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6 Beginner Swimming Tips Every Triathlete Should Know

6 Beginner Swimming Tips Every Triathlete Should Know


– Often one of the biggest barriers to getting started in
triathlon is the swim. If your swimming is
your weakest discipline, or you come from a
non-swimming background, then tackling the swim in a triathlon can be quite daunting. And this probably sounds pretty familiar to a number of our viewers, which is why I’ve got some help today. I’ve brought in Sam Pictor. So thanks for joining us, Sam. – Thanks for having me, Mark. Pleasure to be here. – Well, Sam I think it’s
probably fair to say, you probably don’t mind me saying that swimming isn’t your
strongest discipline. – No, that’s definitely fair to say. I came from a non-swimming background when I first joined university
sort of seven years ago. The idea of a swim squad
swim was terrifying. I was slowest in the lane. Started in the slowest lane. And to be honest, all those years ago, I wish there were several
things that I was told when I first started out. – So for our viewers,
what did you start out, you know like your times per 100 metres? – So I mean, when I
first started swimming, it wasn’t really about times, it was about trying not to stop every other length.
– Surviving. – It was surviving. Not getting too out of breath. But I’d say maybe two
minutes for 100 metres. – Okay, and where are you at now? – I’m sort of now knocking
on the door of 1:15, 1:20. – So very competitive. – Yeah, starting to get out towards the pointy end of the swimming races, which is getting there.
– Brilliant. Well, this is why we’ve got you in today because we’d like to pick up on some of those tips that you’ve
learned over the years. And help some of our viewers out there for getting started in
triathlon as non-swimmers. (booming) (electronic beeping) (thumping rock music) Okay then, Sam, what is
your first tip for us today? – So first tip, Mark, is breathing. Now we all breathe very easily when we’re running, when we’re cycling, but swimming takes some practise. When I first started out swimming, I remember the coach at the
university sort of said, Sam look, when your head’s
underwater, breathe. – Which sounds quite odd. – That didn’t make sense to me. But what he meant was breathe out. And it then clicked actually,
it’s just breathing out steadily when your head’s underwater. So, a few drills you can
do, just go to a quiet pool, put your head underwater,
breathe out slowly, just get that trickle
of bubbles coming out, and if you practise that,
build that into your swimming, it won’t take long until you can relax and really start to enjoy your swimming. – Now I do actually know
from having coached a little bit in the past from athletes that hold their breath,
actually that creates a lot of tension in the upper body, which then restricts your
arms when you’re swimming so it is like a win-win really. – And the funny thing is, by breathing out you’ll find that you get
to the end of each length and you don’t need to stop for a rest. (whooshing) – [Mark] Okay, tip number two for us, Sam. – Tip number two, Mark,
relax and take your time. Now, sometimes it’s not always best to practise these things
in a busy club session so take yourself away,
maybe public swim session or an open swim session, and just work on your technique and your breathing, again just head underwater,
breathing out steadily. Sometimes maybe just do
one length at a time, and just really focus on relaxing in. – So quality rather than quantity. – Quality rather than
quantity, absolutely. – Okay, so you haven’t
got a load of people around you, chasing you on your feet, so you can just take your time. – [Sam] Yeah, and I think
the key here is to relax. If you take your time,
you don’t feel rushed then you can really relax and then you, like you’re saying,
your arms will loosen up and you’ll be able to swim a lot freer. (whooshing) – [Mark] Okay, Sam, tip
number three for us. – Tip number three is little and often. Now I used to be very guilty of this, but I used to go to the pool
and do massive hero sessions. I used to think if I go to the pool, do a big 90-minute swim, five K, smash it out, arms falling off, get out and think, yep,
job done, bank that. But I’ve come to learn that’s just not the way to do it. Your technique falls
apart, and really it’s about frequency, not quantity. – Yeah, so you oughta spread out over a shorter swim, so
what three 30-minute swims rather than one 90-minute swim? – Absolutely, you took the words right out of my mouth. It’s just, yeah, frequency, getting in the pool, not leaving it too long in between every swim that you do. – Yeah, ’cause then you’re
not reinforcing technique in that time so you’re then having like four, five, six to
eight between each swim. – Absolutely, and as
an adult onset swimmer, without that years of
background in swimming, it’s really about getting in often and getting those frequent
touches of the water so that your brain just
starts to really learn it. – I like it. Feel for the water. (whooshing) – Tip number four is to swim with others. Now once you get into
