Many triathletes start race day by saying to themselves, "If I can just get through the swim, I'll be OK."
Is that you?
For many amateur triathletes, the triathlon swim is the most challenging leg. Not only can an open water swim be cold, hectic and frightening, but it often represents the limiter to personal triathlon performance.
In triathlon speak, a "limiter" is the part of a triathlon that limits triathletes from putting together the fastest possible swim, bike and run performance on race day.
Make sure the triathlon swim is your strength. Here are five secrets to swimming like a triathlon pro:
Yes, that's right; don't use your legs and feet at the start of the swim. This may seem like daft advice, but unless you're Michael Phelps, chances are that your kick doesn't really get you much in terms of speed and distance. But for many triathletes, it could send your heart rate soaring.
The start of a triathlon is stressful enough without your heart pounding in your chest while you struggle to breathe. Take a deep breath, put your head in the water, and just let your legs float as your arms do all of the work.
When you've settled into a comfortable stoke, slowly add in the kick.
More: Kicking Drills for Better Body Position
Water buoys and course markers can easily get lost in the melee of the triathlon swim. The best way to swim the straightest and shortest distance is to sight behind the buoy.
Find a building, tall tree or other tall landmark right behind the buoy and aim for it when you pop your head out of the water to sight.
More: How to Stay on Course
Did you know that most swimmers have a weak and strong side? In other words, most swimmers tend to favor one side of their body versus the other. This means that when they swim, they pull harder on one side of their body versus the opposite side.
To find out your weak side, try swimming in an open swimming pool with your eyes closed. You'll most likely end up swimming either a little bit to the left (your right side is stronger) or a bit to the right (your left side is stronger).
In a race just keep this in mind because you typically end up favoring your strong side and thus swim to your weak side.
More: How to Balance Your Stroke
Wetsuits are your best swimming friend. Not only do they keep you warm in cold water, but they make you a much better swimmer.
Why? Because wetsuits make you more buoyant, and the higher you swim in the water, the faster you go.
Recently, the international federation in charge of swimming banned all new swimming wetsuits and speed suits because they provided such a huge advantage that swim records were tumbling like snowflakes from the sky.
Fortunately the sport of triathlon allows you to wear a wetsuit when racing (unless the temperature of the water is too high) so take advantage of this great swim buddy.
More: What You Need to Know About Wetsuits
The triathlon swim is by far the most stressful part of the race, but don't let that scare you.
There are plenty of boats around to help you. In a triathlon you can legally hold on to a boat and not be disqualified. Think of it like sitting down on the run. There's no rule against it.
If you panic, just grab a boat, calm down, catch your breath, and start swimming again when you are feeling better.
More: 6 Ways to Train for the Triathlon Swim Start
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