Extra Life TriFit Swim
What Type of Swimmer are You?
Swimming is one of the more challenging disciplines in triathlon for a variety of reasons. First, it is the most technique-intensive of the three sports, which has a high learning curve for new athletes. Second, fear and anxiety gets the best of some of us. Unlike cycling and running, if you’re in the open water, often times you can’t just “stop” if you get tired.
Because of the tricky nature of swim training, it’s important to identify what type of swimmer you are, and what your goals are.
For the beginner, it is recommended at the beginning phases of your swim journey to focus on
- Getting comfortable and relaxed
- Learning to swim “well enough”
Yes, we can always strive to make improvements, but let’s face it, most of us, especially triathletes, should NOT be training like Michael Phelps. It’s better to optimize your time by spending 2 or 3 days a week REALLY focusing on technique, efficiency, and comfort, than to spend 5 days a week trying to improve on your triathlon time by a few minutes. That time is better spent making gains on the bike and run, or recovering.
To that end, there are generally four types of swimmers in triathlon:
- Confident/Competent – Usually this type of swimmer has some type of background with swimming, and has imprinted good technique, combined with comfort in the open water. This type of swimmer can usually get away with a couple swim workouts a week, and still finish a triathlon toward the front of the pack.
- Confident/Novice – This type of swimmer is new to the sport, and fortunately is not inhibited by swim anxiety. A good starting point for this swimmer is to begin imprinting excellent technique. To start, this swimmer can work on the basic techniques in the “6 Steps to Swimming Freestyle”, and then quickly graduate to self evaluation, a master’s swim program, or additional coaching.
- Apprehensive/Competent – It may seem odd, but this type of swimmer is surprisingly common as well. Pool swimming is much different than open water swimming, and even though this type of swimmer has developed skill and competence in the pool, they have anxiety in the open water. For this type of swimmer, the best practice is immersion, to keep working in the open water to build confidence and skill.
- Apprehensive/Novice – This type of swimmer needs the most practice. Likely this swimmer has little or no swim background, and/or has had a bad experience. Getting comfortable is priority number one for this type of swimmer. Only once the swimmer gets comfortable in the water should they graduate to any structured swimming program.
If you classify as an apprehensive/novice, you may benefit from the “6 Steps to Swimming Freestyle”, but for even more beginner instruction, you may want to look into a beginner swim coach or program. There are a number of books and videos for sale that can help guide you to greater comfort. You can also hire a one on one swim coach to help you get comfortable.