Let me preface this new post series by stating that I do not think I am a triathlon expert.  However, I did go from utter couch potato to completing 12 triathlons, swim, or bike events (including – in order – a failed sprint tri, a 100K bike race, an Olympic tri relay, an Olympic tri, a 100K bike race, a 100-mile bike race, an 800-meter open water challenge, a sprint tri, a sprint tri, an Olympic tri relay, an Olympic tri, sprint tri, and a pool sprint tri).  Whew.

Before I got into triathlons, I was terrified of cycling in groups and had no idea how to swim for fitness (I was good at lounging on the beach while drinking a cocktail, though).  I also had an intense fear of open water, especially murky Florida lakes that were home to all sorts of creepy crawlies and alligators.   During my first sprint triathlon, I had a serious panic attack in the middle of the lake and dropped out of the swim portion (I also had a panic attack during my first Olympic triathlon but trudged on).


Even though triathlons weren’t a natural fit for me, I really wanted to figure them out and get into the sport.  And I know a lot of you do, too.  So I’m writing this post series because I really believe that if I can do it, so can you.  Since I’m not a triathlon expert, I’m hoping that others who love to swim, bike, or run will comment on each of the relevant posts and share their own advice, too! 


This post series will eventually include:


  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Running
  • Transitions
  • Selecting a Race/Training


First up:  it’s time to talk about SWIMMING!

My favorite thing about swimming is how little gear you need to get into the sport (unlike cycling).  All you need to begin swimming is a swim cap, goggles, and a bathing suit.  You can get swim cap and goggles at Target, and if you don’t have a ‘real’ one piece, you can always swim in bikini bottoms and a sports bra.  I wear a trisuit for my races, but other triathletes opt to wear sports bras and bike shorts (or tri shorts, which have less padding).  Some newbies even swim in a bathing suit and pull on bike shorts and a sports bra after they exit the water.


Step 1:  You must learn how to swim (and find a place to practice). 

photo (50)

If you can swim for fun but don’t know how to swim-swim, it’s very important to learn proper form.  Swimming with improper form is kind of like running with a brick-filled backpack on; it’s totally inefficient and makes the experience so much less enjoyable and harder.   I learned proper form three ways:


  • YouTube It:  I watched YouTube videos on ‘freestyle swimming.’  There are many great instructional videos on YouTube that break down the most basic triathlon stroke step-by-step.  Practice the moves in your living room first.  I learned so much from YouTube videos – especially how to BREATHE!  I never knew you were supposed to breathe out underwater.  Also, try not to incorporate too many things at once.  Spend one day working on your arms; the next on your legs; the next on your breathing.  Don’t try to swim too quickly – swim very slowly to start and focus on form, not speed. 
  • Get a coach:  I asked my friend Ryan, a former swim coach, to join me in the pool and critique my form.  Ryan also wrote a guest post on the blog to summarize all the tips she shared with me.  If you don’t have a friend who can help train you in the pool, definitely look into lessons.  You probably only need one – three sessions to really get the basics down.  Many cities have Triathlon Clubs that cater from beginner to advanced athletes; clubs are a great way to get into the sport!
  • Practice:  Practice, practice, practice.  I felt like a fish out of water – hah – for about a month of dedicated swimming, and then one day, it all just clicked for me. 


You can usually find pools at larger gyms, community recreation centers, or aquatic centers.   To find a pool in your area, search the U.S. Masters Swimming website. 


Step 2: You must prepare for race conditions.

The reason why I crashed and burned at my first sprint triathlon was I was not physically or mentally prepared to get into a lake.   Swimming in a lake is nothing like swimming in a pool, especially when there are hundreds (or thousands) of other people swimming right next to you… or on top of you.


