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Swim Tips


I am hoping to compete in my first triathlon in May this year!! At the age of 46 I thought I would give it a tri!! I could really do with some tips on swimming with regard to breathing. I breath every 3 strokes which seems to balance my stroke out but I still get out of breath. When I am exhalling in the water can anyone describe how this is done ie - long and slow!! Any tips would be appreciated as this is a real stumbling block. There must be someone out there who can help!! I do have to wear a nose clip due to the chlorine aggrevating my sinuses. Surely this is not a hinderance!!

Only sensible suggestions please!



  • Hi Nikki,

    Welcome to the forum...

    I have/had alsorts of breathing problems the best way I dealt with it / am dealing with it is to slow right down the pace and really concentrate on the breating... I to breath every three strokes...

    One of the things I found good was to really rotate the body and head (this probably isnt great technique but as the "bow wave" thing has me swallowing more water than breathing air its all I can do for the moment) so that my mouth comes out of the water more without having to lift my head (causing ar5e and legs to sink)

    I used to leave the pool with nassel reaction to chroline/pool water but this got better over time ... how bad is the sinus aggrevation?

    I am sure the better swimmers on here will beable to offer better advice...hopefully this will help me too..

  • chischis Posts: 94
    Hi Nikki

    Swimming is not my strongest discipline by a long way. However, my tip to you is to make sure that you make a real point of sucking in as much air as possible when you open your mouth to breathe. I found that I was opening my mouth but actually only snatching a small amount of breath and not really filling my lungs.


    As far as exhaling goes try to exhale from the moment you go under - smoothness and relaxed effort, I am told, is the key to all aspects of swimming. These tips have helped me improve - although I have some way to go before I can say I am anywhere near a natural!
  • bigmatbigmat Posts: 20
    hi guys,

    picked up on this one, and thought i'd chuck in my tuppence ha'penny worth.

    as long as your only breathing in when your mouth pops out above the water level it doesn't really matter whether you breathe out hard or slow. i prefer a slow exhale, like taking deep breathes, but as we all know that's a bit hard to keep up when you pick up your stroke rate.

    which brings me to the next point. breathign every third stroke will keep your stroke balanced, and is great for swimming below your max stroke rate. you should practice breathing on both sides anyway for open water stuff, so you can avoid getting a mouthful from the waves. there's nothing wrong though with breathing every 2 strokes as you start to breathe harder, although that will affect your bodies balance in the water.

    which brings me neaty to the last point. when you breathe in, you should be pretty much on your side, not on your stomach. that way you'll only need to turn your head slightly to breathe, and your backside and legs shouldn't sink. it's all in the timing, and if you get it right it feels like your stroke is accelerating as you twist your body. you shouldn't actually ever be lying flat on your stomach, as your body should always be rotating.

    if you want to know more there's an excellent book and dvd by total immersion. and no, i'm not a rep for them, just a very happy customer. it'll totally change the way you swim. honest!

    hope that was some help.

  • Cheers bigmat

    I too have bought and have learnt alot from TI my swimming was appauling (now its just largely appauling) before I got. Some of the drills I cant quite get.

    I do have question though. How do I improve my kick? when I am doing the drills I dont seem to get anywhere speed wise. I know the point of them isnt speed but surely I am not supposed to be going this slow.

    I am not TI rep either but would recommend it and can't wait to master this here new stroke.


  • Hi Loonytoon

    I know what you mean re the kick! I feel like I'm going backwards! Our swim coach made us concentrate on doing 6 very quick flutterkicks to each stroke for a session, then reinforced that for the next few weeks. We really had to slow our stroke down first of all to do this (which was sometimes hard on the breathing as I breathe every third stroke too, but as everything was going slow, it wasn't too bad), but since then I've found I kick far more than I ever used to. This has the effect of keeping my sinking legs up, therefore making me a little more streamlined in the water, and helping to balance my upper body as it rotates through the stroke and breathing sequences. All these little things gradually make you a smoother and more efficient swimmer.

    I've found that otherwise the kick is only really useful for a sprint finish, as to kick really hard continuously just saps everything out of you. I've also heard that it's a good idea to up the kicks as you come up to the end of the swim, as it pumps blood into the legs so that you can at least hobble to your bike. I don't know if this is true though. Any thoughts anyone with a bit more experience than me!?

    Re the breathing, if you want to stick to breathing every third stroke, slow the stroke down. Otherwise breathe every second stroke and change which side you do this each length.

    Good luck!

  • Cheers 'Bean

    one question What's a "flutter kick"?

