Lucy Charles shares tips on how to improve your swimming

(Photo: Screenshot YouTube Lucy Chares)

There aren’t so many triathletes that could form a threat to Lucy Charles during the first discipline of a triathlon, and that makes her the number one athlete to ask for tips on how to improve that first discipline. In her latest YouTube video, the reigning Ironman 70.3 World Champion talks us through her average training week and tells us how much, how long and what she swims.

Charles mentions to be in the pool five to six times a week and swim a distance of anywhere between twenty and thirty kilometers. “At the moment I’m in quite a heavy training phase, so it would be more around 25 to 30 hours”, Charles says. “My swim sessions tend to be between four and seven kilometers of distance per session. It’s normally two hard swims per week, two technical swims a week, and then two swims where I’m doing more distance-based work for the Ironman distance.”

“When I structure a swim session, I obviously start with the warm-up, which is generally one to two kilometers of swimming, in there would be skill-based work, technical based and some kicking; and just really getting a good feel for the water, so I’m getting into that session. Following that, I normally do between 400 and 600 meters of speed work, this is normally 50s where I’m doing 15 to 25 meters of speed work. Just to get that body taking over, to get the blood flowing and get ready for the main set. This is normally like 2 to 3 km. That is the main body of the session, and depending on what the focus is, that will be done in that part of the session. Following the main set, I always do some skill-based and technique work, because it actually works best to do technical-based stuff when the muscles are under fatigue because it emphasizes that muscle memory of good technique. So it’s really important to get the technique right when you’re tired. And then I follow that with a cooldown, which is normally around 500 meters.”

“I have a range of go-to main sets that I do when I’m planning a swim session. If I’m in a 70.3-specific block, my go-to set is always 10 x 200, working pretty hard on a short rest, obviously because it’s pretty much the distance that we’re going to race. If I’m doing an Ironman-specific block, one of my go-to sets is always 10 x 400, again working at quite hard intensity with short rest. When I’m going to do some pull-based racing or some Olympic distance triathlon, I always do some kind of lactate tolerant swimming, which is anywhere from 50s up to 200 meters. I tend to build that into my training once a week anyway, because my body responds very well to that high-intensity and lactate kind of threshold work. And finally, if I’m doing a skill-based session my go-to set is 30 x 100 with focus on technique, bilateral breathing – breathing to both sides – just to make sure that my body is getting that even kind of muscle distribution to both sides of my body.”

One final tip that Charles gives athletes who want to focus on improving their swim, is to train in the morning and not at the end of the day, when the body is already tired from work and other training. Firstly, because you can still do a high-quality session, and secondly of course a triathlon also starts with the swim too.