Monday, November 1, 2010
Few people venture into the world of triathlons with a strong swimming background. Your typical beginner is usually a runner, and sometimes a cyclist. Your very first steps into the world of swimming may be in a pool, trying to get across those first 25 yards without passing out. With some practice, time, and some times a coach, you find that swimming is really not that bad.. until your first swim in the ocean, also known as open water swim (OWS). I have friends, and a wife, who wouldn't dare swim in the big bad blue ocean. They ask, "What's up with all these crazy people swimming in the ocean? Must have missed shark week this year!" Truth is, it is the complete opposite. Contrary to popular belief, a shark/whale/stingray/grouper/eel/crab/shrimp/jelly fish is NOT watching you from the depths waiting to attack. Not once has any form of marine life come within 10 feet of me, except for hog fish! They seem oblivious to their surroundings and stay in the same spot regardless of who is trying to spear them. (You fellow spearmen know what I am talking about)
Swimming is about taking one step at a time. If you don't have someone to teach you, a good option is to do some research online. Watch some videos on youtube, do some reading and take this knowledge to the pool. It is best to focus on the freestyle stroke, since it will be your primary discipline in the water. Swimming is mostly about technique, once you have a good grasp of it swimming will become easier. If you find yourself having a hard time learning on your own, then a coach or masters program may be for you.
Swimming or Triathlon coaches will teach you one on one. They will take the time to review your stroke, and teach you different techniques and drills to improve. Most beginners report dramatic improvements when they go this route and highly recommend it. Coaching fees range, it is best to contact several coaches and see what is within your budget. Your other option is a "masters program". This is usually a class run by a coach in a public pool and tends to cost a lot less. For example, one of my local masters programs is just $12 a week, for 4 classes. While you may not get the one on one experience, this is still a great option to learn. Search Google for local master programs and what their practice times are. You can visit and see how it's run, speak to the coach, and get a better feel for what to expect. You will find members of the program to be very welcoming and helpful.
Once you have mastered the technique, there are all sorts of different drills and workouts for swimming. A few months ago someone on BeginnerTriathlete.com suggested a website called SwimPlan.com - It is free to register and will ask you several swimming related questions to gauge your level. Once completed, it will generate different workouts for you according to time, level, and fitness. It is a great tool to keep your workouts fresh and entertaining.
If the only thing standing between you and becoming a triathlete is swimming, the only way you will overcome it is by facing it. The important thing is to not overwhelm yourself and take it one step at a time. Once you get the hang of it, you will enjoy the benefits of swimming and even find yourself looking forward to it. If you happen to read this post and it helps you make that jump, I ask that you pay it forward by helping one other person get over their fear of swimming/water and in turn ask them to do the same.
Posted by Raul at 2:17 AM