“Just get through the swim,” is the advice that is often handed out to beginner triathletes. As a result, these folks are pretty easy to spot at the start of a race. They may be swimming their warm up with their heads completely above the water line. After the gun sounds, they wind-mill their arms frantically through the air, but make little forward progress. At swim exit, they look winded and a bit delirious. While it is true that the race is not won or lost in the water, these athletes have wasted too much of their energy.
Swimming well comes from swimming efficiently. An efficient swimmer moves though the water smoothly, with no wasted motion. They are able to cover greater distance with each stroke, which saves their more of their energy for the bike and run portions of the race. Two of the most important skills to master for efficient swimming are proper breathing technique and good posture.
Proper Breathing Technique
Swimming is one of the only aerobic activities where you are forced to hold your breath. In order to swim efficiently, you need to find a rhythm that is comfortable for you. Take a deep breath before you push off the wall, making sure that your nose is pointed towards the bottom of the pool. As you begin to swim, exhale under water, slowly. This should take a few strokes to do. Then, just as your arm begins the pull phase of your stroke, turn your face to the side, and breathe. You do not need to have your whole face out of the water as you do so. You only need to turn so that one of your goggles is out. Repeat this cycle every few strokes, breathing on whichever side of your body you are most comfortable on. It may take a few sessions in the water to find the pattern that works best for you. Experiment with breathing every few strokes and exhaling more quickly and more slowly.
Good posture is as important in the water as it is on land. Your head and spine should be straight with your nose pointed to the floor of the pool. Your spine should be in a neutral position, not arched .This position should be roughly like standing on tip toe, on dry land. When you first get in the water, practice pushing off the wall with your arms extended in front of you, one hand on top of the other. It is important to feel the glide, as your body moves through the water. As you swim, keep you head down and engage your core muscles. When you need to breathe, resist the urge to pull your head up and out of the water. Instead, pull your head back slightly and turn to the side, breathe, and then point your nose back down. Good posture will help you glide through the water further with each stroke, saving your energy for the later stages of the race.
Spend some practice time on these, in every swim session. Even if you have been swimming for a while, it helps to work on your technique; it will help to clear up any bad habits you have acquired.