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Training For Your First Triathlon Swim

Training For Your First Triathlon Swim

Thinking of going for it with your first triathlon? There are loads of training plans online, but sometimes it’s difficult to separate fact from fiction. In this article, we’re going instead to give you strategies for getting the most out of your swim training by making smart decisions throughout your triathlon journey.

These few steps will give you a great start to your new sport:

  1. Choose an event
  2. Make friends
  3. Master technique
  4. Swim Long
  5. Get outside

Let’s get started.

Choose an Event

Choosing a Triathlon event

There are loads of beginner triathlon events all over the UK, and even triathlons for kids. Choosing a suitable event for your abilities is key to having a great time and finishing the race.

There are five main triathlon categories, each usually hosting a swim with the following distance:

  • Super sprint 500 meters
  • Sprint 750 meters
  • Olympic 1500 meters
  • Half-Ironman 1900 meters
  • Ironman 3900 meters

But there are also charity and fun triathlons, which can vary in distance, usually less distance than what’s listed above. Fun triathlons are usually a good entry point for beginners, especially those without a ton of endurance experience. You may be swimming as little as 200 meters. Every event is different, so make sure you check!

Make Friends

Triathlon friends

Triathlon swimming is just one part of training, of course. If there’s a local triathlon club in your area, consider joining. Having seasoned veterans to guide you is extremely valuable. Having a buddy along for the workouts is also incredibly helpful too.

Let’s be honest.

There are some days when it’s tough to grind it out. Knowing someone else is counting on you can make all the difference.

If your event includes an outdoor swim, joining an open water swimming club is another option. These groups can help you decide on the best kit for your swim and also pick up some pointers for your event.

Master Technique

Master Triathlon technique

Swimming in a triathlon requires good technique, of course. But it may differ considerably from any competitive swimming you’ve done before.

  1. It’s long distance.
  2. You have a lot more race to come after the swim.
  3. It may not be in a pool at all.

Even beginner triathlons still have a considerable swim to them. A couple hundred meters in a 25-meter pool is eight lengths. Five hundred meters is 20 lengths. If your technique isn’t great, you’ll fatigue quickly.

The fastest stroke overall is front crawl. So you’ll need to focus on the catch (when your hand enters the water), and your breathing especially. Bilateral breathing is always an advantage in race environments so you can see what’s happening around you.

Practising some head-up front crawl is also important if you’ll be swimming outdoors, especially in the ocean. Waves, currents and a pack of other swimmers means sloshing water and poor visibility. Getting your head up periodically to sight your target can help you stay on course. This takes practice.

Swim Long

Whatever your event is, you should train for a distance a bit beyond it. Every training plan will vary a little bit, but most of them will include about two swims a week. If your event is a 750-meter swim, then your max long swim workout should probably be a 1000-meter swim. When it’s race day, you want 750 meters to feel like a breeze.

Get Outside

Triathlon training

Swimming in a pool is a bit like running on a treadmill. It’s a highly controlled environment. It bears little resemblance to performing the exact same action outdoors. So if your event is an outdoor event, you have got to do at least some of your training outside. This is for a few reasons:

  • Acclimating to water temperatures
  • Trying out kit
  • Overcoming open water nerves
  • Understanding wild water and weather conditions
  • Listening to your body

Even in the summer, the water outdoors in the UK can be very cold indeed. If you’re used to a nice warm, indoor pool, get ready for a big change. Alongside this, you’re probably going to need to try out a wetsuit and/or some new goggles, ear plugs, nose plugs or cap. It’s best done in the type of water you’ll be racing in.

If you’ve got any jitters at all about swimming in open water, you don’t want to use a race to try to deal with them. Joining a friendly open water swimming club and getting to know the water is one of the best ways to overcome nerves. At the same time you’ll learn about how the water behaves under different conditions. And you’ll get to know how your body and mind deal with it, as well. No one likes a surprise under race pressure!

One last thing: Consider a coach.

UK triathlon training coach

Private coaching sessions can be a big help if you’re tackling your first-ever triathlon. Apart from giving you a personal training plan, they’ll provide:

  • Advice for efficient swimming technique
  • Goal setting to stay motivated
  • Workout variety to push through mental blocks and physical plateaus
  • Cheerleading

That last point is so important, especially in endurance sport. Even the most committed athlete is going to flag at times. A good swimming coach giving you positive encouragement will eke that last bit of work out of you.

The other thing to remember is that training for a distance event is not going to be progress, progress, progress at every session. There will be the odd one that is very difficult or where your times or technique even seems to take a step backward. Having a coach swoop in with the right words can stop you from getting too down on yourself. Dust yourself off, have a rest, and get back in there to try again in a couple of days.

Swim Now coaches are experts in bringing the best out of students at every performance level. We’d love to help you achieve your first triathlon goals! Get in touch here.

by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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