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.
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.
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.
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.