View Full Version : triathlon

March 20th, 2003, 05:03 PM
I am in desperate need of some training/workout suggestions to prepare for my first triathlon in two months. The swim portion of this race is .4 miles.

While I am no stranger to the water, having swam competitively from age 11 through high school, I have not really been in a pool since.

Please Help! I have two days per week to train in a pool, but I don't have any idea how I should be training!!

March 20th, 2003, 11:47 PM
Hi Lauren,

I would like to offer you some suggestions. You don't say how long it's been since you swam in high school, and that will influence how quickly you should try to build yardage in the short time you have to prepare. If you are truly at square one, you do not have time to work on speed, so I would recommend this: You have about 16 workouts till the race. Do a program of sets where you increase your distance as gradually as possible and still get some work at the distance you must race. For instance:

day 1:
10 x 50
2 x 100
6 x 50 total 1000

day 2:
8 x 50
4 x 100
6 x 50 total 1100

By week 4 or 5 you might want to be here:

2 x 100
2 x 200
2 x 400
4 x 50 total 1600

Set a rest interval between 15 - 30 seconds (shorter for the shorter distance) Swim each rep at a strong but comfortable rate.

By week 6 you might want to have a 1 x 1000 in the workout. It is probably not necessary, or even a good idea for you to swim more than 2000 in a workout for these 2 months.

By week 7 you should swim the race distance for time (not sure how many yards or meters .4 miles is). Again, swim at a comfortable pace that you feel you will be able to maintain throughout. Knowing your time will help you seed yourself properly and will give you an idea of what to expect.

If you have never swam in open water (I don't mean splashing about!) then it is imperative that you get some open water experience BEFORE RACE DAY! If possible, swim the race course, or at least get a swim in at the same body of water.

Swimming in a murky lake or scarier yet, the ocean, is nothing like swimming in a pool. What's more, a triathlon swim start is a very violent thing! There can be a lot of contact which can be very disconcerting. If you seed yourself at the back, a very good stategy is to wait a few moments after the gun and let the pack go on ahead.

At the Danskin tri's, I always tell beginners: Be prepared to panic! Imagine you get bumped in the head and your goggles fill with water. Then as you go for a gasp of breath you inhale a bunch of the lake. Now you can't see, can't breath and there are bodies thrashing all around. There is no side to grab, no bottom to stand on (and Lord knows what monsters beneath!) Don't get me wrong, I love open water!!! If you are prepared for the anxiety that open water can create, you can take steps to quell a welling sense of panic. Relax, turn on your back, if needs be, and remind yourself -- yes, I know how to swim!

Another skill you will want to begin to develop is spotting. I don't like lifting my head and often don't see anything when I do, but that is the most efficient way to keep track of where you are heading. I use the shoreline if the swim is parallel to it, and also take a couple of breaststrokes every 10 - 15 freestyle strokes.

Well, how I do go on! I wish you good luck in your training and on race day. Remember to relax, stay focused and keep pushing! Most of all, have fun!

Best regards,

March 21st, 2003, 09:32 AM
Thanks Kime for all of you advise. I really had not contimplated the start at all. Fotunately I don't think this one will be too bad. Only 500 people can register and there will be 5 starting heats.

As for the workout, I really haven't swam for about 8 years, but I have been doing about 1,500 -2,000yrd / session without being tired or sore the next day. The following was my last work out....

200 free warm up
4x50 swim (1minute intervals)
4x100 kick (fly, back, breast, free)
4x100 pull
2x200 swim
4x25 sprint
200 warm down
1,900 total

Should I be doing pulls & kicks or just cocentrate on lap swimming? Should I be doing longer sets ie. 4x 400 ?

I really appreciate your advise. I have had a really difficult time finding training tips!!

March 22nd, 2003, 09:03 AM
Hi Lauren,
Where in Baltimore are you located? You may be able to get some assistance by utilizing some of the Masters teams in the area.


March 22nd, 2003, 02:01 PM
Lauren -- you are already ready!!

