Befriending the Swim

Guess which part of triathlon the majority of triathletes struggle with, and why? Yep, you got it… You could be struggling with the same problem for the same reason. I’ll tell you about it shortly, but first, I want you to imagine this scene…

You are getting ready to race in a triathlon this morning. As you arrive at the event, there’s a cool mist hanging in the air.

The sun is still rising and there’s just a few puffy white clouds in the sky. As you were driving to the event, you heard the weather report: perfect skies, sunny, and 72 degrees… You couldn’t ask for better weather to do a triathlon.


You look around at your competitors and then gaze out over the water as you slip into your wetsuit. You felt really relaxed and confident as you were driving here. You’ve been training for months and feel like today could be the day you set a new personal record.

But then as you’re staring out over the water, you start getting that old feeling again.

A feeling of nervousness and butterflies.

You start thinking about the distance you have to swim. You begin wondering what the water conditions will be like today. Will the water be smooth… or rough? Perfectly warm… or shockingly cold?

You look around at everyone else getting ready for the swim. It looks like today’s race will be packed with contestants.

You remember your last race and start thinking all of the splashing that happens as everyone hits the water at once. There will be so many arms and legs flailing around you… you can’t help but wonder if you’ll get accidentally bumped into by another swimmer at the start of the event.

You remember how tired you were after the swim last time. As you were training for this event, you kept telling yourself that this time, things would be different.

You trained hard — probably the hardest you ever have.

But you never gave a second thought to the bike or run… just the swim.

You suddenly realize that it’s always been the swim that separates you from the rest of the pack…

Chances are, your story may sound like this one.

I know what it’s like to be starting out in the Triathlon. Even though swimming is the shortest part of the race, many view it as a “necessary evil.”

Swimming is the most difficult part of a triathlon… especially for beginners.

Many triathletes leave the water feeling exhausted and discouraged. They wind up hoping they can catch their “second wind” as they do the bike or the run next.

Why do so many triathletes struggle with the swim?

The honest truth is… it’s not because they’re horrible swimmers. Many of them have no trouble swimming endless laps in their local pool.

It’s not because they’re out of shape… almost every triathlete shows up on race day in great physical condition.

The reason why most triathletes fizzle out in the swim is because they are doing it wrong.

Most swimmers waste energy trying to churn through the water… instead of moving the body forward. It’s as dramatic as trying to row a boat using your bare hands… instead of using top-of-the-line rowing oars.

Training for an open water triathlon swim is not the same as training for any other type of competitive swimming.

Open swimming requires more attention to using the proper technique rather than doing ordinary high yardage anaerobic workouts.

Most newer triathletes are overtaxing their bodies with the way they train. It’s not because they want to (who would want to deliberately overtrain?). It’s because they haven’t been taught correctly.

And when they learn incorrect form… it only sets them up for failure… injury… or both.

Let’s face it: It’s no fun to compete in something that you know you don’t do well. It’s even more demoralizing to do that competition… do badly… and then try to find the energy to finish the other two parts of the race…don’t you think?

The stone-cold truth is… If you want to compete (and compete well) in Triathlons, then you have to make the swim your friend… and not your foe.

So how do you make the swim your friend…and even your best friend?

I’ll tell you but, first let me share with you a quick story…

kevin-tsc-300x300Hi, my name is Kevin Koskella. I started swimming competitively at age 8 and continued through college at University of California-Davis. It was there where I achieved All-American status in both the freestyle and backstroke.

After college I joined the corporate workforce. Like many people, I spent my work time at work sitting in a cubicle farm.

Outside of work, I focused my spare time training for triathlons and open swimming events, studying nutrition, and working on getting a personal training certification.

I was feeling pretty content with my life. I was earning a steady paycheck and still had time to focus on staying fit and healthy. My life was pretty stress-free and seemed like it was headed in the right direction.

But then in late 2000, something terrible happened…

I got laid off!

It turns out I wasn’t as valuable at work as I thought. I was just another employee who lost his job when the dot com company I worked for started failing.

I was devastated. I felt sick to my stomach.

But you see, losing my job might be the best thing that ever happened to me.

Let me explain.

After I got laid off, I got motivated. I didn’t want to ever work for a company that I cared nothing about, and wanted to do something impactful in my lifelong passion- swimming.

I took what I knew about swimming, personal training, and proper nutrition and I started coaching other adults in masters level swimming and one-on-one lessons back in 2001.

I realized that most people have poor technique in the water and are using way too much energy to swim.

I went back and reviewed some of the basic freestyle techniques that helped me achieve All-American status in college.


Nearly Sinking in the Water to Becoming an Ironman Triathlete…

I started training athletes privately. It turns out that even early on, most of my students happened to be triathletes.

One of them was Jeff… a beginner triathlete.

Jeff presented a challenge.

While he has been cycling and running most of his life to get through his upcoming triathlon race… he could barely swim, yet alone complete the swim leg of the race!

But I rose to the challenge… and so did Jeff.

I started teaching him my energy-saving swim techniques. And while I was at it, I also started designing workout plans to help him get in top shape too.

I started studying the philosophies and techniques from some of the top swim coaches in the world. I tested everything I learned from them. What worked for me, I started using with Jeff and my other athletes. What didn’t work… well, I quickly discarded that and kept testing new ideas.

Jeff was my most beginner student, and yet, he whizzed through the drills and techniques I presented to him… I realized at that point that this stuff really works!


Within 6 weeks from the time we started working together, Jeff was going from the VERY back of the swimming pack to mid pack in his sprint and Olympic distance races…and most importantly, having much more energy for his strengths, the bike & run!

Within a few months, Jeff gained enough confidence to set his sights from Nearly Sinking in the Water to Becoming an Ironman Triathlete!

I felt like I did my job.

It didn’t take long until I had created my own system for training triathletes how to excel at the swim, based on what I was having Jeff and others do.

This system has enabled me to train triathletes — from beginner through professional — and help them become very good swimmers and even better triathletes within a short amount of time.

Pretty soon, the word started spreading and more people started contacting me for coaching.

Well, it didn’t take long for my schedule to become jam-packed. Before I knew it, I was turning away people who wanted my help because I didn’t have any openings in my schedule to offer them!

I realized that if I am truly a top-notch swim coach like my clients frequently say… then I need to help other triathletes too… and not just the ones who have the ability to train with me in person.

Finally, in 2003, I decided to offer help in an additional way. I took the best techniques that I use with my coaching clients and created

Since then, thousands of people have eagerly grabbed my instructional help and many of them reported new record times in their very next triathlon.

Don’t worry, you do not have to suffer from poor swim techniques, overtraining, and the loss of fun in your triathlon training sessions any more… and deal with annoying injuries.

I’m here to help you.

If you’re new to Tri Swim Coach, you should definitely pick up our introductory 3 Online Triathlon Swim Lessons, where I share tips and advice you can use to take your triathlon swimming to the next level.


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If you’re all set and ready – start swimming, soon you’ll be laughing at the water!

Kevin Koskella
Founder, TriSwim Coach