Some things to consider about lake swimming during a triathlon:


  • You will not be able to see the bottom.  Actually, you probably won’t be able to see a foot in front of your face underwater.
  • There are no lines to follow to make sure you are swimming straight.  This means you will need to ‘sight’ every now and then by breathing up instead of to the side so you can check the guiding buoys’ positions.
  • There are no ledges in a lake.  If you need to take a break, you will either need to switch to a different stroke, float on your back, or tread water.
  • When you lift your head up to breathe, you may get water splashed into your mouth.
  • Other swimmers may bump into you, kick you, or swim over you.
  • The water may be cold, so you may be wearing a wetsuit, which can feel restrictive and uncomfortable. (Side note:  I have only worn a wetsuit once and hated it.  At 70 degrees – when most other swimmers will wear wetsuits – I would rather skip it than deal with the suit.)

To be successful at the swim leg of a triathlon, you have to be prepared for the realities of swimming in a lake.  Unfortunately, most first-time triathletes do all their training in a pool and are underprepared for an open water swim.  There are a lot of panic attacks during a swim (don’t worry – there are always lifeguards on kayaks nearby – you can always grab a kayak and rest like I did; however, this will technically disqualify you… Edited to clarify:  You will not be disqualified for resting on a kayak but you will be disqualified for using another device to assist in ‘forward motion.’).


The New York Times recently published a very interesting article about triathlon deaths.  Sadly, from 2006 to 2008, 14 Americans died during triathlons; 7 out of 9 who had autopsies died from cardiovascular abnormalities.  However, 13 of the deaths occurred during the swim leg.  Researchers theorize the high number of deaths during the swim leg because of the chaotic mass starts; people panic when they hit the water, and it’s difficult for rescue workers to identify who is in trouble. If you’re nervous about the swim, it’s very important to be SMART about it. 


So, how can you mentally and physically prepare for a SAFE lake swim?


  • Practice swimming in a lake.  Never swim in a lake alone, obviously.  Talk to your local triathlon club about group lake swims so you can practice open water swimming a safe manner.
  • Spend time thinking about what the swim will be like – prepare yourself to be splashed, kicked, and swam over. It’s not a big deal if you are truly emotionally ready for it.
  • Practice swimming in your wetsuit, if you are going to use one.  You can wear the wetsuit to the pool.   Edited to clarify:  As you should do with your bathing suit, always rinse your wetsuit with fresh water afterwards to help prevent breakdown due to the chlorine. 
  • Practice sighting (looking up) when swimming in the pool. 
  • Decide what you’re going to do if you need a break.  I usually float on my back when I need a break so I can catch my breath.  There is NO SHAME in this. 
  • Especially for your first triathlon, select a smaller event and double-check to make sure the swim will begin in waves (they usually do waves by sex and age group).  This will make the start less chaotic. 
  • Don’t push your way to the front.  If you are nervous about swimming, wait 30 seconds after your wave starts to begin swimming.  Stay in the back or the sides.
  • And last, but not least, start slow.  If you go out too fast, your breathing will become irregular, and you’ll feel panicky.  Slow and steady!


Alternatively, if you really want to do a triathlon but want to get your feet wet before tackling an open water swim, do a pool triathlon!

I did a pool triathlon this fall and loved the experience.  Pool triathlons are conveniently scheduled at the beginning of triathlon season because of weather, so you can do a pool triathlon and then tackle a lake swim.


I would’ve never said this three years ago, but swimming is now my favorite sport.  Conquering my fear of open water was a huge learning experience; now I love swimming in the pool, and I absolutely adore doing open water triathlons.  Swimming is such a fun and exciting challenge – and excellent workout!

Want more triathlon info?



And stay tuned for the other posts in the So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series, which are coming next week!


Do you love the swimming leg of triathlons?  How did you learn to swim?  Did you conquer an open water fear like I did?  What advice do you have for newbie swimmers?



  • Victoria (District Chocoholic) January 6, 2012, 1:59 pm

    No I hate the swimming leg.

    Wait…oh, that’s the part where I get to swim on top of people. The fun part.

  • Emily January 6, 2012, 2:01 pm

    Thank you! My boss talked me into signing up for an indoor tri this morning. I am comfortable with treadmill running, and spin bike riding, but swimming? I have a long way to go…

    • Sunny January 6, 2012, 2:36 pm

      Agreed! There is an indoor tri I want to do in February but I’m lost on the swimming part.

