Frequently Asked Questions - beginning swimming
This time of year many people are just getting going with their triathlon training after layoffs--some of which are quite long. Since the same questions keep resurfacing, I thought an FAQ segment could be useful. Please, though, join me in the knowledge that this is a general list, written with “general, best practice” answers in mind. Obviously everyone is unique and each situation is different. But on the whole, some conclusions may be drawn and questions answered that apply to many, and that is my intent here.
- I’m a weak swimmer but I want to do X triathlon this spring and hopefully continue throughout the summer. When should I start swim training?
- Why the urgency? My book shows swimming at 12 weeks out. It isn’t that until mid-March, and it’s only a half mile.
- Well, I’m a little nervous about it, ‘cause I’m so bad...
- But I sink like a stone. I’ve never been able to float. How are you going to help me improve my swimming if I sink?
- OK, you convinced me. I’ll start. What do I do first?
- I'm a total beginner, like I can't even really swim. Is this for me?
- My swimming really, really sucks. I mean you haven't seen horrible until you've seen me swim. I've taken lessons, clinics, watched videos... you name it. Nothing has worked and I'm beginning to feel hopeless. I hear you're a really good coach. Do you think you can teach me to swim well enough to do a tri this summer?
You should start swimming now, as in today, or yesterday. Swimming is the hardest of the three disciplines to learn and takes the most time to become proficient. There’s no time to lose.
You’re right. And you can go to the Caribbean and become a certified SCUBA diver in two days. Most kids under twelve can drive a car. But do you want them on the road? Yes, your book probably shows you swimming two or maybe three times a week for twenty or thirty minutes. Yeah, ok, you can do that, but you probably won’t be happy with the result. If you want to swim well—or at least not compromise your entire race because you’re exhausted from a nightmare survival swim—then you need to start practicing, learning and training now.
All the more reason to get started! You can get going with a solid program including regular instruction, and regular, purposeful practice. Your swimming will improve a lot and as it does, so will your confidence level. That will also help your training for running and biking because you won’t have that nagging little voice in your head: "my swimming sucks, I’m scared, I really should practice but I’m scared and I hate it."
How are you going to swim a half mile in June if you sink? What-- you gonna pray for angel fins and gills?! All the more reason to start now! And—might I add—everyone can float, including you. Chances are you’re a guy, and you’re either very big or very lean. I have had students of all shapes and sizes insist that they can’t float and I have taught every single one of them, without fail, to float in correct body position. I dare anyone to tell me they can’t float--then take on the challenge to learn how. If you do what I tell you, and you try, you will float. And if you can float, you are on your way to efficient swimming.
Well you just did it, you asked an expert for advice. Congratulations, you are on your way! Next thing is to make an appointment with me for an evaluation so I can see how you swim. From there I’ll make recommendations and suggest a consultation to discuss your goal(s), and then help set up a long-term swim training program customized to you.
Yes!! This is perfect for you! It's a low stress environment, it's private and safe. And--I love teaching beginners! It's my favorite group--plus aquaphobics--because you make such amazing progress and most people are so incredibly happy as they reach their goals. Yes, come, come! If you have a mask and snorkel please bring it. Don't be afraid to email me with questions...
Yes, of course I can teach you to swim. How well and how far depends on you. You have to practice on your own, the more the better. But don't let that scare you! Practice can be fun, once you know how to do it.