Category Archives: swimming

Workout Wednesday – Be a Torpedo

Welcome to Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I will post a new Triathlon specific workout. If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (kidding)


The most important factor for swimming fast and efficient is body position. For maximum speed and efficiency your body should be straight and level, like a torpedo flowing through the water. Sounds easy right? Not really. Anyone new to swimming will tell you, their legs are constantly sinking, and their heads are popping up. Maintaining good body position requires core strength, and body awareness. The problem is good body position doesn’t come naturally, and takes some effort and practice.

Body position training is time well spent. You will see instant improvements in your speed and efficiency. Your position can always be improved, so this work is suited for swimmers of all levels.

To maintain good body position keep slight pressure on your chest, a neutral head position, and hips elevated. Think of your body as a seesaw in the water. As your head rises your feet sink, and conversely as you press down with your chest your feet will rise. Core activation is key to keeping a level body. To activate your core muscles, imagine pulling your belly button up toward the top of the water. You ever notice great swimmers have awesome abs?

Check out this video from explaining good body position.

On to the workout,

Body position training:

Warm up 200 meter Freestyle (FS)

5 min – Torpedo drills

50 meters – Superman glide

100 meters – Smooth Freestyle – Focus on good body position

50 meters – Superman glide

100 meters – Smooth Freestyle – ”

50 Meters – Superman Flutter – Arms extended forward using a light kick to move forward

100 meters – Smooth Freestyle – ”

50 meters – Torpedo Flutter 

4 X 100 meters Freestyle – Focus on using best body position possible for each 100 meter repeat.

Did the 100 meter repeats at the end seem faster and easier? I do at least a few of these drills as a warm up for every swim session. It reminds my body of the correct position, and it is great core work as well. As you get fatigued it gets more difficult to hold the position, so keep your focus.

Thanks for reading. I hope this workout helps your swimming. For more swimming tips check out:

Intro to swimming Part I

Intro to swimming Part II

Photo Credit

Three Steps to Overcoming Swim Fears.


The number one fear of new triathletes is swimming. Unless you learned to swim as a child and have been around water your entire life, learning to swim as an adult can be daunting. It is perfectly rational to have this fear. As humans we can survive in water, but its not our natural habitat. Did you know the average dolphin is 80% efficient moving through the water, and an world class swimmer is only 12%.

The key to learning to swim and overcoming your fear is to become more comfortable in the water. If you can learn to relax and not fight the water, you ability to swim will increase quickly.

Here three steps to get you more comfortable in the water, and eventually swimming. You have to get comfortable first to make progress in your swimming:

Continue reading Three Steps to Overcoming Swim Fears.

Triathlete Resolutions vs. Reality

The new year is a great time for new beginnings. It’s time to break bad habits, and make this the best year ever. As with every facet of life, we have resolutions for our triathlon season as well.  Just like the eager early year gym goer, who gives up by Feb, our best intention-ed resolutions fall away into the road side ditch.

Original_ Buttermilk_Pancakes

Here’s some well meaning resolutions versus reality for most triathletes.

  • Resolution: This year I will do less racing!
  • Reality: I’ll cut out that hot/hilly/expensive race that I didn’t PR. The other ten races were enough.
  • Resolution: I am going to do more swim training! (If I had a nickel for everytime…)
  • Reality: I was getting to the pool way more, until I realized, swimming is only 18% of my race. I can only save like a minute with all of this extra training. I’ll just run more instead. 
  • Resolution: I’m going to train less, and spend more time with the family!
  • Reality: I just saw my training partner’s plan and I need to increase my training 20% to keep up. I can’t let him/her get faster than me. 
  • Resolution: I’m going to clean up my diet!
  • Reality: I’ll only have 6 pancakes after my long run, instead of the IHOP endless stack. (Yumm Pancakes!)
  • Resolution: I’m not going to drink, I’m going on the wagon!
  • Reality: You cross the line at a 5k/10k/HM/Marathon, and the first thing you ask, “Where’s the beer tent?
  • Resolution: I’m going to do more strength and core work!
  • Reality: I don’t want to bulk up, and go over my ideal racing weight.
  • Resolution: I going to stay injury free!
  • Reality: It only hurts when I run fast.
  • Resolution: I’m going to hire a coach!
  • Reality: Do you see how much they charge? I’ll get new race wheels instead, that’ll make me faster.
  • Resolution: I’m going to volunteer for a race!
  • Reality: If I have to get up that early, I’m going to race * Consider keeping this resolution as races always need volunteers, and you will have a great time.

