For years, triathletes and coaches thought that in order to become the best triathlete on the planet, one had to swim like a pro swimmer, pedal as a professional cyclist and run like a marathon athlete. As more beginners enter the sport of triathlon, we realize that training tips meant for elite athletes don't apply well to adults who are taking up endurance sports for the first time.The pros in each of these sports tend toward certain body types, and the body type of a swimming great is not the same as the body type of a champion distance runner.Not only don't most beginners have the body type of an Olympian, many won't benefit from the training techniques of great swimmers. Luckily triathletes have benefitted from the forward thinking of some great coaches who have recognized innate habits of good swimmers, and deconstructed them to find simple techniques beginners can adopt for success.One of these was Terry Laughlin, who developed a popular method of swimming instruction that emphasized form over speed to help thrashing swimmers learn to glide through the water. Laughlin died in 2017 at age 66 after a battle with cancer, but his advice lives on. Laughlin, the mastermind behind Total Immersion and the renowned Olympic Coach David Marsh compiled a fairly easy guide to help triathletes step-by-step into bettering their swimming technique. The training style for this sport is essential for people who wish to take this discipline to the next level, especially since unlike pro-swimmers, they will come in all shapes and sizes, and with different abilities.
Good beginner advice is to swim tall, even if you are short. Since water has a 1000 times larger density than air, Laughlin underlined the importance of slipping the body through the tiniest holes in the water. Imagining a central axis that extends from the top of the swimmer’s head down to the opposite ending of the pool will help to rotate the body along this axis at each stroke. The muscles in the lower back and abs should be kept taut, and the leading arm should be stretched up to its limit. This way, the propulsion will constantly come from both arms and legs.
Because pools offer a relatively short distance between the walls, it's easy to become caught up in the types of workouts swimmers use, focused on speed, lots of power from the shoulders, and a high stroke rate. This type of swimming technique is very difficult to sustain in a triathlon, where the distance is long and there are no walls to provide a bit of rest and the free propulsion of a push-off. Try using your pool swimming time to develop a swim stroke that feels effortless and uses as little energy per stroke as possible. Work on achieving a lot of distance for each stroke. Focus on using your core muscles and the snap of your hips when you switch from one arm to the other to fuel your forward movement. One way to work on the hip snap is to make sure you are swimming on one side and then the other side as you stroke your arms, rather than swimming flat on your belly and chest. Using this technique, you won't win any sprints in the pool, but you'll be better prepared for swimming 20 minutes straight without a break in a triathlon race.
About the author: William Benetton is a blogger, traveler and writer. He loves writing on many kinds of sport and tourism. You can visit his project oddsdigger.com and have some fun. He can't imagine life without sport, travel and morning coffee.