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  1. #1
    Senior Member Snicklefritz's Avatar
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    New to swimming - where to start?

    I've been cycling for a while and just picked up running again this spring after a long hiatus. I currently compete in both. This fall I have a fairly flexible teaching schedule and was thinking of using it as an opportunity to pick up swimming so maybe I could do some triathlons.

    I can swim, but not with any definable technique. Actually, I don't even think I have any technique.
    What advice would people have on how to get started? My university has plenty of open pool time so I could practice everyday if I wanted to. The only problem is all of the formal swimming classes are full. Would taking a private lesson once a week throughout the semester be enough to help me get pointers on technique? The only thing I really care about is learning to do whatever is going to be useful in triathlon, so I don't care about a zillion different kinds of strokes. I also have a good work ethic and find it easy to work independently without someone pushing me to do so. I just worry about how to get the most out of my practices and also knowing what I should be striving for in my practice sessions.


    Any ideas? I'm so new to this I am not even sure what are all the questions I should be asking.

  2. #2
    Flatland hack Flak's Avatar
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    Assuming you can swim even a little, the best place to start is in the pool logging laps developing your style ...even if it's ****ty. You will atleast be developing a feel for the water, which is key if you want to be strong in it. From there, private lessons are a great idea, but you need an established stroke before a coach can improve on it.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
    Triathlon in my future??? flip18436572's Avatar
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    If you are at a university that has a good swimming program, talk to one of the assistant coaches and discuss with them what you are attempting to do and have them work with you once a week and see what it will cost you. Some of them won't have the time for you, but others will do it for free.
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    Coaching early

    I recomend a swim coach early. so they can recognize any bad habits, so you train with a proper technique. If you can find a coach with underwater video tapeing you will see what needs work and be able imangine what to do better.
    Good luck.

  5. #5
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    I recommend a swim coach also. When I joined the swim team in high school, I had a lot of things to correct about my swim technique.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Snicklefritz's Avatar
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    Thanks for the quick responses guys. I'll try to find some assistant coaches at the university to see if any of them work with private clients. Do you guys have some recommendations on the types of things to tell them? At this point, I'd probably just say something like "I'd like to do triathlons but my swim technique sucks. I'd eventually like to work up to X distance (1 mile), but have no idea where to start. I can train for up to Y hours per week. What should I do?" Does this sound like an ok kind of thing to lead in with? Or are there other questions I should be asking them to figure out if they would be a good coach or not?

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    The two additional suggestions I would offer are

    1) unless you discover you have some natural talent for swimming, also acquire a good supply of patience, as it may take a while for your technique to be good. I took my first lessons in 2005, and I've been swimming 2-4 times a week for 9 months in 2006 and the same for 2007. I can now swim a long way (I'm doing Ironman Canada On 8/26) but I'm still slow - 1:30 for a 100, 8:20 for a 500, and 42:00 for 1.2 miles.

    2) If your school or any local swim club / coach offers the ability to take and analyze video of your swimming, take it. I'm an expert-level cross-country skier and seeing myself on video so I had hard data on what I was actually doing (or not doing) was invaluable helping me more rapidly improve my technique. My experience has been that swimming is even more technique-intensive than XC skiing is.

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  8. #8
    Third World Layabout crtreedude's Avatar
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    One point of swimming (and I swim like a fish) is to not fight the water. Think like you are seal. Most people panic in the water and flail. Learn to be fluid and smooth in the water. I am an old geezer now (48) but can out swim most people though they are younger than I and perhaps stronger.

    Definitely a coach is a big hope and laps are a big thing. In your laps, work for fluid and smooth, then go for speed.

    just my dos colones

  9. #9
    Senior Member Snicklefritz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisesposito View Post
    The two additional suggestions I would offer are

    1) unless you discover you have some natural talent for swimming, also acquire a good supply of patience, as it may take a while for your technique to be good. I took my first lessons in 2005, and I've been swimming 2-4 times a week for 9 months in 2006 and the same for 2007. I can now swim a long way (I'm doing Ironman Canada On 8/26) but I'm still slow - 1:30 for a 100, 8:20 for a 500, and 42:00 for 1.2 miles.

    2) If your school or any local swim club / coach offers the ability to take and analyze video of your swimming, take it. I'm an expert-level cross-country skier and seeing myself on video so I had hard data on what I was actually doing (or not doing) was invaluable helping me more rapidly improve my technique. My experience has been that swimming is even more technique-intensive than XC skiing is.

    Chris
    thanks for the info and suggestions. One reason I am thinking of starting in september is so that I have a good 6-8 months of training before I start entering triathlons next summer. I'll be competing in other stuff over the winter as well as next spring. I figure all the time in the off season can help with basic things for the swimming part.