I know these are just generalizations, and none of these will apply to you.

What are your triathlete resolutions, and how do you plan to keep them?

photo credit: michelle@TNS via photopin cc

Fantastic Finish Photo Friday – First Triathlon, an Ironman? No Problem.

Welcome to another edition of Fantastic Finish Photo Friday. We want to bask in the awesomeness of your finish photos. A finish photo captures a moment in time, where you overcame the challenges of the race and training, and reached your goal. The feeling of elation as you cross the line is what keeps us pushing our own limits. Please consider sharing your own photo to inspire others who are working toward their own finish.

This week’s Fantastic Finish Photo is from Richie Gardiner:



Continue reading Fantastic Finish Photo Friday – First Triathlon, an Ironman? No Problem.

Workout Wednesday – 5 Tips for Better Open Water Swimming in the Pool

Happy Wednesday! Welcome to another edition of Workout Wednesday. Every Wednesday I will post a new Triathlon specific workout. If you like the workout, fit it into your training plan for the week. If you don’t like the workout you’re crazy, all of my workouts are brilliant pieces programming. (HAHA)

Today’s Workout – Open Water Swim – Pool Style

Pool Lanes

The number one fear for new triathletes is the open water swim. The thought of jumping in that dark water with arms and legs churning everywhere, causes some serious anxiety.

I have good news and bad news about open water training. The bad news, to get good in open water, you need to practice in open water. You may not have access to open water, or you may be too intimidated right now. Here’s the good news, you can work on some skills in the pool that will translate to open water.

Here’s 5 tips to improve your open water swimming in the pool:

Continue reading Workout Wednesday – 5 Tips for Better Open Water Swimming in the Pool

No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part II

In Part I, we discussed Body Position and Breathing. Those two skills are very important, but don’t get you anywhere. You need oars to get the boat moving. Your stroke is your oars, and that is what we will cover in this post.

This post in not meant to be the definitive post on stroke technique. The goal here is to master the fundamentals and set a good base for refinement as your swimming progresses. A perfect freestyle stroke, if there is really such a thing, takes years to develop. With a good fundamental stroke you will be able to cover longer distances with better efficiency.

The freestyle stroke can be broken down into four parts:

  • Entry
  • Catch
  • Pull
  • Recovery

Continue reading No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part II

No More Controlled Drowning – Intro to Swimming Part I

Do you get winded swimming one length of the pool? Do you legs feel like they are always sinking? Or do you just flail your arms and legs and hope you get somewhere?  I call this controlled drowning, and that is how I swam my first race. It was a long and difficult swim, and made me quickly realize, I better work on my form.

Learning to swim correctly is the number one reason I hear from people why they can’t race a triathlon. To be honest, unless you learned to swim as a child, learning to swim as an adult is challenging. The best way to learn as an adult is to break down swimming into fundamental skills that can be combined into an effective stroke.

The first two fundamentals of swimming are Body Position and Breathing. These are the first two skills to develop efficient swimming.

Body Position

The most effective way to move through the water in freestyle swimming is to keep your body streamlined. Your body should be extended, just below the surface of the water. Try to keep your legs up and together. Think of your body as a see-saw, with your hips as the pivot point. Your legs are usually more dense than your torso and will want to sink. Your job is the press down and forward with your chest to keep your legs up.

Here’s a great demonstration of balance from Total Immersion. Notice in the beginning of the video the difference in body positions. Next the clip show some drills for practicing good body position. The superman glide drill shown is very effective to imprint good balance. I do this drill before every swim session.

In this video from Speedo UK, you can see some nice graphics that explain proper body position.