If you have been swimming like that for a while, you can easily make that .4 mile swim. You have time to work on speed, but I also recommend doing some longer sets. You want to finish that 600 or 700 yard swim and feel like you have done nothing! Do in your training what you will do in your race. Again, I encourage you to get some open water practice as well.

CoachRay's suggestion is a good one. You might also look to see if there are any triathlon clubs in your town. The one in Austin has group open water swims and other resources.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes.


Nancy Graham
May 11th, 2003, 11:06 PM
I just came across this post while browsing this new to me site. The questions here are very pertinent to my plan of participating in my first triathlon this Fall. I am a bit older however:rolleyes: (age 61). And I have never had any "formal" swim training -- have not swum on a team or anything competitive. I am a fairly strong swimmer and expect that I will soon be swimming decent distance after just returning to the swim.

I find Kim's respone with suggestions very helpful and interesting to try. In the past, when swimming was a part of my fitness regimen, I simply swam as many non-stop laps as I could (or had time for). My question -- Is it more beneficial to swim these --- sets is it:confused: (I do not know terminology well either) than to swim one long session when preparing for a triathlon? And, when you say "rest 15-30 seconds" -- is that after set? Example 10x50; 2x100; 6x50 -- are the rests after the first 10(x50), then after the 2(x100)?

Sorry to sound so naive (stupid?) about some of this, and hope I am not bugging people with questions that may already have been answered somewhere, and I don't know how to find it:(

Thanks so much for your help -- I have already gotten the trinewbie web site from someone else in response to my first post. I feel I have a lot to learn, and am on my way with the knowledge of this group.


May 12th, 2003, 01:08 PM
Hi Nancy,

Some definitions:

The set, "10x50" consists of 10 50 yd or mtr swims

They can be done on an interval of a certain time, such as when Lauren states in her reply that she does them "on 1 minute". That means she leaves for each 50 in 1 minute. If it takes her 45 sec to swim the 50 she gets 15 sec rest, if it takes her 55 secs to swim, she gets 5 secs rest.

In a rest interval (ri) you would rest for 15 secs after each swim, regardless of the time of the swim, and therefore the actual interval time for each 50 could vary (no need to keep track of that)

My suggestion of "15 - 30 secs rest interval" corresponded to the sets, so for the 50's -- 15 sec ri, the 100's 20 sec ri, etc. Between sets, you might take about a minute -- a good time to adjust goggles/cap, sip a beverage, catch breath.

You are much more likely to swim that 500 with good form and energy when broken into intervals, and you may even swim it almost as fast as swimming it in one piece! Even a few seconds rest will refresh your muscles. This allows them to "accept" more work. Interval training will allow you to build your distance and speed much better than continuous laps. However, at some point when your "base" is established (you've been swimming regulary for several weeks), you will definitely want to include sets that equal (or exceed) the race distance, such as the 1x1000 that I suggested to Lauren.

I was not a competitive swimmer until I joined Masters 3 years ago and learned all of what I've said here. I was a continuous lap swimmer which I used as my triathlon training. A calf injury ended my triathlon days and started my Masters life. I enjoyed discovering that an 800 is not a sprint! I'm all about 50's and 100's now! That said, for some reason (nostalgia?) I am swimming a one mile open water swim (at lovely Lake Travis) this weekend. I'm not sure I remember how to do it, so I'll have to re-read my advice! I'm pretty sure there's monsters in there!

Good luck with your training. Let us know how it goes.

Best regards,

Nancy Graham
May 12th, 2003, 02:23 PM
Thank you for all this good information Kim. I just got back from a session in the pool (I love having a day off to spend as much time as I like in the pool:p) and tried your Day 1 suggested workout. It felt great, and I see how ones form degrades WITHOUT even a brief rest. :rolleyes:

Anyway, I finished the workout in about 30 minutes and then tried working on my kick:eek: I think I have the world's weakest kick and don't really know how to improve it. I do some laps with fins after the workout, then a lap or two without. This is new for me (working on kicking), and so far I am not sure I see any improvement:mad:. But I shall look for some tips here, and continue my quest for a better (stronger) kick.

