Triathlon Swim: How to Stay on Course

The trick to swimming straight—both in open water and in pools with lane lines—is breathing. Here are six tips to help you stay on course during the first leg of your triathlon:

  1. Use alternate (or bilateral) breathing. Learn to breathe every three strokes and you'll likely swim a lot straighter.
  2. Find a breathing pattern that works for you. If you find that breathing bilaterally leaves you oxygen-deprived, then you need to find what works for you while helping you keep in a straight line. Try swimming and breathing in different patterns: two strokes on the left and two on the right; then switch to three breaths left and three on the right. Try two on the left, one on the right, three-one, etc.
  3. Increase the amount of strokes you take between sightings. Sighting too often will disrupt your balance and stroke rhythm. See if you can slowly reduce the number of times you look up throughout the race. Try to get up to 12 strokes with your head down before looking up once. It's best to try this in open water so you can practice for your race.
  4. Keep your strokes long. Extend that arm out and drive it forward on each stroke.
  5. Practice the one-arm drill. This is where you keep one arm extended and stroke with the other arm. Make sure your extended arm stay extended and doesn't cross down or get lazy. Then pay attention to your pull with the other arm.
  6. Practice swimming in open water. If you're used to the environment you will have an advantage. If you practice in open water, you'll be more comfortable in open water on race day. So get out there and practice swimming straight.

More: Race Rehearsal Tips for the Triathlon Swim Leg

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About the Author

Kevin Koskella

Kevin coaches sessions for Masters swimming and triathletes in San Diego, and conducts a variety of clinics, private lessons and video-analysis of personal swim style with critique and correction. He has helped professional Ironman triathletes reach their goal, but his passion is to give the new triathlete the confidence to be successful in the swim portion of the race. He also runs the websites www.triswimcoachonline.com and www.triswimcoach.com, where you can find his products, including The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD and The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming.

Kevin coaches sessions for Masters swimming and triathletes in San Diego, and conducts a variety of clinics, private lessons and video-analysis of personal swim style with critique and correction. He has helped professional Ironman triathletes reach their goal, but his passion is to give the new triathlete the confidence to be successful in the swim portion of the race. He also runs the websites www.triswimcoachonline.com and www.triswimcoach.com, where you can find his products, including The Essential Triathlon Swimming DVD and The Complete Guide to Triathlon Swimming.

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