Four Sprint Triathlons and 2 Olympic Distance Triathlons. Several marathons and Boston qualified. Because of my new found love of these sports, I got my Personal Training Certification and USAT Level I Coaching Certification so I could help others attain their goals!
Swim Help! Gasping for Air
When I swim I struggle to get a full breath and consequently run down faster. I spend part of my training on the side of the pool gasping for air.
I was hoping to get some advice myself. I have been running for quite a while, and have done some marathons, so I feel pretty confident in my running ability. I have been biking more and am feeling good about what I can do there. I am also comfortable with the transition from bike to run.
My concern is the swim. I have done two sprint triathlons so far, and struggled a lot in the swimming. When I swim I struggle to get a full breath and consequently run down faster. I spend part of my training on the side of the pool gasping for air. I have another sprint that I am doing in three weeks so any advice would be appreciated!
The swim is commonly the most stressful part for athletes participating in a triathlon. Here is my advice for you in regard to swimming, gaining more confidence and being more comfortable in the water.
First, you have to try to relax in the water. Easier said than done, I know. Mentally, you are already exhausting yourself because you know how uncomfortable you are in the water. Start each workout with an easy warm up. Use a flutter board and just kick or practice swimming easily down the pool, taking as few strokes as possible and doing more relaxed long strokes and spending more time “gliding” through the water. This will help you relax your muscles and start to enjoy being in the water.
So many people think the trick to swimming fast is to kick and stroke even faster. This is not true. It is actually the exact opposite! It’s important to be mentally prepared to swim. If you go into the water thinking you can’t do it, or about how awkward/uncomfortable you are in the water, you are doomed from the start. Pick something positive to focus on and relax through the water. You’ll find that the more relaxed you are, the longer your strokes and the fewer kicks you do, the FASTER you’ll actually swim without even trying!!!
Secondly, you really need to start practicing your bilateral breathing. Knowing that you are going to get a breath of air every third stroke is really going to help you relax. This is another skill you can start working on with a flutter board if you are uncomfortable doing it while crawl stroking only.
Flutter board drill
Hang onto the flutter board with both hands. Perform a crawl stroke placing hands back on the board after every stroke. While performing your strokes keep your face in the water, eyes to the bottom of the pool. Every third stroke, take a breath…alternating sides each time you breath. After practicing this for 200 to 300 yards, try it without the flutter board. This is going to help you with your breathing a GREAT DEAL!!! It’s also best to learn how to perform bilateral breathing for triathlons that are held in open water. You may need to change the sides you breathe on because of water conditions (waves, wind, spray), other swimmers, etc. It’s in your best interest to learn how to breathe on both sides of your body.
Another tip, keep your head down (mentioned above with the bilateral breathing drill). You want to position yourself so that you are looking at the bottom of the pool when you swim, not so you are looking at the other end of the pool. This keeps you in a better plumb-line that enables you to glide through the water more smoothly. It also helps you maintain the proper position for rolling on your side when you breathe. The roll that you perform when you take a stroke and breathe keeps you more narrow in the water and makes your swimming more fluid.
Finally, it has been my experience that the more relaxed I take the swim, the faster I go. Try to use your swim as your warm-up to the big event. Relax in the water. Take as few strokes and possible and kick every second stroke. This will help you conserve energy (i.e. reduce your difficulty breathing) and get you ready to fly out of the water, jump on your bike and GO! GO!! GO!!!
We hope you find your next swim is a successful one!! Good Luck!!!
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