Triathlon Swimming Training

Getting your triathlon swim stroke back after a swinter of easy pool swims, or creating a good swim stroke if you are new to the sport requires some effort and planning.  Many swimmers get comfortable in the pool, and then get into a rut of doing the same workout time after time.  Doing so will maintain a certain level of ability, but will not be enough to help you break through the plateaus that set in if you dont’ vary your workouts.

For a traithlete, varying workouts is about more than just mixing up workout intensity — it includes getting enough open water time in so you have an advantage in the pool.  In a recent conversation with a group of high-level swimmers, the following tips emerged as advice that novices and experts alike can use to revitalize their training.

Study Swimming.  It might sound simple, but so many people jump in the pool without any type of plan or knowledge.  Most advanced swimmers have a idea of what they want to do before they get into the pool, and their technique improvement plan will force them to work on things that will help advance their overall ability.  If you are at a loss for how to learn the art of open water swimming, consider a book with practical guidance and a variety of training plans to use.  We like the Total Immersion approach, which has been used by thousands over swimmers over the years with indisputable results.

Get a Coach.  Sometimes the only way to really change, improve, or (if you are a real beginner) learn your swim stroke is to have someone teach you.  We have seen many triathletes over the years, and think that investing in a coach can be a great way to accelerate your learning curve.  It also allows you to bypass all the bad habits people tend to learn when swimming on their own.  One program we like, that allows online but personalized coaching, is the Triathlon Personal Trainer program.  Jess, Davey, and Doug will take care of you and make sure you get coaching that suits your specific ability level.  Get more info here.


Much like cycling, there is no substitute for spending time in the pool when you are trying to improve your swim.

Force Variety.  Speaking of having a plan, be sure that plan causes you to have a wide range of swim workouts.  The best swimmers will rotate between sprints, long distance, and technique work, sometimes all in the same workout or sometimes having a day that just focuses on one area.  Without variety, you will experience the perverbial “rut”, something that affects swimmers, cyclists, runners, and any other athlete who fails to mix it up.  For novices, injecting some variety may be as simple as converting your 800 meter swim into 400 meters of sprinting surrounded by 200 warm-up and cool-down on each end.

Get in the Open Water.  Staying in a pool for all of your swims is a bad idea in general, but a big mistake if your races are in open water.  Get in the open water do get the feel for the unpredictability of outdoor conditions, learn how to sight, and become comfortable in simulated race conditions.  Practicing in the open water is also a great way to become comfortable in your triathlon wetsuit or the other triathlon clothing you plan to wear on race day.

Consider a Masters Group.  Most advanced swimmers swim with some sort of masters swim group.  These groups are often early-morning groups that provide for a great workout with people of similar skill levels.  A good masters group will cause you to pick up tips from other swimmers and coaches, engage in some friendly competition, all while getting a great swim workout in.  In most cities, masters groups can be found at local health clubs, swim centers, or through triathlon clubs.

If this was interesting for you but you are really just looking for open water swim information, consider checking out our articles on Open Water Swim Tips.  It is based on years of personal experience, and real-life lessons learned from doing dozens of triathlons first-hand.