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The Embarassment - first timer swim training

Last night was my first swim training session for my first ever sprint tri in May next year, 

Picture the scene, rather chubby 30summut year old who's not swam lengths in..... lets got for 17years. and who weighs in at 209lb on a 5'9"frame. 

it took me 22minutes to do 600m in twelve 50m sets - I'm used to watching my daughter (a 12yr old regional swimmer) knocking out 400s in about five and a half minutes!!! and thinking how hard could it be? - turns out VERY.

Glad I've got nearly six months to train my first ever Sprint tri!!! 

I can knock out a 47min 20k on a bike followed bya 25min 5k (one rebuilt knee so I'm not the quickest of runners)  - so its only the swimming bit which is concerning me. 

My first goal for next year is simple: "finish".....  then improve next time out!




  • risris Posts: 1,002

    ah, it's a technical business this swimming lark. how long as fish-girl been swimming - 7-8 years? regularly, with her technique critiqued and focused on by her coaches? 

    do the same - swim 3-4times a week, regular feedback from coaches/specialists, and you can be as efficient as her. you might still struggle to be as fast, though! 

    first steps and all that... well done! 

  • Thanks! 

    I'm planning on becoming a regular swimmer, and getting some better gear too! although the baggy shorts hide my modesty, they're not exactly great in terms of drag! 

    Planning a pretty simple build up on the swimming front and is being advised by the coaches from my Daughter's club. 

    12 x 50m (done)

    6 x100's 

    3 x 200's

    2 x 400

    2 x 500

    Pace work

    *obv all sessions I'll be getting feed back on technique.  


  • Jamie220Jamie220 Posts: 168

    Good luck Rob – we just posted an 8-week swim training plan by British Triathlon coach Alan Rapley, in case you'd like to try it:


  • Thats great but I physically can't do 200m in one go! (yet)

    will keep it for when I'm ready - Thank you!

  • risris Posts: 1,002

    rob - you are right to start steady and build slowly. it takes time and effort to build a good, reliable technique but you can do it. the odd swim with 'drag shorts' on isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you are probably right to try and get some long jammers to swim in.

    good luck with it - i love swimming, despite not being any good as a kid, and hate going a week without some time in the water.

  • bathtubbathtub Posts: 280

    Hi Rob

    I would advise you ditch the baggy shorts and get some proper swimwear, the baggy shorts can add a lot of drag and also pull your body position down in the water which can affect your stroke.

    Lots of excellent info for beginners as well as everyone else on the  Swim smooth website here http://www.swimsmooth.com/beginner.php.

    Also I recommend downloading the free Mr Smooth swim animation from the same website as I think it can be a great help to visualise how the perfect stroke should be prior to swim sessions.

    I  have the Swim smooth "Clean up your Stroke" DVD and the Swim Smooth book both of which I highly recommend.

    Good Luck with your swim training.


  • Thank you, lots of good points on there!

  • Hi Rob,

    that sounds like myself, went to my first tri team coached swim, and drank most of the pool, so looks like private swimming lessons for me, luckily i am away with work so i can use a pool at lunch time, and i am slowly improving.

  • Good on you for getting stuck in and getting on with improving, lots don't and just sit on the couch.

    You'll find that although in the early days, it takes ages to progress from swimming 50m to 75 then to 100m , but after that something will click - usually you get breathing comfortably - and all of a sudden you'll be able to swim forever, comfortably, without stopping or getting out of breath.

    So enjoy these days of struggling to swim 50m, they won't last long

    A good tip is to get a friend to video you swimming - and then get someone who understands swim coaching to have a look at it for you. A few correct drills at the right time will accelerate your swim improvement.

    Hope this helps!

  • Hey, I feel your pain Rob, however, not having your B's of steel,  bottled the squad training - to embarrassed to swallow half the pool in front of 30 other squad swimmers.... so out embarrassment rather than intelligence I asked in the cycling community I race in and got details of a great tri coach and swim smooth instructor. 

    This has to be the single most impressive decision I have ever made!  (I did have to sell our youngest child, as the lessons are expensive.)

    That said, my swimming has gone from two lengths of breast stroke gasp gasp, wait till the fast people have gone past, (including the one in the flowery swim cap) before another two lengths ... and more gasping. my first 400 took almost 12 minutes including a couple of short 5s breathers after 2-3 lengths, to only 5 weeks later -  being able to knock out 400m in 8.12 after  just one intensive lesson with drills to practice during 2 swim sessions a week.

    My rationale, to get that level of improvement with basic swim plans would have taken me months, hours in the pool and ££££ of pool fees, I do believe 1: I will get to long course distance quicker, 2: I will have time to work on speed, and 3 I actually enjoy my training and feel confident in joining the squad environment.

    after just one swim lesson!

