How to Prepare for a Triathlon Swim – Issue #128

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How to Prepare For A Triathlon Swim

Dear Friend,

Last Sunday, I participated in the La Jolla Half Marathon. My training was going very well through March, my long runs consisted of 10-11 miles, and I felt better than ever. Then, I got a cold that lasted 10 days. I lasted about 5 days being healthy and then got ANOTHER cold, 1 week before my race!

I could have easily scratched the whole idea of running the race, but I was determined to conquer it, cold or not.

I woke up the morning of the race and still had a cough and congestion. Energy level was moderate to low. The thing about this half marathon is there is this gigantic hill in the middle of it that lasts an entire mile.

So I shifted my goals a bit, and went with a strategy of going slow and slaying the monster hill without stopping.

When I got to the hill at mile 6 (my cough subsiding at this point), I put my head down and did not stop running until I got to the top. What a great feeling that was getting to the top and beating back the hill! My adrenalin carried me through the rest of the race, and I even beat my goal time.

This leads me to an often neglected aspect of triathlon training- the mental part of training.

Completing an Ironman even takes an incredible amount of “mental toughness”. Even finishing your first race of any length is not possible if you aren’t mentally prepared!

The swim in particular can be challenging in a mental sense, from the sheer distance, to the mass start, to navigation, there is a lot to work on besides just technique and endurance!

It is important to develop your confidence in this sport, through both physical and mental work.

Mental work involves some kind of daily meditation. Focus on whatever aspect of triathlon is freaking you out the most! Envision your race or parts of your race- being done successfully, with ease. If your toughest leg is the swim, think of the start, swimming your own race, finding a rhythm, navigating around the buoys, and finishing strong. Picture perfect stroke technique and leaving the water with lots of energy, ready to go for the final 2/3rds of the race.

Developing your mental game is a must if you have not started doing this already. Whether you are a pro going after an Ironman victory, or a newbie attempting your first sprint triathlon, a strong mental approach will allow you to achieve your goals- and have fun doing it!


“Adversity cause some men to break; others to break records.”
-William A. Ward

How to prepare for a triathlon swim

Tip of the Month

Many endurance athletes are familiar with LSD- Long Slow Distance that is. In running and cycling it is often emphasized as an important part of your workouts. Is it the same for swimming?

My answer is…..absolutely! People get in the pool and want to get right into their interval workout, but often neglect to do long swims.

In the Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming workouts, I recommend doing your long swim in the open water, every week or every other week at minimum. If this isn’t feasible for you, it is still important to do some LSD in the pool- it will give you a chance to really think about your stroke, and make sure you are applying all the drills you have been practicing!

Click here for more tips, drills, and The Triathlon Swimming Essentials!

For Your Listening Pleasure

Check out the new Tri Swim Coach podcast! This week I will be interviewing pro triathlete and coach, Ruthy Vesler. To subscribe or listen to old shows, go to Tri Swim Coach Podcast