Swimming, unlike its triathlon counterparts in running and cycling, is much less about conditioning and much more about form. While all 3 disciplines require a good amount of aerobic fitness to be competitive, or even successful, poor technique in swimming can make minutes of difference on race day. When swimming, every little motion of your body has some kind of impact on what is going on while you smoothly (or not so smoothly for some of us) glide through the water. Lets take a look at some of the things that can have huge effects on your swimming abilities.
Don’t! Drag! Your FEET!
This is the number one thing that most swimmers do wrong! Ideally, your feet should be right at the surface of the water to minimize the amount of water that you’re dragging. If your feet hang way bellow the surface, they start to act like an anchor.
Kick your feet!
Doing this will help with tip #1. Many triathletes fall under the perception that you shouldn’t kick in the swim to save your legs for the bike and run. Don’t do that. Kicking will help keep your legs mildly engaged enough to keep them at the top of the water. You don’t have to kick for propulsion like a sprint swimmer, just enough to keep you buoyant.
New swimmers tend to not be sure when or how often to breath. Without getting into too much detail about the physiology of the breathing, the short answer is every other stroke, or each time your right (or left) arm comes out of the water.
Make smooth movements
Being smooth in the water allows your body to relax and move in fluid motions. Flopping around in the water and making stiff movements causes the body to use more energy than necessary to move forward.
While these technique guidelines, as well as good form in general, have a lot more to do with success in swimming than it does in cycling and running, the rest is still up to strength and aerobic fitness, so stop reading and go get in the pool!