  • Candice @ Sailing on Paper January 6, 2012, 2:01 pm

    Thanks so much for such a detailed posted about the requirements for swimming in a tri! I don’t know if I’d ever do one, but this is a great resource for someone looking to start.

  • Devon January 6, 2012, 2:05 pm

    I LOVE that you are doing a tri series! Unlike most triathletes, I’m a swimmer first and foremost. In fact, I signed up for one sprint tri this upcoming season solely because it has an unusually long swim distance. I’m with you on the wetsuits. Unless it is VERY cold or a long swim (over 1600yds), I think it is easier to wear a tri suit or tri shorts with a top (my preference). The time you save on transition is priceless!

    I played water polo in college, so I didn’t think getting “swam over” would bother me during my first race. Wrong! I buddied up with my sister and we blocked for one another once we rounded the first buoy, but I prefer starting outside the pack for most my races now. If you’re fast, you can cut around others before the turn, and if not- you don’t get clobbered or lose your goggles.

    Can’t wait to see what you have coming up!

  • Erin January 6, 2012, 2:07 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I look forward to the series. I am a runner who will do her first Try a Tri in 2012. I’m nervous and excited.

  • Ali January 6, 2012, 2:11 pm

    I love the swim leg of the triathlon!
    I especially love point to point swims especially when the current is strong in the ocean.

  • Lexi @ Cura Personalis Foodie January 6, 2012, 2:13 pm

    I’m not going to lie–swimming actually kinda scares me! I know how to swim (e.g. stay a float in the ocean/pool etc.) because I had swim lessons when I was younger, but I am not at all proficient in any of the swim strokes like freestyle!

    Maybe a goal for sometime in the future? I would love to become a better swimmer.

  • Rachel January 6, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Such great advice. The swim leg was (and still is!) the hardest part of triathlon for me.

    One quick note about wearing wetsuits in pools: Always, always rinse your suit with cool fresh water after using it in the pool to maintain the material’s integrity. Chlorine can contribute to degradation of the suit’s material over time. If you’re renting your suit, you may want to check with the provider to ensure they allow their suits to be used in chlorine pools.

    Happy swimming! 🙂

  • Laurel (Runaway Laurel) January 6, 2012, 2:22 pm

    I have only done 1 tri (a sprint) and it was great! I’ve always been a swimmer, did the swim team when I was younger, but for me the swim leg was still really scary! I definitely had to take my time and calm my breathing to keep from panicking too much. These tips are great, Caitlin!

  • Shannon @ Mon Amour January 6, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this series! I am getting into tris this year and love learning everything I can about them

  • Meredith January 6, 2012, 2:25 pm

    I LOVE this series. I’m training for my first sprint tri this spring and I’m reading everything and anything possible about triathlons and risks and tips and tricks. I’m a runner but have switched to a lover of swimming and am slowly getting the form down with help from a friend and the internet. I was also wondering about doing open water swims prior to actual “beaches” opening for the season. I live in the midwest and the triathlon i’m doing is before the lake beaches open up for the public. Will the triathlon clubs still be able to help me find a place to try open water swims???? I think this is so awesome and would also love to see a “Gear” post of what you use, what you do during the race with nutrition, what brands you use, etc? I’m addicted to reading about triathlons so anything and everything you can say, i’ll read.

  • Alyssa @ Don't Look Down January 6, 2012, 2:32 pm

    All the triathlons I’ve done will not disqualify you if you need to grab onto a kayak for a break, but you cannot make forward progress will holding on to any assistance.
    Swimming is definitely my weakest triathlon leg! But it’s also the one I’ve seen great improvement in. My collegiate swimmer friend retaught me how to swim in college.
    My tips are to concentrate on drills and implementing all those drills into your regular stroke. You want to become more efficient at swimming so you can save more energy to use for biking and running.
    If you get tired while swimming or feel like you can’t catch your breath you can always flip over and do some backstroke!

