|For many of us, swimming is the most difficult segment of a
triathlon -- psychologically, if not physically. The water is often cold, always deep, and
depending upon the location, the thoughts of the animals beneath the surface can be
frightening! Here in Florida, our lakes are visited by alligators, while our ocean beaches
are just about as popular for sharks as for sunbathers. Fortunately, there have never been
reports of meetings between triathletes and these creatures.
Swimming is the biggest
challenge for a lot of people that want to do a triathlon. Without years of swim lessons,
or being on swim teams as a kid, it almost seems like learning to swim for a triathlon is
impossible. Of course, that is just not correct. No matter what your age, you can learn to
be a more efficient and successful swimmer.
One good thing about swimming is that it is mostly technique. Once you learn the
correct way to swim, it almost gets easy! Well, not quite, but almost. And as you continue
to practice, you will continue to improve. Unfortunately, many people try to work on their
swim fitness before they improve their swim form. Keep in mind that
swimming is mostly technique. You can improve your swimming efficiency much quicker by
using good swimming form with concentration, body awareness, and knowledge, than by
using muscles, strength, and lung power.
Velocity in the water is a function of stroke length and stroke rate. Stroke length is
positioning your body in the water so it goes as far as possible with each stroke. Stroke
rate is how quickly you move your arms and take each stroke. Water is 1,000 times denser
than air! Therefore, the best way to make dramatic improvements in your swimming is by
focusing on stroke length. In order to improve your stroke length you need to cut the
resistance of your body through the water. Swimming efficiently means streamlining your
body as much as possible. The three key ways to do this are:
1. Balance your body better in the water. Pressing your buoy will help you
be more relaxed in the water.
2. Make your body longer. Front quadrant swimming makes you swim taller and
3. Swim on your side, not on your belly. Rolling side to side on every
stroke uses less energy.
These three principles of proper swimming may be new to you. They can be easily learned
and applied using drills to reinforce the techniques involved. They should be the main
focus of your swim workouts. Contact a masters swim coach in your area to learn how to get
a head start on swimming efficiently.