Categorized as: Swimming

Swim Testimonial

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All smiles seeing her 250m swim time


Swimming is a hard sport to learn. It’s challenging for so many reasons – no point of contact with the ground, learning to move each body part rhythmically, breathing, body positioning, and the list goes on. Most triathletes that join us cannot swim, but with time, hard work, and patience, they learn how to swim freestyle.

Alamo 180 triathlete, Leslie Limas, joined us back in January with a goal of completing a triathlon in late April. While a great athlete, she could not swim. But that didn’t stop her. She was determined to finish her first triathlon!

Well, after weeks of practicing and never giving up, she learned how to swim freestyle! And over time, she could swim further at each practice.

Read her testimonial about her latest swim accomplishment!

“I do not like to toot my own horn.  I especially am not very good at letting others toot it for me. So, yesterday evening after my first swim time assessment, when Coach Bree cheered “Great job, you did great! You have progressed so much”, all I could do was smile and nod.  Three months ago when I started triathlon training, my best water skill was floating.  I had to learn the basics of freestyle swimming, which I did, but even still, I could barely swim half a lap (25m) without stopping and resting for a couple of minutes.  Last night’s swim was a non-stop 250m swim and I clocked 7 minutes.  Time is so relative, especially while pushing oneself to do something unknown.  Yesterday I felt like I have been training forever and those 7 minutes in the water felt like an eternity!  Today I think, Wow, it was only a few months ago I was just learning to swim freestyle and it only took me 7 measly minutes to swim 250m.  I did do a great job and I have progressed so much! I want to share this to thank my coaches at Alamo 180 for providing me the motivation and tools to be the best athlete I can be, but more so, I want to thank ME for not giving up and sticking to it. Every step, big or little, and every stroke, slow or fast, is a milestone and something to be proud of.  Toot, toot!” ~ Leslie L. 

Don’t let the fact you can’t swim stop you from pursuing your triathlon dreams!

Sinking from swimming?

The most common complaint we get from swimming, especially from beginner triathletes, is being tired and out of breath. Most cannot swim more than a lap without having to stop and rest. Frustrating? Yes! Doomed? No!

Swimming is a hard sport. It takes time and patience to develop an efficient stroke. Also, it takes time to develop endurance. Next time you find yourself tired and out of breath, spending more time at the wall than swimming, go through this “trouble shooting checklist” and see if you can find the culprit to your woes.

1. Form

Proper form allows you to work with the water, not against it. You want your body to be level on the water’s surface. Too many athletes swim with their chest and head up and their  hips and legs down. This causes the body to act like a seesaw in the water. When you raise your head, the legs sink. Focus on keeping the head and chest down, and your chin slightly tucked – this keeps the legs from sinking, allowing you to swim completely on top of the water.

Along with form, don’t rely solely on your kick to propel you forward. Many beginner swimmers think the forward propulsion comes from the kick, and the faster the kick, the faster the freestyle. Not true. Soon your legs will tire and your freestyle will fall apart. Much of the forward propulsion comes from your arms. A strong underwater pull propels you forward and your kick is there to help out. In the sport of triathlon, you want to use your arms more than your legs when it comes to swimming. This saves your legs for the bike and run.

2. Speed

It’s not a race to get to the other end of the pool.  Also, swimming fast is not going to keep you afloat. It’s about form and cadence. Imagine this – You are stranded out in the ocean and your only hope for survival is to swim one mile to the shore. Are you going to swim fast or slow and steady? You won’t last long going fast, but you will cover more distance and save energy by swimming slowly. Same is true in the pool. If you want to last more than 25 yards and finish your workout, slow your pace down. Speed will come with time. It has to be easy first before you can be fast.

3. Lack of Proper Warm Up

This happens three ways: One, you jump in the water and start swimming. You feel good, so you swim fast, hoping it will last the entire workout. Two, the water is cold and you swim fast to warm your body quicker. Or three, you only have time for a short swim, so you decide to shorten the warm up, or skip it altogether, and head straight to the main set. All three can tire your body and ruin your workout.

Liken it to this: You plan to go out for a 30 minute run. Would you start the first 10 minutes running fast? No, you would run slow and wait for your body to warm up. Same applies to swimming. Don’t skimp on the warm up. Be patient and swim a few laps slowly focusing on form and cadence.

