Smart training tips to conquer a triathlon

May 14, 2012 at 12:14 a.m.

While many in the area have already competed in at least a few triathlons this spring and summer, we are right in the middle of the triathlon season with many more races to come.

So, if I had to bottle all of the knowledge on the sport I would like to give to a triathlete, but was only able to give a few tips, what would they be?

It is said practice makes perfect, and that's exactly right, especially when it comes to the sport of triathlon.

Efficiency in swimming, biking and running can make all the difference in how you feel during training and, more importantly, how you perform during a race.

I have come up with some important tips.

In a three-part series, I will cover training tips in all three disciplines of the sport of triathlon. The first discipline I will cover is swimming.

Of utmost importance, is practicing good swimming technique before inefficiency becomes a habit.

One of the worst mistakes that can be made when new to swimming is the belief you just get in and swim with little attention to good technique and swim stroke.

If you continue down this path, poor technique may become habit and more difficult to break in the years to come.

Keep your head down

One of the most important aspects of an efficient stroke is keeping your head down.

It makes sense the lower you carry your head in the water, the less resistance you have as you move through.

Focus your eyes down at the lane line on the bottom of the pool or, if there isn't a lane line in your pool, practice tucking your chin back towards your chest.

Water should move at the very top of the forehead, not at the center. With you head in a downward position, hips and legs will rise higher while producing less drag.

Use high elbows and extend your stroke

Keeping your elbow high and reaching the arm stroke out will allow you to "move" the most water as you propel yourself through.

Imagine the space between your head and your hand as it enters the water on a shorter stroke versus when you are reaching further out.

When you shorten the stroke, the stroke becomes choppy, and you are unable to fully utilize the pull part of the stroke.

You should swim with the forearm, not the hand. Imagine that the forearm is like a paddle, and as it moves underneath the body, the elbow should still be in a somewhat bent position.

Rotate like a torpedo in the water

One of the biggest mistakes I see swimmers make is they are plowing through the water.

This means their shoulders and lower body stay almost neutral as they move. With little to no rotation of the upper and lower body, drag is produced, leading to a slower swim.

When you move like a torpedo, you swim with a constant rotation along the spinal axis, while rotating the hips. The feet remain kicking as you turn from side to side.

As the arm stroke is being made, there should be a subtle glide with full rotation to the breathing side.

A good drill to practice is extending one arm, with the head resting partially submerged in the water, and then maintaining a "side kick" for the length of the pool.

Swimming is typically the toughest hurdle to conquer when you enter the sport of triathlon, unless you have come from a swimming background.

Practicing good technique at the beginning of each swim workout will pay off in the long run with a more efficient stroke and faster times on the swim.

Racing Results

The Rookie Triathlon (addition): Ashley Leita, 5th 20-24 AG rookie, 1:12:36 (300-meter swim-2:50/100m; 11.1-mile bike-16.2 mph; 2.0-mile run- 9:54/mile)

Skeets Women's Triathlon: Jaime Schoener, 1:34:11 (300-meter swim-3:47/100m; 11.1-mile bike-12.7 mph; 2.0-mile run-11:36/mile).

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or sea soned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at



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