  • Nadiya January 6, 2012, 2:41 pm

    Wow! I’m always impressedof people who can do triathlons! What is distance you have to swim?

    • CaitlinHTP January 8, 2012, 12:00 pm

      It depends on the race – it can be 250 meters, 500 meters, 1500 meters, 1.2 miles or 2.4 miles.

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing January 6, 2012, 2:51 pm

    I’m not a good swimmer and I have an intense fear of drowning but I think if I was good at it, or at least adequate, it would be so much fun! I took pool therapy for my stress fracture and I LOVED it.

  • Megan January 6, 2012, 2:54 pm

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m doing my first triathlon this summer, and I have never been a strong swimmer. My palms sweat just reading your post. But, I’m determined to train and prepare as best I can, so I can be confident in my abilities come tri day.

  • Axel January 6, 2012, 3:06 pm

    Great post! I’ll echo Alyssa and mention that holding onto a volunteer kayak or surfboard (or the buoys that mark the course if necessary) is a completely legitimate way to rest in every race I’ve been in (14 so far, including 2 tri’s that got converted to duathlons due to weather).

    Other tips to minimize the chaos in a first race can be requesting to be put into the final wave so there will be less people around you (though some of those little old ladies can be intense!).

    A note on wetsuits, I was against them at first – but I found my race times were always better than my training made me expect. Even with wind, waves, other swimmers, and swimming crookedly, I’m sooooooo much faster in the suit, not wearing it would be like doing the run in sandals.

  • Chelsea January 6, 2012, 3:10 pm

    I’m so so happy you posted this! I want to do a tri so badly, but I’m most afraid of the swim portion than anything. I can’t wait for your other posts <3!

  • Shannon January 6, 2012, 3:14 pm

    When I first started training I was most nervous about the swim, and the swim ended up being my favorite part! I practiced by making several (6ish) swimming lessons where I would do laps and she would critique my strokes etc. She also helped me put together a swimming training plan of how many laps to do.

    I then did a clinic for outdoor swimming that was half lesson outside on picnic tables (how to sight, what to do in certain situations, etc.) then we got into the water and pracitced what the lecture went over.

    Then while doing my triathlons, I position myself at the back of the pack during the swim. I can go at my own pace and pass people if I need to. Id rather lose a minute and no get kicked in the face than get frantic or injured at the beginning of the swim.

  • Gillian January 6, 2012, 3:26 pm

    I learned how to swim about 5 years ago (late 30’s) I was comfortable in water but didn’t know how to swim-swim. I never really had a fear of open water. However I did my first 1/2 ironman in 2007 and almost lost it in the water I had just learned how to swim and it was 1.2 miles too boot! I calmed myself down and continued 1 stroke at a time. Now I have worked my way up to an ironman which i completed in 2011. I NEVER in a million years though I’d be able to swim 2.4 miles. But I just keep practicing. Its still my slowest event and I’m typically close to last out of the water but i’m ok with that(its easier to find my bike). This is just a testament to doing anything you can put your mind to! Also, just FYI at ironman brand events you can actually hold on to the kayak and not be disqualified its only if they assist you with forward movement. As a diabetic, during my IM I stopped half way through the swim for a gel and a kayaker offered for me to hold on. A good open water drill for the pool is the tarzan swim where you hold your head above water (and straight ahead) while continuing the stroke.

  • Kristen January 6, 2012, 3:30 pm

    It’s not a great idea to wear your tri wetsuit in a chlorinated pool – the chemicals break down the materials and, if yours in under warranty like mine is, it will void out your warranty.

  • Laura January 6, 2012, 3:59 pm

    Thank you! I’m going to do my first tri this summer, so this is perfect timing!

  • Kristabel@RaceReady January 6, 2012, 4:05 pm

    Hey girl! I am not sure when your blog got its makeover, I just rediscovered it…but I LOVE it!