4. Breathing

Too often, swimmers purposely refrain from breathing to try and keep their form. Swimming while not taking frequent breaths means less oxygen to your muscles, and in minutes you will tire and your form will fall apart. Slow down your speed, focus on form and breathe as needed. Additionally, make sure you breathe bilaterally – both sides. Too many favor one side only, and this can negatively affect your form.

We specialize in swim instruction, so if you wish to improve your form and efficiency in the water, contact us for a private swim session.





Swimming Can Be A Drag

There are several ways to build strength in the water and drag sets are one of them.

To perform a drag set, wear a T-shirt or an apron with pockets in your main swim set. Try to swim at your regular pace and power through the water as your t-shirt or apron “holds” you back. Your warm up and cool down should not include the drag suit.

These drag sets are great to do during your endurance base training phase – during the off-season and in the early part of in-season training.

Give it a try in your next swim workout!

Going Vertical in the Pool

Most of your momentum in freestyle comes from your kick, so it is important to have a strong, efficient kick. Try this drill to improve your kick and make you a better swimmer.

Vertical kicking is a challenging drill great for promoting an efficient flutter kick.  Instead of kicking across the pool on the surface of the water, vertical kicking takes place in a stationary position (in the deep end).

The challenge of this drill is to keep your nose and mouth above water thus enabling you to breathe. It is very tiring and should be performed in short intervals by the wall so you can grab hold and rest when needed.


How to Do It:

Point the toes (like a ballerina), soft bend in the knees, and kick from the hips all the way to the toes using the entire leg for propulsion. The flutter kick is most efficient when performed with quick, short kicks.

Beginners should start with their arms underwater. You can make small hand movements to help keep the body afloat (sculling). As you get better, minimize arm sculling and focus on the legs to develop a good, strong kick. The next step is to eliminate upper-body assistance. First, try crossing your arms across your chest. Next level, try to raise the tip of your fingers out of the water. Efficient and strong kickers can raise their hands, forearms or entire arms out of the water!

Add It To Your Pool Workout:

-6 x 30 sec vertical kicking with 45-60 sec rest

-15 sec kick, 15 sec rest, 30 sec kick, 30 sec rest, 45 sec kick, 45 sec rest

-Swim 4 x 100 yards. In the middle of each lap, vertical kick for 15 sec, then continue swimming.

-Kick 100 yds with a board. In the middle of each lap, hold the kickboard out of the water and vertical kick for 15 sec, and then continue front kicking.

Information adapted from

I can’t swim

A common theme among athletes interested in triathlon: I want to do a triathlon…but I can’t swim!

Running comes naturally. After having mastered riding a bike with training wheels as a tot, cycling comes naturally too. However, swimming does not. It takes skill and confidence in the water to be able to swim freestyle. This does not come naturally. It takes work to learn how.

So can you do a triathlon? Yes you can!

At Alamo 180, we are highly experienced in swim instruction and can teach you how. We break down the freestyle stroke and teach you by focusing on one component at a time. For example, we will have you work on side kick. Once you have mastered that component, we move on to “one arm drills”, and so on until you can successfully put it all together. It takes time and patience, but it is possible!

In fact, a few of our athletes couldn’t swim when they joined the Triathlon Team and they learned over the course of a few months and successfully completed several triathlons!

The best and fastest way to learn is to sign up for Private Swim Sessions at $30/30 minutes. Some athletes have learned in just a few weeks by taking private, swim lessons. You will get instruction at each team swim practice, but not to the amount you will receive in a one-on-one lesson. So, if you want to learn quickly, sign up! It won’t be long before you are swimming with ease and confidence!

Open Water Swim Safety Tips

With some triathlon races coming up, most of which have open water swims, it is important to go over some basic safety tips to ensure you have the best swim experience.

In a triathlon race, there are certified Lifeguards in kayaks moving about making sure everyone is fine. They are looking for signs of what’s called “Active Drowning” – lots of splashing in a vertical motion (body positioned head out and feet under and very little forward motion). So when athletes stop swimming for a second to tread water, they are keeping an eye out for you making sure you are OK and not drowning. This should hopefully give you some comfort during a race.

If at any point you are panicked in the water, raise your hand. This sign tells the Lifeguard to come over and assist you. You can hold onto the kayak for a short period of time and then proceed when you are ready. Check with the race because some may consider this immediate disqualification. It varies among different races.

