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Swimming Advice

Entered my first Triathlon in June the Blenheim place Triathlon,the problem i have is I'm struggling with my breathing when swimming.
would getting lessons with instructors from a council run pool be okay or would it be more beneficial to have one to one coaching.
Really worried it will take a while to master the breathing and will not have enough training in to complete
the 750m swim in june
Been to the pool early this morning and found it very intimidating see everyone swimming lengths of the pool in lanes and ended up swimming widths in small pool along side.

Advice please


  • You have plenty of time to sort your swimming out!

    It sounds like you need to go back to basics and begin to construct your front crawl stroke from the beginning and therefore your suggestion is fine. Once you are competent swimming in the pool i always advise anybody i know who is contemplating triathlon for the first time where their first triathlon contains an open water swim to practice open water swimming at leasr once before competition. It can be quite a surprise to those who have never done it before! The best open water lakes will be the ones where you can stand up at any point, and gradually you will become comfortable with swimming in the open water (which requires slightly different techniques to those in a pool, for example, sighting and getting used to swimming in a wetsuit).

    Bear in mind however that in the lake at Blenheim you will not be able to stand up in the lake, its quite deep.

    Hope that helps
  • First point is you don't have to be the worlds best swimmer so don't expect to be. I guess what you want and your post reflects this is to be comfortable and relaxed in the water and enjoy the swim at your first triathlon a very good goal.

    Second point swimming is a skill dominated element in the event and with all skills practice and time invested is important but if your sessions are cut short through breathing stress you are missing out on a lot of practice time.

    My advice is to see how far you can get on your own and if you are then having problems look for external help. I will let you in to a secret and that is for the first few 100m of any swim session I do I swim badly untill everything settles down then I am good for another 3000 plus metres before I start to tire as I am fit from running and cycling. It takes me this initial time to get into my zone and rhythm and this importanly includes very much my brething technique. I suspect for a lot of beginers this is the same,except the first 500m or so might account for nearly all of their swim session, fitness is not the issue. Fortunatly I know a few shorcuts to get into a session. The first is get into the pool and exhale air out of your body and try and sink whilst relaxing. Do this a few times, its all about exchanging your dry land breathing regime for something else about getting the old air out. Once you feel you are happy not breathing for 20 or 30 seconds and are relaxed about it you will not feel as stressed breathing in a swimming situation.

    The opposite is of course take a deep breath and set off up the pool trying to go as fast as possible. The problem with this is not fully exhaling and drawing in a lot of carbon dioxide instead of oxygen and as a reflex feeling you need more air. Swimming fast and demanding oxygen does not help either.

  • Relax and build into a session, if you get a bit stressy calm things down, try sinking to relax again and set off slowly. At a technical level work on a nice body roll to enable your mouth to clear the water far more easily. A factor with a lot of leisure swimmers I see is a lack of body roll and as such they have to lift and twist their head a lot to clear water, feet drop they loose momentum then fight to get things going on every stroke. To see what I mean look up 'swim smooth' and download the free MrSmooth animation which is a great visual tool.

    Relax and enjoy your time in the pool without the stress of targets as without a good frame of mind and a relaxed feel for the water a lot of the very best coaching will have a limited effect. I would from my experience give it a month or so and try for at least four sessions a week in this time. My guess is that a lot of things will start to fall in place. The aim simply being to swim up and down 'constantly' for 10 to 20 miutes by the end of the month, get over having to stop. If you know you are in this state and things are not working then i would seek out a coach in a group its cheaper and you need time/lengths to work on things anyway 1 on 1 for technical refinement but not to get the basics in my opinion. It may be the case when you can repeat relaxed lengths then it is the time to start to think about technical things, you may be able to crack this on your own and be happy with the pace you find, if not then technical advice is a good idea as we often can't see what the issue is ourselves, a free source might be by joining your local tri club and going along to one of their pool sessions. Anyone however will want to work on your 'steady stroke' not something which breaks down after 4 or 5 lengths.