    Regarding swimming, what do you guys typically wear in cases where a wetsuit isn't needed? I've been perfectly happy to do duathlons in my cyclingskinsuit. However, with the padding in the butt area, I think it would get waterlogged if I wore it in the swim. What do you guys think about those onepiece tri suits?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flak View Post
    Assuming you can swim even a little, the best place to start is in the pool logging laps developing your style ...even if it's ****ty. You will atleast be developing a feel for the water, which is key if you want to be strong in it. From there, private lessons are a great idea, but you need an established stroke before a coach can improve on it.

    Good luck!
    I disagree with this.

    While one would certainly get stronger and faster with this method, one would also reinforce bad technique. It would be much better in the long run to learn good technique first, then start building yardage.

  11. #11
    Flatland hack Flak's Avatar
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    You have a point Jay, and when i meant logging laps i meant only for a couple of weeks. A coach will improve your stroke, but they won't teach you to swim. You need to be able to swim more than 25 yards before a coach has anything to work with imo, and a few weeks wont set any style in stone.

    However, that all depends on the coach. Im just regurgitating what my old swim coach used to say.

  12. #12
    Senior Member bvfrompc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snicklefritz View Post
    Regarding swimming, what do you guys typically wear in cases where a wetsuit isn't needed? I've been perfectly happy to do duathlons in my cyclingskinsuit. However, with the padding in the butt area, I think it would get waterlogged if I wore it in the swim. What do you guys think about those onepiece tri suits?
    I am good to go up to Olympic distance in my swimming jammer shorts, no pad. I also prefer running with them. They fit fine underneath a wetsuit or do just fine without one. Don't have experience with the one piece tri-suit, but haven't needed one up to now.

  13. #13
    runnin' down a dream edbikebabe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snicklefritz View Post
    Regarding swimming, what do you guys typically wear in cases where a wetsuit isn't needed? I've been perfectly happy to do duathlons in my cyclingskinsuit. However, with the padding in the butt area, I think it would get waterlogged if I wore it in the swim. What do you guys think about those onepiece tri suits?
    You won't be happy with the cycling skinsuit. The padding will be wet & heavy.

    I have a 2 piece tri suit (only because I got the shorts first in case I didn't like it). I really like the tri shorts. They have a little padding, but I don't even notice it is there when I'm running (especially compared to cycling shorts). A couple of friends have the one piece suits & really like them. There are lots of options, I'd go try on a bunch (one piece, short top/shorts, long top/shorts) and decide what fits & is comfortable.

    edit - that being said, I've also done many tris with swimsuit/short combinations (not really comfortable riding in just a bathing suit). It worked fine too.

  14. #14
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    buy the total immersion book and video.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Gloab View Post
    I disagree with this.

    While one would certainly get stronger and faster with this method, one would also reinforce bad technique. It would be much better in the long run to learn good technique first, then start building yardage.
    Learn To Swim well before you learn to swim hard/fast. Be patient, this can take some time. I would definitely get some time with a coach, even if its only a couple sessions, it will make a huge difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flak View Post
    You have a point Jay, and when i meant logging laps i meant only for a couple of weeks. A coach will improve your stroke, but they won't teach you to swim. You need to be able to swim more than 25 yards before a coach has anything to work with imo, and a few weeks wont set any style in stone.

    However, that all depends on the coach. Im just regurgitating what my old swim coach used to say.
    I see what you mean, but I didn't read the OP as being quite that bad a swimmer.

    To the OP: if you're truly a novice in the water, you might be best served by seeking out someone who teaches kids to swim and ask for advice.

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    Are you possibly at Cal? If so, take a look at joining the Cal Triathlon team. They may help you out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Snicklefritz View Post
    Regarding swimming, what do you guys typically wear in cases where a wetsuit isn't needed? I've been perfectly happy to do duathlons in my cyclingskinsuit. However, with the padding in the butt area, I think it would get waterlogged if I wore it in the swim. What do you guys think about those onepiece tri suits?
    There are also tri shorts that have a smaller chamois than standard cycling shorts and cycling skinsuits, so biking and especially running don't feel like waddling in a full diaper. The descriptions I have seen for these also claim that it is quicker to dry than the pads in regular cycling gear. I think one piece trisuits (which also have the reduced padding) look better, but bathroom breaks are also a bit more of a hassle.
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    Has anyone tried anything like this http://www.aquanaut.com.au/catalogue.../2/1/15/55/988

    It seems to be a bit like the speed suits they wear at the Olympics but with a bit of neoprene for warmth

    /k

  20. #20
    Closet Bike-a-holic tourist's Avatar
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    I've not tried it, but I 've heard nothing but good things about Aqua Sphere products
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    Quote Originally Posted by Snicklefritz View Post
    I've been cycling for a while and just picked up running again this spring after a long hiatus. I currently compete in both. This fall I have a fairly flexible teaching schedule and was thinking of using it as an opportunity to pick up swimming so maybe I could do some triathlons.

