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Swimming 101 With OneLittleTriGirl

First of all…hello new readers!  A few lurkers came out to say hello and I am so glad you did!  I love having you here and will be over to check out your blogs soon 🙂

Last week Heather asked me the following question: do you have any tips for tri newbies (especially in terms of swimming)?

This sparked an idea in me to do a post series about Swimming.  For those of you new to triathlon or thinking about getting into triathlon, pay attention 🙂  And for those seasons triathletes, maybe you will benefit too…especially if swimming isn’t exactly your strong point, which by the way is the case for many triathletes. 

I feel fortunate that I am a strong swimmer; I have been swimming since I was under a year old and went into the sport of triathlon with an upper hand over competitors because of that experience.  One of the best things about blogging is sharing knowledge and experience, thus Swimming 101 with OneLittleTriGirl was born 🙂 

Swimming 101*- Tips For Beginner Triathlete Swimmers

  1. Know how to swim!- This may seem obvious but having both volunteered at and participated in triathlon, I see all too often that not everyone who is in the water actually knows how to swim.  At one event where I was life-guarding, I had a guy grab my kayak and tell me he didn’t really know how to swim.  Ranking safety among everything else you must know that if you cannot swim, and you enter water, you could drown.  Last summer, I wrote a whole post on this, which you can read here.
  2. Practice open water swims- Very likely, your swim training will mostly consist of pool work.  And that is fine if you are planning on an indoor triathlon.  Otherwise, plan to spend time in the open water.  Open water consists of a lake, a bay or an ocean.  In a pool, you have the luxuries of pushing off, using the sight lines and being able to stand if tired.  Those luxuries are gone in the open water.  The open water is dark (no sight lines) and far more rough than a pool, especially in the ocean where you have to contend with waves and currents.  Additionally, in a race situation there are people all around you and you have to fight through paddling arms and kicking legs.  Try to find community OWS so that you get a real feel for race day.  And please, never swim alone
  3. Invest in good goggles- Good goggles are a must have!  And you don’t have to spend a lot of money for a quality pair as goggles are relatively on the cheap side.  Each person is different so there is no one pair that fits all; the most important things are comfort and visibility.  I have been using Finis Revolutions and I really like them because they are lightweight, stay on really well and don’t leak.  I have not personally tried others but I have heard good things about TYR, Aquasphere and Speedo as well.  I am thinking about buying a pair of Aquaphere Kaiman’s for this season because I am interested in trying out the smoke lens.  I’ll review them once I try them and get back to you.  Swimmers: Do you have a favorite pair of goggles to recommend?
  4. Learn to breath bilaterally- This is the most efficient way of breathing during a swim.  It is easy to get in the habit of only breathing on one side, but breathing bilaterally will help you balance your stroke.  Additionally, looking left and right in the open water will help you see better where you are and keep in line with the swim path.  As an added bonus, bilateral breathing eliminates stress on both your shoulders and hips.  I was a one-sided breather for a long time and it was tough to break the habit, but once I did my swimming improved greatly.  Learn this way so you don’t have to re-teach yourself later!
  5. Wear a wetsuit- Before I get into this, I have to admit, I have never used a wetsuit before.  In fact, I just got my first one in the mail today!!  (It was a Christmas gift-thanks Mom and Dad!)  I never felt I needed one because I am confident and unafraid with my swimming; I got one because I do not have a desire to swim in freezing water without protection and I have a race in May when the water will be brrrr cold.  And that is just one good reason to get a wetsuit.  For beginners, a wetsuit can act as somewhat of a safety net because they will keep you boyant and you can easily float if necessary.  Furthermore, because of the added boyancy, they also make you faster which I am very much looking forward to! 

Hope this helps!

*Stay tuned for Part 2 of Swimming 101 which will include sample pool workouts, swim drills and a FAQ. 

Any other Tri-newbs out there?  If so, feel free to ask any questions and I will include them as part of the FAQ.

