6 Beginner Swimming Tips Every Triathlete Should Know

6 Beginner Swimming Tips Every Triathlete Should Know


– Often one of the biggest barriers to getting started in
triathlon is the swim. If your swimming is
your weakest discipline, or you come from a
non-swimming background, then tackling the swim in a triathlon can be quite daunting. And this probably sounds pretty familiar to a number of our viewers, which is why I’ve got some help today. I’ve brought in Sam Pictor. So thanks for joining us, Sam. – Thanks for having me, Mark. Pleasure to be here. – Well, Sam I think it’s
probably fair to say, you probably don’t mind me saying that swimming isn’t your
strongest discipline. – No, that’s definitely fair to say. I came from a non-swimming background when I first joined university
sort of seven years ago. The idea of a swim squad
swim was terrifying. I was slowest in the lane. Started in the slowest lane. And to be honest, all those years ago, I wish there were several
things that I was told when I first started out. – So for our viewers,
what did you start out, you know like your times per 100 metres? – So I mean, when I
first started swimming, it wasn’t really about times, it was about trying not to stop every other length.
– Surviving. – It was surviving. Not getting too out of breath. But I’d say maybe two
minutes for 100 metres. – Okay, and where are you at now? – I’m sort of now knocking
on the door of 1:15, 1:20. – So very competitive. – Yeah, starting to get out towards the pointy end of the swimming races, which is getting there.
– Brilliant. Well, this is why we’ve got you in today because we’d like to pick up on some of those tips that you’ve
learned over the years. And help some of our viewers out there for getting started in
triathlon as non-swimmers. (booming) (electronic beeping) (thumping rock music) Okay then, Sam, what is
your first tip for us today? – So first tip, Mark, is breathing. Now we all breathe very easily when we’re running, when we’re cycling, but swimming takes some practise. When I first started out swimming, I remember the coach at the
university sort of said, Sam look, when your head’s
underwater, breathe. – Which sounds quite odd. – That didn’t make sense to me. But what he meant was breathe out. And it then clicked actually,
it’s just breathing out steadily when your head’s underwater. So, a few drills you can
do, just go to a quiet pool, put your head underwater,
breathe out slowly, just get that trickle
of bubbles coming out, and if you practise that,
build that into your swimming, it won’t take long until you can relax and really start to enjoy your swimming. – Now I do actually know
from having coached a little bit in the past from athletes that hold their breath,
actually that creates a lot of tension in the upper body, which then restricts your
arms when you’re swimming so it is like a win-win really. – And the funny thing is, by breathing out you’ll find that you get
to the end of each length and you don’t need to stop for a rest. (whooshing) – [Mark] Okay, tip number two for us, Sam. – Tip number two, Mark,
relax and take your time. Now, sometimes it’s not always best to practise these things
in a busy club session so take yourself away,
maybe public swim session or an open swim session, and just work on your technique and your breathing, again just head underwater,
breathing out steadily. Sometimes maybe just do
one length at a time, and just really focus on relaxing in. – So quality rather than quantity. – Quality rather than
quantity, absolutely. – Okay, so you haven’t
got a load of people around you, chasing you on your feet, so you can just take your time. – [Sam] Yeah, and I think
the key here is to relax. If you take your time,
you don’t feel rushed then you can really relax and then you, like you’re saying,
your arms will loosen up and you’ll be able to swim a lot freer. (whooshing) – [Mark] Okay, Sam, tip
number three for us. – Tip number three is little and often. Now I used to be very guilty of this, but I used to go to the pool
and do massive hero sessions. I used to think if I go to the pool, do a big 90-minute swim, five K, smash it out, arms falling off, get out and think, yep,
job done, bank that. But I’ve come to learn that’s just not the way to do it. Your technique falls
apart, and really it’s about frequency, not quantity. – Yeah, so you oughta spread out over a shorter swim, so
what three 30-minute swims rather than one 90-minute swim? – Absolutely, you took the words right out of my mouth. It’s just, yeah, frequency, getting in the pool, not leaving it too long in between every swim that you do. – Yeah, ’cause then you’re
not reinforcing technique in that time so you’re then having like four, five, six to
eight between each swim. – Absolutely, and as
an adult onset swimmer, without that years of
background in swimming, it’s really about getting in often and getting those frequent
touches of the water so that your brain just
starts to really learn it. – I like it. Feel for the water. (whooshing) – Tip number four is to swim with others. Now once you get into
