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Triathletes and Swimmers (July-August 2012)

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by , July 1st, 2012 at 12:00 AM (1402 Views)
When I started Masters swimming, I was training for a triathlon. My nonremarkable age-group swimming career ended somewhere around age 12 or 13, and I didnt really see myself as a swimmer anymore, since I had pursued other sports after my early days at the pool.

So back to the pool I went. I found that I didnt need to spend a lot of time learning an efficient freestyle30 years had not erased the basics; swimming felt good and natural. I did a few triathlons, became a semidecent cyclist, but never amounted to much on the run. However, one thing became very clear: Training to be competent in three sports, done in rapid succession at varying distances, is exhausting.

What about the person who takes on this challenge with little or no swimming background? Many triathletes start from scratch in all three disciplines, but most agree that swimming is the toughest of the three. Swimmers who cant remember not knowing how to swim efficiently dont understand how this feels unless, perhaps, theyve taken up French or the violin as a midlife crisis hobby.

Why is swimming so difficult? My guess is because its one of the few sports in which your brain has to first accept that youre in a hostile environmentone in which failure to get to the surface to breathe means deaththen you need to learn the rest of the sport: stroke technique, lane etiquette, how to use all those groovy plastic toys.

Of course, most of us dont think we are going to die while were swimming laps, but a part of our brains undoubtedly remains on alert as a survival technique. This nifty capacity to automate the mechanics so we can enjoy ourselves and focus on efficiency and power is a noticeable difference between swimmers who started early and swimmers who are new to the sport.

In this issue, Jim Harper, who trained for and recently competed in his first triathlon, takes a lighthearted look at some of the differences between swimmers and our multisport brethren. He talks with some USMS coaches who have found innovative ways to ensure that triathletes in their programs are getting what they need to improve the swim leg of the tri.

Weve heard the jokes and stereotypes, watched the xtranormal.com videos of Swimmer Guy and Triathlon Girl, weve reviewed Jef Mallets excellent treatise, Trizophrenia in SWIMMER. As long as we can all laugh at ourselves, our differences shouldnt preclude a shared enjoyment of the water and mutual respect for our different abilities and goals. Lets continue to welcome triathletes to our ranks in USMS.

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Updated July 1st, 2014 at 10:48 AM by Editor

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