  • Thanks everybody!

    At the moment its just the local coach, who's look after me. Not sure if its my weight or shorts or what but my hips and gerenarl torso are very low in the water and making it hard to breathe 'in the bow wave' , it improve slightly if I put more power through my legs but then I get out of breath faster as I can't exhale quick enough on breathiong every 3 and breathing 4 panics me when I have to ' reach up' for breath because I'm so low in the water.  Hopefully as my general cardio state improves my breathing will also become more efficient and I'll be in less 02 debt 

  • It's very likely due to your body balance rather than your shorts


    Top tip would be to try drills based around improving your body balance - the classic 6-3-6 drill will help this problem tremendously

    TBH you'll get a lot more bang for your buck sorting out balance over a few sessions that you will trying to 'put out more power through your legs.'

  • I'll look into that, but I've bought a pair of jammers anyway


  • Trained again to night. I thought this was supposed to be getting easier! still killing me to do 50's! (please remember I'm a 208lb, 5ft8 tubster and officially obese according to the NHS) I'm starting to think there is a confidence element involved as well as my utterly shocking technique.  As its been picked up that towards the end of my 50's my stroke rate increases as I get tired and a frankly its because I'm panicking! The same happened durring the 6-6's and even when i switched to 6-3-6's the lack of good forward momentum left me sinking, I panicked, lost count, switched and drank a lung-full. 

    As this is only the third session since writing the opening post, I'm not that worried. but I am going to sign up for some 'beginners' swim classes. 


  • Rob,

    your doing brilliant, i have my second coached swim monday, and i am panicking allready, i work away for th emonth and have been swimming during my lunch every day getting in about 300 metres mixed freestyle, i panick as well with my breathing, not sure why . but  like yourself i am sticking at it, brave or stupid, BTW i am a 5ft 8 tubster as well, 

  • Managed a 100m block ! minor milestone passed!.  struggling between not being able to fully exhale on breath every3 and I feel like I'm stretching to breath every4....  

    four sessions in and I'm doing 500 in 15mins and total of 850 in 30:37

  • Hi, I am not a coach but am a qualified swimming teacher (mostly small children). Firstly I would say good on you, you've given yourself plenty of time to learn and get better and fitter!! I would firstly find a breathing pattern that you are comfortable with, whether it be every 2,3,4 or 5 strokes (I breathe every 3 strokes, ie breathe on the 3rd stroke). Once you've found this, then work on increasing distance/stamina and speed. Which Triathlon are you doing? Is it open water or pool!
  • I'm doing the Cheshire Tri, 500m swim in a pool thanks for the advice, I'm also ramping up my runs and rides to bring up my general CV so that I'm not out of breath so early on too! I'm down to a 28min 5k (on ice yesterday) and I seem to be able to carry that pace-ish after a 49min 20k on a mountain bike  I feel like there the biggest gains (outside buying a road bike) will be on the swim. Dream scenario for my first tri, I want to be at 10-12 mins without killing myself for the next two sections, If I can get rid of the puffing and panting after each 50 I should be half wayto that!


  • Hi Rob

    Good luck with the training!! Be prepared to get triathlon hooked!! I am by far an expert, I am a 41 year old mother of 3 young children (8, 6 and 2) and needed something to help me lose the baby weight so I signed up for the London Triathlon (sprint distance). I used to swim as a child but never really cycled and I hate running!! I chose a charity and started training and raising money. I had a mountain bike which I used at 1st and then borrowed a road bike from my brother in law. At first, I struggled to do 10 lengths of a 25 metre pool!! As the London Triathlon is open water I found a local Tri club that did open water swimming, invested in a wetsuit and joined them. The 1st session nearly killed me!! I carried on and took part in the event on 2nd August. It was fabulous, I had lost over a stone in weight and never felt better. My time wasn't brilliant but I had finished and that's all I cared about. I enjoyed it so much I did 2 more!! I have also signed up for some next year!! I suppose what I'm saying is keep going with the training, keep motivated and you'll feel great as you see your fitness improving, I bet you'll do more!! I would advise that you get hold of a road bike, it does make a difference, I just got a second hand one from eBay!
  • miral45873ZaW8S-jhmiral45873ZaW8S-jh Posts: 11
    edited January 2023

    Thank you for organizing this training! I'd like to take this course, but there are currently no openings. I'm now working on my thesis, which is taking a long time. I identified a company that can help me with hnd assignment. This is a technique for doing activities quickly and efficiently.

  • There are a lot of half ironman swim training plans to take you from beginner to decent in the water within 6 months.


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