Try Swimming in Jell-O at Your Next Triathlon

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By David Wendkos

I recently heard a great ‘word picture’ to help describe how to initiate your catch in the water and maintain a grip as you pull through your stroke. It is the common thought to view a freestyle stroke as placing your hand in front of you and then stroking backward toward your feet. Unfortunately, this places the focus on movement in the exact opposite direction we are looking to go. In very literal terms, we are not looking to move our arm backward when it is in the water. The goal is to use the arm to propel bodies forward.

Admittedly, it is hard, even for many seasoned swimmers, to actually picture ourselves being able to grip and pull on something as viscous as water. But that is what swimming is supposed to do, and sometimes, if we can give ourselves a picture that seems more “clear”, our bodies can actually do a better job of accomplishing the particular task.

With all of that said, next time you are in the water to train for your triathlon, whether it is a pool or an open body of water, try imagining that you are actually in a big body of Jell-O rather than water. As your hand recovers from its prior stroke, place it into the Jell-O and don’t just catch, but grab the Jell-O with your fingers, your hand, your wrist, and your forearm, and then pull your body forward, across that Jell-O.

Does it sound odd? Absolutely. A bit kinky? Then get your head out of the gutter! But based on the people I have shared it with, and their results, it seems to be a very effective way for many to help picture the catch and pull in the most ideal way possible – as the way we get our bodies to move closer to the end of the swim. And, yes, that is the goal.

David Wendkos lives in Annapolis, MD and has over 30 years of competitive swimming, coaching swimmers for the pool, open water, and triathlons. He can be followed on twitter at