Couch to TrainerRoad Sprint Tri plan...how do you get there?

Ok so my partner has joined the local women’s cycling team…which also does a lot of triathlon. She signed up for her first ever tri a few weeks ago and asked if I’d like to do it too.

Who? Me?

So 3 days before the event we decided maybe we should get in a pool and figure out if we can even swim…like at all…we went to Target and bought a couple pair of goggles and headed to the pool. Now don’t get me wrong…I can float around in a pool, but in my nearly 46 years of existence I can count on one hand the number of laps of a pool I’ve done…before this event anyway.

So I did it, I was literally dizzy getting out of the pool and of course was being passed by almost everyone. Bike went A LOT better and I got the 2nd fastest time on the bike leg (so there’s that) and then on the run a course marshal gave me bad directions and I ran an extra mile…not cool bro…not cool.

In the end it was kind of fun and I think I want to do it again. Partner had a good time and wants to do more of them for sure. Ok…NOW we need to be able to do all of these sports. So I set up the TR Sprint Tri low volume plan and last night we set out to do the first workout. It is REALLY clear that neither of us is in the proper swimming shape to do even the first workout properly, which brings me to my questions:

  1. How do you get from pool lounge chair watching your kids on the diving board to the first TR Sprint Tri workout?
  2. If you’ve never swam laps before, how do you best build to the point where you can do an “easy 250m cool down” and your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest?
  3. Also…any way to get TR to import my runs and swims too or are those all just manual entry?

No, there is no automatic way to import runs or swims right now. It is planned, but low on the priority list.

  • Manual is required and will be for the foreseeable future.

Welcome to the dark side!

Easy thing first: swims and runs are manual entry unless you’ve loaded a plan and then you can just tick the “completed” box on the auto-entry.

As for swimming, I’d say the key is to get some swimming lessons. I struggled trying to swim by myself for the longest time and tried stuff like http://ruthkazez.com/Zeroto1milePreamble/pre-zero.html with very little success. Until you have your technique sorted out, putting any sort of distance in is exhausting and frustrating.

Once my technique improved AND I put the time in, swimming became much more enjoyable and workouts are now productive!

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By getting off the chair and starting to do the sports.

This takes time. You have to build the endurance for swimming. Lots of information on how to get there. The short answer is “Swim more”. I was able to do 100 mile rides at a decent clip without issue but the first time I swam I struggled with 25 yards. Look for a Master’s swim group near you. Preferably with a coach on deck. Look into swim lessons. Technique goes a LONG way in the water.

Good job on the tri.

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How to learn to swim from best to worse.

Hire a coach to teach you. The one on one time is obviously the best but probably the most expensive option. To save some money you could hire them for a few sessions to get you going and then just as needed after.

Join a Masters swim team. Your experience with a masters program might vary based on the team but if the team is good there will be people there to help you.

Ask a friend who knows how to swim teach you. Depending on how experienced your friend is this can be an effective and cost saving option if they are willing to help.

Watch youtube videos. I don’t have any experience with these so I can’t recommend any but I know there are lots of them.

Unfortunately TR does not import runs or swims just bike rides. I have heard them mention that is something they would like to do in the future but they dont have any kind of timeline. As a triathlete I know this is something I would like to see.

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Zero to 1 mile would be a good start for swimming. Like you, I had never done any swim training in my life when I decided to sign up for some triathlons. It took me about 6 weeks, 3 swims a week, to get to swimming a mile nonstop. From there I started using some free workouts from swimplan.com. I’ve never followed the TR swim plans. Take some video of each other and post on slowtwitch or the swimming subreddit for some form checks. That helped me a lot.

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I taught myself to swim laps after knee surgery five years ago. It was kind of awful at the start and honestly took a lot longer than it should’ve because I was stubborn and didn’t join a club or hire a coach - don’t be an introvert like I am and go do one of those things.

If you really want to do it on your own the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to slow down - like really slow - and figure out how to breathe. Once you can go from one end to the other without feeling out of breath you can figure out bit by bit how to go faster and modify your breathing to account for it.

