Six common swimming struggles for beginners

From knowing what to focus on to getting daunted by the pool environment, coach Joe Beer offers help

Six common swimming struggles for beginners

Are you a beginner just starting out in the world of triathlon, but struggling to get to grips with the swim? Fear ye not, we’ve asked coach Joe Beer for his advice on how to overcome the six most common setbacks.

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Problem one: getting confused with what to focus on when they first start to swim 

I believe that being relaxed is central to learning and enjoying the pool environment. To do this you have to be able to breathe, see well and have a safe environment.

You solve these three conundrums by breathing with a pattern of breaths and choices of sides that suits you – you do not have a set bilateral, every fifth stroke or such like on your mind – just breathe as you see fit.

Second, use good goggles that don’t leak so you can see properly. Lastly choose quieter times/pools and those with lane ropes and lane direction etiquette. 

Swimmer in training

Problem two: worrying about speed, or lack of it 

Yes we all want to get faster but it takes a lot of hours and some pretty natural ability to get fast when soon into swimming as a new sport.

Take the time to learn how to control your effort, your speed and your ability to pace yourself – even a simple test of how consistent you can swim single lengths, then double length soon shows how random a person’s effort can be when learning a new sport. Enjoy the process of being able to swim smooth and efficiently and speed follows.

Swimmer being coached

Problem three: being daunted by the poolside environment

Granted you are in minimal lycra, on show to the world so swimming is a very public type of training. However, the more you swim and feel that you are entitled to be there and call yourself a swimmer (albeit a triathlon swimmer with another two strings to your bow) can vastly improve how athletes visualise the swim pool. 

If you feel you’re an outsider, not very good and hindering others you will be unable to be confident and relaxed in the water. Smile, get in and train, everyone respects a person who tries! 

Problem four: how many pool toys to take with you 

Okay so opinions differ but I think being able to have the basics: spare goggles, hat, cossie; then the tools such as kick board, fins, central snorkel (be brave they are a great tool) and some small paddles. The hard part, and where group or personal coaching comes in, is to know when, why and how to use these “toys”.

Pool tool

Problem five: not mixing things up in the pool and getting bored

Again I think as a multisport person, like the person who does gym bike-treadmill bricks many times over to break things up. For indoor sessions I like to suggest getting a Deep Water Running belt (e.g. Speedo Hydro) and split your pool session into swim sections and deep water running.

Yes you need the pool to allow it (catch up please pools, this is a potential for runners and duathletes to use your pool if it catches on with endurance types) but it is great cross training – and you’re a jack of three trades right?

Swimmer doing Deep Water Running

Problem six: balancing time training so they ditch the swim at the first sign of time crunched times up ahead

If you want to do triathlon then you have to be competent to complete the swim at the very least. No amount of biking or running helps you swim if you are not a natural swimmer.

Keep an eye on your pool visiting consistency and use whatever it takes to get you there: others to meet up with; a new swim cossie; some stroke coaching; another new cossie.

(Images: Jonny Gawler)

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What’s your biggest struggle with swimming? Let us know in the comments!