TRI the Challenge – Summer: Tips for a Successful Swim

For many of us, swimming allows us to leave our land-based comfort zone, plan ahead and truly submerge ourselves in our Tri the Challenge goal. Although swimming is the shortest distance in your challenge, it may also be the toughest of them all. To help prepare you for a successful swim; this week we will lean on tips from Paul Eckerle. Paul is the head Boy’s Swimming Coach at Madison Memorial High School, a former UW Swimmer and has completed two Ironman Triathlons. Paul offers a collection of tips and useful advice to aid your confidence in your freestyle stroke as well as improve your comfort in the water.

  • Relax: To gain comfort in the water, learning to relax is the key. This sounds simple until you start swimming. The best swimmers look like they are gliding effortlessly along the surface of the water. You cannot fight the water; the water will win. Instead, relax your whole body and channel your power into moving your body forward. It may be best to start by practicing floating face down on the surface of the water. 
  • Breathing: Learn to breathe efficiently with the least amount of head movement. Don’t hold your breath. Breathing every other stroke is fine but breathing every third stroke is even better, as it allows you to site both ways and helps to create a more even stroke.
  • Kicking: Kicking starts from the hips with the knees bending slightly at the top of the kick. Point your toes. If you are tired and sore in your hip-flexor muscles, you are probably doing it right. Most beginners kick much harder and more rapidly than they should.
  • Body Position: ALIGN THE SPINE. The primary goal should be to keep the head, shoulders, back, hips and legs all on one plane at the surface of the water. The body should rotate from side to side maintaining the single plane.
  • Head Position: The head should generally be looking at the bottom of the pool. This will help to keep the hips at the surface and maintain the single plane. 
  • Arm Extension: At the top of the stroke, the arms should be fully extended. 
  • Stroke Shape: The easiest way to describe the shape of the freestyle stroke is to make an S shape with your left hand and a reverse S shape with the right hand as you glide through the water (see picture). When pressing out at the top of the stroke try to keep the elbow near the surface of the water and maintain the elbow above the hand throughout the stroke. Under no circumstances should either arm ever cross the center-line of your body. 

Reminder: Your goal is to swim 2.4 miles or row 19,130 meters for the swim component of TRI the Challenge over your chosen time frame of 4, 6 or 8 weeks. Feel free to visit our Rowing Tips blog post for more information.

Congratulations to our early finishers and best of luck to all of you this week!

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