Wow, the weeks are sneaking up on us now! Seems we are already at the dreaded time trial week!

It’s kind of funny…we don’t use time trials for anyone to have to qualify for anything, we don’t publicize the result or compare anyone’s performance, but it seems there is definitely something quite confronting about the pressure of swimming against the clock. I think I heard one quote along the lines of: “I know I swim slow, I don’t know why I need to do a time trial to prove it!”

Well, the thing is, they were exactly right. The time trials are absolutely not about proving anything. What they are, however, is a useful tool.

In this level of swimming, there are a couple of things we get out of running a time trial.

  1.  Benchmarking. It feels tough now, but when you do your next time trial and see how far you’ve come, it’s a real confidence boost and helps people really believe that they are going to manage their swimming goals and goal races.
  2. Lane ranking. Lane etiquette is hard enough to figure out without people having to guess what order they should swim in. A a general rule, in a pool lane (unless it’s for a specific drill or set that calls for something different) the fastest swimmer leads off. It minimizes overtaking (always fraught with danger!) and seems to work using a kind of telescoping effect. A time trial gives people a realistic idea of the order they should be swimming, as most people tend to underestimate their abilities….apart from the odd macho man who has issues swimming behind faster women…but that’s a controversial topic I should probably explore later. Luckily I didn’t see any of those shenanigans on Wednesday.
  3. Pacing, pacing, pacing. Ideally, we tend to swim faster if we start out slower than average, swim at our average page most of the race (or training set, or time trial) and then finish hard with whatever energy you didn’t burn up by going too hard at the start to maintain. In order to do that, you kind of need to know what your pace is and what it feels like. A time trial lets you work out what you should be doing, and if you’re doing them regularly when you should increase your pace. At 4SEASons we use time trials to figure out a 100m pace for drills and sets ALL. THE. TIME.
  4. Building up distance, and fitness overall. We did a 500m trial for the shorter distance swimmers, and 1km for the longer distances. That’s not a bad effort for anyone!
  5. Building up a swimmer’s confidence in being able to swim that distance. For some people on Wednesday, they had not swum that distance in years. Or ever. I know I’m talking about confidence again, but ocean swimming (like many sports, I imagine) is very much psychological, and confidence is a big part of it.

 So look at that, will you? 5 excellent reasons for doing a time trial…and not one of them really scary after all!