Finding the rythym of your stroke and the air in and air out is probably the first major hurdle among many - but once you get that the rest seems kind of natural.

Still - don’t be as introverted and afraid of admitting you need help as I was/am - get a coach, join a club. It’ll go better

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+1 to this! If you can’t swim a significant distance at your speed, go slower. Go as slow as you possibly can while still swimming if you need to. Lessons are very worthwhile as well - one of my local colleges offers group swim lessons for adults for ~$20/session.

I would suggest working your way up to a masters program and vetting it first. This will ensure you have a good experience and know what to expect. Some are pretty competitive and some have no structure. I would also suggest joining a TRI team and asking people where they swim. Most triathletes are poor swimmers and will have some good locations/times. You will also have a million questions and they will help answer them and should have some clinics that are amazing for newbies. I went to all of them my first year to meet people and learn.

Thanks for all the feedback guys. It’s clear that the top suggestion is to take some lessons so we are going to do that. I called a friend who is a strong triathlete and asked him if there was a coach/instructor in town he’d suggest and he gave me a name that we will follow up with.

Regarding a masters team…I’m pretty sure there isn’t one but I could be wrong. I live in the middle of PA and while PSU is right here there’s pretty much nothing else around other than cows. Makes for great riding of all sorts…but competitions are hours away. My partner drove nearly 2 hours on Sunday to do a road race that didn’t have any course marshals, timing chips or a route that anyone other than the organizer knew before the race started. That’s the crap we are dealing with out here. I think we may join the local YMCA so that we can swim over the winter.

So to change it up a bit…I went out at lunch and did the first run workout. I’m amazed how much easier it is compared to the first swimming workout. Run 25 min at endurance pace. Walk 1 min if you have to…try to run at least 5 min between walks. I was able to run for 16 min before taking a quick 50 second walk and then I ran the rest. Mind you I’ve only run 3 other times this year, an organized 5k that I walked at least 50% of, the tri I did and a 5k on Zwift on my treadmill. between those two. So I’m no runner either. Ok bring on those bike workouts. lol

Make sure you practice the swim and running and focus less on biking if that is already your strong suit. I did my first sprint last year with about 5 weeks tri training after my major cycling rides, and I finished (not pretty result, but I finished without stopping, which was my goal). I swam a bit in HS, but that was 20+ years ago, and I had a similar experience as @dprimm my first time in the pool (could bike 100+ miles no issue, but struggled and was winded my first time in the pool after 1-2 laps).

The other thing to keep in mind is open water swimming, which is COMPLETELY different from a pool. I can’t stress this enough. You can’t see more than 12 inches under water, there are waves, other swimmers, and so forth, and this plays games with your psychology. Also, if you’re wearing a wetsuit, I recommend at least one swim with it on to get used to the feeling. I did my first open water swim on triathlon day with a wetsuit (never wore one before), and I was panicked about 100m from the start line. Waves hitting your face, the wetsuit compressing your chest, no ability to see the bottom of the pool (lake), other swimmers. I absolutely panicked. I thought “no way my HR can be in the danger zone”, so I flipped on my back and checked… and sure enough it was fine (120 BPM), but I was so out of sorts that I finished the remaining 300m+ on my back (backstroke).

Ok maybe I should be clear here…I’m not giving up my socks and I have no illusions that I’m ever going to do an Ironman. This is a just for fun, help me lose some weight sort of endeavor here. I’m a cyclist not a triathlete. But…I do want to be able to feel like I actually did it…I was pretty pissed after the one I did at the course marshal as I knew my bike split was good given the number of people I passed (8) vs the number that passed me (1 but I passed him back…his time was still faster though and he didn’t run an extra mile).

And right…100mi on a bike is a good long ride but I could go out and do it tomorrow if I didn’t have to work. Heck if the weather plays nice maybe I knock out a century on the 4th. But like you @gb78 and @dprimm those first couple of times in the pool were something else. 50 yards and I was cooked.