Breathe. "It's the single most important thing to master in swimming," says Shepley. A steady inhale/exhale rhythm keeps you relaxed (like in yoga) while increasing your speed and eliminating the need to gasp for air every couple of strokes. Breathe out of your nose while your face is in the water and, on every other stroke, tilt your head to the side, halfway out of the water, and take in oxygen.
Once you're comfortable with that, breathe in on every third stroke to practice getting air on both sides—a handy skill in open water since waves may break on your favored side.
Roll with it. Rotate your shoulders, torso, and hips with each stroke to help you glide through the water. "If you rotate your body from side to side—rather than swimming flat—you'll move like a torpedo," says Shepley. In other words, fast as hell.
Kick sparingly. Save your legs for the bike and run, and rely mostly on your arms to pull you through the water. This prevents lactic acid from building up in your legs, which in turn keeps your legs from tiring so they're ready when you really need them. During training, squeeze a pool buoy between your legs as you swim to practice using your upper body.
At first, aim to swim 250 meters once or twice a week. If you're sucking wind (or water), break it into intervals of 25 meters (usually one length of a pool) of nonstop swimming with 20 seconds of rest in between to catch your breath. During the final month, make one session each week an open-water swim, if possible, and practice sighting by looking up every six to eight strokes to confirm you're on course.
Start each workout with 10 to 15 minutes of the following warmup drills. These three exercises from Shepley will refine your stroke and help you generate more power so you can learn to glide through the water effortlessly.
Catch-up drill (for stroke timing): Swim freestyle as usual, but leave one hand in front until your other hand finishes the stroke and comes around to "tag" it.
Side-swim drill (for body position): Hold your left hand in front of you, palm down. Swim with your left side, eyes looking at the bottom of the pool and right hand glued to your right thigh for six kicks. Stroke with your left hand, rotate, and switch sides. Repeat.
Fingertip drag (for arm position): As each hand ends its stroke, keep your elbow high and carefully drag your fingertips along the surface as you bring your arm forward.
Triathletes consider the relatively "easy" cycling leg child's play—after all, most people learned to ride when they were missing their two front teeth. And while the skill of bike riding does come right back, there are a few training tricks that will help you build lean muscle and pump the pedals on race day. With proper prep, those 12 miles will fly by faster than you think.