Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Get yourself a swim coach

Another swim session, another stroke adjustment, another light bulb moment.

If you are a new (or not so new) triathlete, I'm going to give you one piece of advice. Get some swim coaching. Seriously, unless your swim stroke is perfect, get yourself a swim coach.

There are a lot of things you can do on your own when you embark on a triathlon journey. Consistency goes a long way. Building volume will do a lot of good for you when it comes to running and biking. When it comes to swimming though, get yourself a swim coach.

If you can swing it financially, you might be able to get private coaching. Otherwise, look for a coached program somewhere. Make sure it's somebody that knows what they are doing and knows how to refine technique. I took an adult swim course and a "stroke improvement" course prior to this one, and all they did was teach me the basic motion. Working with a triathlon coach is nice, because they understand how it all goes together, but working with a good swimming coach could be equally beneficial. You just don't want the kid, with a few months of experience, that has just been moved up from teaching the 5 year olds.

I actually think I benefit as much in this program as I would from private coaching. Sure, somebody could look at me and give me a list of everything I need to fix at once, but I wouldn't absorb it that quickly anyways. In the group program, I receive the feedback at a rate I can absorb, and I also get the benefit of working out within a group.

I'm lucky. I don't just have a swim coach, but I have a bloody amazing swim coach. I guess technically, she's not "my" swim coach, but rather the coach for the program I'm taking. No matter. The progress that she's helped me make in my swimming has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Almost every week I have an "aha" moment of some type. Frequently, she changes something about my stroke which turns out to be an important change. I then focus on it for a while to cement it in. She times the next change perfectly. If she tried to change all those little things at once, I'd be totally overwhelmed. She seems to have a sense for when I'm ready for the next thing.

I read. I do online searches. I watch youtube videos about swimming. I did all these things before starting this swim program. I intellectually knew a lot of technique, but either had no idea how to put it into practice or had no idea I was or wasn't doing it in the first place. In fact, prior to starting this program, I thought I was rolling onto my side. Suffice it to say, I wasn't. At most I did a slight rocking motion back and forth.

It can be intimidating to join a program. I was terrified about it the first night walked into a room full of triathletes. If you're on this journey though, part of it is about taking risks and pushing yourself. May as well start now.


  1. Love this! It is so true. I wish I could get more actual coaching somewhere, but have yet to find a swim specific coaching class in my area. I have taken a couple of triathlon conditioning classes which incorporate all 3 sports, but not just swimming. I would love to have a swim coach, but can't affor that. I'm hoping the Masters Swim will be a big help and that I'll get some advice on my stroke.

  2. Fantastic. Glad to hear you found a wonderful woman and group to work with.

  3. You are so right!! I have let my swimming fall to the wayside and I am sure it will show! For one small sprint this year I didn't think it was worth it for me to devote so much time to the swim as realistically it is such a short part of the race.
    Next season when I plan to race a lot more I will join a similar program.
    Glad you have found a great coach as I remember how apprehensive you were about swimming.

  4. I've done masters with famous coaches and currently do 1:1 training with a swim coach.

    I'm still slow but I'm finally thinking there is hope for me.

  5. Excellent advice. I'm thinking about 'try a tri' next year and need some swim instruction. Last swim lesson I had was at summer camp 30 years ago!