Thanks for your encouragement for a triathlon -- I'm excited as well as anxious about doing one!:D :o :eek:

Thanks again, Nancy
(I will absorb any and all tips and information that anyone would want to send my way)

Nancy Graham
June 2nd, 2003, 12:41 PM
After a couple of friends talked with me about a "beginner friendly" women's triathlon happening on June 29th!!! I have registered to participate in it. Oh my! that seems so soon.... but hearing that is is FLAT was probably the deciding factor for me. The running part will be my biggest challenge, but I figure that for my first tri, I can even walk since whatever I do it will be my personal best!

I am now able to swim non stop for the 1000 yards, and want to hone in on the best training for the next four weeks before the tri. Is it best to continue to swim the 1000 yards non stop, or should I continue to break it up into sets of certain distances. I can train 2-3 days a week for 40-60 minutes dpending on the day.

Any tips will be greatly appreciated. I am nervous and anxious about doing a triathlon, but also positive and excited about being able to do such a great event. My friends tell me I will get bitten by the bug! We'll see. For now I worry about HOW to do everything (like dress, transition, drink, finish...).

Thanks, Nancy

June 2nd, 2003, 07:09 PM
Hi Nancy,

Me again! Here is a website that you might find helpful:


Go to the "Beginner's Corner" and look at FAQ and Training Articles. I think you will find a lot of answers there. You will see also "Pre-race checklist" -- you definitely want to use one of those so you can get some sleep the night before!

As for your swimming workouts, I think you will want to do a combination of distances. The workouts with the shorter distances ??x50 ??x100, etc, will allow you to keep your technique sharp and work on speed. Doing the continuous 1000 will prepare you for what you will actually do on race day. Mix them up for the next 4 weeks. By the way, have you done any open water swims? I strongly urge you not to let race day be your first one!

Did I mention this already?:

Relax, focus your breathing, keep pushing.

This is my race mantra, chanted as needs be!

My race motto: Whatever works! (such as -- walk a ways in the run, etc.)

Good luck!


Nancy Graham
June 9th, 2003, 11:15 AM
Hi Kim,

I was hoping for a reply from you, and have waited to reply back until I at least did somewhat of an open swim! My first was last week in a local lake after several day of 80 degree temps (a rare thing around these parts of PNW). My time constraints allowed for only aboaut 10-15 minutes in the lake, and I have plans to get in for longer next week.

It is indeed quite different from swimming in a pool, and though I was never afraid, I developed some anxiety around being able to swim 1/2 mile in open water, with lots of others bounding about, the ability to search out the course bouys, and "running" out of the water to the transition area!!! Oh what a learning experience this is:p

I remaing excited about participating in my first triathlon, and though I do not feel totally "ready", I will. as the book says, be doing my personal best! Then I will have a baseline to compare to future tris (did I say that?)

Thanks for writing Kim -- I need all the encouragement and tips I can garner.


Matt S
June 9th, 2003, 05:58 PM

Congrats on pushing your boundaries. Open water is quite different from pool swimming, and the wise swimmer savors the differences of each.

