Learning from mistakes is part of the game. Our pros are here to help with IRONMAN athletes’ real-life challenges.
Of the three disciplines of triathlon, the swim usually comes with the highest intimidation factor for newcomers. Many of us spend our childhoods biking and running, with water activities reserved for boating, lounging around or cooling off. Mastering the mechanics of stroke, body position, sighting, breathing and drafting is a lifelong pursuit—something every triathlete must work diligently at in their training.
We asked our Facebook community what your biggest obstacles are when it came to swimming, gathered the responses, and enlisted reigning IRONMAN world champion Pete Jacobs for expert advice.
Your biggest concern: When, how and whether or not to breathe on both sides.
Pete Jacobs on Breathing Right:
Breathing on both sides, also called “bilateral breathing,” allows you to change your breathing side throughout a race to accommodate for wind chop. It also means that, in training, you can breathe every three strokes, which will allow you to focus more on your stroke.
Working on a more even stroke on both sides is also important. Being relaxed is very important in swimming, and timing your breath makes this a lot easier. Practice swimming catch-up drills, where you leave one arm out in front until the other hand hits the water. But don’t become a snail: keep your arms moving at a normal pace, just pause in front longer. This will help you work on your rhythm.
Another thing to keep in mind, when it comes to breathing, is to be sure not to breathe too early. Tilt your head to the side as your shoulders roll, then breathe under your armpit as your arm is coming over in recovery. Then, as your hand hits the water and your shoulders roll back, take your head with you. Breathing is easier if you look back at a 45 degree angle under your arm and make sure that the crown of your head points forward, not up. The aim is to get your mouth out of the water, not your eyes.