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Feb Issue Beginner Section

Just got my copy of the February issue of 220.  I really got a buzz when I saw there was an beginners section as I'm making my first tentative steps towards my first sprint tri in May. 

But I have the following problems,

- I think you have an expectation of a certain level of fitness and ability in your 'beginner' when it comes to swimming, There is no way on earth I could complete the sessions the plan has for week one and I'm a month into my training (with advice from coach/friends), only on my most recentswim have I managed to get to 75m, then (almost killing myself) 100m. do you have an 'absolute' beginners section? 

- Cycling,  you mention in the essential winter kit about borrowing or renting a bike for the event but what about training?  am I OK using my 14.5kg, fat tyred Mountain bike? I'm currently knocking out a 20k road route in 49minutes with stuff left in the tank for my run. This may seem like one of the stupidest questions in the world to you guys, or be extremely obvious - but what is circular pedalling?? don't the pedals go in a circle anyway??? 

- Run, I'm pretty happy with this phase and I'll already knocking out 5ks straight off the bike, should I go back what the plan says?


  • Lisa GLisa G Posts: 29

    Hi Rob, Good luck for your first tri in May.  I did my first super sprint last year with very little training, but I just couldn't wait once I new that is what I wanted to do.  It was a great atmosphere and although I came last in the 400 m swim, I made a few places up on the bike, so was happy that I didn't come last overall.

    Our 220 mag hasnt arrived yet so cant refer to the article, but with the swim, do you mean 750m or 75m.  Give it time and your technique and timing will improve.  It is only in the last three months that I can now do the front crawl and did my first tri swim doing the breast stoke.  Its what you are comfortable with I suppose.  I got a front facing snorkel after reading an article in 220 a few months back and it is helping me improve my technique without worring about my breathing.  Once I have mastered my stoke, then I am going to focus on getting my breathing right (just wish I could use the snorkel on events, it would make life so much easier ) .

    I am sure once you have done one tri, you will be booking in for more.

  • You may be surprised when I say 75...  750 is a mere pipe dream. until the christmas eve-eve Iwas struggling to complete 50!


  • Lisa GLisa G Posts: 29

    Keep at it Rob, that 50m will soon turn to 75m, 100m plus......  Find the stroke that works for you and keep working at it.  You'll soon be clocking up 400m no bother.  Keep us posted on your progress.

  • Hi Rob, keep going - you'll get it. When I started swimming as an 'absolute beginner' I had the same issue. 50m then 2 mins rest while I got my breath back. Dawned on me that I was 'sprinting' the swim and not going at a sustainable pace (imagine trying to run 5km at 100m pace), so next time I went I said to myself to just focus on breathing no matter how slow I went. I managed 750m in one go - albeit it took me 30 mins - felt painfully slow. Then I focused on technique, rather than speed and am now doing 1000m in 22 mins 12 months later. 

    Hope that helps and good luck!

  • Andrew4Andrew4 Posts: 190

    In response to your query on cycling I will break it down:

    1. Are you ok to train on an MTB? In principal yes, you can do a lot of training on an MTB. You will still be working the same muscles and building the necessary cycling specific CV base. I would caution that, in an ideal world you would get a few rides in on your "race bike" / a road bike prior to the event if possible just so you get used to a slightly different riding position, being on the drops and the feelings and gearing of the bike.

    2. Circular pedalling is a pedalling "technique" to try and give a smoother pedal stroke. It can only be done properly when your shoes are clipped or strapped into the pedals. The idea is that, whilst driving your leg down on one pedal you should pull up on the other (as well as forcing the pedal back at the bottom of the pedal stroke) thereby applying more force to the pedals around more of the stroke. This will make pedalling feel much smoother and works more muscles. Its particularly important for triathlon as it enables you recruit muscles that aren't used in running to provide some extra energy therefore enabling you to ride as fast but with less fatigue on your running muscles.

    If you aren't "clipped in" you will be able to pull up on the pedals but a good start would be to think about driving your foot backwards at the bottom of the pedal stroke to improve your smoothness and efficiency. (Again, if you intend to go be clipped in on race day then make sure you practice riding, mounting and dismounted prior to the race).

  • AWESOME! thanks for clearing that up

  • Gonna try 75m tomorrow night all front crawl no resting after each length

    Also trying to slow down and piece together more than one lap. I've got 4 months till the skipton tri to do 400m front crawl!?!
  • I managed  1000m today!  it took me 34mins, mainly in 50's but I did break out two sets of 100! 


