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Jason Bourne

Intermediate Triathlon 1 Mile Swim Training

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One of my goals for 2014 is to complete an Intermediate Triathlon. I feel relatively confident about the running and biking portions, but I've never been a fantastic swimmer. Other than swimming a lot (which I plan on doing this next year as often as I can) are there other exercises, techniques or things that I need to know before I embark on this challenge? What's the best way to approach swimming a mile long distance in open water? I'd be grateful for any tips or suggestions of any kind that you all might send my way. 

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Congratulations and good luck on your goal!!! I think that's really badass. And you're in luck! There are a ton of things you can do to help you be a pro at swimming! In fact, there are way too many things to list to help you get started.

 

I'll just give you a few tips off the top of my head, and feel free to ask any more specific questions. I'd be more than happy to answer :)

 

1. If you can, find a swimming buddy. Not only can you and your buddy keep each other motivated and challenge each other to do better, but you can also critique each other's stroke. I find that one of the hardest things about swimming is NOT knowing what you are doing wrong. It is incredibly helpful if you have someone there to watch you and tell you how your stroke looks so you can improve.

 

2. Consistently hit the pool every week. This is a no-brainer, but if you consistently go to the pool and swim a minimum of X meters every time, it will get easier with time. I think that swimming is particularly hard to dedicate yourself to, because it is a very "loner" sport. It is just you and the pool, and it can get very frustrating at times (particularly when you hit a stump in the road and can't figure out why you aren't progressing as much as you'd like). But don't give up! That's why we're here for you at NF. Post your workouts in the swimming forum and tell us how you're doing.

 

3. Learn your breathing technique the correct way the first time through. Trust me, it'll help immensely. There have been a few topics with regards to breathing; check them out or ask me here. If you can do it correctly, then swimming longer distances will become tremendously easier. It should come second-nature to you.

 

4. If you are willing to spend a few extra bucks, invest in hand fins and flippers. Especially if you are swimming by yourself. As a former swim coach, I am a strong fan of using fins. There is only so much you can learn by watching other people swim. Using equipment is your best personal coach, because you will find that there is only ONE way you can properly use them to accelerate in the water, or else, they won't work for you. Fins are designed to help you be more hydrodynamic in the water (in other words, they're designed to help you swim faster/better). So if you pay attention to what your body is doing while using these fins then try to maintain that same stroke technique without using fins, you will develop great technique.

 

5. Remember that the key to swimming is to be as hydrodynamic as possible while using the least amount of movement. I've met olympians before who take a total of 9-10 arm strokes per lap. They don't take 50 arm strokes to complete a lap, because they don't need to. I remember meeting Kristy Kowal (200m breaststroke silver medalist) as a kid, and she could swim an entire 25 meters in 2 breastroke pulls. I was AMAZED, and that was when I realized that "doing more arm strokes" doesn't necessarily mean you swim faster in the pool. It is all about how much power you use per pull, per kick. It is about efficiency. When you feel more comfortable in the water, start doing stroke count. Start counting how many pulls it takes you to complete a lap, and ask yourself how can you decrease your number.

 

6. Speaking of which. This is just me being a silly swim coach, but make sure to close your fingers when you pull water! It's all about being hydrodynamic. If you have loose fingers in the water, then you're letting all of that water escape. You are pulling less water. Close those fingers (cup your hands), and pull that water!

 

If you can get your breathing technique and stroke technique down in the pool, then you can swim long distances in open water. It will be harder to swim in open water vs. the pool, but as long as you have the basics down, you can do it!

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I swam competitively in college and my first real open water swim was a 5k in Lake Michigan. Let me tell you - nothing you do in the pool really prepares you for a large open water race. There are bodies all around you, and the waves are intense. Open water swimming requires a lot more shoulder strength and swimming with brute force than swimming in the pool does. In the pool, you should be in line and gliding and slicing through the water. You can't really do that in open water. You have to put your head up a lot more than you would if you're in the pool too. You need to be able to see where you're going and keep your course steady.

 

That being said - it is super freaking fun, and it's a really great feeling when you're done and you look back and say - yeah, I did that.

 

So, if you can't do much open water training, I recommend at least trying to practice "spotting" in the pool. It feels silly, but you have to be able to look up and out and find some point on the horizon that you can aim toward. It's rather an unnatural feeling if you've spent all your time in the pool, but practicing it makes it a LOT easier in the open water.

 

Good luck! And HAVE FUN!

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This is EXACTLY what I needed. I was recently discussing wanting to swim a mile with one of my friends, who immediately offered to coach me. I'm not a very good swimmer, and she has never taught anyone before, so I was hoping that I could find an article that covered the things I should know before beginning. This is it, and it will help a lot. 

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