  • Andrea (Run. Learn. Repeat.) January 6, 2012, 4:22 pm

    I LOVED this post! I just barely posted my 2012 resolutions and one of them is to do my first triathlon. Swimming is the part that scares me the most. I love to run and bike, but I’ve never been a swimmer. This was all very good info. I think I’ll try a pool tri first because I know I would have a panic attack in the lake.

  • Sarah January 6, 2012, 4:23 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this series! I signed up for an Iron Girl sprint tri that will be at the end of this summer and I’m looking for all the advice I can get!

  • Anna January 6, 2012, 4:35 pm

    It wasn’t until my third triathlon that I finally felt comfortable in the open water swim and once I did, it was such a wonderful miracle! Now swimming would also be one of my favorite parts. I took adult swim lessons before and also encourage open water swims with local groups if possible!

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) January 6, 2012, 4:39 pm

    Well, I learned to swim late (in college) and never quite felt comfortable, so methinks I can’t get past Step 1. I guess no tri’s for me!

  • Kayla January 6, 2012, 5:14 pm

    I would love to do a Tri one day.. and even though I’m a good swimmer and comfortable (I think..) in a lake, you make such a good point, that one must emulate race day conditions to avoid a freak out. Water is not something to take lightly as you pointed out. Great series, I’m looking forward to reading more!

  • Shannon January 6, 2012, 5:17 pm

    What a great post! I’m excited about the upcoming posts in the series – particularly biking – as I’m getting ready for my second tri (and first Olympic distance) this summer: the Nautica NYC Triathlon! (I’m a liiiiiiitle nervous about swimming in the Hudson River, though.)

    I grew up swimming competitively for 12 years and then started running road races. My first tri last summer was in a pool and it was a great intro the sport. Biking is my weakest leg, but I had trouble with the running leg in my first tri too. I thought I did enough brick workouts, but I guess not!

    Thanks for the great post; swimming is an important skill to have whether you compete in tris or not!

  • Elizabeth January 6, 2012, 5:25 pm

    This is fantastic information! I think the one thing you breezed over is gear. I am a gear snob, a veteran triathlete & also a poor 20-something. How do I get by swimming, biking & running with very little $$? When it comes to swim gear I recommend one specific website called swimoutlet.com. <-I do not work for them! You can find a great, name brand suit for less than $30. My personal favorites are the Dolfin Uglies grab bag suits. They have 1-piece & 2-piece suit options. The grab bag option is less expensive & as long as you don't mind not knowing what color/design will arrive in the mail, they're in my opinion the best choice. The suits outlast many that you'll shell out $60+ for. Goggles are $5-$10 cheaper through them as well for the same thing you can purchase at Target or Sports Authority.

    We can talk wetsuits as well, but I recommend renting one IF you need one for a race. They are an investment & like you said, they are not created equal. You didn't like yours at all, most likely because it didn't fit you well and restricted your movement.

    If you need any additional advice on swim, bike, run I'd be happy to help!!

  • Addy January 6, 2012, 5:40 pm

    I learned to swim when I was really little and was a competitive swimmer through high school. I did my first triathlon in 2007. Swimming by far is my strongest part, BUT, I still have a fear of open water swimming. In fact, when I swim, I close my eyes and only open them to breath. It’s so strange, but it works for me. For first time open water swimmers in a triathlon, make sure you do 1-2 open water swims before your race, you’ll feel 10x better!

  • Kathleen January 6, 2012, 5:41 pm

    I love that you are doing this series! You have no idea how perfect it is for me right now. I bought my first road bike yesterday and am tinkering with the idea of doing a tri. This might be the push I need!

  • Leslie January 6, 2012, 6:24 pm

    What a great post. Such good content presented very well. I read everyday and look forward to reading the rest of this series. I enjoy this blog because it is a true healthy living blog. I know that I will find ideas for healthy meals and snacks,exercise inspiration and information, as well as an example of how to balance work and life in a healthy way. I am enjoying your pregnancy post as well and look forward to reading as your life continues in this new direction. I love that we hear about your family, friends, pets etc . When I share a recipe or tip I learned here I often say when asked “my friend Caitlin shared her recipe”, “or my friend Caitlin told me about that”. I promise I’m not a wacko stalker. Thanks for all your hard work and quality content.

