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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Breen

Three Tips To Get You Swimming

As triathletes we’ve all heard the rumblings about swimming. You’ll never swim fast if you are an adult-onset swimmer. Swimming is such a small portion of the overall race. Put your precious time into cycling or running more.

Swimming is so much more than the first leg of a triathlon though. No matter your sport, even if you are not a triathlete, every athlete can benefit from swimming. Swimming provides a great aerobic workout that is low impact, strengthens muscles, improves body composition, and overall just increases mood. Swimming in cool water is restorative, feels good, and can be done year round. It counteracts the compressive forces from running, cycling, and weight training, by lengthening our body and improving our posture. High intensity workouts can be done more frequently which in turn improves one’s top end fitness.

Swimming is also a lifelong sport with no age limit, or maybe it’s that swimming actually decreases your biological age. A study was performed at the Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana to study the results of physical fitness on aging. Dr. Joel Stager led The Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming in determining specific markers associated with aging. These markers included physical function, health, quality of life and physical activity patterns of master swimmers. The results showed that the swimmers had overall improved quality of life, physical health and mental health markers as compared to the general public. With the biggest difference being in improved mental health throughout their life.

A plan and a purpose make implementing sports and physical activities much more enjoyable and sustainable than just going in blindly and winging it. With swimming this is especially important, considering many adults do not have a background in swimming.

Below are three tips to help you get swim focused this fall and reap those health benefits for years to come.

First, learn to breathe. Many athletes and triathletes when starting out learning to swim say that their biggest limiter is breathing. Actually they don’t really say this, because they don’t know that breathing is their actual limiter. What they do know is that they go way too hard across the length of the pool and are gasping for air at the other end. They assume their technique is the problem and read every book they can find trying to refine their technique without learning the basics first. The basics is the breath. “Triathlon Taren '' Gesell eloquently breaks down simple breathing techniques and drills in his book Triathlon Swimming Foundations and on his popular Youtube channel now called MyMottiv. A simple breakdown is to practice breathing on the edge of the pool first, before you even begin to swim.

  1. Holding on to the edge of the pool put your head in the water and simply blow bubbles. In other words, practice exhaling underwater. This reinforces that everytime you put your head in the water you exhale and do not hold your breath.

  2. Practice completely exhaling all the air in your lungs, until you sink down. This will begin to get you comfortable with being completely under water.

  3. Practice blowing bubbles with your legs extended and kicking. This will give you a sense of body position in the water and give you a sense of how you should feel as you begin to swim across the pool.

  4. Then when you are comfortable with step 3 you begin to turn your head just slightly to one side and take a sip of air. Not a gulp of air. Do this for about 3 minutes.

Then once you are comfortable progressing through these fours steps after the fourth step push off the wall and swim easily across the pool focusing on exhaling by blowing bubbles every time your head is underwater and slightly turning when you need a breath to take a sip of air and not a gulp.

There are many more drills to progress with, but by performing these 4 steps and simply getting comfortable with your head in the water and learning how to calmly breathe will make your swim experience that more enjoyable and purposeful

Many may consider the above drills for beginners, but they are also great to implement after some time away from swimming.

Second, learn about toys and use them appropriately. Toys, such as a pull buoy, paddles, snorkel, and fins are all great to have in your swim bag and will make swimming much more enjoyable if used appropriately. When incorporating toys though, be sure you have mastered the fundamentals of breathing first then add in toys where needed. If you want to keep it simple and avoid them there is nothing wrong with that. If they get you in the pool more often, because it makes swimming more enjoyable then go for it.

A pull buoy allows you to focus on your catch and when combined with paddles can greatly improve hand entry and swim specific strength.


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