Triathlon Swim Basics

If you have already decided to train for your first triathlon or you are still tire-kicking the idea, here are a list of links that will get you to through the basics. Remember, it takes 6-9 months to prepare for your first triathlon, so you have to plan ahead!

Quick-Click tips for beginner triathletes preparing for their first mini-triathlon or seasoned triathletes looking for new resources:

Triathlon Swim Basics:

The swim is probably the toughest leg of the triathlon. Following the suggestions below will give you the basics on training and swim gear as well as tips on how to be successful on race day.

  • Practice Distance: Most triathletes have the toughest time with swimming and they get in a bit over their head. Be sure you can swim at least 100 yards further than the distance of your race before you participate in your first triathlon. Group swimming is very different than lane swimming and open water has currents, waves and no lines on the ground to follow; so you end up swimming further than you think.
  • Stroke Efficiency: It is a proven fact that the swimmer with the lesser amount of arm strokes is more efficient, swims faster and has more left over energy for the rest of the triathlon. If you make a lot of splash and find yourself taking an extraordinary amount of strokes from one end of the pool to the other while practicing, consider working with a coach to learn techniques on elongating your stroke and making it more efficient. There is a fantastic book and video that can also help: Total Immersion Swimming: Perpetual Motion Freestyle in Ten Lessons. It will be the best move you’ve ever made, and it will make the swim much more enjoyable!
  • Drafting:It is proven that you can cover a greater distance with less effort by drafting off of another swimmer. Drafting is when there is a swimmer directly in front of you or ahead of you slightly to the left or right. You get as close as you can get to them. They swim hard, breaking the way, while you swim easily in their wake. If you draft correctly, you will have a extra energy to use on the bike or run.
  • Safety: Never swim alone while training. It is dangerous and no one will be able to help you if you become disabled. If you are training in the ocean or lake, train with a buddy. If you are in a pool, be sure there is a lifeguard or buddy on the deck keeping an eye out for you. On the day of the race, if you are not 100% confident in your swimming skills, ask the registration people for a “Novice Swim Cap”. This swim cap is a different color than the rest and will distinguish you while you are swimming. Specifically, the lifeguards will keep a special eye on you.
  • Best Beginner Training Advice: Do not start with a workout that is too hard or you will be disappointed at the end of every practice — you should feel a sense of accomplishment, not discouragement. See Triathlon Training Resource Guides for training guides.
  • Brick Training: Brick training is incorporating two disciplines in one workout. For instance, you complete a swim workout and immediately start a bike workout. Learn why this will prepare you both mentally and physically for your race.
  • Avoid Bad Posture: Be sure that your body is aligned properly. Think of yourself as a see-saw. Your back should be relaxed, but straight from head to toe. The front end should be slightly lower than the back end, giving you the feeling of swimming slightly downhill. In addition, your shoulders should not be concave or arched in any way; they should be comfortably lined up with each other.
  • Terrain: You can focus your training in whatever body of water is available to you (pool, lake, pond, etc…) BUT plan on partially training in the body of water in which the the event is being held or you will have a big surprise on race day. Again, pool training is very different than ocean training!
  • Stretching, Cramps and Fatigue: Stretch out a bit before you get into the pool, do a short warm up and then do a second round of stretching. Loose, warm muscles respond much better to exercise than those that have been sitting stiffly behind a computer all day. The main reason for cramps, headaches and general fatigue while you’re training is normally dehydration, so drink lots of water. If you’re still feeling bad after you’ve re hydrated and got some rest, check with your doctor.
  • Music: Believe it or not, there an waterproof mp3 player that you can listen to while you’re training. Just remember, don’t listen to it while you are competing.
  • Sunscreen is a must! Apply this to your face and body before your training or event to prevent a sunburn. The sunblock we recommend won’t make your face break out!
  • H2O: Did you know about 80% of your body is made of water? When you work out, you sweat out some of that much-needed water, which is why it is so important to keep a water bottle or a sports drink available either during or after your swim. The difference between water and sports drinks is that sports drinks have sugar, salt, carbs and electrolytes. Nothing will ever replace water, but sometimes an added sports drink is the key after a huge workout.

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