    The advice about not sprinting really hit home and weirdly it got easier towards the end as I physically couldn't 'sprint' any more  when I was trying to keep to thirty second breaks from the article... 

    Feeling more positive today


  • Good work rob. I crashed and burned. Couldn't get 50m out. Not feeling confident that I'll get to 400m by April. Gonna start brushing up on my breast stroke as my plan b.
  • I'm hoping to do my first Sprint Tri in September. But first I've signed up for the Stockton Duathlon (Novice distance) in April. I have the same problem with swimming. When I went to my first session with my son I struggled to do a 25m length without stopping and was so out of breath my son gave me my name above.... I've come on a bit since but still need to rest after each 100m or so and 750m takes me 29min including rests... Onwards and upwards though

  • risris Posts: 1,002

    problem with swimming is that it is so technique based. smashing it out usually makes you more tired and then deteriorates your stroke even more! if you can find the patience to build the stroke up slowly, with lots of specific drills to help you focus on each part of the stroke, then it really helps. 


  • Good point I'm putting drills into the distance, pool buoy 50's to help me concentrate of my arms and 25m sets of 6-6 and 6-3-6 drills for my balance. I do feel they help but they also make me feel like I'm slowing down and sinking, this leads to a panic and me thrashing out the remaining length. I'm a ginger so patience is difficult for me  ;)


  • I'm the same. I only have one pace, fast. If I try slow down I also feel like I'm gonna sink. My next session I'm going to try breathe slower I figure slower breathing = slower stroke. Especially on the exhale
  • A friend has just mentioned trying to pulse my breathing. one 'pulse' per stroke. Going give that a go in tomorrow's session.  

  • Hi Rob, I wrote the beginners session with coach Julian Nagi (www.juliannagicoaching.com) for the 220Triathlon feature in February's issue, and there was quite a bit of discussion about suitable swim sets before we published.

    To address your concern about the distances stipulated. You said originally that you were struggling to cover 75m, but also that you were knocking out the 5km runs consistently, so it suggests the issue is far more about technique than fitness.

    With that in mind, the best advice is to have someone look at your stroke, an experienced swimming friend, or even better a local coach. They should be able to give some great pointers, and I see others on this forum have also been really helpful - adopting the 'bubble, bubble, breathe' mantra might be a good way to help improve the breathing.

    The six-month plan couldn't address the pure technique side without becoming too unwieldy (and technique really needs individual attention), so is set out for individuals who might, for example, be off to the pool on their own of a morning and want to maximise those 45mins in a busy schedule. Had we set the distances any shorter, then swimmers would simply have not used up the time. It would be a quick 10-minute dip then out. 

    All this said, looking at your post on the January 6, it seems you have already covered 1,000m and are going great guns and incorporating drills into your sessions. This is encouraging and I would imagine you are now finding the swim sets on the plan within your range. Have a fantastic first tri, and let us know how you get on.

  • Thanks for the reply! 

    To be honest, I'm not quite down to the 30 seonds between fifties yet - except for the hundreds, those need about a good deal of panting to get over! I'm just not finding that 'click' I get when I'm running or riding where my legs go in to autopilot and give me a set cadance (and nothing more no matter how much I scream at them or try and lift my knees to change my gait) I'm hoping this will come with time on the bubble, bubble, breath as I sometimes do a similar breathing thing with my running when I'm reeaally low on energy and my pace has gone all to pot. 

    I perfectly understand about the limits you have for the article too. I write for a magazine too so I appreciate the situation you're in, where you have 'beginners' ranging from people transferring from other sports witha decent level of fitness to  those who're not particularly healthly and liked the Mag'scover (I'm probably deep in this catergory) 

    I'm planning on doing the Carlisle Duathlon as an interim, but I'll let you know how I get on. 



  • Hi Rob, thanks for your feedback on the sessions. 

    As Tim said there was quite a bit of discussion on what might or might not be suitable for a beginner. But that in a sense is an issue when following a generic training plan, it will really work for some but others could struggle. The best laid plans are also the ones which are designed for the individual because it can take account of many factors which will contribute to the starting point for the plan in each discipline. Each person will be different. 

    In your case its just a stretch too far, there could be a number of issues at play that need to be looked at. These will either be technical or pacing issues. There have been some great points listed above and if swimming 100m is currently killing you I would say you will have a problem with both or either of these. From a technical perspective the main beginner issue will be breathing technique and finding the right breathing pattern. I also find that beginner swimmers due to the panic reaction tend to swim way too fast for their current level of fitness. Sometimes just slowing right down can make the world of difference. Also remember there is nothing wrong with popping a pull buoy in for the longer less achievable sets as your fitness build over time, its still all aerobic training.

