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For anyone who may stumble across this thread, here is the best training advice you might ever get...
Take swimming lessons.
I don't care who you are, you can not teach yourself to be a competitive swimmer. You can watch all of the Youtube videos you want, but without direct feedback on stroke mechanics from a swimming teacher or swimming coach you are not going to become a competitive swimmer.
I have been a competitive swimmer since 1976. I spent more than 15 years teaching and coaching swimming. I have taught more than 1000 children and adults how to swim and how to race. I have an incredible sense of what my body is doing in the water, but even after all of this, I USE A COACH TO CORRECT MY STROKE.
Do yourself a favor... If you are NOT an elite swimmer, take some lessons. In the long run you will think it's the best time and money you ever spent.
Edited by: SAILOR64 at: 1/29/2013 (13:28)
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I took lessons as a kid, but I knew I had a lot of drag when I got in the pool. I talked to some folks, who observed the same and told me what I was doing wrong. I went to a swim clinic held by a guy who has a 25m pool in his back yard. He was a long time swim coach and swim team coach. He had a two time Olympian at this clinic. It lasted 3 hours. I learned SO much, plus skill drills I do to begin my lap session with. I am feeling much better about it after this swim clinic. I definitely recommend it if you can find something like it in your area. There are tri swim coaches, but boy are they spendy (my opinion).
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This thread is SO helpful! Thank you all so much for your great information and advice. And it makes me happy to see that I am not a weirdo for teaching myself to swim for triathlons! :)
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Lots of great advice. The one thing I would check is whether the race you are doing usually tends to be wetsuit legal or not. If it usually is wetsuit legal, be sure to get one and use it for the race. Nothing will help you stay buoyant and save your legs for the other parts of the race more than a wetsuit. Once you get used to it, it will help immensely, especially for a 1.2 mile swim.
Other than that, if you can find a masters group to join, do that, as you will get advice not just from the coaches but other swimmers, as well. If that's not possible, watch other people that look like they know what they're doing and try to emulate them, and keep doing some of the drills that you have found online. Eventually, it will all come together for you.
GLADGAD offered a lot of good advice.
If you can't find a swim instructor or can't afford one, then just keep swimming. You may pick up some bad habits but you will be able to swim the distance and get through that portion of the tri.
Work on upper body. You want to rest those legs. If where you swim supplies hand paddles, I would highly recommend them. It will give you a different feel of the water and help strengthen your upper body muscles and develop the power you need to pull yourself through the water. Kicking can come in handy when you are wanting an extra push but I wouldn't recommend relying on it for the entire swim. You will be exhausted by the time you get to the bike especially if you are doing a 70.3
Edited by: JUSTTRIING at: 4/21/2012 (00:00)
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Swimming is technical and without feedback, you will likely learn "bad habits" and not develop the best technique, regardless of how much you swim. Poor technique results in two things - taking longer to do the swim and getting more tired doing it. So, depending on what you want and expect out of the swim portion of your race, you may want to continue to look for an instructor. Another option is to join a master's swim group. The coaches know about technique and can work with you. On the other hand, the swim portion of the race is the shortest leg, and no one wins the race in the swim, so you may want to continue what you're doing and learn enough to get you through it. A lot of people just get through the swim!
That being said, you don't need to use a lot of leg for swimming. Your arms should pull you through the water, and the roll when you breathe should be done in such a way to propel you forward as well. Make sure you're bringing your elbows up out of the water and not reaching across your body when your hand enters the water. Make sure when you roll to breathe that you're not picking your head up, except when sighting.
If you can get a friend to video you swimming, you should be able to compare what you're doing with the DVDs and You Tube videos that you are using. I have also heard that a lot of people have success with the Total Immersion DVDs and books, but I haven't tried them.
Good luck. I give you lots of credit for teaching yourself to swim. It can be a scary undertaking and takes a lot of thinking until muscle memory kicks in.
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I am not sure if this helps but I watch a few DVD's and read a book and jumped in the pool. some one told me if you swim long enough you will learn how to swim better. So after awhile you start to watch other swimmers, and ask them for any pointers and before you know it you will be swimming good enough to race in the tri's. not the fastest or slowest, some where in the middle and that is fine with me. good luck and I hope this helps
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I'm training for my first tri also. Just like you I was trying to teach myself how to swim.
Unfortunatly the pool I go to is understaffed so they don't offer lessons. So I tried the learning though videos & books. I started talking to the lifeguards about my struggles & they gave me some advice. They said to use your upper body mostly for the swim to save your legs for the bike & run portion. They also watched me swim a few strokes & then told me what I needed to fix & how to fix it. It took them only 5 minutes max...but it saved me from lots of frustration.
And the best part...I didn't even have to pay for lessons.
I know I'm not answering your main question. But my advice for lessons is ask a lifeguard for a few pointers. Chances are they may be able to help you out.
Good luck with your training & race.
Edited by: BUTTERFLY-1976 at: 4/19/2012 (11:39)
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I am training for my first tri-and I have chosen the Ironman 70.3 in Belgium. I have taught myself to swim through youtube videos, it is going okay, but I need lessons for sure. A lot of people tell me to use my legs mostly...but dont I want to save my legs for the run and bike portions?! Is tri swimming different from just swimming?
Any advice will be greatly appreciated :)