The swim is the first section (or leg) of the triathlon race. For many of us, the swim is often the most challenging part of the race, and for new triathletes this is certainly the case.
Tips For Swimming in a Triathlon
If you are new to swimming and are not particularly confident in the water, particularly swimming in open water (lake, river, etc.), than I would highly recommend consulting your local swimming club and enquire about swimming lessons. If you do not have a local swimming club there are many valuable resources on the internet that can aid you in correct swimming technique.
Swimming is a very technical sport, so any improvement in technique can take minutes off your swim time. And as a great side benefit, with correct technique you will be able to swim faster and further using less energy, which will greatly benefit the remainder of your race.
If you are a new swimmer, the key is to start your training slowly.
By this I mean, start with short distances and have adequate recovery between distances. My thoughts are that it is much better to begin your swim training with small amounts than to overdo it and risk an over-use injury.
The great thing about swimming is that in a very short time, just two to three weeks, you will be more comfortable in the water and be more confident with swimming.
If you are a beginner at swimming, start your training in a pool that allows you to touch the bottom if you become too tired. Your goal is to slowly increase your distance without taking a break.
Each week you want to increase your swim distance by approximately 10%.
Continue to do this every week until you are swimming at least 10% further than the actual race that you are training for. So, if the swim length in your upcoming triathlon race is 500m, your target swim distance without stopping during training needs to be at least 550m.
A common mistake that many triathletes make is that their entire swim workouts involve swimming up and down the length of the pool at a constant pace until their allocated distance for that session is completed. Their session does not include any strength & conditioning work, no technique work and no interval training (speed training with recovery).
You need to ensure that your swim training sessions include strength & conditioning, technique and interval training elements. Including these elements in your swim training will assist you in becoming a more competent and competitive swimmer. If you are not sure what you should be doing consult a local swim coach.
Once you can comfortably swim your upcoming race distance plus 10% in a pool, I would highly recommend that you get some practice swimming in open water (if the race that you are going to complete in is held in open water). You want to find water that is similar to the water that you will be swimming on race day. This will give you a feel for swimming in open water and you will be more prepared for your race.
One of the main benefits of performing open water swim training is that you get used to having to navigate your way across the water. In an open water swim there is no black line to follow on the bottom (like that of a pool), often you cannot see the bottom. The more you can practice this the easier you will find the swim come race day.