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18 thoughts on “Swimming 101 With OneLittleTriGirl

  1. heh thank you for the swimming 101. i jsut don’t think i’ll ever be able to be a good swimmer. but maybe i should put a Tri on my life list just in case???? i could prolly doggy paddle my way thru it if need be.

    6.5 miles dedicated to you in my track workout today!!! it was a doozy, too, and i’ll post it (and dedicate it hehe) tomorrow 🙂

  2. Love your swimming advice. While I think I am a pretty confident swimmer (I swam in college), I am not comfortable in open water and get a little freakish about this. Open water here in CO is very limited and short-seasoned but there is a club that does this once a week in July and Aug so I am going to try to join them a time or two so I get more comfortable. I do swim bilaterally so at least I’m off to somewhat of a start. Now if I could just learn to ride a bike I’d be all set :). Thanks!!

  3. Despite being a lifeguard for about 5 years, swimming isn’t exactly my thing. I have difficulty with the breathing and not having air readily available to me (like in running). When I do swim though, I breath bilaterally. It’s just easier for me. That all being said- I did a triathlon once. It was in March (In Northern VA) and they had the race backwards so we weren’t biking/running while all wet. Trying to swim after the run and bike was difficult for me. Going from the cold/rainy outside to the too warm inside was intense! Also, so much for being able to stand in the pool- the shallowest part was 6 feet (and I forgot and immediately inhaled water as I sank to the bottom upon entry). Anyway, I struggled with the swim big time but I finished the race. I am planning to do another tri at some point but I want to swim first and swim in open water. I’m not a fan of the pool.

  4. Hi Jill,
    I suck at swimming! I wish I could get into the water and put my head under and swim strong and confident. Sadly, I get panic attacks and have a fear of drowning:( I do have a hell of a dog paddle though:) You have some great tips…thanks for sharing!

  5. Great post, girl! Well said. When I started swimming again a few years ago that I knew I needed to breathe bilaterally and it was the best thing I did from the start.

    I wear Speedo goggles (don’t know specifics) but realized I couldn’t find that particular style when I went to get a new pair the other week… don’t know what I will do. 🙂

    I am also looking for a new swim cap. Mine ripped – as it was very old – and I replaced it with a silicone TYR one and I don’t like it at all. It’s so hard to get on! Any suggestions?

    I look forward to trying some OWS with a group this summer!

  6. I’d like to do a Tri someday, but am a lousy swimmer..so thanks! Maybe once I’m done with my running goals (a full 26.2 maybe next year), I’ll set my sights on a Tri.
    btw – its small i know, but if you’re still taking I’ve got 2.5miles of tempo from yesterday

  7. hey, i’m worried i won’t be able to pick you out of the crowd at shamrock!!! i’m starting with the 3:40 group so *hopefully* i’ll be finishing around then.

  8. Thanks for the post! 🙂 Those are great tips. I don’t feel like I can justify investing in a wet suit without having done at least a couple of tris first to make sure I will stick with it. I bought a pair of speedo goggles at Shopko for $15 and they have been working out pretty well so far (you know, for the whole week I have been swimming!).

  9. As a child I loved to swim and was very good at it too but since I was a teenager I didn’t like it very much anymore.

    Thank you for your kind words on my blog. It means a lot to me.

  10. this will be my first season doing a tri (2 of them)

    i just learned how to swim, i took swimming lessons and things are progress much better than i thought. i think i am no longer a newbie, at least not in the pool. we have to wait a bit for open water swims (I live in NH) anyway, most of the plans I am looking at for the newbies are much to “easy” for me now. I can swim more than 200 yards at once (I come from a running background so that’s way off as well) can you give me some advice on a training plans and swim drills? i am part of a tri club and everyone has been so helpful and supportive. I appreciate your advice and the time you take to spread the good word about swimming 🙂

  11. Pingback: More Swimming 101… « Finishing is Winning

  12. Pingback: Swimming 101- Questions Answered « Finishing is Winning

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