Learning to Swim for Triathlon | A Full Guide

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Triathlon is a multifaceted sport that combines swimming, cycling, and running. For many triathletes, swimming can be the most challenging segment, especially for those who are new to the sport.

This guide focuses on learning to swim for triathlon, offering practical advice and strategies to help you develop confidence and proficiency in the water.

Starting Your Journey: Basic Swimming Skills

Comfort in Water: Before diving into triathlon-specific training, it's essential to be comfortable in the water. Start with basic swimming lessons if needed. Familiarity with the water is the first step in your journey to learn to swim for triathlon.

Breathing Techniques: Efficient breathing is crucial. Practice bilateral breathing (breathing on both sides) to maintain balance and rhythm in the water.

Floating and Gliding: Master the art of floating and gliding. These basic skills set the foundation for efficient swimming strokes.

Transitioning to Triathlon Swimming

Freestyle Stroke Mastery: The freestyle stroke, or front crawl, is the most common stroke used in triathlon. Focus on a smooth, continuous stroke, with a steady kick and efficient arm movement.

Endurance Training:
Swimming for triathlon requires endurance. Gradually increase your distance in training, focusing on maintaining good technique throughout.

Open Water Skills: Triathlon swimming often takes place in open water. Practice in various open water conditions to get used to factors like waves, currents, and sighting (navigating by looking for landmarks).

Specific Techniques for Triathlon Swimming

Sighting Techniques: Learn effective sighting to navigate efficiently in open water. This skill helps in maintaining a straight course and saving energy.

Drafting Skills: In races, swimming close to or behind another swimmer (drafting) can save energy. Practice this skill to understand its benefits and how to do it correctly.

Practice transitioning from swimming to cycling. This includes quick changes from your wetsuit to cycling gear during training sessions

Advanced Training Strategies

Speed Workouts: Incorporate intervals and speed sets into your training. This will help build your speed and improve your race-day performance.

Strength Training:
Engage in dry-land strength training to build muscle groups essential for swimming.

Join a Swim Group or Club: Swimming with a group or club provides a structured environment and allows you to learn from more experienced swimmers and coaches.


Learning to swim for triathlon is a journey that requires patience, practice, and persistence. Whether you're beginning to learn to swim for triathlon or looking to refine your skills, the key is consistent training and a willingness to learn.

By focusing on foundational skills, transitioning to triathlon-specific techniques, and incorporating advanced strategies, you can become a proficient and confident swimmer, ready to tackle the challenges of a triathlon.

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