    Ive included some useful links below for you:

    The beginner swimmer http://www.swimsmooth.com/beginner.php   5 tips for beginner swimmers http://www.swimsmooth.com/beginnertips.php   Breathing technique for freestyle http://www.swimsmooth.com/breathing.html   Conquering bilateral breathing http://www.swimsmooth.com/bilateral.html   Exhalation http://www.swimsmooth.com/exhalation.html   I would also highly recommend if the swim is currently your nemesis booking in to see your local Swim Smooth Coach, would be happy to see you if ever in London. The results you will get based on the investment will be huge and could cut through the barriers you are currently facing extremely quickly.    http://www.swimsmooth.com/certifiedcoaches.html   The key thing is don't give up, keep at it and you will get there. With some swimmers it just takes time and then all of a sudden it starts to click so keep going at it and get the right guidance to help you along the way.    Please feel free to email me if you have any further questions.    Best of luck with it !   Julian Nagi www.juliannagicoaching.com   
  • Hi Julian!


    WOW thanks for that, I'm going to use the SS hints tonight. Sadly though my nearest SS coach is more than 80 miles away!. I have been Swimming with a 'buddy' who has been a local swim team coach. Sadly though he can't always make it to the one session I can attend each week. 

    I am looking to see if I can get a video anaylsis session with my Daughters' Team's head coach but the one thing that has been putting me off so far is.......  and I'm going to whisper this............ cost. 

    One thing I'm starting to realise is with Triathlons is that it's not a cheap sport. Between  paying for last Christmas, this year's holiday, 2 Daughters swimming competitively and trying to slip a new slippery road bike on the cycle-to-work scheme I can't really stretch to more than one pool session a week (finance and time wise) let alone an exclsuive 1-1 coaching one. I know that sounds like a cop-out and that its is a great investment going forward - it is - but sadly thats just a reality for me  

  • No problem at all Rob, glad to be of help. 

    Totally understand the cost element because it isnt cheap. Maybe you should drop a few hints to your family members for your next birthday present ;+)

    As an aside and I dont get a penny for recommending this, why not invest in the  Swim Smooth book, thousands use this as their swimming bible. Its brilliantly written and illustrated to help you learn how to swim. 


    This DVD set below is also brilliant:


    Also make sure you sign up to the free Swim Smooth blog that goes out every Friday as theres some brilliant articles on there to help you with your swimming. 


    Lastly, what you said in your last paragraph is of paramount importance, swimming just once a week is why your progress is slow. If the swim is your weakness then it needs to be addressed by doing at least 2-3 sessions per week. As your run seems to be strong i would highly recommend re addressing your training balance to add one more swim. The difference would be huge. Appreciate time is a luxury but if you want to take bigger steps forwards you need to be hitting the water more frequently.


    Very best


    Julian Nagi


  • Hi Julian,


    Looking into changing the plan to in corporate a second swim. Last night I madewhat felt like real progress. Concentrating on breathing more, especially exhailing, I was then able to feel more confortable in the wat and run a slightly slower stroke rate.  Problem is my 'sigh' out breathing rate is between a once every two and a once every three timing. I go faster, I need more air and I feel I'm gasping = panic.

    I'll be honest I stuck to once every two but was very concious of make sure the arm/shoulder I dropped during breathing is fully rotated during its stroke.

    I also found a way to time my breathing - it sounds weird - but making a "ssssssss" noise followed by a 'pop' of whatever is left in my lungs at the end of my last stroke before breathing.  Its quite easy get into a rhythym going "sssssssssssssss-pop, ssssssssssssssss-pop" 

    Another thing I found help was to distract myself by staring at the floor of the pool....


    managed 1500m in 40mins. all 50's except for one 150 block towards the end. 

  • Made a huge step today when I went training with the St Helens Tri Club. Granted in the beginner's lane but Mike was able to point out some key things I hadn't noticed.


    • head too high in the water, causingme to drop my hips, 
    • over rotation + 'look back' on my breathing
    • bent knees during thr kick

    changing those, along with zip and broken arrow drills really made me feel a lot more comfortable in the water!

  • Was away on business and couldn't get in a pol for 10days until pool last night and I managed a sub-12min 500m  and rounded out the 1km in sub 27minutes. At one stage I even did 300m straight!! considering it took me 22mins to do 600m just over a month ago I'm rather happy - still a long way to go though

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