    • CaitlinHTP January 8, 2012, 11:53 am

      Thank you so much Leslie! You are so nice and this comment really made my day.

  • eatingRD January 6, 2012, 6:51 pm

    What a great series! I am not a fan of swimming and definitely need more practice. I’ve just got stuck in the cycling mode I guess 🙂

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin January 6, 2012, 7:38 pm

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m hoping to do my first triathalon this summer, so I’m really looking forward to the rest of the posts in the series too.

    I started practicing my swimming this fall and I just based it on what I’d learned in swimming lessons as a kid. I never thought about reviewing the proper strokes on youtube. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

  • Anna January 6, 2012, 7:41 pm

    Great post! But don’t forget the most important piece of equipment for swimming…a towel!!

  • Angie January 6, 2012, 7:47 pm

    I LOVE the swim leg – it’s my happy place! I swam competitively when I was younger and did a masters swimming program for a couple of years before taking the tri plunge. My BTF (Best Triathlon Friend) is close to the same speed as I am in swimming but approaches the swim very differently. From experience I know that I will end up in the top 10-20% of the swim, so I try to start as close to the buoys as I can (most courses as far to the left of the field as possible). I usually have to tread water for a little while before my wave starts, but I consider that a nice little warmup. Then I just start off strong and swim as close to the buoys as possible. That way I get out ahead of the scrum and really only have to worry about other swimmers as I start passing people in previous waves. My BTF starts in the middle because she is not as confident and ends up having to swim over and pass lots of people because she is faster! Even though I am a very confident swimmer, I did 2 practice open water swims before my first tri – they were put on by a local race sponsor and even had buoys and kayaks to make it more realistic. I loved open-water swimming from the beginning and wish that the swim portion were longer!

  • Shannon Frawley January 6, 2012, 7:48 pm

    Thank you for this! Today at work, I was talking about how much I really want to do a triathlon but swimming is a major hurdle for me. I’m planning on taking some lessons to learn proper form and I will definitely refer back to this series!

  • Katie January 6, 2012, 9:35 pm

    I’m so excited about this series! I am mulling over a sprint triathlon in June, I think this series will push me to go for it! Thanks for the great advice!

  • Emily January 6, 2012, 10:02 pm

    Thank you for this post. I’m pondering doing a sprint tri this year for the first time, and I am a terrible swimmer… Running and cycling are definitely my strong points… I have always struggled on swimming.

  • Mary January 6, 2012, 10:05 pm

    I love your triathlon posts – they are a major reason I started triathlon training last year. You do a great job presenting the important information and tips. I completed a reverse tri with a pool swim, 2 sprints, and an olympic last year. I have already planned and registered for my races this year including my first half ironman. I LOVE the swim, but I fear the half marathon at the end. I did one with my sister last year, but not after a swim and bike! Wish me luck!

    • CaitlinHTP January 8, 2012, 11:53 am

      Thanks Mary! GOOD LUCK!

  • AmandaRunsNY January 6, 2012, 10:17 pm

    I love swimming. I havent do an open water swim due to limited options in NY for me, but I think I’d be ok. After lifeguarding at a water park, I learned how to swallow water and keep going.

    Also, breathe in through the mouth and out through the nose. This helps alot with breathing. Great tips though, when i do a triatholon, I will be referring to you.

  • Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon January 6, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing! I see a triathlon in my near future and the swimming part intimidates me the most!

  • Natalie @fitjamericangirl January 6, 2012, 11:12 pm

    I am so afraid of open water swimming. You are so brave for even doing it.

  • Khushboo January 7, 2012, 1:18 am

    Although I can’t ride a bike (crazy I know), the open water swimming part intimidates me most!