  • bigmatbigmat Posts: 20
    hi guys,

    suffer from a weak kick too, and yes, that makes the TI drills feel very strange. i'd recommend using a set of training fins (check with your local pool that they don't mind!) when you start doing the drills. it keeps your speed up so you don't feel like youre standing still, and lets you get your body position right while moving. remember that's all the drills are teaching you - body position.

    once you come to put the whole stroke together your arms will keep you moving so you won't notice the weak kick as much. i just do a 2 beat kick to help with twisting my body, and it's less tiring for longer distances. but get the body position right, and your legs still won't sink.

    a real plus of triathlon is that you'll be swimming in a wetsuit. it'll give you extra lift, so you'll ride higher in the water, and your legs won't sink as much. obviously it's better if you get you body position right, but the wetsuit shoudl make swimming feel easier. if not you're probably wearing one that's too big.

    definitely a good idea to kick a bit harder just before you exit the swim. it won't stop you feeling a bit giddy as you stand up, but it will help to remind you you've got legs!

    again, hope this was some help


  • Matt


    I am pretty sure the pool allow fins (at least the swim team jocks use em so why cant I?) - so I will buy a pair and give em a whirl

  • Hi guys,

    Has anyone tried using the fistgloves from Total Immersion ? Sounds an interesting idea, but was wondering if anyone has actually tried them and what they thought ?



  • Mr TMr T Posts: 5
    Hi guys

    I'm new to the sport(s!) and just started swimming in Jan. I've had some lessons but they've come to an end now; i'm putting as many hours in the pool as possible and just had a couple of questions for the more experienced swimmers:

    1 - I just swam 400m in 7:13 today and a broken kilometre last night (as per Joe Friel's Triathlete's training bible) in a 100m average of 1:45 (with 1 minute rest after every 100m). Is this any good? I've got nothing to benchmark myself against.

    2 - I breathe every 2 (I seem to get out of breath real quick when I breathe on the 3) but I feel my body may be over-rotating. I guess like Big Mat says, rotation is good, but is there any way I can still breath every 2 but tone down my rotation a little???

    3 - On another note, what would a reasonable 20k time be on the bike (i'm on my MTB with slicks.) I know it depends on the course, but lets assume its fairly flat.

    Any help greatly received. Cheers!


    Ps - I got some fins a few weeks ago and they've really helped with my arm work drills - i'd recommend them to anyone starting out like me. I just wear them to warm up and to do my drills.
  • hi the_moid - not used fist gloves but there was a review in the last edition of 220 - which seemed to favour them..gave them 8 for performance and 8 for value.. was only a short review..hope it helps

  • thanks loonytoon - saw that review. also, the web-site it refers to to get them doesnt exist. can get them off total immersion site but for double the price, which is why i was wondering what any users thought of them .


  • RobRob Posts: 209
    Mr. T - you asked if 7.13 for 400m was any good? I'm new to tri (& swimming) & I timed myself this week for 400m at 9.27. So you're streets ahead of me. The pool is usually a foaming mass by the time I get out. Now I've got a bit more confidence in the water I guess I need to start breaking down the stroke by doing drills. They just seem a bit boring though.

    I did a duathlon on a mountain bike with road tyres, about 22k, & knocked that off in around 47mins. Don't know if that's any good, but it gives you a benchmark. If you're a lot quicker than that, I don't want to know!
  • Hi Nikkispins, I've just joined the forum and saw your breathing dilemma - I can certainly relate to it! I hope I'm not too late with my bit but I found after I had practiced some of the Total Immersion drills, like swimming taller and keeping the leading arm out just a bit longer, my breathing improved. Before I could take in plenty of air but couldn't expel it all. Now, with the slower stroke, breathing every stroke isn't the rushed affair it once was. I was trying to breathe every three because it felt a bit more natural but now breathing is much more comfortable. Also, when you are thinking about all the other components of a stroke (all a bit too much to take in at once) the breathing is bound to suffer. So perservere with good stroke technique, and you will be in a better position to improve your breathing.

    Hope this helps
  • plingbootplingboot Posts: 19
    Just a few more pointers.

    1. get some instruction - worth every penny

    2. try to separate the breathing cycle from the arm movements

    3. finish the push phase fully - arm exiting by your knee - this give you more time to breath and keeps the stroke long

    4. rather than thinking 'slow stroke' thing 'long smooth hydrodynamic stroke' pushing back at the end of the stroke and reaching forward at the front. This will help you rotate fully onto your side on each stroke.

    5. bilateral breathing - every 3 strokes is good - it takes some getting used to as your working harder with each breath, but will pay dividends

    6. use fins with drills - don't see them as propulsion aids, see them as a way of keeping your body up on the water while concentrating on executing the drill correctly.

    7. practise getting the drills right, not doing them quickly - getting some tri specific instruction helps here as the coach can tell you what needs tweaking.

    8. keep swimming - doing drills and really thinking about your stroke will bring a whole new enthusiasm for the sport and will make training enjoyable.

    hope that helps
  • fatmattfatmatt Posts: 145
    hi nicky,

    just thought i'd addd my little bit to your questions, i come from a swimming background so maybe i can help. my first piece of advice for the actual race day swim is to relax and not try to push the swim for a good time. to knock 30 seconds off a 400m swim takes a massive effort, which will almost certainly slow your bike and run times by at least a few minutes.

    secondly with regard to the breathing questions, it should feel natural and relaxed, you should be just breathing oput the last bit of air as your mouth leaves the water, this stops you breathing in too early and getting a mouthfull of water but also maximising the breathing in time you have. drills are always good training and i'd suggest some slow arm drills to work on breathing technique.

    oh and i'd also join a local club if thats possible who will almost certainly offer some swim coaching

    good luck

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