8 Tips for a Smooth "Panic Free" Swim

Posted On Jul 24, 2014 By Joel Harper

how to swim in a triathlon

Most people shy away from Triathlons because they are concerned about the swimming part of the race. Either they can't do it, aren't good enough or it just flat out makes them nervous. I completely understand where they are coming from, but I find it is extremely rewarding to see them break through their insecurities. There are practical simple ways you can become a confident swimmer.

Here are 8 tips that will help you dive right in:

  1. PRACTICE, PRACTICE and PRACTICE free style. Put in the time to give you the basic strength and techniques that you need. It is tricky to do the breast stroke. Why?? It is so easy to whip-kick someone else in the face behind you, and that, as you know, is not good. I see a swim coach every other week to help me get it right. There is always something new to learn in order to improve your form.
  2. STUDY THE COURSE and follow the path, NOT OTHERS. Other swimmers can easily lead you astray. Glance up semi-frequently to see where you are headed. It is easy to get off track with the waves, and you don't want to waste your time or energy. I always see people heading at wrong angles and wasting time rerouting themselves back. If they would have focused, they would have been better off.
  3. KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE. It is very hard for everyone to practice the swim start. Why? Because you are most likely practicing alone and not with thousands of others. And you are probably practicing in a swimming pool and not in the ocean. The good news? Most everyone else is coming from the same place. Remembering that you are not alone will help you from becoming overwhelmed, reduce panic and give you the sense of Zen peace that you need. In my last Tri swim I had someone on my left and right most of the time. I thought I would feel claustrophobic, but I remained open and peaceful and in return the opposite happened. I could feel their power, and it helped propel me.
  4. BEACH START. Everyone piles in very quickly, so try to get in the back or on the sides, so you don't get lost and mashed into the crowd. This can cause you to get kicked or decked. Position yourself, so that you can get your own pacing.
  5. THE WAVES. Expect that the waves will be big. If they are not, you are in luck. I always prepare for the worst. I would rather be relieved than break into a panic. Depending on the size of the waves, you may be able to move faster and more efficiently. Remember to dive under the waves and not let them pound you backwards when entering.
  6. EXPECT TO SWALLOW WATER. It happens to everyone I know. It happened to me yesterday. An unexpected wave came, and I sucked it down. I remained calm, slowed down, caught my breathing and continued. Panicking can waste your energy and time. Everyone swallows water. Don't let it make you anxious. Stay focused.
  7. PLACING. Once you start swimming, make sure you are aware of others around you, so that you can place yourself where you feel most comfortable. Everyone is different. Know that the faster swimmers are looking for the most direct route.
  8. VISUALIZE SUCCESS. Visit the route the day before. Walk the course on the beach, stop and sit at the finish line. If anything is making you feel anxious, figure out what it is and think of the worst thing that could happen. Figure out your solution and know that you can handle the worst of the worst. This will put it on the table and give you peace. Then close your eyes and see yourself swimming effortlessly, breathing easily and feeling invigorated from start to finish.