and see what they can do – find out where they come apart and see what they can do differently to get that raw speed down, then your longer events will get much better.


Promoting your program – if you decide that you want to go after that market here are some ideas for you:

1) Join the local triathlon club if you have one in your area. Start getting their newsletters and E-mail’s. Go to their meetings and just start meeting people.  I like to find out what is going on my area so I joined them for that purpose, just to keep a pulse on what’s going on.


2) Offer either free or low cost sessions or clinics – especially if you have a local race coming up and you can do it a few weeks prior to the race.  Do some swim training session or an open water skills clinic for really a nominal fee. At this point your goal there is not really to provide a source of income but generate exposure. You may find athletes that may want to come and train with you as a regular member of your group.


3) Sport shops are a good place to get the word out too- if you know the local bike shop owner or running store owner you can leave some flyers there.  Promote yourself by talking to the owners  asking them to spread the word –  “ if you find people that are looking for swim instruction will you send them my way – do you mind having these flyers up at the front of your store?”. I get quite a few referrals from the local running shop and from a bike shop.


4) At races is another good place – go to a race and place flyers on the vehicle windshields, pass them out and such – then you have a captive audience of athletes you are marketing to and you may get some calls. Another silly one that you can do is give a raffle prize to some participants  – a free month’s dues, or free swim lesson.  In exchange for the advertising you might consider becoming an event sponsor or give out rewards i.e. to the slowest swim split, if they have the technology to do that.


5) Even consider the option of even starting your own triathlon team or your own triathlon club. Actually that’s what I have done in our area.  The reason I did was because we had clubs around but I didn’t think they had real vision or focus on where they were going – they just kind of existed, and were run by a volunteer board of people that were constantly rotating.  They all have their own personal reasons as to why they are in the club, also a wide gap in ability level so there was a lot of turmoil and conflict over how to spend funds, and what to do . I didn’t enjoy the bureaucracy side of it, and didn’t like how their training sessions were pretty random. We would meet here every Saturday – that is about it – or you meet here to do a run every Sunday, but there really wasn’t good purpose to their training or what they were training for.  When you have a large group of people that all have different goals (which is normal) they don’t run as well as the coach directed group.  Sometimes it’s that way with Masters swim teams, yet most Masters and Age Group swim teams are run very differently than triathlon clubs – they are led by a coach.  The coach writes the workouts, determines the training plan – picks the meets that the team will go to as a group.  What I have done with our program is  set the tone of where we want to go; and we offer additional coaching – similar to what we have in swimming we offer in running and cycling as well.


6) Offering lessons is a great additional source of income.  Triathletes are probably the most open – minded and have the biggest pocketbooks to do this – Emmett back there – myself and a few others – we are instructors for Total Immersion Clinics.  Total Immersion Clinics are $400 for a weekend, and they fill up.  Every time we do one of those clinics we do a general go around the room and people introduce themselves.  They explain what brought them to that clinic and every one I have been to has been at least 75% triathletes or perhaps an even higher percentage than that. They don’t know anything about the sport and are willing to throw down $400 to learn.  That’s almost a year’s worth of swimming dues with your club, so offer a clinic – don’t chintz yourself out if you are doing a good quality job.   They eat up the techno stuff too, with videotaping – they love that stuff.  They will go out and buy a new $800 pair of race wheels because they read a review that said it was three seconds faster than their old pair.  So you can give them a lot of benefit and ability to take time off using swimming video analysis.  Consider learning Total Immersion (Terry Laughlin) methods or techniques along the same line.  These programs really teach using less energy to swim.  Then the triathletes can get to the other two sports a little fresher.


I just got an email from a guy that did the Canadian Ironman, dropping me a little thank you note.  He said he swam it in an hour and seven minutes and came out of the water not even breathing hard.  He went 10:41 for his total time and was really psyched – he was really pumped up.  He is a guy that swims in my next to the slowest lane and an hour  and seven minutes is a pretty decent swim time.  He got out there and just floated through pretty easy with the wetsuit on, keeping his heart rate down- he is pretty pumped.


I find it quite interesting that I have a lot of triathletes in my group and many of them are towards the slower end of the pool groups, but when you actually see their splits in the races they are all in the upper quarter of their age groups.  Their swim splits are oftentimes not their weakest split any more, compared to the other athletes.  I have used that rationale to say, hey – maybe you need to join our tri- group and not just swim with us to develop your other disciplines a bit more.


