Susan Bradley Cox on Swimming

/ Sword Performance

Advice for the adult swimmer.

I can pick out the “swimmers” at the start line of any triathlon. They are the only ones who don’t look like they are about to puke. One of the biggest hurdles for many people getting involved in the sport of triathlon is swimming. If you did not grow up on a swim team, learning to swim as an adult may be incredibly challenging. So how do you pick up swimming and learn to love it, when you don’t really know how to do it (or do it well)? First, you believe. Next, you work!  


The first “to do” on your list is to convince your brain that you love to swim. If you don’t enjoy swimming, then go ahead and start repeating to yourself: “I love to swim. I love to swim.” Much of triathlon success (and failure) may be attributed to mental strength. So start tricking your mind into loving it now.

Swimming really is a wonderful thing. It’s easy on your joints. It’s great for building your endurance. And the smell of chlorine? Heaven! I love smelling like a pool after a swim.

You really can learn to love the water by convincing yourself that you do.  


A common saying about triathlon swimming is:

"You cannot win a triathlon in the swim, but you can lose it."

Practicing the swim is vitally important. It is quite dangerous to slack on the swim. You must work and train hard. In cycling and running, you can coast or slow to a walk. In swimming, that’s not an option.

The goal of the swim should be to feel comfortable in the water and to avoid unnecessary fatigue going into the next part of the race. The less fatigued you are coming out of the water, the better your overall race will be. If you start a race completely petrified, with your heart racing and mind distracted, you are creating a dangerous environment for yourself.

Swimming may feel like the most evil discipline of triathlon when you start. But even if you can’t swim a lick right now, you will see fitness gains almost immediately in the pool—more so than on the bike or the run. If you stay with it and push through, in a few short weeks, you will see your workout go from a pitiful 100 yards to a decent (but slow) 500 yards. A month or so after that, you’ll be swimming 1500 yards without stopping, and you will be amazed at the progress!

Now, go believe that you love to swim … and get to work.

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