The swim is often the barrier to triathlon. I know this is true because I myself hesitated to even attempt a triathlon because I wasn't a swimmer. Well, I hadn't swam competitively since middle school. I was content to run and ride the bike and be happy. One day though, I was out riding with a triathlon coach who noted my speed on the bike and while we were running. He asked me why I haven't tried a triathlon yet and I simply said that I don't swim. After MUCH convincing I found myself in the pool at the YMCA that following Monday morning. I had no clue what I was doing. It had been so long since I swam competitively.
The first thing I did was get with the high school swim coach. A girlfriend and I paid him for 3 lessons for the two of us. SO. WORTH. IT.
He watched us swim a few hundred yards and critiqued our stroke. He showed us how to be more efficient in the water with things like head position, high elbow, and shoulder rotation. Honestly it was the BEST money I had spent in a while.
From there I became more curious about how to be an even better swimmer, so I watched videos, lots of them. I watched other swimmers and noted how the most successful swimmers did things in their races. My stroke became better and better and my comfort level in the water increased over the next few years. I ended up winning my first triathlon and it was amazing ever since.
That being said, I do have a few tips for you if you are looking to improve your swim and get faster in the water.
First of all, you have to SWIM OFTEN. I started out thinking that once a week was good enough for a Sprint Triathlon. WRONG. It takes 2-3 swims a week done consistently leading up to a race to have a great swim. The more you can get in the water the better. If you have the demands of a full time job, family, kids activities, the best thing to do is swim EARLY in the morning before anything can take it away from you.
Second, if you have access to a Master's Swim group take advantage of this. Trust me it is game changing for your swim. You will push harder when there is a coach pacing up and down the pool deck watching. Also, most of the workouts at a Master's swim are written down and have a distinct purpose. Attending these REGULARLY will help your swim tremendously. Ask the coach of the group for a few private lessons if he/she is willing to do that with you. Like I said above a good coach is well worth the investment.
Third, include a speed workout at least once a week. If you want to get FAST then you have to practice swimming FAST. This can be shorter distances (50's) or a little longer (100's) but the idea is to push yourself.
Fourth, practice drills in every single practice. I know they can be boring at times but the majority of swimmers have a technical issue with their FORM that holds them back from rocking their swim. Efficiency in the water creates speed, and you become more efficient by practicing good swim form. Some of my favorites include hip rotation drill, fingertip drag drill, and catch up drill just to name a few.
Lastly, get out in open water (or pool) and practice the swim distance for your race. If the swim is a ZIG ZAG, try to get to the pool when it's not crowded and practice zig zagging and flip turning under the ropes. If the open water seems scary, then get to a lake with a few other swimmers and practice! Wear your wetsuit and practice getting it off and on as well. You will ease your fears once you actually face them. (Check out my other blog post on how to make a big scary swim not so scary.) Have you downloaded my free Complete Guide to Iron Distance Swim? Click HERE to get it!
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