Don’t Push Off Improving Your Triathlon Swim to the Spring

As a swim coach it pains me to say:  No triathlon was ever won in the swim leg.  But a triathlon can be ruined by a bad swim.  If you feel like your swim mechanics are a performance limiter, start working on your swimming mechanics now rather than in the spring.  It’s helpful to think of your technical improvement as its own phase, really the first phase, of your training plan.  Otherwise, it’s like trying to build the plane while in the air.    I’ll give you a way to think about how lessons, pool training, and open water rehearsals can combine to produce a successful 2022 season.

Over the last twenty years, we’ve learned that a major key to success in the swim involves swimming as efficiently as possible to save energy for the longer bike and run legs.  Bad technique can wear you out and ruin your race before you even get out of the water.  If you exhaust yourself in the swim or your feel your effort doesn’t translate into speed, you should set aside time now to break down and rebuild your stroke.

Many triathletes simply wait too long to start working on basic stroke development and improvement.  Trying to improve technique while also trying to train and learn open water skills is a recipe for frustration, disappointment, and even backing out of the race.  We suggest looking at your technique lessons and classes as an important first phase within your overall triathlon training.

Our triathletes have been successful using this three-step approach:

  1. Learn to Do It Right — Start by breaking down the stroke and honing the timing, body position, and breathing for short distance swims.  Repeat your drills and short swims mindfully until you swim with relaxation, flow, and economy.  You’ve created “a vessel” that can respond to the demands of training volume and racing.
  2. Add Distance and Change Your Speed — Using the vessel you’ve created in Step 1 and put it through your training plan.  Gradually add distance, intensity, and speed changes.  Practice holding your form together under the rigors of training.
  3. Take Away the Walls — After putting time in the pool, head to open water and test out your stroke and fitness.  Add the elements of cold water, navigation challenges, and currents to your training.  Treat your open water swims a dress rehearsal for your races.

Get started ASAP to complete the technical changes in Step 1.  Depending on the race distance, training plans can start 3-6 months from race day.  Make sure you have the stroke you want in place before you start to train.


  1. My friend and I are doing our first open water triathlon and we would like to do a swim clinic in open water training prior to the event. Our first triathlon is on May 21, 2022. Do you know of any clinics available or a coach willing to train a small group in open water near Munster/Hammond Indiana?

    • Salena,

      Nothing comes to mind for Northern Indiana. How many people will there be in the group, and can you send me an exact address? I can see what the travel time would be for me or one of my coaches if that would be okay.

      Coach Fitz

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