You may want to consider if you want to get more involved in the whole triathlon aspect and really understanding it and how it works-  you can register yourself as a club.  It is very inexpensive to be a registered USAT club – it is like 25 bucks or less – it might even be 8 dollars – I can’t remember.  It seems to me it’s fifty dollars to start up then eight dollars a year to renew membership.  Another way to do it is to register your swim club as a triathlon team, that way you are a little more covered insurance wise with training and stuff like that.

USAT has a coaching certification program that is a weekend clinic – it’s like Friday afternoon, Saturday and half of Sunday – it is fairly expensive – it is about 260 dollars but it is a pretty intensive weekend course.  They have lectures on biomechanics, economy training for swimming, for cycling, for running – setting up periodization training, sports nutrition.  It’s a pretty intensive weekend and you walk out of there with a lot of tools and information, a little  better than  just picking up a book or two about the sport and reading it – it helps you really relate to your athletes better and understand what they are doing.


Many of them are not well educated and will ask many questions about how much swimming they should be doing,  biking, running etc. and you want to give them sound advice.  You might consider hiring  an assistant coach that could cover a portion of your group – that can cover your weaknesses.  Perhaps they don’t know as much about swimming,  but they are pretty good on the bike and run stuff – you might hire an assistant to run some cycling or running workouts for your group once you have brought more people in.  These experts can help teach you as well.


Do you guys do any triathlon workouts that are you can share that are not just swimming?  (answer – we have a super Tuesday which we go a lot of long distance but nothing specific only  for the other disciplines – other than just swimming.)  I do offer other workouts beyond swimming – some combo workouts are where we do a swim immediately followed by a bike ride or run or a bike and run combo.  We actually do that at the track with a bike trainer.  We also do a lot of our running stuff at the track because it is like a swimming environment at a pool,  where you can allow for different ability levels to all be on the track at the same time.  Using the portable trainers from their bikes is another nice thing because you can keep them all together whereas going out on the road can get crazy because they have different abilities, and it’s a lot safer.  You can talk to people, make it social and it is also nice if you have bad weather – either  rain or extreme heat or whatever – you can do it indoors or covered or something like that.   They cost between 50 and 150 or 200 bucks – it is basically just a stationary triangle that they you put your own bicycle on.  Some programs have five or ten that they purchase themselves to supply to their athletes that might come to use them.  However you can ask them to just bring their own, it is just an expense like buying their pull buoys and kick boards, fins and all that stuff – most of them already have them.


Again, I was mentioning how our team is set up – I run it like a swim team; it is led by a coach.  We train for specific events.  I talk to the athletes in it.  I know kind of what they are aware of and what they are interested in.  I know what races are in our area.  I know which races are better organized than others,  so I  set a schedule for the year of the events we are going to kind of train for.  When I give a workout I might have a sprint option, an Olympic option and a distance option at that particular practice for the day.


Question?  We are going to go year ‘round, and do we have different goals in the winter  time for general fitness and strength development?  Yes, we try to keep it fun – do some more cross training workouts and maybe some mountain biking.  We also are entering some running races like half marathons to get them fit and keep them fit through the winter.  Because we are in Southern California the weather allows us to train year around.  I do like the idea of picking a race and saying we are going to train – starting at this date through to that race, and it’s going to cost this much for the training program for that whole time so you don’t have people dropping in and out, back and forth all the time.  I haven’t worked out all the details yet on the best way to charge them for it,  but I do like the idea of specific races and giving them options.  Just like in your swim program you have people that swim the 50 and the 100,  and people that swim the 1650 and you design your program to allow for both.


Another question?  We do swimming year around with my masters team and pretty much everyone that is in the triathlete team is a Nova master swimming member as well – they don’t have to be but most of them are.  That’s how they came into it and they are just diversifying now.  I don’t really encourage people to take long breaks from their swimming.  I like them to swim year around.  We have good enough weather on the west coast to be able to do that – we are out of racing season now, we go all the way to November. For the rest of November and December we kind of have different themes staying in shape through the holidays is our December theme.   The end of January we do a long run.  It is either a half marathon, a full marathon or they could try to go a 5 K.  We kind of put more running emphasis in when the weather is not as good and not bike as much then.


This is my first full season of really doing it, so I am learning and will change things every year just like I did when I first started coaching at Davis Masters – it took me a few years to really get the cycles down.  I made changes again when I went to UCLA and now at Irvine it is even different again.  It usually takes me a couple of years to get the pattern I want.  I will do it combined with what I think is best and also what the athletes are interested in pursuing.


