Idiots guide to swimming

Hi Everyone,

Hope you don't mind me popping in here to ask for some advice! I would really like to try a Sprint Tri this year, but before I start triathlon training I think I need to work on my rubbish swimming skills.

I can manage breast stroke, front crawl, back stroke in my local council run 25m pool but I'm very slow and need to take a breather after 6 lengths. Is there such a thing as a swimmers version of the C25K running program?

I've had a look at adult's beginner classes in my area but funds are a bit stretched the next couple of months, and I don't want to wait until I can afford lessons to start doing a bit to improve.

Thank you very much!



  • if your funds are stretched now wait until you start doing tris image

    have a look on crap swimmers r us thread, or swim smooth web sites
  • Haha, yes I've heard they get expensive image 

    Thank you, I will check out the thread and those websites image

  • Useful quide to sprint triathlons

    If youre running out of puff after 6 lengths doing front crawl, try swimming a little slower or kicking less.

  • That link is fantastic, thank you!

    I will try slowing it down with the front crawl on my next swim and see if I can go for longer, but it's encouraging to hear that people can and do breast stroke in Sprint Tris image

  • xine, my first sprint tri I alternated lengths of front crawl and breast stroke, I was having adult lessons, but once I knew the stroke; training with a masters group helped improve technique. Maybe you could find one at your nearby pool? You get a training session and help with technique. The furthest I have swum continuously has been 10 miles- so improvements are easily possible.
  • Hi Monique - thanks very much for the suggestion, I've been doing a bit more research and there is a tri club who do a lot of their training at one of the pools not too far from home so I will drop them an email to see if can join them for swimming practice or they can suggest a pre-tri club to join.

    10 miles continuously! I take my hat off to you image

  • I'm doing my first Sprint Tri on Sunday. image

    I will be swimming the 10 lengths breaststroke as can only manage 3 lengths front crawl.

    They asked for an estimated swim time when i entered so i cautiously said 12 minutes, so as not to get in too many peoples way . I swam the distance last night in under 8 minutes breaststroke so i shouldnt hold anyone else up. I'm one of the last dozen to start.

    Good luck with your training  

  • Xine, 12months ago I couldn't swim 50m front crawl and did all my sprint tri's in breast stroke taking nearly twelve mins for 400m. Took 16mins once in open water to swim 500m. 

    Theres tons of great advice on the Internet and on this forum, it really is just about slowing it down and correct technique. The best advice I can give you is make sure your breathing in the water. May sound stupid, darr no breath, no energy. I was terrified of the water, just held my breath and wouldn't put my head in the water. Not good when your trying to swim. Oh and don't worry about how fast anyone else can do the swim' bike or run. It's all about you, enjoy it. 

    I have had no coaching, no lessons, just read the sites and watched videos on the net. (Swimming video's) now I'm training for the outlaw ironman distance event July 1st. Im swimming a mile and half, front crawl in 55mins now and I've still plenty in the tank. Going to go the distance soon in the open water. Open water is a great experience, try that as soon as possible that will bring you on also. Best wishes. Horse. 

  • Horse - thanks so much for your advice. I think you've hit the nail on the head with my front crawl problem, I tend to hold my breath too long and then have to take massive gulps of air. I will have a look at some swimming videos over the weekend - good tip!

    SausageDog - best of luck for Sunday! and thank you for reassuring me that breast stroke is ok for triathlons, I was half thinking I wouldn't be allowed if I couldn't do front crawl for the whole distance image

  • Xine, you can doggy paddle if it suits you, it's just that front crawl done properly is the most efficient and fastest stroke if done properly. After watching hundreds of people swim, it's my opinion that the ladies are better at front crawl than the guys.
    So just take your time and stick with it. My problem was holding my breath then frantically blowing all the air out ready to get another massive breath in. Then if I didn't get one in or hit a wave I would start panicking.

    Buy a pull buoy and have a bash with that, seriously I forgot about that, that really helped me because it lifts your body to the correct position in the water. Allowing you to keep your arms moving and concentrate on your breathing, without flapping about using all your oxygen and energy. ( your local pool will lend you a pull bouy)

    Really slow it down and try and breath every three strokes, that should give you plenty of time to get the air in. Don't try to hard to draw the air in, just a little at a time, try not to think about it to much. Relax as much as you can, it all go's to rat s**t if you start trying too hard or over think it.
    If your relaxed and you miss your breath on your third stroke you should be able to pick it up on your next three without losing your rythem. (take a drink with you, keep hydrated).

    I actually love swimming and running now, something I never thought would ever happen seriously. Just wish I was twenty years younger.. I swam last night and hope to get in the local open water this weekend. As soon as you crack that breathing lark you will be flying. Best wishes horse.
  • One of the most helpful swim comments Ive ever read was about triathletes often having a plunging arm and as soon as I read it I knew it applied to me, It also made me realise exactly what high elbows meant,  Correcting it really has made a difference image
  • Swimslikeawalrus, where can we find this article to read?
  • Its so very easy to panic and over compensate for breathing when you start and I think most of us have been there!
    You really dont need (at this stage) to breathe any quicker or harder than you do in a normal day today world.   Once you start taking in huge lungfulls of air you cant expel that quick enough before you are trying to get the same amount in again ... and again and again!!!

    Take an average breath, move your arms through the stroke nice and easy and slowly expel the air (like you are whistling) and then take in some more.  It only takes a couple of seconds and then you can take more air in ... think it through on dry land and it doesnt seem like a huge ordeal and certainly helped me

    Once you try to use more effort and get quicker then you can adjust your breathing accordingly

    A huuuuuge lungful of air should get you almost to the other end of the pool   image
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