This Runner's Trials

Try to Tri: Swimming for runners

I have a treat for you guys!

Danielle was sweet enough to share some swimming tips for runners. I was so delighted she agreed to do this! I may or may not have been the last person out of the water during my Olympic tri, so you definitely don't want any swimming tips from me ;)

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Hi all! Danielle from Foodosaurus Rex here, with a little insight into the world of swimming, and  a little advice on how to not make it your weakest leg of a triathlon! I was honored when Jen asked me to guest post, as I’m a big fan of the blog, and even though I officially hung up my goggles in 2008, am still a huge swimming nerd.


Swimming: It’s the leg of a triathlon that most triathletes seem to dread the most.

There’s no need to feel that way, though! If you’re familiar with running (which you likely are, if you’re a reader of This Runner’s Trials and interested in a triathlon), you should have no problem stepping up your swimming game by keeping in mind a few key things:

Swimming really isn’t too different from running. You still need to log the miles (well, yards) to build up your endurance. If you want to get fast, you need to do speedwork. And building your strength is important, too. Simply getting in a pool and doing lap after lap will ensure you can finish that portion of the race, but it doesn’t by any means confirm it’ll be fast!

If you’re brand new to swimming - start out slow! The same rules for injuries apply as they would in running and cycling, however they’ll likely be found in your shoulders. And from someone that had tendonitis in her shoulder in high school, take it from me, you don’t want it! Your legs are likely strong from running and cycling, but in a way that’s different from swimming strong. This is where a kickboard can become your best friend. Throwing a kick set into the middle of a workout is a great change of pace – it’ll give you a chance to keep your head above the water, and really feel the burn in your legs.
A pull-bouy will also help you gain arm and shoulder strength, by stabilizing your legs. Yes, you have to shove a piece of Styrofoam in-between your legs, but I promise no one will look twice (besides, you’re under water!).
It’s true that a pool is quite different from a lake, pond, or ocean, but most of us don’t have the luxury to train in our exact racing conditions. So if you’re worried about not being able to master a flip-turn, don’t worry – there won’t be any in the actual race. Simply touching the wall and turning will suffice!
Even though little things like a flip-turn won't matter, picking out the right gear is important. This means taking the time to do some research on a good pair of goggles (no one wants water in their eyes), and a decent suit/wetsuit. There's something for everyone's style and budget, so I recommend checking out swimming specific shops (believe me, they exist), especially when looking for race day goggles and training suits.
So really, the best advice I can give you is to relax. Swimming isn't nearly as scary as you might think. While you likely won't turn into the next Michael Phelps, that's okay, he's not a multi-sport athlete like you anyway ;) Make sure you vary up your time in the pool, switching from speed work, to logging laps, kick sets, and pulling sets, and I promise you'll feel more comfortable come race day.
You don't have to be a swimmer to rock the swim of a triathlon - you just have to race smart!
Thanks so much for the advice Danielle! I really echo her point about "just relax". The first few months I swam, I literally counted each stroke with my inhale: one, two, three, breathe, one, two, three, breathe. Boring? Heck yeah, but it really relaxed me and helped me get used to the rhythm. I know taking the plunge into the pool is scary, but I also know you can do it :)
Up next: biking! Including how to pick out a bike, or why anything with two wheels will do!


Comments (11) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Great post!!! I can swim and I can run but the bike is what terrifies me! I am always asked to swim for the team tris.

  2. I was actually just talking to a co-worker today about tris. He is training for one in June and got master swim lessons a couple of months ago to help with breathing techniques. I used to be a pretty good swimmer, but haven’t done it at all (except for recreationally over the summer) in a while. Love learning new tips!

  3. what a great post!

    I’ve competed in tri’s and always know that I am lucky because I grew up swimming. Most triathletes have to pick swimming skills up later in life and it’s definitely harder than adapting to biking and running!

  4. LOVE what you did with the post – so glad I could help :)

  5. If I could find a [cheap] pool near me, I would love to take up swimming! :) Thanks for the great tips!

  6. I am so excited about this series! Just reading about swimming is warming me up to the idea that I may actually be able to do this. The swim leg is definitely the scariest for me, but running was scary once, too. I feel like it’s time to face my fears and do what I really want to do. Thanks for the great advice!

  7. Thanks for this advice! It’s funny, when you said to start out slow to avoid injury, my first thought was that swimming is low impact and something you do to keep up fitness when you’re injured from running…but of course you can get injured in anything if you do too much too fast! I would love to do more swimming someday. My current gym doesn’t have a pool, but I think when I go back to school I will have access to one. Great start to this series!!

  8. What a great post! This makes me think I might be able to do a tri someday :)

  9. This is a great post!! I’m seriously going to have to bookmark it and come back later. I know I can do a triathlon if I just take the plunge (literally) I think I just need to learn to go easier on myself – I need to be okay with not swimming fast and starting off at square one. Thanks for the tips Danielle!

  10. Great Post! I started swimming a few weeks ago due to a stress fracture from running. I was not a fan of swimming at all. Now that I’ve relaxed a little and realize that I’m not going to drown, I’m starting to like it. I’m even going to keep doing it when I’m able to run again!

  11. I am such a wannabe triathlete! I love running but fear bikes AND can’t swim! Thanks for the post though. I need some motivation.

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