Question – The winter is really the perfect opportunity to take their swimming to a whole new level when they are not doing a lot of cycling or running maybe because of rains or whatever – that to me is a great opportunity to really increase their swimming commitment.  I like athletes to  have specialty months or at least specialty weeks when we really focus on running for the next month.  We will still do some maintenance in the other two sports but running is going to be the focus this month and then on another month – cycling is going to be really the key focus and we are going to do a lot of cycling, while just maintaining the other two sports.  We keep rotating  through that.  You do not do that as during the competitive season, but the off season is a great time to say lets really take that weak sport up to a new level.


I mentioned that in our program it is $50 a month to swim masters and for the triathletes program we are charging $75 so it is an extra 25 bucks a month to get those additional workouts that we are offering.  One of the reasons why I started this was because I saw a pretty big problem coming up which was losing our pools.  We have a really great facility in Irvine that is getting in disrepair and they are closing it for nearly two years to rebuild the whole thing.  It is going to be nice when it is done, but I knew that we were going to have some space issues and location issues on where to swim,  and I didn’t want to just lose all my members and not have anywhere to go.  I started incorporating in more stuff to do out of the pool, and I will continue to add to that and expand that part of it.  Then when we don’t have as much pool time and it is not as convenient to get to those pools I have already got something in place to kind of keep people going, and expand my potential membership base outside of just swimming.


I also send out a weekly email with the workout themes for the week or what we are going to  specialize with – I may even give what the exact set will be at the track workout so that they can  prepare themselves mentally for it and they know what is coming up.  Mel was saying that with the workouts for master swimming – if you guys aren’t aware – there is an outstanding website or section on the United States Masters website that has workouts posted – swimming workouts . Mo Chambers –she gave the last talk, she posts her group and Mel here, along with Chris, just started doing it.  I am the third person that posts all of our workouts and we all pretty much do it on a weekly basis – we post them and it is nice to kind of see what you are doing.  It is helpful if people can’t make it to your workouts all the time they can still pull the workout and do it.  Mel says that he puts it like a weekly  flag up of what they are doing so that they wont read that they are doing a timed 3000 and bail from workout.  I am kind of the opposite – I kind of like to let them know what they are doing if they choose to look, people that will get psyched out by the workout by knowing it ahead of time don’t look,  but I like people to be prepared for it.  I am actually cool with people that want to ditch workout when it is a timed 3000 because that will leave more space for the people that want to do it.  I can see both sides of it but I  sometimes tell them in advance what we are doing so they are a little better prepared.  I don’t give them all the details though – they definitely get more by actually showing up to the practice.  I will also in that weekly email often include some results of what we have done, people that raced over the week and stuff like that.  I include upcoming events that they need to enter.  That’s an email that just goes to the triathlon group – it doesn’t go to my home masters team.  We have a separate website section.  Nova Aquatics has a fairly large website – I wouldn’t say it is the best laid out website out there, but it is decent.  Nova Aquatics’ main site has general information on our whole program and stories – updated stories – it is much like the swim info website where there are little blurbs, it gives you about the first paragraph of a story – then you have to click on it to bring up the whole story.  You can click onto any group or section within our Nova program be it the senior program, age group program,  masters program or the triathlon program – each one of those places has its own section or website in it.  When I get done with the presentation I am just going to show a few slides I have of the calendar that I put up for the triathlon group.


In our first year we had ten attend the nationals in Idaho – the olympic distance nationals and we have six qualifiers for the World’s – three people qualified at that race.  There was also another qualifier in New York that is actually a qualifier for this years World’s – it is kind of weird the way they do it – they have two selection races – one the year before the actual World’s and one in the year of the World’s.  They pick about half the team or a little more based on the first race.  I set it up that – more like a swim team in the fact that in swimming you train towards the bigger events.  You go to nationals or you go to your regional championships or something like that and in triathlon it is a little more random as to where people go,  and what they do for racing.  For our particular club, my goal is to get people to improve,  but to work their way up and go to regional and national level championships and eventually maybe even participate at world championships in triathlon.  I know that it is not just going to jump there over night, but that over time I think it will be like it has been with the master swimming.  I take a fairly novice group of athletes and build them into this group that enjoys going together places as a team,  they are not that great of athletes or the cream of the crop, but they still have a good time and are part of a successful program and enjoy that part of it.


