Triathlon Swimming


Posted by Coach Mark

(Originally posted at

When I started in triathlon many years ago, I didn’t put as much emphasis on swimming as I did running and cycling. This was because I had been a swimmer in high school and felt like I had a decent freestyle technique and was already a bit faster than most of my competition. This decision served me well for the first few years but as I became a better triathlete, I realized that I was actually losing some time in the swim to some of my peers. Over the past 10 months I have been involved with a dedicated triathlon swim coach as well as swimming regularly (3-4 times/week) with a group of triathletes and have seen tremendous improvement!

Nearly every triathlete can benefit from the following 2 important ingredients to their triathlon swim training: a coach trained in stroke technique and coached workouts in a group setting.Working with a trained swim coach has helped me evolve my stroke technique into a more powerful, efficient freestyle. Through critique, the introduction of focused drills and consistent feedback I feel more comfortable in the water and best of all, I’m faster! It was important for me to be patient as changes were made to my stroke. Initially I felt a bit awkward, but eventually it became more natural, and I got stronger.Swimming with a group in the pool is now a very important part of my training regimen. Our group is strictly triathletes, but a Masters session 3 times a week is a much better alternative to swimming solo. Our sessions include a warm-up, some drills, maybe some kicking or pulling, then a main set and finally a recovery swim. Also, when the weather warms up we meet for group open water swims. These can be huge confidence builders not to mention a good opportunity to practice putting on and taking off that new wetsuit!

Not only has my stroke improved from the drills, but also my pacing and endurance is better from the main sets that are part of nearly every swim session. Occasionally our main sets are tough, anaerobic killer sets, but most times they are geared towards holding a steady pace over 20- 30 minutes. These types of sets are great for preparing you for the longer swims that many triathlons offer. A creative coach will try to vary the swims sets as to decrease the monotony of swimming on the blue line.At this early stage of the season, now is a good time to seek out a swim group and a coach to try to get the edge on your competition. Whether swimming is your limiter or you come from a swimming background, spending time in the pool is essential. And, of course, don’t forget to take your MAP! 

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