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    • Dr. Pat McSweeney PT, DPT

    “I want to do a triathlon, but I don’t know if I could do the swim” Top tips for beginner swimmers

    Updated: Jan 8



    As I talk with more and more beginner triathletes and those who are considering taking the plunge (Pun intended) into triathlon, a consistent theme/fear continues to come up,


    “I’m worried about the swim”.

    This is probably one of the biggest things that stands in the way of many people completing their first triathlon.


    This is totally understandable considering that most people do not come from a swimming background and probably haven’t spent much time in the water. Plus the horror stories of “the washing machine” (metaphor for a mass start in a triathlon swim) probably don’t help people’s confidence all that much. While it can definitely be unsettling, with some practice and skill development, you can go from huffing and puffing after 25 yds to completing your first triathlon (potentially still huffing and puffing afterwards).


    Here are some helpful tips to get started/improve your performance in the water.


    1. Get in the water more frequently.


    Breaking your weekly sessions into 3 to 4 15-30 minute swims throughout the week is more effective than 1-2 45-60 minute sessions. This is especially true when you are first starting out, or trying to improve your swim times. Swimming is largely a skill based sport (IE: Building a large base of fitness and trying to grind it out will not get you to where you want to go). Because of this, consistency and repetition are key. Getting in the water more frequently will help to reinforce the skills and patterns that are required to give you long lasting benefits. An added bonus is gaining confidence and comfort within the water itself. There is no replacement for an increase in some aquatic self-assurance come race day.


    2. Focus on skill development, first.


    This goes along with number 1, but swimming is all about maximizing efficiency. Because of the drag of the water, any wasted movement is magnified and makes you have to work that much harder. Early on, this may mean swimming one lap at a time focusing on one piece of your stroke until it feels comfortable. This is totally fine. Psychomotor skills take time and repetition. From your body position, to breathing, to the catch of your stroke, the more efficient you are at each of these, the faster you’ll get.



    3. Good body position starts with your head.


    This sounds funny but head position is critical in what the rest of your body is doing, especially your lower body. Your head and hips have an inverse relationship. This means if you are looking ahead to the wall, your hips and legs are most likely sinking/dragging along. A good way to correct this is to use a pull buoy and focus on looking ~1-2 feet in front of you on the bottom of the pool. This should put your head in line with the rest of your body. The second piece to this is keeping your head as still as you can throughout your swim stroke (Minus when you are breathing of course, that is important). This will help efficiency and reduce unnecessary drag.





    While there are a lot of complexities to swimming, getting the basics down well will help take you pretty far. If you focus on these 3 things, you’ll be on your way to improving your swimming in no time.





    Whether you want to cross the finish line for the first time or you are looking to set a new personal best, we are here to help. For more information on how you can reach the starting line of your next race healthier and fitter than ever, email pmcsweeney@pro-activity.com or message us directly on Instagram @pro-activity_ohio.





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