So far this is continuing to go pretty well.  I am always open to suggestions about how you guys might incorporate the triathletes into your group.  I wanted to show you one more thing real quick if I can find it that you guys might get a kick out of – I didn’t have enough time to put this in a slide so it is going to be kind of small to read.  I put this together in the car on the way here.  When we were talking about the lack of etiquette that your swimmers have or that master swimmers or triathletes have and this really goes beyond just triathletes – a lot of your swimmers will have this.  I am going to send this out and I think this is going to be good for different newsletters – I know a lot of people have already had etiquette issues out there.  But here is my rules of etiquette for master swimming that triathletes need to learn and others – learn to read the pace clock.  Know both your time and the interval.  We repeat a lot of stuff – even my older master swimmers – what was your time on that one.  “I don’t know – when did you leave ?”  “Well lets do it again at the 60 and lets get our times”.  Because I use those numbers often for the next set – if they go a 130 I am going to say I want you to go 5 more and hold it within 5 seconds of that.  If we don’t know the time we have no way of knowing and I want them to become responsible for knowing what is going on.  Stay on the interval and help others stay on the interval.  Help your friends.  Tell them 10 seconds – we are going in 5 – I need you guys to help because you’ve got to- – why is it that the fastest person in the lane is the dumbest person in the lane half the time?  It is always the person that either can’t or doesn’t know how to read the pace clock or can’t see the pace clock because they are blind and they don’t have their glasses on – help a brother out – you know, help keep them on the interval.  Count your laps and stop at the appropriate number.  Simple – but true – you know you don’t always see this.  How many times does one guy stop early and the whole lane has to stop and talk about what lap they are really on instead of just finishing it out – it seems simple but sometimes they don’t know.


Don’t change the interval without conferring with your lane mates.  How many guys go – oh this interval is too soft lets go on 1:30 instead of 1:45 and they are gone and the rest of the lane doesn’t know what is going on.  Then they start missing intervals and then you have problems.  This is what causes turmoil within your workout and why master swimmers do not like triathletes or whatever – it is because you haven’t taught them how it works.  If you guys as a group decide that you can go on a faster interval or an easier interval – cool – as long as you get everyone on the same page.  The slowest person in the lane should be able to make the interval with some rest.  The slowest person –it is not the fastest person in the lane that can make as the interval – it is what your slowest person can do.  Get the right order in your lane from fastest to slowest.  Why is it that whenever a new person comes to practice, and you say ‘why don’t you get in this lane? – new guy – you can go first.  Then you run them down and think it is so fun.  Let them get at the end of things and kind of check things out.  We also have the problem of the guys thinking they are the studs of the lane, but the women can just roll right by them.  If the macho dude goes first and the woman goes right up behind them then they don’t get out of the way or let the women lead the lane. Don’t sit right on the feet of the person in front of you.  Go ahead of them or lead further apart.  That definitely gets pretty annoying of people that always continually push off right on the feet – right on the feet and just sit there and then they wont go ahead on the next repeat.


Leave at least five seconds apart, but preferably ten apart.  If you have fairly slow swimmers in a pool you can send them ten apart if there are four or so in the lane and it just flows so much better because you get accordion effects if somebody has a real good push off but they don’t swim real fast.  If somebody swims fast but they got a lousy push-off and it all starts to come together and you end up with one big mosh pit in the lane. They are using about eight yards of the 25 or the 50 yards and they are all stuck into this one little pack.

Stay on the right side of the lane.  Some people don’t know this, but stay to the right side of the lane and I mean pretty close to the lane line because there are occasions where you are going to get past and there is going to be three wide in the land for a short period of time so stay to the right and allowing for passing.  Turn in the middle of the lane at the wall and I just got this from one of our age group coaches – he tells his kids it is like a giant football shape – you swim up one side of the lane and then you go to the middle to turn, then you come off onto the other side of the lane to come back.  This is generally what you want.  It is a real problem when people go up – right by the lane line and turn right by the lane line, come off into people and then try to merge over.  It’s a simple common sense thing, but something they don’t understand until you explain it to them.  They should go to the middle of the lane to turn and then come off and go to the other side of the lane.  You have to break them of that habit when the got to a meet and you don’t want them to swim circle pattern but that is a whole other issue.  If you are about to get lapped – stop at the next wall and let others pass you.  This is a hard thing to teach.


I coached the mens team at UC Davis and I had the distance swimmers and I had some amazingly talented guys in there. This one guy could go 1:35 in a 200 freestyle – this guy was phenomenal and he was swimming in a lane with guys as slow as you know 1:55 for a 200 free. We would swim some longer sets, they were going to lap each other and these guys could just flip and push off and be three or four abreast,  and the one guy would get to lead and they would merge back in and get back in line.  It would all just flow and nobody had to stop and nobody had to talk about it.  They just learned where to stay, when to flow back in, I used to love to watch that happen because it was just so automatic. They were just so aware of where everyone else is in the lane was. When you see the opposite -where people are just totally clueless – they just push off and swim and they don’t know where anyone else is around them, if people are coming up on them, so I think it is something you want to explain to them.