the pool, the best way, and you’re learning
the basics of swimming, the best way to move it along fast is to get in with other people. And this would also set you up in a great way for your first triathlon. – [Mark] So you’re
pushing each other along. – Absolutely. You’re taking it in
turns to lead the length. Get yourself down to a local tri club, or public swimming session
with a few friends. Take it in turns to lead the lane, you’ll then have to count lengths, you’ll have to think about your pacing, all good things that will feed
into your first triathlon. – And also it’s that
responsibility of taking on the pacing and what time
you go off on the clock. If you use a clock. – Yeah, when I first started
swimming I was so guilty. I had my triathlon watch
and I’d hit the wall, press stop, beep. And then five seconds later, beep, and I could other swimmers looking at me, what is he doing? And really it’s, yeah,
if you’re gonna swim, try and swim like a swimmer. And that means using that funny
looking clock on the wall. – So you really get in
tune with your pacing. But also I guess just actually jumping in a public lane that’s busy, you’re in close proximity to a lot of swimmers, which we need for triathlon. – Absolutely. In a race, you’re not gonna have it all your own way. So getting used to the chop on the water. Other swimmers sort of in and around you. – Yeah, it just makes you
aware of what’s going on and how to follow feet and what not. – Absolutely. So useful. (whooshing) – [Mark] ‘Kay, next tip, tip number five. – Tip number five are drills. Now I wish someone had
told me about drills when I first started
swimming all those years ago. Drills are the most
effective and efficient way of becoming a faster swimmer. And then the easiest thing to do really. When I first started swimming, if I had 40 minutes I’d jump in and I’d just swim up and down, up and down, for 40 minutes. If I had 20 minutes,
up and down 20 minutes. – I think per a lot of our viewers are quite guilty of this. – Absolutely, and I was. But when you’ve got drills,
it’s just the best way of just perfecting your technique, saving energy, and when
you jump in the pool and you see that person
just gliding past you in the lane next to you effortlessly, that’s because they’ve
been doing their drills. – Yeah, so I guess the idea of drills is that you’re breaking your stroke down and you’re working on
basically specific parts of the stroke and really
kind of reinforcing and over-exaggerating the
good technique that you need. – That’s exactly it. Try and do them fresh,
so warm up every time. Build drills into every session you do. Do them at the beginning and
you can do them at the end. – Okay, and I guess actually
a really important thing about the drills is understanding why you’re doing it. – Yeah. – And the purpose of it. – You need to know the
purpose of every drill, why you’re doing it. And how to do it. How to do it properly. You don’t want to be
practising bad technique. Like you said, drills are
about breaking it down, doing one thing, giving
the brain one thing to think about at a time. (whooshing) Now my final point today is feedback. Now this is just the most useful tool. If you’ve got the time,
and the space, and friends. – That’s not me. – Take them down (laughs) take them, I’ll come for you now. Take them down to the pool, get them to watch you swim and give you feedback. And you can also give them feedback and watch them swim. It just helps you to like tweak things. – [Mark] Okay, so does this
include filming as well? – Yeah, if you’ve got the ability to then filming is just so useful. I remember when I first got filmed, I first started swimming, I started to improve a bit and felt
like I was Michael Phelps, like flying through the water. Saw myself on film and
my legs were sinking, my arms were flailing, and it sort of knocked me back a bit. But actually, it gave
me the impetus I needed and the feedback I needed to
just correct those things. – And I guess from
that, it sort of relates back to our last point on drills, you can figure out what
your weaknesses are, what you need to work on and start picking out those drills that
are specific to that. – Absolutely. So for example, I realised
I wasn’t following through on my stroke, so I started to speak to my coach and work out what drills we could do to correct that. – Fantastic. Well that has been really interesting, so thanks ever so much for
sharing your experience and your tips with us, Sam. – Thanks for having me, Mark. And remember, it’s worth noting that this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. It takes frequency, little and often, but just get in and keep going and you’ll get there. – Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Well, thanks again for that. And if you’d like to see more videos from GTN just click on
the globe and subscribe. And if you’d like to
see our how to breathe when swimming video, just click down here. – If you’d like to see our video on how to train for your first triathlon, click down here.

