Experienced cyclist and runner here. I am thinking about signing up for a triathlon. I don’t have an event or distance in mind. Just getting started with training. Any good advice on where to start with swimming and/or good resources? I know how to not drown, but surely my form is far from ideal. Any specific form drills that I should be doing? It would seem like a good idea to work on form before I really start doing any intervals/structured training.
Total Immersion book is a good beginner resource. You’ll end up being an “over-glider” but that’s actually pretty easily correctable IMO, at least relative to many other technique flaws. It goes through key drills and gives good swim sets to get you started on developing clean technique.
If you have the budget for it get a swim analysis day one. A good coach can help refine what you think swimming should feel like and what it should truly feel like.
I didn’t take my own advice and splashed around for 6+ months. Huge mistake on my part. I now swim faster at a way lower RPE. With swimming form is everything you can’t push the water harder.
It’s hard to know without any idea where you are swimming. If it takes you 2ish minutes or less to swim 100 yards/meters, I would recommend just as a start the effortless swimming 5 day catch challenge. That should at least put you on the right path with the most important part.
If it’s more like 3 minutes, I would recommend a lesson. There are probably a handful of things you can change relatively easily to save a lot of time on that journey.
Swimming is weird. There are a ton of terms/concepts that you can sort of understand in theory but not have any idea what they really mean until one day they click. And the technique/fitness binary is false, they’re completely inseparable.
See if any of your local pools have a masters squad, it will have swimmers with a wide range of abilities, from pure swimmers to new triathletes. Often times has a deck coach and groups to do drills and technique stuff with.
My other piece of advice would be “start decades earlier”….but since that is impractical, get some analysis done immediately.
And use baby shampoo on the inside of your goggles….they’ll never fog. Don’t screw around with other anti-fog stuff. They don’t work, IME.
As an ex - triathlete what you really need is a time machine which takes you back to when you were 8 - join a swim club before you develop all the bad habits of uncoached swimming! …joking aside masters coaching is a must - join a good program or tri club with a coach. Unlike bike/run you can’t see what you are doing so weekly feedback (if only for one session) is essential. I went to a one day coached session 30 years ago with a pro athlete and ex Olympic swimmer we were filmed above and below the water…I got to keep the footage with the tips…I thought my god - some idiots nicked my swimming trunks and is swimming like an arse! - nope it was me …that said the ONE day tips knocked my 1km time down from 17mins to 15mins in 2 months as I implemented the advice given. Also I always swam in the fast lane with out tri club back in the day - hanging on the back Saturday mornings - it’s like a chain gang - you get a kicking but you improve!
Thanks! I will be investigating that. I think there are some available.
Yeah, I have no idea on any of those times. I think you’re spot on about getting in a pool and swimming consistently first.
Agree with the above. I would invest the time and money for some one-on-one coaching (esp someone familiar with triathlon swimming/open water swimming, which is a very different beast than pool swimming), and do some filming (esp underwater, which is where the magic happens). Once you’re comfortable with your form, and have some good drills to do, join a masters team. Good luck!
This is the best things ive seen to help remote athletes with swimming. Very much worth it, IMO
Yes, budget dependent, getting someone dedicated to teaching you how to swim is going to be the best. Problem is, those kinds of coaches are often very expensive for 1:1 technique sessions. As a coach, I personally wouldn’t do a video session for someone who is just learning a stroke because there would be overwhelming information for the athlete, and also because swimming isn’t my specific area of expertise, BUT dedicated sessions with a swim coach would be the Cadillac offering… just depends on how much you want to spend.
A lot of learning a powerful, efficient swim stroke is going to be done on your own by developing your feel for the water and consistent drilling on your form limiters. A coach would be a great resource in identifying those form limiters.
SwimSmooth has other good online resources. I am not familiar with the utility of their new app, but it might be worth checking out once you have the basics dialed in.
Way back almost 20 years ago when I got into triathlon with nothing but childhood swim lessons to fall back on, the Total Immersion books worked for me. I was a much more efficient swimmer immediately, but my stroke rate was low and my catch-pull not particularly powerful. Swim Smooth technique drills coupled with a Finis tempo trainer got my stroke rate up and my swim times came down precipitously without incurring more fatigue. That combination was extremely effective for making me a much, much better swimmer (though it will never be the strongest of my three legs).
On this point, it seems counter intuitive but no. Getting in the pool and “just swimming” is the first mistake everyone makes. Form - whatever form you have - falls apart as you get tired. Short intervals allow you to practice your best form at any level.
Echo what everyone else said, talk to a few coaches, join a tri club or group swim session.
I took this approach when I started swimming/triathlon a few years ago and it worked out well.
Started with very poor form/struggling to stay afloat and put together multiple lengths. Did some of the stationary drills at beginning of the total immersion book and watched some youtube videos, worked on balance in the water/body position and the basic elements of the stroke.
I am by no means a fast swimmer now, but am very relaxed in open water, can hang with the midpack through the swim, and carry minimal fatigue onto the bike. I’d certainly benefit from some formal coaching to get faster or do longer distance events, but for the past couple of years I’ve done 1-2 short course races/year without much swim training beforehand.
If you have a friend that is a good swimmer ask/bribe them if they’d go to the pool a few times to watch you swim. I’ve done that a handful of times (as the ‘good’ swimmer, I was an ok distance swimmer in HS but nothing special).
I would thoroughly recommend Swimsmooth. Following their outline, I went from swimming a length or two to being a good swimmer for triathlon. Their suggested drills (and the forum) was instrumental in that. Its very hard to offer advice without knowing what distance you want to swim, what level you are at, what technique issues you might have… Video analysis is very helpful in this regard.
Swimming speed is hugely technique dependent, as others have said above. Work on one or two aspects of your technique at a time; work on them for 6 sessions or there abouts, then move on to other aspects. Work on technique every session - even when you are “just swimming” or doing intervals. Almost all good swimmers I know build drills into every session.
Yeah I would also advise to work on max 2 things at a time, the problem really is that most will need outside analysis to check if they are doing it correctly, because a lot of stuff can feel totally wrong when you start it, like getting the Entry wide enough or having stable legs…
I would also add that getting into the pool often even if it is only for short sessions is important, getting a “feel” for the water only develops with regular swimming as often as possible…
I would also recommend some mobility work for shoulders and ankles especially if you come from Cycling or running.