Be aware where others are in the lane and anticipate when they will catch you and pull over so just try to do it just before it happens – don’t wait until you cause a five car pile up before you get off the freeway you know, before you get that big truck out of the way.  Don’t push off right in front of someone about to turn if they are faster – that one gets me man – you’ve got someone coming in – they are in the middle of their hundred – they are about to turn.  Right as they are about to turn the person that has been sitting on the wall just goes out and darts right in front of them , it’s like -come on – it’s like pulling out on the freeway at 30 miles an hour – are you the one who does that, huh?

On the other flip side of that if I have a faster swimmer and I want them to push off before that slow person gets to the wall, I want them to go otherwise they are stuck for 15 seconds or more as that slow person turns, cruises down the pool real slow, and they will have to wait a really long time.


So sometimes I will try to get someone that is on the wall to leave before they get here,  so that they do not have the traffic problem.  Generally it is the people not away of speed differences that do that. Finish swims to the wall, move to the left to allow others to finish to the wall.  This is just a pet peeve – I want you to come in and get out of the way and leave some space for others to get into the wall.  Explain that to your swimmer if they don’t all understand this basic concept.


Now we get down to some of the funny ones.  Brush your teeth or rinse with mouthwash before practice.  How many of us have experienced this one- don’t breathe on people when resting on the wall – general hygiene stuff,  horrible – turn your face into the gutter please – silly stuff but this is true.  You have people that literally will ruin a workout because everybody doesn’t want to be in their lane. You’ve got like seven in this lane and seven in this lane, then like two people in this lane because nobody wants to swim with Mr. Badbreath.


If you are unable to do a particular skill, do a drill or a swim that is about the same speed.  That is a really good thing to teach your triathletes or your novice people.  They are not going to be able to do everything, but it seems if they don’t know how to do something – what do they do?  Freestyle – if you are doing body balance pulsing drill down the pool and they are doing freestyle it is not going to work for very long.  They are just going to all pile up,  or  be really bored on the wall – get them to do something that takes about the same amount of time.


Well that is pretty much all I had – did you have some additional comments?  Just one other thing that I wanted to bring up – I want to go back to what Mike was talking about – promotions – one of the things that you can do and maybe some of you may or may not be aware of what is provided by United States Masters Swimming.  When it comes to promotion – the booth we have here at the vendor’s village is available to anyone here free of charge.  USMS pays the shipping to and the shipping back to where ever we designate.  You can use that for triathlons, marathons – any swim meets that you would like to have – have somebody host the booth and hand out brochures.  That  is something that you can gain from United States Master Swimming that is available to you.


Also, one of the things that we do with regards to promotion – if you do start a Trifit team or like they do at Nova – we have Indy Swimfit Trifit, make a three or four dollar singlet with your team logo on it – it goes a long way with all these athletes running around the city, as well as in the race. There is nothing that brings a group together than a uniform and they really like it.  You can say-‘ hey – you are on the Trifit team – here is your little Indy Swimfit”.


This afternoon you will see some of our swimmers in that product  so those are just some of the things that you can do to promote to get triathletes into your program – you cant wait for them to come to you –but  you have to go out there to them – you got a little bit of effort in fact.  Ttomorrow – we have somebody of the mid-east region Trifit Rregional Championships doing just that so if you would like to promote additional swimmers in your program that is one way you can do it?


Any questions??

The question was regarding liability issues with doing stuff outside the pool area.  That is why I am a registered USAT coach and so I am covered.  The athletes are covered if they have a membership card.  I am looking into the possibility of just getting some additional liability insurance and incorporating that into the cost of the program.  Technically if they are part of your swim program you can say it is dry land training – I don’t know exactly the details of it, but you know I am also pretty aware of trying to keep things within a safety zone – that is why the cycling is my biggest concern.


I give them some workouts and mostly let them go and do those on their own and when we do cycling stuff it tends to be with the trainers.


Question – if they swim in our masters program they need to be USMS – it is not debatable – I do have a couple of members that wanted track workouts and that kind of stuff that don’t swim so I haven’t made them do it because they are just purely doing stuff out side the pool – they have USAT.




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