Worried you swim like a wounded duck looking for shore? Afraid your first triathlon will result in DNF due to being picked up by the swim patrol boat? Sweating the bottomless depths of the pond, lake, river or ocean? Don’t worry, it’s just you. Everyone else is in a masters swim group and you’re the only one not taking advantage…
Ok, maybe not, but there are a LOT of triathletes that HATE and DREAD the swim. Instead of facing their fears head on, a lot will focus on hours on the bike and run and spend 1 to 2 hours a week splashing around in the pool unsure if they are working towards the ultimate goal of surviving the swim. How do you improve your swim and more importantly your confidence in the water? Use the force, Luke, and take advantage of your local masters swim group!
EMT posted an article on why you should join a Masters Swim group (http://www.everymantri.com/everyman_triathlon/2011/01/why-triathletes-should-join-a-swim-club-or-masters-program-today-to-swim-faster-tomorrow.html). USMS has a tool that is not only good for finding masters groups in your area, but also anywhere in the U.S. if you are traveling - http://www.usms.org/placswim/. Call first as the info on the website isn’t always up to date.
The reasons sound good, but how do you actually get the courage to show up to a pool and jump in the water with a bunch of strangers that more than likely are light years ahead of you in the water?
I'll follow up with my experience.
Winter of 2009/2010 I knew I needed to improve the swim and I didn't want to hire a coach to do it. There is only so far reading tips on the net and asking friends can get you when you want to improve.
That's when I found a reference to a local masters swim team, KC Blazers. At first glance of their web site, it's pretty intimidating thinking that you will be swimming with former college swimmers and people that live in the pool. I was nervous but knew I needed to improve. It was $5 a session so the price was right and they had 5:30am group swims giving me enough time to get a solid swim in and get to work on time.
So, I packed my swim jammers and headed to the pool.
First of all, the weekday morning option was not as packed as I thought it would be. All told they had ten lanes and maybe 15 to 18 people. They group by speed (which I realized later after the first session swimming on the fast end of the pool) and the "coach" lists out your workout and you hit the pool.
Tip 1 - Make sure you swim with people maybe a little ahead of your skill set. Don't pick too slow, you won't improve. Don't pick too fast, you'll get frustrated. Not sure which lane you need? Ask the coach. If they are worth the title of "coach", they will know where to put you.
Tip 2 - Some coaches spoon-feed the workout section by section. Some just blurt it out and you have to ask when you get to the next set. The good ones have a dry erase easel and write the workout on it so you can reference it. If you have the courage, bring your own small whiteboard and write it down so you can go at your pace. Some coaches like to monitor your group's performance, so keep that in mind and don’t jump ahead.
Tip 3 - Ask questions. Ask questions and ask some more questions. Fellow swimmers and the coaches usually have no problem helping you out. That's what the coach is there for... to teach you how to improve. Swim stroke, hip rotation, body position - there are all points I was instructed on.
Tip 4 - You are not alone as the "lesser swimmer". I would say 15% to 20% of the people there were triathletes. Of those, 5% knew what they were doing and the rest were trying to keep and do their best.
Whatever you can get done, be happy with. There should be ample motivation to swim fast to keep up with better swimmers and enough influence to teach you proper technique.
Heck... just sit there and watch the "pros" swim. You would be surprised at what you can pick up.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, and is a married father of two, owner of three dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001. Ryan is also the Kansas Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughs HERE. Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan
*Expressed opinions are not necessarily that of EverymanTri.com