Swim Training For Your First Triathlon

by Pool Builders on 04-03-2009 in Articles

Swimming is always one of the most intimidating legs of a triathlon for beginners. This is usually because we feel more comfortable having grown up riding bikes and running around our neighborhood as kids. Swimming was much more limited to warm weather and for most of us not something we did competitively. Because of this swimming seems to be the biggest obstacle and something that needs to be focused on during training. There are certain things you can work on to help overcome any fear of the swim portion of the triathlon.

First, get comfortable in the water. Swim, swim, and swim. There is no way around this, you will have to learn to be more comfortable in the water and the only way to feel more comfortable is to spend more time in the water. Find as many ways possible to incorporate more time in the pool, this will pay huge dividends in the end.

Along with spending more time in the water, it is also important to know how to train for your swim. To get the most out of your workouts it is important to understand where you need to have your focus and what to work on.

Swimming style is certainly a matter of preference but it in general the freestyle will be your best bet to cover the distance in a timely manner. It is certainly fine and even advisable to combine different strokes if need be to get through the course. For now let's focus on freestyle.

One of the biggest tips I received when I started my training for triathlons was called "the ladder". The ladder essentially means pretending you are climbing a ladder when you are swimming freestyle in the pool. This will help you in your reach as well as your down stroke. The biggest key here is efficiency. This means traveling the greatest distance with the least effort. Reach as high as you can for that next rung and pull yourself up the ladder. Remember when you climb a ladder you are also keeping your body close to the ladder. This will help you keep your elbows high as you pull through the water. This brings your forearms into play and allows for a stronger pull. Your hand should come out of the water around your hips to begin the next stroke. Many people tend to pull through the water with their arms fully extended resulting in an inefficient stroke. This will put undue stress and strain primarily on your lats which are extremely important in your swim.

Working on breathing technique is also important during swim training. This is usually a matter of comfort and working on becoming more efficient on what you have been doing for years. If you want to become competitive in this sport then this is one area that will need to be focused on will probably result in some big changes in what you do now to become more efficient. As for now, work on being able to stay as relaxed as possible and breathing as deep as possible. Being the first leg in the race (usually), it is important to keep the heart rate down as much as possible to save energy for the remaining two legs. The heart rate will already be increased through excitement, nerves, adrenaline and swimming. Don't let short quick breathing add to this. Instead focus on long slow deep breaths to help control the heart rate. I know this is much easier said than done but at least keep this in mind while you are training.

Just try to remember to be as streamlined as possible and pull yourself up that ladder while controlling your breathing. Use these as general rules and work on tweaking some of the smaller aspects of your swim stroke to decrease your drag in the water. It is impossible to go over all the points in a swim stroke without one on one onsite coaching, but this will give you something to work on during your early tri training.

And as a last thought, there will be plenty of help in small boats or canoes on the course. They will not let anything Happen to you and are trained to spot swimmers in need of assistance. You have enough to worry about in your training; the fear of any harm does not need to be a concern. Now stop finding excuses and get in the pool. Happy training.

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