    Hope this helps and good luck in your first tri. For many the swim is daunting but it also feels like the greatest achievement on the day when you exit the water.
  • Thanks for you advice I'll go back to basics and try to get into the pool as much as possible for the next month and try to relax and do the breathing ideas that you suggested.
    Your right I only want to feel comfortable and finish the swim, I am competative but not at this new sport, yet, all I want is to try and will hopefully enjoy.
  • ScoutyScouty Posts: 8
    If it's of any consolation, I was in a very similar position last year! Entered my first sprint in April 11 and at the time could barely swim 25m (I was drunk when I entered!). Come July, I completed the 750m open water swim in about 16mins so if I can do it anyone can! Best thing I did was get along to my local Tri club swim sessions and swam at least 4 times a week. Like you, I had real difficulty breathing properly but with a bit of coaching and practice, I soon had a much improved body position in the water and was breathing comfortably.

    Keep at it and you'll get there.
  • Swimming for triathlon is very difficult for many. Most of us kind of learn to swim as kids and we stop at some point, I did at around 12 as I realised I was ok as a club swimmer and might make top 3 in town champs but at regional level was no where near good enough. I then came back to it in my mid twenties, first foray into tri, and it took a month or two to be totally honest as good as i was stroke wise before at 12, bit faster due to power but stroke no better. I then gave up tri for work commitments.

    Guess what have come back and it took me a month or two to be as good as before. Wanting to be competitive I look at split times in my age group and realise at the top my swimm is by far my weakest discipline as it is for many. A lot of these guys and girls have however continued to swim and improve their stroke bit by bit for a few 'years', good on them I say. I also say that most are nothing special as good as me at 12 and I can be that good but it will take a lot of time and dedication if I want to really improve and the more I swim the better I get albeit slowly. There are the talented swimmers out there who were really good as kids and I just have to try and chase them down and have a better bike and run, but as my swim gets better the gap gets smaller.

    A lot of people in this sport make the decision 'my swim is good enough' and that training is better spent on the bike and run where there are bigger time gains to be made. They take this decision once they are comfortable in a cold lake in a wetsuit and can cover the distance and come out with a smile on their face. This is a perfectly reasonable position to take and should be a first goal and as such do not put more pressure on yourself other than getting to this point in your first season, good luck.
  • I went back to basic in september as I couldnt do front crawl or Bs properly. I have been having lesson at a local pool. I have found it worthwhile. A lot of clubs may help.

    The main thing is just relax, relax, relax, relax. When I did this it all came toghther.

    You have loads of time to get it so dont panic. If it helps look at the winterswim.co.uk. although it is to late to enter the way it ramps up i have found helps me loads. You could do the same but start it in a few week time,
  • Where do you live ?

    What area ?

    maybe someone could recommend a good coach for a few lesson.
  • Hi cydwell good on you for entering your first triathlon, my advice would be to join a group or have couple swimming lessons. I couldn't swim at all 4yrs ago so had a few lessons and entered a sprint triathlon 6wks later.
    I remember when i 1st started i was out of breath after just 1 length, but stuck at it and 1 became 2, 2became 4 and couple months later I did my first mile. Last year I swam 2 miles in Windermere, so stick at it, it will drop into place.
  • The guys above have posted some excellent advice; don’t worry about speed that will come in time when you develop technical. It takes a while for your body to get use to the irregular nature of breathing when swimming. Best advice I ever listened to was to join a club……every day in tri is a school day no matter how long you have been doing it for.
  • Thanks everyone for your replies its really picked up my mood and seeing there is a positive out come to be achieved.
    Lessons will be booked and a update on progress shall follow
  • Blenheim is a lovely venue & lots of people do their first tri's there. Dont panic in the water because they will haul you out on a boat. Breast stroke if necessary! Good luck & enjoy it!
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