    I can swim, but not with any definable technique. Actually, I don't even think I have any technique.
    What advice would people have on how to get started? My university has plenty of open pool time so I could practice everyday if I wanted to. The only problem is all of the formal swimming classes are full. Would taking a private lesson once a week throughout the semester be enough to help me get pointers on technique? The only thing I really care about is learning to do whatever is going to be useful in triathlon, so I don't care about a zillion different kinds of strokes. I also have a good work ethic and find it easy to work independently without someone pushing me to do so. I just worry about how to get the most out of my practices and also knowing what I should be striving for in my practice sessions.


    Any ideas? I'm so new to this I am not even sure what are all the questions I should be asking.
    I am pretty much in the same boat as yourself. I just signed up for the Columbia Triathlon on May 18, 2008 so I have about 8 months to full prepare and get my speed up, hopefully. I can definitely swim but with little technique in my freestyle stroke.

    I have been biking and running for a while now (running for a few years, biking since May consistently) and swimming is the only thing I can see myself having any sort of trouble with efficiency-wise. I just ordered a pair of jammer shorts, nice goggles, and a swimming cap from Speedo (they are having a sale on a bunch of stuff in case you're interested) and all of the stuff should be here tomorrow.

    I'm going to start doing some laps and get my swimming endurance up a bit, then sign up for Private Lessons, probably 6 and do 1 each week to see how I am improving. I go to the University of Maryland and the 6 lessons should cost $150 for 30 minute sessions so I suppose guage any prices you pay with that as well. I'll know in a few months how my plan has worked out via how many laps I can swim in how long. My guess is that it will have been the correct way to do it. You decide.

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    I'd recommend starting with a private lesson. As someone has already said, you don't want to reinforce bad habits. And 1 private lesson per week is certainly enough to see some major improvements. After you get the basic technique down, you should join a Masters program with a coach (much cheaper than private lessons and great when you are ready to add speed).

    Just as with group rides, you'll get faster eventually and don't be embarrassed to rest for a few laps. Also, if you can't quite keep up, drafting works quite well in a pool (just make sure the person ahead of you doesn't mind).

    If you can't find a Masters program, a nice alternative is to video tape yourself and look for obvious problems in technique. A private lesson instructor or a swimmer friend can help you understand what to look for and how to correct the problems. You could also just ask for pointers from someone swimming in the next lane over. People ask me sometimes, and I'm always happy to take a look at their stroke.

    A few random pointers:

    You should learn backstroke eventually. Backstroke will help you stretch out after freestyle sprints and is fairly easy to learn after you know freestyle.

    Though goggles are very personal like saddles, I recommend these goggles to everyone. At 2.95, they are worth a try. Believe it or not, they fit me better than Speedo, TYR, etc...and they never leak.

    Use a streamline position off of every wall.

    After you learn to do a flipturn, always do it. Sooner or later, you'll probably do a tri in a pool, and the competitor with the best flipturn will gain precious seconds at every lap. Go hard into and off of each wall. Your legs will act like springs. Lots of people float into the walls and, thus, lose all momentum.

    Don't hold your breath underwater. Instead, constantly exhale and try to breathe on odd stroke counts (every 3 strokes, 5 strokes, 7 strokes, or 9 strokes).

  23. #23
    70.3 June 2008 El_Scorchio's Avatar
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    Not knowing a great deal about the ins and out of a good swim technique ot triathalon in general.

    Is taking swimming lessons a bit on the extreme side ( in terms of cost).

    Unless the OP intends to turn pro, whats the point of the expence, surely he just needs to get in a pool and swim.

    If he puts the training in and swim lap after lap, in the correct manner.

    Sprint training/ interval training.

    His times will come down naturally, the actuall swim technique that most people have is good enough for our level, of course if he intends to progress to a higher standard then lessons are the way forward.

    And also there is no point of a swim lesson if you cant ride or run decent times either.

    Just a thought i had, i would love someone to correct me if i'm way of the mark.

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    Quote Originally Posted by El_Scorchio View Post
    His times will come down naturally, the actuall swim technique that most people have is good enough for our level, of course if he intends to progress to a higher standard then lessons are the way forward.

    And also there is no point of a swim lesson if you cant ride or run decent times either.
    Of course, you can get faster at swimming, even if you swim badly, by just getting in the pool and swimming. But the OP specifically asked about how to develop good technique, so I don't understand your point.

    Quote Originally Posted by zroeder
    Though goggles are very personal like saddles, I recommend these goggles to everyone. At 2.95, they are worth a try. Believe it or not, they fit me better than Speedo, TYR, etc...and they never leak.
    I agree on the Swedish goggles, but I would advise someone trying them for the first time to expect an adjustment period. I found them pretty uncomfortable at first. A couple of practices later they felt fine.

  25. #25
    Member BigCat's Avatar
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    Something else to think about: I have been using a pull-buoy for about the last six months. I use it for three reasons: (1) it allows me to focus on my upper body; (2) it saves my legs for running and biking; (3) it feels a lot like when I have a wetsuit on. Also I find doing flip turns with it is very easy. Might be a valuable additional aid.

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