I arrived limping, I left walking.
Tom, Maidenhead

“Water You Wading For?” Alice Hector’s 5 Top Swim Tips For Triathlon Domination


  1. Specificity

Is your triathlon in a lake, the sea or a pool? All require different skills, so dip into your chosen substance well in advance of your race. In a lake, you’ll most likely wear a wetsuit, which can take some getting used to. You’ll need to sight on markers to swim in a straight line, and you’ll need to be comfortable in close proximity to others. In the sea, you’ll potentially have the addition of waves and currents throwing your rhythm and direction. In the pool, quick turns will be to your benefit and you won’t have a wetsuit keeping you buoyant, so good body positioning becomes even more important.

  1. Keeping the Feel

Swimmers talk about ‘feel’ for the water. It’s hard to describe, but immerse yourself regularly and you’ll notice you have a better grip on the water. Swimming often, or even little and often, is far preferable to one big swim set once per week.

  1. Group Sessions

Swim with a club or group all doing the same session, and you’ll find you’ll be pushed to faster times, plus you won’t be disrupted by other people in your lane doing other workouts. Triathlon and swim clubs will have coaches poolside who will give technique tips and instant feedback: invaluable for a discipline in which form is so crucial.

  1. Equipment

Leaky, steamed-up goggles won’t serve you well so keep them well-maintained and replace every year or so. Any pockets or baggy bits on a trisuit will cause drag, so carefully consider your kit for the water: you need to be as sleek as possible.

  1. Drafting

In any triathlon swim, you’ll have the opportunity to swim behind someone else, so you’re almost tickling their toes. This is ‘drafting’, and can save you around 20% effort for the same speed. It’s a technique that needs mastering, as you’ll need an innate awareness of other people’s positioning and the ability to chop and change your stroke at a moment’s notice. The only way to get good is to practice with others. You want to aim for feet or hips, swimming an inch apart from your chosen one, but try not to hit their feet every stroke – that can be very annoying! Apart from the odd inevitable reminder, you don’t want them to know you’re there….

Master all this, and watch your times tumble.

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