Here are some good things to know:

1. Start the race in the back of the pack or to the side if you know you are not a strong open water swimmer. Doing so will keep you out of the way of numerous arms and legs moving about. Some athletes can be very aggressive and will swim over you if you are in their way. If an athlete is repeatedly kicking you or slapping your feet/body with their hands/arms, move over and get out of their way. The only time this is really an issue is in the beginning of a race when the pack is thick of athletes ready to go.

Keep in mind that some accidents of drowning have occurred with weaker swimmers getting in the middle or front of the pack at race start. They were submerged under water due to strong swimmers swimming over them and never got a chance to come back up. 2 years ago I competed at CapTex in the Elite division race. Elite men and women started the race together. While I am a strong swimmer, several men swam over me at race start and I was underwater for at least 15 sec. It felt like an eternity. It was scary, but I told myself to calm down because at some point I would be able to come back up for air. I remained calm and waited for the swimmers to pass. This experienced is shared because it can happen to anybody. The lesson to take from this is to remain calm.
2. Roll onto your back. If you get panicked for whatever reason, roll onto your back and flutter kick. This allows you to float, get air and relax. When you feel ready, roll back over and proceed swimming freestyle. Sometimes just stopping and treading water is a bad idea if there are lots of swimmers around. Essentially you are stopping while everyone around you is moving forward and they will swim over you. If you are on your back, you are moving with the flow and not getting in anyone’s way. Another great option is to swim breaststroke.

3. Practice in open water regularly. Some racers don’t practice in open water and on race day have no experience in it. Make a point to add it in your training! Open water is different than a pool – waves, currents, no black lines, murky water (hard to see through), no wall to take a quick break. If you live in the local area, join us on Sunday mornings at Boerne Lake. You need to practice it if your upcoming race has an open water swim.

Master the Open Water Swim

Open water swimming can be intimidating if you do not train and prepare for it properly. (But it can NEVER be as bad as this! Click here for video)

A quote we like, “In a challenging situation you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training.” We have compiled a list of tips and drills that you can start using in your swim training. When it comes to the swim portion, if you do not prepare for it, you are likely to have a miserable experience.

Sighting & Navigation.

One thing about swimming in open water is that there is no black line at the bottom to guide you in the right direction. If you do not sight frequently and effectively, you are likely to swim off course and this can be very discouraging. We suggest you sight every 3-5 strokes. You can lift your head while swimming freestyle, or swim breaststroke or doggy paddle as you sight the buoy (or similar marker) in the distance. Tip: Be mindful of the swimmers around you during a race. If they are sighting frequently and not swimming off course, let them do the majority of the work. Stay right behind them and watch their feet. At this point you can save energy by drafting and sighting every 10 or more strokes (to make sure they are still on track and that you know where you are going).

Race Breathing.

If you breathe on one side in freestyle (unilateral breathing) you are in for a world of trouble. Case in point, you breathe on your right side. During the race, the wind is blowing and waves are coming at you on your right side. Are you going to keep breathing on your right side into the waves? Only if you want to swallow water! At this point, it’s imperative you feel confident and comfortable breathing on your left side. If you have not been practicing it in your workouts, you are going to have a miserable swim. We suggest that you learn bilateral breathing – breathing on both sides. When we have athletes that prefer one side over the other, such as right side breathing, we tell them to swim the entire workout breathing on their left side only. Seems harsh, but it works. They learn to feel confident and comfortable breathing on their non-favorite side. We want them to be ready for whatever may come during a race.

Swim Start.

Some races require athletes to enter the water before the race starts. At this point you are treading water for about 30 sec – 1 minute. If you have not prepared for this, you may find yourself exhausted before the race has even started! We recommend you learn how to tread water (if you do not already know).  Youtube has great videos demonstrating the egg-beat or rotary beater kick technique. Click here for a video demo. Other effective techniques can be floating on your back or if permitted, holding onto the dock until the race begins.

Swim Exit.

The exit of the swim race can be easy and fun if you do it right. When you approach the shoreline, just because your feet can touch the bottom doesn’t mean you should start trying to run. Keep swimming freestyle until your hands and elbows are scraping the bottom. At that point, plant your feet, stand up and start running. When you use the latter technique, the water is very shallow (below your knees) and makes it easier and faster to run out. The fun part is passing all the other athletes hardly moving in waist-deep water!

The swim portion of the triathlon can be fun when you are ready and prepared for it. Regularly practice sighting, bilateral breathing, and treading water in your swim workouts. The more often you do them, the more natural they will feel. Also, on race day, practice a few swim exits during your warm up. All these are important factors to a great open water swim! Good Luck!