51 comments on “6 Beginner Swimming Tips Every Triathlete Should Know

  1. I get panic attacks when I do open water swimming sometimes in pools too. Is there any way to mitigate it or I just have to face it and swim with the flow😂

  2. all mark was thinking through this was "yeah, this guy won Outlaw… didn't beat my course record though"

  3. I come from a swimming background and the number one too I have for beginners is to relax! Also listen and ask for feedback from others who can watch you is probably the best tip

  4. I love triathlon but swimming is my weakest part I have just started doing lots of training for swimming but every time I go swimming in a pool a get a bad cold stoping other training for 2days what would you advise as I really need to get faster at swimming?

  5. 2min per 100 at the start!!!…..ive been at this game for three years and I can only do 2min per 100….

  6. Sam, you must be kidding me when complaining about starting at 2:00min/100m. I do 3:03min/100m with foam between my legs so I do not sink like a rock. My best so far was 2:40 with wetsuit on.

  7. How much does body fat/weight affect swim times? My brother, 5’8” (173cm?), 165 lb swam for the first time after ACL surgery and was 15s faster per 100 compared to me at 5’5” (165cm), 180 lb. I KNOW my form is better and our strength is relatively the same.

  8. Thanks for the useful tips.
    I have an other question though. Are you coming to slovakia this weekend to The Championship race?

  9. Ok, thrashing/sinking when I started swimming, check. Then getting to 2:00/100m, check (ok, actually 4 years later!). Now how the heck do I go from here to 1:15/100m?!

  10. I strongly 2nd the video analysis, especially with a GoPro or similar where you can get an underwater view. It is so easy to compare to a great swimmer’s video and identify weaknesses. I was video’d for the first time last year and it really showed me how much I suck. I mean…. all the areas where I can improve.

  11. Great advice on doing small sessions often, warm ups and drills. I've found these are useful when I did some group classes. When I've searched online for drills most of what I find are plans for Ironman distance and too long for beginners. What are suitable training sessions for sprint distance and where can one find drills to follow?

  12. Good comment on the breathing and relaxing. I found I tried to swim too fast, got anxious then out of breath and was panting after 25m-50m. I now slowed it down and a lot less anxious of sinking, enjoying it more but still struggle to do more than 50m with out taking a 10second breather in between. How do I work on building that stamina. come race day I resort to breast stroke as I'm out of breath.

  13. Wow… great advice for beginners.

    Can I translate it into Korean and make Korean subtitle?
    Maybe you can publish Korean subtitle with your video and I can share this video with Korean triathletes.

    Thx.

  14. Great vid! Really spot on with the struggle of swim beginners. A video of those specific swim drills in tip #5 would be fantastic!

  15. I am now training for my first triathlon. I used to swim in school, 3 years ago. But now my I can hardly swim one length(50mtrs) it’s not my technique, well it’s not that bad, it’s my endurance in the pool. I’m still fairly fast for the beginning, at 50 seconds for 50 mtrs. I have very good cardiovascular endurance, such as a Vo2Max of 72. Yet in the pool I can only slowly feel my power coming back. I really have the upmost respect for people that can swim well.

  16. As a good swimmer I agree with his tips.
    Do yourself a favor and join a masters swim team. It will seam intimidating but the coach will help you more than anything and the team will welcome you.

  17. Make sure to train in the open water. The conditions you will face will be much different than if training in a pool. We get a lot of triathletes training with us here in San Francisco.

  18. I've got the opposite problem. I was a county level swimmer as a kid but in the UK, where most triathlon swims are indoors, I'm caught up with the great & slow unwashed! Probably my one big advantage is lost catching up & being held up by people!

  19. I know this is a late comment but did anyone notice around 2:22 how much the swimmer crossed their arm over their body? Ideally you don't want your forearm coming parallel to the bottom of the pool like that as you don't get as much per pull and it's bad for your shoulders :/

  20. Outstanding video with valuable information for beginners like myself. I don't plan on competing in a half Ironman or Ironman I would just like to do a Sprint or possibly after some time an Olympic. I feel comfortable with the run and biking even while I'm losing weight but the swimming is challenging and I find the breathing part to be the most difficult. So I will at these advice into my workouts especially what he said about quality and not quantity. Once again thanks a lot and I really enjoy all of your videos especially the ones that are design for beginning triathletes.

  21. Not going to the pool and smashing out a strait 45 minute front crawl session to see how long you can resist…done that one quite often for sure!

  22. You mention that it is better to swim more frequent rather than swimming long sessions. The thing I noticed that my technique got better the more tired I got during a long session. As if I was too weak to use any unnessecary forces.

  23. if my triathlon is approaching, should I still be focused on drills? Or should I be doing more time just doing the distance?

  24. Two years of swimming and 3 sprint triathlons later…I was pretty proud of my 2min/100m pace 😂 and I laughed so hard when he said “beep, 5 secs later, beep, and other swimmers are like what are you doing???”

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