Beginner triathlete – a guide to success (Part 1)

By Su

beginner triathleteTriathlon is an amazing sport, which is very challenging and exciting! Even if you have another sport background, nothing can prepare you for the fitness changes you will experience or the feeling of completing your first race. But the thought of swimming, biking and running can be scary at first. Check this 3 part series article for the beginner triathlete: Part 1 – Swim – Gettin’ in the Water!, Part 2 – Bike – Ride like a Champ !, Part 3 – Run – The tough jog ! To help you prepare for your first race.

Beginner Triathlete: Swim – Gettin’ in the Water

The first step for any beginner triathlete is to get comfortable swimming. For most that do not have a swimming background, it’s always the most difficult of the three events but it can be easier if you follow these easy steps below:

#1 – Swim

Swimming is a very skilled sport, meaning you need to develop the technique to feel like you’re moving through the water. Some athletes think they have to spend all their time doing technical drills but in reality you cannot absorb the drills if you don’t have any fitness! So, if you’re planning on swimming two or three times per week (recommended) make sure you work on skills only one day and the other (one or two) you “just” swim so you can develop fitness. The fitter you are the easier is for you to improve your technique.

#2 – It’s about frequency and not volume

Do not worry much about the total yards or meters you are swimming at first. You can not swim like a swimmer where 2,000m could take 30 minutes because for you it could be 60 minutes! I recommend you to swim by time and start conservatively, 20 minutes and swim as often as you can. Like martial arts or any other sport that involved skills, it’s about frequency and repetition!

#3 – Break down your workouts

Getting in the pool and swimming continuously for 500 or 1,000m (yards) are not indicated for beginner triathlete. With the lack of proper technique and fatigue, the form will deteriorate and you will end up doing more harm than good. I recommend to “break” the workout down as much as possible and swim short intervals like 25 and 50m (yards) at the time where you can stop, recover, and focus on your technique before you go again. As you get more skilled (better form) you can lengthen your intervals to 100 and maybe 200m (yards). I only advise longer intervals (400 and above) for experienced swimmers that can maintain proper form throughout the interval.

#4 – Use Fitness “Toys”

In swimming, we have a few useful “toys” that can be very helpful for a beginner triathlete. My favorites are the pull buoy, kickboard, and fins.

Pull Buoy – This “toy” is great to help the athlete to feel what a good body position in the water is. Most athletes have problems keeping their legs up (mostly men) so they have to kick and that takes a lot of energy. If you do not have a swim background, you do not know the proper kick technique (from your hips) and it can be very tiring and frustrating.

By using the buoy you can focus on your arms first, understand the proper movement and breathing technique. Once you master the arm movement and proper breathing, you can add the kick to the equation.

Kickboard and fins – Kickboard can be very useful if you have a problem learning how to breath and/or proper arm rotation in the water. You can use the kickboard to assist you with balance so you can execute the arm movement safely and practice breathing as shown on the pic below. Make sure you hold the board keeping shoulder width to avoid crossing the centerline. If you have difficulty moving forward as a beginner triathlete in the water, add fins to help you with the propulsion.

Be patient as swimming as a beginner triathlete can be a bit tricky to learn at first but once you get the basic skills, you will enjoy swimming and be ready for your first race!
Stay tuned for the next two articles and be ready to sign up for your first race from Thanyapura’s Head Triathlon Coach Sergio Borges. Remember if you need any personal advice as a beginner triathlete, or even as someone who is more experienced our coaches are happy to help you with your triathlon journey. 

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