Good Body Position = Neutral head position + Streamlined body + Legs up

Drills – Superman Glide, One arm Glide


Swim Breathing – Intro

Breathing in freestyle swimming can be challenging to learn. Once you to get the hang of it, like riding a bike, you will not forget how. The issue most new swimmers have with breathing is holding their breath. If you are holding your breath, or breathing shallow, you can’t swim long distances. Try and take a breath every ten seconds while running, and your heart rate will spike quickly. It’s the same when you are swimming. When you start to breath correctly ability to swim more distance will increase dramatically.

Proper breathing in the freestyle stroke involves two things. First, when your face is in the water breath out completely. You can breath out from your either nose or your mouth, your preference. Be sure to breath out the entire time your face is in the water. This keeps water from entering your breathing, makes sure you are breathing deep enough.

Second, rotate your body and take a breath. While the arm of the side you are breathing on is out of the water, rotate your body and take a breath. You want a quick bite of air, and go back to breathing out. Ideally you should only have one goggle out of the water when you breath. If you are looking up when you breath, you are over rotating. A good cue to remember is to act like you are laying on your side with your arm stretched out like a pillow.

Below is a video from Bob Bowmen, Micheal Phelp’s coach on swimming breathing. He gives some great insights into proper freestyle breathing.

In this video from USMS, they do a great job explaining common mistakes in freestyle breathing:


Good Freestyle Breathing = Breath out face in the water + Rotate your body to breath.

In Part II, we will go over the stroke and catch. Now get to the pool and practice that good position.



Energy Gel Sommelier and Other Side Benefits of Triathlon Part II

In the first post on the added benefits of triathlon, I talked about looking sexy in lycra, and sweet tan lines. There are so many additional benefits I didn’t list, that I decided to make a Part II. There may be some people on the fence about triathlon, and the a collection of distance stickers wasn’t enough to get them to dive in. So here are some more “tidbits of awesome” about triathlon.


1. Get up super early – You feel guilty when you don’t get up before the sun. Everyone knows that pool swims only count when they are finished before 6:30am. You have a four hour ride planned for Saturday, and your significant other is complaining about you training too much.. What do you do? Leave at 5 am and hope to make it back before they get up.


2. The world is your buffet – At the Mexican restaurant you order the Mucho Loco Burrito with an extra side of guacamole. The others at the table look in horror as you demolish the entree meant for three people. You look up and say, “It’s cool, I’m in the peak of my training cycle”, and then wipe the cheese from your chin.

Gel Buffet


3. Energy Gel Sommelier – The average palette can’t discern the slight nuisances of the Powergel orange from the Gu mandarin, but you can. Your heightened awareness of these differences comes from years of consumption of these slimy delicacies. You would rather bonk than slam down that wrong brand being offered on the course.


4. Ability to time illness one week out from your “A” race – You never get sick. You are healthy as a horse. People in the office are going home weak with the flu, but you superior immune system is kryptonite to viruses. That is until the taper period of your most important race of the season. A week out from the race you are in bed sore and aching, wondering how you are supposed to race in 5 days.


5. Calf Sleeves – I may offend some here, but calf sleeves are nerdy. They are essentially tall socks with no feet. From the amount of people wearing them, you would think there was an epidemic of calf muscles exploding before their invention. Triathlon is no fashion show. If you really need the super calf support, buy the brightest neon ones you can find, and rock that kit.

Bike Fall over

6. Get clipped – There are two types of cyclists; those who have fallen over in the parking lot while still clipped in to the pedals, and those who will. It happens to everyone. You get those brand new clipless pedals and shoes, pull in to the parking lot at the end of the ride, slow down, and proceed to fall over like a tipped cow. Don’t be embarrassed. Laugh it off, as everyone else on that ride has done the same thing at least once. Welcome to the club!



7. A bike more expensive than your car – After years of hard training, you will decide that training is too time consuming and difficult. Forget training on the bike, go and buy some speed. You walk into the bike shop, and there it is. A beautiful carbon fibre rocket ship of a bike. Once you astride this piece is speed sculpture, PR’s will fall, and the road will submit to your will. On the way home from the shop you look at your ’03 Subaru, and realize the blue book value of your car, is less than that new bike purchase.

