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Trip Blog

How to improve your swimming technique for triathlons

By Olivia Weatherill , 04 September, 2019

Looking to step up your swimming leg of your triathlon? Here’s our key points to help take your swimming to the next level.

Learn to breathe bilaterally

Being able to breathe on both sides of your stroke will open up not only the ability to take in what is happening around you, but also can reduce the damage that the repetitive motion of only breathing on one side can do to your shoulders and neck. It will help make your stroke more symmetrical and can also calm you to know that you are able to able to see more of your surroundings and anticipate hazards such as oncoming waves or other swimmers.

fiona ford tri coach 2

Learn to sight

Linked to the ability to breathe bilaterally, being able to sight is an essential tool for your swimming leg of a triathlon. Swimming in the open water throws lots of variables into the mix, and with the route often involving a turn around a buoy, swimming blindly with your head down will leave you at a disadvantage. Identify major landmarks that you will easily be able to catch sight of when taking a quick check of our surroundings. To sight, lift your head slightly up so that only your eyes break the surface on the water. Quickly scan to place where you are before lowering your head back into the water. Repeat as and when you need to reacquaint yourself with your positioning in the race.

triathletes entering water


A major part of success in triathlon is being able to distribute the workload amongst you and your fellow competitors. Precious seconds can be saved from drafting efficiently on your swim. Don’t waste unnecessary effort on your first discipline that you’ll be wanting to save for the rest of your race, so start swimming smart! Identify the strongest swimmers around your pace level, positioning yourself behind and slightly to one side of them, and breathing away from the next swimmer’s leg. From this, you’ll be able to gain from the similar benefits as would drafting in the cycling leg of your race. Drafting effectively can also reduce the amount you will need to sight as you can follow the swimmer in front of you. However, don’t get too comfortable in this position and make sure to push on when you know you have the energy to do so!

tri swimmers

High position in the water

Being able to keep a good, high position in the water will keep your legs from sinking and will reduce drag from your own body weighing you down. Your wetsuit should assist with keeping you buoyant but starting with achieving the best head position should guide the rest of your body’s position in the water. Try to keep your head as still and as balanced as possible, with your shoulders and hips rolling with your stroke to move you through the water. Keeping your fingers and toes closed to continue the streamlined position throughout your entire body and this should bring up your overall efficiency.

fiona ford tri coach

Appreciate the opportunity

We understand that for many triathletes, the swim can be their weakest of the sport’s three disciplines. However, making these incremental improvements to your swim will help you move up the rankings seamlessly. Recognising the advantage that gaining those precious few extra seconds will have on your overall race position coming into T1 is a great motivating force and this is the attitude that is required to be an effective triathlete. Being one of the first out of the water will help you assert some dominance over the field and help propel you to success with the rest of your race.

mallorca channel camp

If you’re looking to elevate you swimming technique for an upcoming triathlon, why not hone your skills on our Open Water for Swimming for Triathlon coaching camp in Tenerife? Expert coaches, world class facilities and the chance to test your skills in the open water throughout the week make this trip the perfect training environment to take your swimming to the next level.

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