The advantages of using the Man Tri vs Trafford Met Gala to boost your training

February is traditionally the month where the triathletes from Manchester Tri Club take on the swimmers from Trafford Metro. Besides being a lot of fun, there are many reasons why competing in this event will help your swim training.

Rob Bridges has some great reasons to swim fast and swim in the club gala:

  • Personally I find it hard to motivate myself to swim in the winter. Having the gala is a great incentive to turn up to training e.g. cross country for running
  • Good to focus on something different other than training for a 1500m swim.
  • I love competing for Man Tri and feel proud to represent them anyway possible. It’s also great to compete against specialist clubs e.g. Trafford Metro in swimming and Sale Harriers in cross country. And perhaps gain a few scalps along the way.
  • Builds strength and speed my combining different strokes and distances (sprinting)
  • As a coach I have learnt a lot from watching others swim. However most triathletes will have never really seen others swim. So its great for them to appreciate top level swimmers and compare there own assessment to others and discuss with others (peer and individual assessment)

Kate Offord is a big advocate of varying your swim training :

It is always interesting talking to triathletes about swimming fast. Many of them tell me ‘I just can’t swim fast, however hard I try, I only have one speed.’ Whilst this might sound like a fair point, everyone can train to raise their maximum speed.

As athletes we need to train all of the components of fitness, and whilst aerobic endurance may seem like the only important factor in the swim, it is also important to build speed work into your training throughout the year.

By raising your maximum speed, you make your 1500m race pace a lower percentage of your maximum. So your body becomes more comfortable sustaining this pace.

The club gala, against our friendly rivals Trafford Met, is a fantastic opportunity to try out your speed and have a bit of fun. It will give you something to focus on over the barren winter swim training months (that is, if you don’t fancy trying an ice swim). Having a goal is really important in order to keep the focus on your training. Training for different distances and strokes will help your overall ability in the water, and also make it easier for you to adapt to a rough or busy open water swim. Those muscles that help you swim fly might just help you through when you are up against it in open water.

Paul Greenhalgh says…

Competing in the gala is a good idea for a number of reasons. Firstly it will give added focus to your swim training at a cold and inhospitable time of year. Also, it’s a good idea to have one or two interim goals on your way to a big target in the summer and the gala will provide one of these.
Thirdly, it will get your competitive juices flowing, as you try to gain bragging rights over your mates. Lastly, it’s great to be part of a big night with a tremendous atmosphere, where you’ll be cheered on by your club mates and can do the same for them.

Paul Savage has some interesting insights as to why a gala can help your tri preparation…

Training for a swimming gala can prompt you into focussing your attention on the small details that can might save seconds or even fractions of a second over a short race in the pool; such as holding a perfect streamlined position as you push out of a turn or kicking hard into a turn. Even more practical things such as whether your goggles fit correctly and are not going to come off when you dive in off the blocks!

Attention to these small details now will help you in your during the triathlon season – in a pool-based event, focussing on good streamlining off the wall will save seconds and in open-water swimming kicking hard around the turn-buoys will get you round them faster. Most-importantly ensuring that your goggles fit correctly will help to prevent them getting knocked-off in the melee of an open-water swim start!

And finally Tony Jolly’s thoughts…

At first sight swimming a short distance for example 50m with a dive seems anything but what you should be focussing on as a Triathlon swimmer, when you may be aiming for swimming 1500m or more in open water with no walls. However there are some good reasons why focussing on a Gala and training for it may be just what you need as a triathlete.

As a triathlete what do you really want to be able to do – swim 1500m (or more) as fast as possible, without over taxing yourself so you can bike and run fast. What limits your ability to do this, endurance (ability to swim a long time without fatiguing), good swim technique, ability to swim fast in open water.

As a coach I see time and again lots of athletes you train really hard, and can swim maybe 6 minutes for 400m but struggle to go faster than 1min 25 for 100m. Basically they have one pace, but learn/train to hold it all day long, I know I’ve been there. That ability to hold a good steady pace for a long time is after all a great thing for an endurance sport. However if you really want to get faster, then you need to be able to swim faster! Starting with short distances is a good way to achieve this.

Swimming fast over a short distance will force you to stop gliding, increase arm your arm turnover and develop ability to hold a rhythm whilst swimming faster. All positive things for open water tri swimming.

So at the end of a long season in October, when you want to do something different, focussing on short distance for 2-3 months with a gala to aim for would be a great way of breaking up the year and keeping you mentally fresh, keeping interest during the winter and having a goal to aim for, then in February revert to Triathlon type swimming, but with a new improved top speed. Just think half of your competition takes a couple of months off swimming for many of these reasons, so you could be getting the jump on them for next year.

Finally a short word on the other strokes. Backstroke, Breaststroke and Fly, all irrelevant to Triathlon swimming right? I’d say no. They all have cross benefits to your front crawl, for example to develop great catch, hip and spine flexibility with Fly, opening up the chest and working antagonist muscles and aiding rotation with Backstroke, they have cross benefits to your Front Crawl, but equally done well also aid injury prevention. Think of it as really beneficial cross training benefits. Several of our coaches are Swim coaches by trade, so can offer lots of advice on the other strokes.

So my advice would be spend a couple of months each winter training to get faster and target the gala. Don’t worry if you think you’ve left it too late this year, you haven’t and you can set a good benchmark this year, and then smash it next year.