As a person with a swimming background, you all know I’m comfortable in the water. Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of tips on how to make you more comfortable. That comfort level comes with time in the water. I had to learn this on the bike. No amount of thinking about cycling was going to get me more comfortable riding. I had to get time in the saddle. And that means, with anything you are uncomfortable with, you must do it over and over until it becomes a normal event and not a panic inducing disaster. (SEE: me crying on the bike.)
Now, I will say that even though I swam prior to my foray into triathlon, I was a true pool swimmer. I followed that black line for laps upon laps. I also swam the way I was coached. I kicked the hell outta the water and did countless yards of kickboard drills. I swam with my head tilted up, looking forward. I also swam pretty flat on my stomach and didn’t rotate a lot to breathe. Oh, and, I only breathed to one side. According to any swimming coach or swimming book you read right now, this is all pretty much wrong, especially in the open water.
I need to preface these tips with the fact that I am not a certified coach nor do I hold any swimming records whatsoever. However, I have swam in numerous triathlons, read a ton on swimming, and have learned a lot in the four years I have been competing in triathlons. If you are truly struggling out there, get an actual coach. (I’m breaking this up into two parts because it’s a little long.)
What to Wear
1. Don’t wear a bikini to swim laps ladies, unless it’s a sports bikini. If you wear a regular bikini your top could fly off in the pool and you’ll feel crazy swimming around with your chichi’s flopping about. Men, get some jammers or tri shorts. Those big, baggy swimming shorts add drag and could slide off and then you’re swimming all crazy with your butt cheeks (or other body parts) flopping about.
2. Yes, you need a cap. This is especially true for women. It makes a world of difference with all that hair. If you are a dude and you don’t want to wear one, you don’t have to but you’ll be forced to wear one in races so you may as well get used to it. The brighter the better on caps, it helps make you more visible and this is clearly more important in open water swims.
3. Yes, you need goggles. Chlorine and salt water and lake water are not fun in your eyes. What kind of goggles? That’s a great question. The S.O. did some research and found that these were the best goggles for triathlon. I personally think they look HUGE but there is definitely something to be said for the extra peripheral view AND he is a great swimmer so if he approves them, I’d be silly to tell you different. I, on the other hand, wear a smaller TYR/Speedo style that are a bit smaller. They work just fine and I prefer the mirrored lenses for the bright Florida sun.
4. Do you wear your goggles OVER or UNDER your swim cap? Totally up to you. Try it both ways and see what you like. Just like the goggles, it’s a personal preference.
Pool Equipment
1. Pull buoy. This will help you work on your upper body form as it holds your hips up.
2. Fins. I admit that I was anti-fins for a long time but I see the benefit in them for newer swimmers. Just get the ones made for pools and not those long scuba ones.
3. Pass on the kickboard. You can practice kicking without it.
4. Paddles. These are also important to help you with strengthening your arms and working on form.
All of the above items are optional, in my opinion. You can do lots of drills without purchasing all of this stuff. They are great tools to learn with but don’t become dependent on any of them.
Pool Etiquette
In general, people hate circle swimming. Circle swimming is when you have more than two people in a lane and you swim one behind the other and stay to the right. It’s like how you would drive a car. All I ever did was circle swim so this whole anti-circle swimming thing was new to me. If you get to the pool and the lanes all have two people in them, make sure you ask if it’s ok to circle swim with one of them.
Newer swimmers and folks who want to zoom zoom in the pool get anxiety from circle swimming. And those who are slower also don’t want to be in anyone’s way so I totally understand the loathing of circle swimming. Regardless, circle swimming shouldn’t be a big deal since you can always pass a person if you need to. If you don’t know the folks you are swimming with, don’t tap their toes and don’t draft. And be mindful when doing other strokes (butterfly, back, or breast) you don’t want a collision of body parts.
For part II I’ll go over some basic form and tips on dealing with the open water swimming chaos at the start of a race. Stay tuned and HAPPY FRIDAY!