From the BarryS Coaching Training Library

7 Steps: From Non-Swimmer to Triathlon Swimmer

by Jessie Halladay and Mike Jotautus

Often one of the barriers to triathlons is the swim. It’s not uncommon to hear new members of the Landsharks lament that they would be ready to bike and run, but haven’t built the confidence or skill needed to tackle the swim leg of a race.

For adults, often this fear or discomfort in the water is even more daunting, as adults feel swimming is a skill they should have picked up during their youth.

While being an adult onset swimmer may be daunting, it’s not impossible to go from being a non-swimmer to a competent triathlon swimmer. However, it will take some dedication. Swim and triathlon coach Mike Jotautas, a member of Landsharks sponsor BarryS Coaching team, has seven steps he recommends in order to improve swim competency.

  1. Seek out a coach or a swim instructor. Find someone who is an experienced swim instructor to teach the basics and form you need to conquer the water.
  2. Commit to at least one lesson a week. One-on-one time with a coach is valuable in order to identify areas of improvement before bad habits are created.
  3. Ask your coach for a practice plan. Get your coach to set up a routine of simple exercises to do in the pool. Coach Mike suggests swimming at least three to four times a week for the first six to eight weeks you are learning to swim. Frequency and practice help to establish a comfort in the water.
  4. Commit. In order to develop the necessary fundamentals, you have to commit to regular practice. Showing up once a week to the pool will not help you gain the skills you need when you are first starting out. You will have highs and lows during those first six to eight weeks of swimming, so don’t measure performance, just practice.
  5. Become a student of swimming. If you are going to swim, understand what swimmers do to be successful. Go to a swim meet and see how the swimmers prepare and what they talk about before their events. Watch clips of the Olympics. Study swimming and immerse yourself in it.
  6. Anticipate joining a group swim. While you might not be ready for group swim or masters swim sessions right away, expect that it will be necessary as you progress. Look for groups that you can join and get organized swim instruction where you can get feedback from the pool deck as you improve.
  7. Seek out open water practice. If you do enough triathlons, you will have to swim in open water. So, get as much practice in open water as you can before your race. You don’t want the first time you swim without the benefit of the pool’s black line beneath you to be in a race. You will need to get used to the challenges and differences of swimming in a lake, river or ocean before you do it.


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