I have a few tips:
(1) Enjoy the race. Really, I mean this as a pacing strategy. Start out slower than you think you want to go. The shortest open water races tend to be longer than the longest pool events. If you go after the race like it was even a 1500m, you'll wear yourself out in the first half of the race. So, during the first half, take it easy; enjoy the new sights and sensations; maybe draft a little, if that is legal for your event. Then, if you have anything left at the start of the second half, put the hammer down.
(2) Make sure you can see. This is probably the most overllooked but important aspect of your race. If you are nearsighted, get corrective goggles, or wear contacts under regular ones. Nothing will eat up your stamina (or peace of mind) faster that poking your head up every 4 strokes or so, squinting for a landmark. Because you are already so close to the water, even seeing with 20/20 vision is a challenge. (You won't believe how hard it can be to see something 5' in diameter and international orange, but there it is.)
(3) Do what feels good at the start. Because you are following tip #1, you are not trying to spend all your energy sprinting out with the leaders, n'est-ce-pas? If you dislike contact with other swimmers, find a lane off to the side of the main pack and find your pace; then cut back into the main lane as the pack spreads out. Me, I'm a former water polo player. I LIKE getting joustled at the start of the race, but then again, I'm a little different.
(4) Drink plenty of fluids before the race. You want to stay hydrated.
(5) Focus on good stroke mechanics. Another source of "endurance" is to simply stay as efficient as possible, as long as possible, so you use as little energy as possible to cover the first portion of the race. So, lengthen your arm stroke, use that easy 2-beat kick, try to swim as quietly as possible. You also might consider spending quality time during your training period on stroke mechanics to make your stroke as efficient as possible.
(6) Do not forget tip # 1. Remember to have fun. It is what will get you to want to do this again, when most of your friends and family think you are slightly daft in the head to want to swim so far for so long.

Good Luck,

June 9th, 2003, 11:38 PM
Hi Nancy,

I'm really glad you got in a lake swim. Even if that's the only one you do, it will help, though I do recommend you try to get a little more open water time.

Did you try the website? Here's another one that might be helpful also. This one is very step by step, so you might be able to match up the timing to where you are now.


Keep plugging away at your training (don't overtrain!) and on race day, as Matt suggests, just relax and enjoy each moment. You will be very pleased and proud when you finish! (plus you get to eat whatever you want -- traditional reward!)

Keep us posted!


June 27th, 2003, 11:45 AM
To Nancy:

GOOD LUCK this weekend! Do you have your checklist filled out? I wish you good weather, flat water and tailwinds! And I hope you have a great time!

To Lauren:

Seems like you might have done your race by now. How did it go?


Nancy Graham
June 27th, 2003, 08:48 PM
Hi Kim,

How great for you to have noted the date of my triathlon!!! I have my checklist right here next to me and am in the midst of packing to leave tomorrow morning for the Sunday event! I am a little nervous, but mostly excited about doing a triathlon:eek:

With more time I would have trained harder, but feel I have put in as much as I could with the time I had available. I do so appreciate all of your help and the help and words of ecouragement from others on this list. I will post a report of my efforts next week.:cool:

Thanks again, Nancy

Nancy Graham
June 30th, 2003, 08:58 AM
I DID IT!!!!

And it was great! As everyone warned, I am now "hooked" and starting to think of when I can do another triathlon.

All went extremely well for me. I did remain in a clump of swimmers in the middle of the course and had to tread water a couple of times just to get free of them, but still was enjoying myself and the fact that I was actually doing this!
Matt, i followed your "rules" for enjoying the experience and they helped more than you know!

The bike leg was my strength, and the run my weakest link. Now I will take my time to "practice" all three of the sports to pre-prepare fo a future event.

I am pleased (tickled actually) with myself, and again thank you Kim, and Matt, and several other individuals for your help, and this entire list for posting all the great information here.

Swimmingly, Nancy
:) :p :D

Nancy Graham
July 2nd, 2003, 08:48 PM
I forgot to mention this -- I can't remember who suggested it, but I did buy a pair of prescriptin goggles, and they made a huge difference for me. I felt very confident when I could actually see the buoys, and the other swimmers near me -- where they were looking, swimming to, and how I needed to react (if at all). Just seeing the surroundings with more than a blurr was a great help to me.

Having a wet suit also added a touch of confidence:)

Now if I can just learn to run more than a shuffle, I may just get good at this!


July 4th, 2003, 12:04 PM
Way to go, Nancy!

Congratulations on your successful effort! I'm glad you had a good experience. You may be feeling a bit of a let down (post-event-what now?-syndrome). The cure is to find another event to put on your calendar. It needn't be a multisport, there may be some masters swim events (open water, pool meets) in your area to choose from. Since it sounds like running is your weak link, you could look for some 5k races to enter. Those are usually pretty fun and often benefit a good cause.

Congrats again!