Gaining Confidence in Swimming

After reflecting on the past few years of my transition to triathlon, i am most proud of the gains I have made in swimming.  Ironically, this is my weakest discipline of the three, but I have worked at it, stuck with it and am motivated by the small successes.  My heart still jumps when I remember that night six months ago when I swam 1900 metres for the first time.  I was planning to swim 1800m and could not believe my eyes when i saw 2100m on my watch.  At that point, I realized that I had the stamina; speed needed to become my focus.

Two summers ago, I routinely went to the pool 3 times a week.  Because this was during Covid restrictions, pool times could only be booked for 45 minutes at a time; I never wanted to be late.  Last year, after participating in my first triathlon, I increased my time in the pool to 4 or 5 times a week.  With a busy work/mom life, I had to cut this back to 2 or 3 times a week during the school year and that compelled me to put more focus and energy into each swim.

For me, prepping to swim in a triathlon is much more than physically swimming.  Mentality and frame of mind have played a huge role in how I respond to all things swimming so I have had to retrain my brain.  My 1900m training, then, included a lot of extras:

  1. Masters Swimming: I spent the last year swimming once a week with a masters swim club.  Intimidated by the power and speed around me, I assumed my spot in Lane 1, the slow lane, to work on different strokes and speed.  This was great because I learned drills, became more comfortable with pool toys (e.g., pull buoys and fins), worked different muscle groups other than those used in freestyle, and I realized that I am not always slow (my backstroke and breast stroke are both strong, but neither are much help in a triathlon).
  2. LOST: The Lake Ontario Swim Team meets every Saturday from the first week of June until it is too cold to swim in open water.  A 400m loop is set up in Lake Ontario, and swimmers can do as much or as little as they want in an hour.  On my first Saturday, the water was so cold that many were wearing neoprene booties and gloves.  I swam 250m that day – exactly 250m – and was glad to be finished.  Each week, I added more loops as I grew more and more comfortable with swimming in the (sometimes choppy) lake.
  3. Triathlon Club of Burlington – My triathlon  club also meets once a week for open water swim practice.  Since the club trains in another city, getting there can be difficult (especially at rush hour) so I didn’t make it out as often as I wanted.  When I did, though, I was always grateful for the open water time – and with a lifeguard!  During my build for Mont Tremblant, my longest swim in Lake Ontario was 1750 metres, which was a huge boost to my confidence.  My time with LOST and my tri club helped me immensely.
  4. Work with a Coach: There is nothing better than a bit of individual attention to help improve.  During the summer, I had 4 sessions with a swim coach to work on my technique as we both knew that I had to improve that before I could get faster in the water.  We changed my catch, corrected my pull and strengthened my kick. My stroke is still not perfect but it feels a lot better than it did 8 months ago.  And, without even thinking about speed or arm turn-over, I know that I am marginally faster too.

The combination of these have made a huge difference in how I swim.  There is still quite a bit of work ahead of me; my next steps are to continue with the above and increase the amount of time I spend in the water.

I have no doubt that i will continue to grow as a swimmer.  With goals being set and new dreams to chase, pool time is about to get a lot more interesting.

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