The car will seek revenge. On the way home from a race, you pull into the driveway headed for the garage, and forget your bike is on the roof rack. The car will let you drive into the garage, while your bike is smashed against the top of the garage.





photo credit: ezra1311 via photopin cc

photo credit :

photo credit: jeffreyw via photopin cc

Photo Credit:

First time Tri tips in stereo. FTT on the Prepared idiot Podcast.

Rich Barna from The Prepared Idiot Podcast had me on his podcast to discuss racing your first triathlon. Rich is a self proclaimed “Clydesdale Triathlete” himself, and got into triathlon to adopt a healthier lifestyle. In this episode we talk about getting started in triathlon, each leg of the race, and some motivation to get you going. There is some great info and tips to get you started to your goal of completing your first triathlon.

Play the show on itunes

Show Notes:

For swimming videos on proper form check out:

USAT Rule Book  – Rules on setting up your transition, and racing






“Oh Man This Hurts”, Keys to Racing Mental Toughness


Tough as nails

Mental toughness is the ability to withstand discomfort with a focus on your goal.  All of the situations and struggles in life develop your mental strength. You are defined by how you react to different situations. In racing, the battles lies between your body and thoughts. When a race gets tough, the mind will always give in before the body. The challenge is to control your thoughts, and get your mind and body to work together to achieve your goals.


The key to mental toughness is preparation. Training for your race will increase mental toughness. When you show up the the start line, you should be confident in your abilities. You confidence comes from adequate training, and preparation. That confidence kicks in when the race gets hard and you want to stop. If in training you have already had these feelings, you know you can push through.


  • Know your body – Be sure to notice the difference between this is uncomfortable, and this is injuring me.
  • Have a race day plan and execute – eliminate unnecessary decisions.
  • Simulate race intensity in training – not everyday
  • Have confidence. Accept that the race will be difficult, you are trained, and prepare to suffer a bit for your goal.


Be Present

When a race or workout gets hard, the brain wants you to stop. Your mind will play every trick it has to get you to stop or slow down. That little voice in your head will say “go ahead, just walk for awhile” or “Today is just not your day, slow down a bit”. Everyone has these thoughts, even elite athletes. When you can push through and not give into these thoughts, that is when breakthroughs happen.

To combat this voice, you need to be present and focus on the now. The mind may trick you into thinking you can’t run another mile, but it’s hard to convince you can’t run two more lamp posts. Focus on what you can do right at this moment to push you toward your goal. Accept the situation, adapt, and overcome. 

  • Focus on breathing and relaxing into the effort
  • Break the race up into small pieces – Run to the next lamp pole, Swim another 20 strokes.
  • Have a mantra – My mantra is “Relentless Forward Progress”
  • Be optimistic that things can get better. Example: You stomach may become upset during a long race. Know that it may hurt now, but with some additional nutrition and time, it can come back around.

Find Your Happy Place 

To pull yourself out a funk during your race, go to your happy place. I know this sounds a bit new age, but it works. When all of your focus is on the hurting, you need to shift your focus. Turning those negative thoughts, into a positive feeling is powerful. Those positive thoughts can get you into a rhythm and carry you through the difficult times in a race.

Try this: Force yourself to smile for the next two minutes. After the feeling silly for the first 30 secs, your mood will actually start to improve. You actions can impact your mood and attitude.

Here are some ways to find your happy place during a race:

  • Smile – It is also easier to breath while smiling
  • Encourage others – Your positive attitude will spread to others, and you will feel more positive in the process. Win-Win
  • Remove the word I can’t – Turn your mindset to thinking of what you can do , and not what you can’t
  • Think of the reasons why you are racing the event. Maybe you are racing in memory of a loved one, or to set an example for your kids. These powerful thoughts can push you through.
  • Absorb the energy of the race. Feel the energy from the crowd and other athletes. They are cheering for you because you are being awesome. They respect the training and effort your are putting forth. Soak it up.

I hope these suggestions help next time you are in the pain cave during a race. If you have any strategies that work for you, please share in the comments.

photo credit: bitzcelt via photopin cc