Monday, February 1, 2016

Ten Things I Wish I Knew About Triathlon Swimming

by Sue Aquila

In business, I have learned when I need a skill I don’t have, like programming, the best course of action for me is to outsource it to someone great. In triathlon, I wish I could outsource my swimming to someone who swims well... or even someone who swims only okay.

Seven years into the sport and I am still working hard on being a better swimmer. Here are my tips I wish I had known when I started long course training.

  1. Breathe every stroke - Practice bilateral breathing for anything easy or steady in the water. Fast stuff requires more oxygen. Learn to breathe every stroke and other non-traditional variations (2/1, 3/1, etc.). You will be happy to have options on days with rough conditions.

  2. Flip turn - Yes, you need to learn it. Breath control out of it is the key. Don’t blast out your air as you flip. Let it trickle out of your nose and mouth. You will enjoy coming off the wall without gasping for the first mouthful of air.

  3. Cadence - Like running, cadence is everything. The older you are, the more likely it is that your arms turn over too slowly. Insert pull buoy and make those arms turn fast. Purchase a swim metronome to really focus on turnover.

  4. Strength - If you haven’t swam your whole life, you lack the muscle development to swim well. Triathlon swimming is strength swimming. Equipment is the key to getting stronger.

  5. Toys - You should have a bag of tricks. Paddles for strength, paddles for technique, pull buoys (big and small), fins, fabric band and a snorkel.

  6. Kick - Triathletes kick! At the least, we kick slightly for stroke symmetry, balance and body roll. At the most, we kick steadily for the win.

  7. Swim lots -I love competing against people who think they only need to swim train in season. Out of season I swim lots of meters: long, hard, and everything in between. Being swim fit now allows me to elevate my bike and run fitness later.

  8. Choke - Want to reduce race anxiety? Work through uncomfortable moments in the pool. If you are choking, keep swimming. If your goggle fills up with water, keep swimming. If the eight foot tall obese breast stroker in your lane kicks you with his uncut toenail, keep swimming.

  9. Get uncomfortable - Swim so hard you can barely breathe. Do a set in a really cold pool. Complete your easy swim in the hot pool. Challenge your brain and body to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

  10. Eat - Practice taking in a gel before your swim to prep your stomach for race day. Long, hard swims burn calories. On a day with double or triple workouts, keep your glycogen topped off with some carbs/calories.

My final bit of advice? There are no absolutes. One triathlete will tell you that the only way to improve is by joining a Masters swim team. Another will tell you that you have to do all your swimming solo. Try everything and never do one thing all the time. We improve in a second here and a second there. You have to fight for every one of those seconds.

Still fighting…

Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a Kona qualifier. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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