Thursday, March 27, 2014

Tri-Coaching: The Benefits of Swimming with a Group

Life has finally started to fall into place for me personally and look forward to keeping up the blog a bit more which is perfect timing as the season is about to start. And with that, here is an article from TZ Coaching on the benefits of group training from TZ Coaching.  Tony also has written an article for us about the benefits of group biking for us!  (NON-sponsored post)

Swimming with a Buddy: The Benefits of Swimming with a Group 
By: Brett Collins - U.S. Masters Swim Coach
Since we finally got all the pieces in place to start up our swim program for the winter session I've been immersed in old notes, books, and articles developing the workout plan for this season and it got me reminiscing about my athletic path that has brought me to where I am today. Although I call myself a triathlete today, I come to the sport by way of swimming and I am still a swimmer, and always will be, at heart. From junior high through college I was a member of various swim teams basically year around for over 10 years and being involved with those teams have truly shaped who I am today.

This is probably no surprise, but things are often better in a group setting and swimming is no exception. The repetition of laps in the pool can wear down even the most bull-headed of us, especially when swimming alone, but swimming in a group not only helps breakup the monotony it also provides a plethora of other perks. First, for those who like structure group swims provide a formal workout plan every day, week, month, and season; this is a side effect of limited pool space, since you can’t have four people in a lane all trying to do four different things. With that structure also comes needed variety (even after swimming for 15 years I somehow end up doing very similar sets every time I show up to the pool without a workout in hand). Also with this structure comes valuable feedback, drills, and lessons from a coach to improve your form. One thing that I can’t repeat enough is that swimming is dominated by technique: pick up any book on swimming and you’ll read about coaches going on and on about distance per stroke or strokes per length at a given pace. You’d be surprised how sometimes a simple tip, observation, or pinpoint drill can unlock some speed.

But besides the obvious and technical aspects that come with swimming with a team, the most valuable aspects of group swimming are the people. Taking an excerpt from multiple leadership courses, one of the best things you can do is build your social network (and I’m not referring to your number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers). Your fellow training partners, competitors, and ultimately friends bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the pool that they’re willing and eager to share. Swim training is not a cookie cutter sport when it comes to training and most programs are pretty secretive on their training philosophies. Because of this a group of adult swimmers often have a broad spectrum of training experience that can make practices exciting and you’re likely to learn something just as valuable from a fellow swimmer as the coach on deck. Finally, one of the most interesting aspects of performing swim sets in a group is the respect and bond that forms as people struggle to complete tough sets and then share the satisfaction upon completion; in the most challenging of sets swimmers often work together taking turns leading, drafting, and consciously (or unconsciously) encourage one another to push a little harder – stretch a little further – achieve a little bit more than previously thought. If you’ve never swam in a pool with others performing the same set, I’ll tell you that it’s great motivation to keep the person in the next lane over from passing you, or trying to keep up with the person in front of you, or pull away from the swimmer behind (there’s no such thing as pulling away and out of sight in a pool).

The best friendships I’ve derived throughout my life have come from the situations previously mentioned and some of the strongest are through my college club swim team, which was as much focused on socializing as competing; you don’t have to be an elite swimmer to share these type of experiences, create these type of bonds, and learn from those with more (or less) experience. Thus, to wrap up this week’s post if you want to improve your swimming I strongly recommend getting involved with a swim team or group swim program. Whether it’s the structured workouts, tips and tricks, new ideas for sets, formal feedback, motivation, encouragement, or friendships gained I believe that that it will be well worth your efforts.
Miami Redfins Club Swim Team February 2007.

About the author:
Brett Collins is a lifelong competitive swimmer who started competing in triathlons after college. Brett is a certified U.S. Masters Swim Coach where he has coached Age Group and Master's swimmers dating back to 2004 and now is the head swim coach for triathlon focused swim programs with TZCoaching in the Chicagoland area. Follow Brett through his weekly blog at

Note from Tony – I completely agree with what Brett wrote here. Swimming in high school was one of the first team sports I ever did. I really felt a sense of teamwork, respect and camaraderie that I’ve carried with me throughout my life, and in fact is one of the reasons I wanted to give back as a coach!
The benefits of swimming with a group are big, both in terms of results and of course motivation! If you’re looking for a group swim, we will have our summer Tri-Swim program at an outdoor 50m pool in Oak Park Starting June 7.

To learn more about Tony, TZ Coaching and to sign up for the sign program: