Swim training for a triathlon

It seems like half of the people I know are training for a triathlon right now. Every time I log on to Facebook, I am inundated with updates about how far people ran (and how fast), how awesome their bike workout was, etc. I usually respond to this by getting a bowl of ice cream and turning on NCIS. But I do actually have some tips for the swim portion, if you are a motivated aspiring triathlete.

Ryan Lochte, photo by the New York Times

(Ryan Lochte, in case you are unaware, is a Gator [and therefore surely a jean-short wearer] and Olympic swimmer who may not be quite as fast as Michael Phelps, but would definitely win a hotness competition against M.P. from the neck up)

So, my first recommendation is this: Practice breast stroke. Because if your triathlon is in open water, you are probably going to freak out a little bit when you start swimming and realize that not only is everyone kicking/punching you in the face, you also can’t see where you’re going. It’s good to have another go-to stroke, instead of resorting to doggie paddling.


Now, that isn’t to say you shouldn’t hone your freestyle technique. But don’t expect your perfect laps of freestyle in the indoor, temperature-controlled pool to translate perfectly to the open-water tri environment. If you are able to do some kind of maneuver in which you keep your head out of the water part of the time while doing freestyle, you’re golden. But seriously, people. I can do laps of freestyle for an hour in a pool without stopping, and I switched to breast stroke approximately 90 seconds into the swim of the sprint tri I did (in a lake). My brother resorted to back stroke. You just need to be prepared.

Nothing like 12 people kicking you in the mouth.

Second recommendation: When you are doing freestyle (in training or in competition), remember to breathe out underwater. I know you’re thinking, “Duh!” but it is not as obvious as you would imagine. Someone told me this a few years back, and I still have to concentrate on it, yoga-style, when I start swimming.

Your instinct when your head is underwater is to hold your breath, right? So what often happens is that you hold your breath when you face is in the water, then try to breathe out and in really quickly during the short time you have your face out of the water. If you can blow all that air out under water, you will have more time to take a nice, deep breath of air. And that, my friends, will help you swim faster without feeling like you are going to die. Which is especially good when you have to get on a bike (shudder) afterward.

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