Beginner Swimmers: Common Swim Questions

author : Tri Swim Coach
comments : 4

The following are live chat excerpts with our Performance Members that are conducted monthly.


View the calendar of upcoming chats to get all of your training questions answered.

 

If you are new to swimming, you can start our Beginner Swim Program

 

Is the technique for tri swimming different than competitive swimming (other than the obvious-sighting...)?
Yes and no. While you can learn a lot of great things from competitive swimmers (especially the Olympians), you have to keep in mind their goals are different than yours. Most competitive swimmers are training for events between 50-500 yards or meters- much different than a triathlon that can last 2-10 hours! So in triathlon the goal is more to conserve energy for the bike and run, as opposed to grinding out a sprint. Keep your stroke long and don't "muscle through" the swim! 
 

I can only do the forward crawl half of a lap before gasping every stroke, what is the best way to build up some basic endurance?
Yes great question....I get this one all the time! First and most importantly is to work on stroke technique. Some basic balance and kicking drills are perfect at the beginning. Start with just kicking on your side, head down. Even using fins is okay!  The side kicking will help you improve your balance in the water. When you need air, just roll onto your back and grab a couple of breaths before going back onto your side. 
 

Do fins really help?

Fins ARE good, but mainly for drill sets and occasionally kicking sets.  I don't recommend them on swimming sets. A video stroke analysis may help you. Underwater video can uncover the darndest things in your stroke that can really help you improve!

 

How about kick sets for triathlete swimming? Is it worth to do kicking sets?
Kick sets are great if you kick on your side, no board. Kicking with a board is just for "kicks"- social hour or to break the monotony, but does nothing for your swim. Kicking is only about 10% of your overall propulsion, but without a kick it makes swimming difficult. You don't need a powerful kick in triathlon, but you need to develop at least an adequate one. Try some vertical kicking to improve. Just kick in place in a vertical position, hands out of the water. At first this is hard! But it will help improve your kick if you can do several rounds of about 15-20 sec every time you get in the water. Also use Zoomers if you have a "runners kick."  The kick helps you balance and rotate through the water.

 

What's the benefit of paddles? 

I don't like most of them, because they don't help and actually CAUSE shoulder problems. BUT, I do like the Freestyler paddles by Finis- they do not cause shoulder problems and force you to glide longer, which everyone should be doing.

 

What are the top mistakes you see triathletes making?
One would be training too 'hard' instead of working on drills and technique. Many triathletes are competitive and just want to go fast all the time. This is the worst thing for swimming, because you will cement bad habits.


What are the best drills for a beginner?

Start with the basics: balance by kicking on your side. With the side kick just start out with a set of 10x25's (25 yards or meters). Take :05 rest in between each length, or whatever you need.  You then progress to the "shark fin drill". You can also see these videos on my site www.triswimcoach.com.  I also see too much use of the kick board and pull buoy. People love these toys because they make you float and makes it easier for them.

 

What cadence is best for swimming?

Similar to cadence in the bike and run, in swimming what you want to do is to count strokes, which I recommend.  Figure out what your stroke count range is - the number of strokes it takes you to go from one end of the pool to the other. Work on bringing down that range by rotating hips more, gliding further with each stroke, etc.  Be sure not to just kick harder to bring your stroke count down!

 

I am just ramping up my training. Is it better to do drills at this point? Or keep on doing laps?

Yes DRILLS! Do as much drills as you can stand at this point. You can ease off the drills and get to more swimming as your balance and overall technique improves.

 

I have noticed people that swim triathlons seem to over exaggerate the turn of their head when they take a breath. Why is that?
Good observation! Most people lift their head out of the water and look straight up to breathe, when they should be rolling to the side to breathe. Think of breathing with your core instead of with your head!

 

How important is Bilateral Breathing?

I always encourage swimmers to work towards bilateral (breathing every 3 strokes) breathing. It will help balance your stroke and comes in handy in the open water. However, don't force it! Learn good technique breathing every 2 at first and slowly work bilateral breathing in as you go.

 

If you are starving yourself from O2 just to breathe every 3rd stroke, stop! Go back to every 2 for a while. Practice every 3 strokes on longer swims, warm-ups, warm-downs. Bilateral breathing will help balance out your stroke. It will also make open water swimming easier, as you can look to the left and right to see where you are.


Many people say to axe the bi-lateral breathing during races...your opinion?

Actually, I mostly do this (don't breathe bilaterally during my open water races). For me, I KNOW I can get a good breath on my right side. My left side is weaker and more questionable. I DO use bilateral breathing during a race to navigate, but I'm much more concerned with getting air when I need it.  So I say do what works for you. Although it's good to know how to breathe on your weaker side for races definitely!

 

Biggest mistake you see at the local pool?
Biggest mistake: swimming flat in the water and trying to muscle through a workout. It's important to learn rotation and implement it, even though it will feel slow at first.

 

Become a Performance Member to have access to coach Kevin Koskella's Beginner Swim Lesson Series and the Beginner 700-2500 Swim Program

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date: December 27, 2008

Author


Tri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

Author

avatarTri Swim Coach

I'm at http://www.TriSwimCoach.com- a resource for beginning through intermediate level triathletes looking for help with swimming. The site features a free email newsletter offering tips and articles on triathlon swimming. I have also written an electronic book titled “The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming” and created "The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD", both available on www.triswimcoach.com.

For a 20% DISCOUNT on Zoomers Z2 fins and Freestyler paddles, go to www.finisinc.com and use discount code ‘aggies20’ at checkout!

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