March BT Swim Training Chat with Coach Kevin Koskella

author : Tri Swim Coach
comments : 0

Discussions on endurance building, bilateral breathing, kick drills with zoomers, tri versus competitive swimming, ramping up for a HIM and swim golf.

Welcome! You have entered [BT Lounge] at 7:57 pm

[ron] I have a question that I'm sure many ultra beginners struggle with...remembering my days having to train for a 1mile swim but I could only do the forward crawl 1/2 of a lap before gasping every stroke, what is the best way to build up some basic endurance?

[Tri Swim Coach] 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.

[ron] How may laps should you try to do to start out with the side kick?

[Tri Swim Coach] Vertical kicking would be my next advice. 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. With 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.

[strouse]  Is the technique for tri swimming different than competitive swimming (other than the obvious-sighting...)?


[Tri Swim Coach]  Hi strouse, 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!


[strouse] I was a distance swimmer so I'm used to the longer swims-any difference in technique?


[Tri Swim Coach] Strouse, as a distance swimmer, you will likely have an easier time with a tri swim. However, when you swam your 500's and mile's as a competitive swimmer, you didn't have a bike and run afterwards. So economizing your strokes is still very important. I was more of a sprinter in college and felt I had to relearn swimming when it came to the open water! Longer more efficient strokes work well.

[strouse] Thanks!

[bbauer] Hi Kevin I'm pretty much a beginner and breathing out the left side is kicking my butt just keep trying or is it that important?


[Tri Swim Coach] Hi bbauer, bilateral breathing, or breathing to alternate sides, is important- but it should not be your #1 focus. I wouldn't worry if you aren't yet comfortable on one side. Work on that side while you are warming up, and on long swims. It will come with practice!

[Cavu9]  Coach, I haven't been able to swim in many months due to the Hurricane damage here in New Orleans, I am transferring to Memphis in a few weeks and have St. Anthony's coming up. How much swimming is too much too quickly???

[Tri Swim Coach] Hi Cavu, I'm sorry about the hurricane damage. You just have to listen to your body. Start out with longer swims rather than hard swims to rebuild your endurance. Focus on technique and don't worry about falling behind- you'll get back to it in a few weeks. Also Cavu, focus on getting in the water more often than you usually do, mainly to get that "feel" for the water.

[Cavu9] Is a 3 week ramp up too much for a 1500m swim? I did a HIM last year and consider myself to be a decent swimmer. I haven't been in the water in months....pool is closed. I will have the ability to do 3x/week starting in April.

[Tri Swim Coach] Cavu, 3 weeks is cutting it pretty close! If your swim is decent as you say, you should be able to hang in there....just don't have huge expectations!

[Cavu9] Thanks. I am actually thinking of just holding off till Memphis in May. Again...thanks!

[Tri Swim Coach] Any time!

[ellismichael] Coach Mike recommends swim golf at the beginning and end of some swim sessions. I think the intention is that the one at the end of the session is better than the one at the end (lower golf score), but mine is always higher because I'm slower because of being worn out. Am I doing something wrong?

[Tri Swim Coach]  Mike, swim golf is GREAT especially like that at the beginning and end of workouts. The higher score is okay, I think that should be expected as you get tired. The idea is to keep the score consistent then work on bringing it down little by little.


[Cavu9] Is there a limit to too many yards/meters in a certain workout?


[Tri Swim Coach] Cavu, no there is no limit, again you have to do what's right for you. Definitely try to stay aerobic for most of your workouts. Sprinting is good sometimes but it shouldn't be our main focus as triathletes, besides the fact that it will wear you down quickly!

[Cavu9] HR monitor in the pool then?


[Tri Swim Coach] Cavu, HR Monitors are good but tougher in the pool than on land. You can just take your pulse on occasion by using the clock and counting beats for 6 sec and multiply by 10.

[ron] Here's one, does one not need to breath every third stroke on the crawl if it limits O2 intake...that the crawl every stroke is just a good? What is the efficiency gained in bilateral every third stroke? When would one make the switch? I remember it was difficult for me....

[Tri Swim Coach] Ron, good point. If you are starving yourself from O2 just to breathe every 3rd stroke, stop! Go back to every 2 or 4 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.

[Cavu9] What is optimal or is that dependent on the person? I sometimes use 3 sometimes 4, but both are very comfortable.


[Tri Swim Coach] Cavu, if you can do every 3, stick with that!


[sappho96] Any quick tips on how to improve my breathing on my weak side? Apart from lots of bilateral drills?


[Tri Swim Coach] Sappho, yes, practice kicking on your side, arm extended, head down (on your weaker side). This will improve your balance in the water and make it easier to breathe on that weaker side. Also do the "shark fin drill" which is too hard to explain right now but is explained my newsletter!

[sappho96] Weaker arm extended?


[Tri Swim Coach] Yes sappho- whatever side is tougher to breathe on.

[Tri Swim Coach] Mike, focus on technique and endurance. Build that up and thirdly work on strength, but focus on core strength rather than building up specific muscles.


[ellismichael] So it's more core strength than chest/lat and arm strength?


[Tri Swim Coach] Mike- yes! Core is the key- abs, back, etc. Make friends with the swiss ball.

[marmadaddy] Kevin, sighting is a huge problem for me. When I look up, I lose a lot of form and momentum. Any recommendations for practicing sighting skills?


[Tri Swim Coach] Hi marmadaddy, practice in the pool. Focus on object on the pool deck. Lift your goggles just above the water surface to check that object. 4 strokes up, 4 down. Then do that in the open water.

[marmadaddy] Also, I saw your ad in Inside Triathlon today and we're on the same page. I'm the guy in the Javelin Tri Suit in the ad immediately to the left.


[Tri Swim Coach] mdaddy- cool!


[deepbluesea] Here's a question for you: how do you know if you're O2 starved--fatigue? Also, same question on loss of form when sighting. I can do it and I'm comfortable in the swim (in a relative way) but my form goes to pot.


[Tri Swim Coach] deepblue- fatigue would be a good sign. When sighting try to put your head back down and look down. Head position can screw a lot of things up!


[tpetersen02] Hi Kevin - I'm looking for exercises/ideas to help improve my kick. It's terrible. I can't kick my way with a kickboard halfway across the pool, and on my back it's about the same. I can do a little better on my side, attempting to do various drills from your newsletter, but still VERY slow, and it's frustrating. I've tried to keep in mind kicking a shoe off my foot, using my upper leg/muscles, and recently started doing some vertical kicking. Any other ideas/exercises/tips/etc? Thanks!!!


[Tri Swim Coach] tpetersen- try 2 things: Vertical Kick (kicking in place, hands out of the water), and using Zoomers (shorter fins). This should help!

[tpetersen02] OK - fins I ordered and they come tomorrow! Without them, drills are excruciating...


[sappho96] btw - when using zoomers are you likely to go slower than people with normal fins on?  Or am I just bad at kicking?


[Tri Swim Coach] sappho- slightly faster. But they will improve ankle flexibility, which will help your kick!


[tpetersen02] Do you recommend a certain style of fins? I hear of zoomers a lot, and also see split fins by aquasphere that were recommended.

[Tri Swim Coach] tpetersen- I like the Zoomers Z2


[Tri Swim Coach] Okay guys I've gotta's been a lot of fun chatting...for more you can look through the BT site or check out mine at bye for now!


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date: April 2, 2006

Tri Swim Coach

I'm at 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

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

avatarTri Swim Coach

I'm at 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

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

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