And smart ways to correct them

By Catherine Orda | Photo by Todd Quackenbush /Unsplash

There are habits that many triathletes could really do without. In the swim leg, for instance, sometimes the way to achieve a good swim has more to do with making a conscious decision to stop doing certain things. Here are five things you can start correcting during the swim leg, according to Olympic swimmer Dr. Gary Hall:

 

Not Keeping Your Head Down

Maybe on account of wanting a clear front view during the whole swim leg, most swimmers tend to tilt their head forward. It’s not an easy thing to avoid doing, but if you want to swim fast, it’s important to keep your head down. Hall says that a surge point is when the hand enters the water after you take a breath. So make sure your head slightly dips underwater as this happens. With your head down, your drag coefficient will be lower. Hall adds that as long as you sight every 10 to 12 strokes, you can swim the other nine to 11 faster than you would have while looking forward.

 

Not Breathing Enough

For swimmers, oxygen is maybe the most important nutrient while carbon dioxide is their worst enemy. So before you hit the water, remember that a good aerobic system is what will provide you with the most energy during the whole triathlon (and not just during the swim leg). A good aerobic system is one that gets a consistent supply of oxygen, so try to breathe as much as you can. You can take extra breaths and get more oxygen by increasing your stroke rate and then breathing consecutively to both sides.

 

Not Drafting

Drafting (or swimming very closely behind someone who’s slightly ahead of you) is something more swimmers need to do, according to Hall. When you draft off others, you’ll leave the swim leg feeling stronger. This is because drafting allows you to coast on the vortex of a swimmer ahead of you, which means that you’ll need to expend less energy during the swim. The closer one swims to the swimmer’s feet in front, the better the draft.

 

Swimming off Course

Arguably the single most important strategy during the swim leg is staying on course. Which, because it’s easy to get disoriented and get swept off by currents, isn’t exactly an easy thing to do. But if you’re able to pull it off, you’re almost assured of a problem-free swim. So, what you can do is thoroughly prepare. Before the day of the competition, know the race course and conditions. During the swim itself, you can also sight. Hall says you can do this efficiently by sighting every 10 to 12 strokes, making sure to maintain a straight line to the next buoy.

 

Panicking During the Start of the Race

The first 200 meters of a triathlon are crucial in that it will determine a large part of your overall performance in the race. But the beginning of a race is inevitably fraught with inconveniences (you may get kicked, elbowed, swum over, or get your goggles filled up with water). So learning how to anticipate and respond to these possibilities is very important in that it can impact your performance for the rest of the race. A good strategy when these things do happen is to move to a safer spot, breathe, and calmly get back on course.