the pool, the best way, and you’re learning
the basics of swimming, the best way to move it along fast is to get in with other people. And this would also set you up in a great way for your first triathlon. – [Mark] So you’re
pushing each other along. – Absolutely. You’re taking it in
turns to lead the length. Get yourself down to a local tri club, or public swimming session
with a few friends. Take it in turns to lead the lane, you’ll then have to count lengths, you’ll have to think about your pacing, all good things that will feed
into your first triathlon. – And also it’s that
responsibility of taking on the pacing and what time
you go off on the clock. If you use a clock. – Yeah, when I first started
swimming I was so guilty. I had my triathlon watch
and I’d hit the wall, press stop, beep. And then five seconds later, beep, and I could other swimmers looking at me, what is he doing? And really it’s, yeah,
if you’re gonna swim, try and swim like a swimmer. And that means using that funny
looking clock on the wall. – So you really get in
tune with your pacing. But also I guess just actually jumping in a public lane that’s busy, you’re in close proximity to a lot of swimmers, which we need for triathlon. – Absolutely. In a race, you’re not gonna have it all your own way. So getting used to the chop on the water. Other swimmers sort of in and around you. – Yeah, it just makes you
aware of what’s going on and how to follow feet and what not. – Absolutely. So useful. (whooshing) – [Mark] ‘Kay, next tip, tip number five. – Tip number five are drills. Now I wish someone had
told me about drills when I first started
swimming all those years ago. Drills are the most
effective and efficient way of becoming a faster swimmer. And then the easiest thing to do really. When I first started swimming, if I had 40 minutes I’d jump in and I’d just swim up and down, up and down, for 40 minutes. If I had 20 minutes,
up and down 20 minutes. – I think per a lot of our viewers are quite guilty of this. – Absolutely, and I was. But when you’ve got drills,
it’s just the best way of just perfecting your technique, saving energy, and when
you jump in the pool and you see that person
just gliding past you in the lane next to you effortlessly, that’s because they’ve
been doing their drills. – Yeah, so I guess the idea of drills is that you’re breaking your stroke down and you’re working on
basically specific parts of the stroke and really
kind of reinforcing and over-exaggerating the
good technique that you need. – That’s exactly it. Try and do them fresh,
so warm up every time. Build drills into every session you do. Do them at the beginning and
you can do them at the end. – Okay, and I guess actually
a really important thing about the drills is understanding why you’re doing it. – Yeah. – And the purpose of it. – You need to know the
purpose of every drill, why you’re doing it. And how to do it. How to do it properly. You don’t want to be
practising bad technique. Like you said, drills are
about breaking it down, doing one thing, giving
the brain one thing to think about at a time. (whooshing) Now my final point today is feedback. Now this is just the most useful tool. If you’ve got the time,
and the space, and friends. – That’s not me. – Take them down (laughs) take them, I’ll come for you now. Take them down to the pool, get them to watch you swim and give you feedback. And you can also give them feedback and watch them swim. It just helps you to like tweak things. – [Mark] Okay, so does this
include filming as well? – Yeah, if you’ve got the ability to then filming is just so useful. I remember when I first got filmed, I first started swimming, I started to improve a bit and felt
like I was Michael Phelps, like flying through the water. Saw myself on film and
my legs were sinking, my arms were flailing, and it sort of knocked me back a bit. But actually, it gave
me the impetus I needed and the feedback I needed to
just correct those things. – And I guess from
that, it sort of relates back to our last point on drills, you can figure out what
your weaknesses are, what you need to work on and start picking out those drills that
are specific to that. – Absolutely. So for example, I realised
I wasn’t following through on my stroke, so I started to speak to my coach and work out what drills we could do to correct that. – Fantastic. Well that has been really interesting, so thanks ever so much for
sharing your experience and your tips with us, Sam. – Thanks for having me, Mark. And remember, it’s worth noting that this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. It takes frequency, little and often, but just get in and keep going and you’ll get there. – Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. Well, thanks again for that. And if you’d like to see more videos from GTN just click on
the globe and subscribe. And if you’d like to
see our how to breathe when swimming video, just click down here. – If you’d like to see our video on how to train for your first triathlon, click down here.