It seems like there are two types of triathletes in the world: those for whom the swim comes easy, and those who the swim is the bane of their triathlon existence. It also seems like 97 percent of triathletes fall into the second, burdensome category. (I just found myself raising my hand for some reason.)
But fear not! I’m here to ensure you, from my own experience, that you can become a better swimmer. Eventually, but certainly. If you’re a beginner triathlete who’s weakest sport is the swim, then start with these 3 swim tips:
Use a Swim Training Focus Week
Jess and I are just coming off of a focused week of swim training. It was six days of long swim workouts with some drills and speed work mixed in. Our running and bike training took a backseat briefly as we put those on maintenance mode and really dialed it into progression with our swim distance.
I had mixed feelings as the week went about mostly not wanting to “swim again…?” but now as I look back, the payoff was huge. Specifically, I noticed two things. The main is I’m not as tanked after a long swim session like I used to be. And also my glide and breathing rhythm are locked in. That makes swimming much easily, and you can see how that attributes to the first point of expending less energy.
Make this week your swim focus week by planning a swim session for up to five days this week. Trust me, the boost in confidence and ability will be well worth it.
If you are looking to get started, check out beginner triathlete swim tips in our the Zero to Hero Swim Boot Camp.
Use Swim Drills for Triathlon Training (Ack!)
I hate drills, you hate drills, we all hate swimming drills. (Hate is a strong word, but many of us dislike and therefore tend to “accidentally” forget them.) But I and other coaches talk about using them consistently in your training because… they work!
Now drills won’t make up your entire workout, so you have a few options of when to do them during your swim. You can intersperse them throughout your workout to mix things up. Or, as I prefer, you can do them towards the beginning of a workout because you can then use the purpose of the drill (e.g., reaching and gliding technique) throughout the duration of the rest of your workout.
We have a great progression of swim drills in our triathlon video training plan.
Use Open Water (Big Tip for Beginner Triathletes)
Progression is key when getting into open water.
Taking the plunge from pool workouts to open water is not hard, although it can be intimidating at first. That’s because you won’t be able to stop and stand up or grab the side of the pool to rest.
Regardless, getting experience in open water is crucial in order to make your first triathlon more enjoyable. This is important for good reason, i.e., pool training is not as realistic as open water swimming, and will prepare you mentally and physically for your race.
Using our local lake for an example, start in this progression to make open water swimming more approachable:
- Make sure you have a solid base of swimming in the pool.
- Then, swim in shallow water at the lake so you know you could stop and stand up anytime you need to.
- Next, start from the shore, swim a short ways into the deep and then return to shore.
- Last, you’ll now be ready for longer loops into the deeper water without fear or doubt!
Soon you’ll cross the invisible bridge (or swim under it) and be able to swim forever without stopping!