  • Lindsay @ Salt, Sun & Sanity January 7, 2012, 9:18 am

    I’m so glad you’re posting this series, Caitlin! One of my goals for 2012 is a sprint triathalon, and I’m still trying to figure the whole thing out. I was a swimmer in high school, and I’ve got the 5k thing down, but the BIKING terrifies me! Can’t wait to read your biking post 🙂

  • Elena January 7, 2012, 10:11 am

    I did my first Tri last summer. I was pretty confident about the swim since I grew up a competitive swimmer PLUS I had practiced swimming plenty before the event. Anyhow I CAN’T EMPHASIZE ENOUGH how different it is swimming with people all over you. I had no fear of the lake or anything but when we started and people were crashing into me, etc. I had a mini panic attack. I had to tread water for awhile and force myself to calm down before resuming. Some events have a practice swim the day or week before at the actual venue so I would definitely recommend doing that. And it is great advice about trying a smaller event first.

    Once that little blip was over it was one of the most fantastic and rewarding experiences I’ve had! I definitely recommend going for it if you are at all interested!

  • Jeralyn January 7, 2012, 10:43 am

    Which event is your favorite and which is your least? I love Tris but hate the swimming so I haven’t done one in a couple of years but would love to try again.

  • Kristina January 7, 2012, 10:57 am

    I would also say that an ocean swim is even different from a lake swim. Dealing with the salt water and the waves can be another challenge – some people actually get sea sick!

    • CaitlinHTP January 8, 2012, 11:51 am

      I’ve never done an ocean tri! I hope to do one someday soon though.

  • Katie @ Peace Love and Oats January 7, 2012, 11:43 am

    I’m pretty lucky with swimming since I learned young and did swim team for years. I also went to summer camp where we had to do swim tests in lakes. However, I’d be totally freaked out in the south because I’m scared of alligators!!

  • Lauren January 7, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I am registered for my first ever triathlon, an olympic tri in june this summer. However I have no idea how to swim. I have been working really hard and had a few friends give me tips in the pool. However I am terrified I won’t be able to make it the whole way. My mom plans to stand along the edge with a floaty thing to throw at me if I die haha. Any additional tips about conquering your fear of the water I would love to hear! Shoot me an e-mail! Thanks, Lauren

    • CaitlinHTP January 8, 2012, 11:50 am

      I think you just need to do a few practice lake swims – there’s not anything better to do!

  • Angela @ Happy Fit Mama January 7, 2012, 7:10 pm

    I have always dreamed of doing a tri. The only thing holding me back is the swim. I’m terrified of it! I’ve heard the stories of getting kicked, punched, and almost drowning. Just thinking of it freaks me out!

  • Willow @ My Own Trail January 7, 2012, 10:32 pm

    Thank you for such a thorough post! I will be doing my first triathlon in August (with my Dad!), and I’m already nervous about the swim.

  • Hilary January 23, 2012, 3:21 pm

    I just finished my first indoor tri this weekend and thought a lot about all of your swimming posts as I was getting ready (nervously) and swimming. Thank you so much for all the great info – I was so excited to finish.

  • Bethany January 26, 2012, 1:02 pm

    Thank you for this. I want to do a Tri soooo bad, it’s on my bucket list and I am freaked out about the swim portion.

  • Jess May 3, 2013, 11:53 am

    This is awesome! I like how honest you are about how different swimming in a lake is from swimming in a pool. The murky water gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME. Sometimes, I even close my eyes because I’m scared to see a creature staring back at me…

    I’m so inspired by how you conquered your fear and how swimming is now your favorite sport! It’s my favorite too 🙂

    Here are a few of my tips for swimming with confidence on race day: http://twotri.com/2012/12/4-tips-to-swim-with-confidence-triathlon/

  • Nancy June 19, 2013, 8:01 pm

    I have gone from couch potato to my first try-a-tri this weekend – in a year! A 13 year old triathlete child pushing me along has helped!

  • Shelley June 26, 2013, 11:52 am

    I hate the swim leg. Taught myself to swim by trial and error last year about 2 months before my first sprint tri. I’m a triathlete, but enjoy the kayak and mtn bike versions!! I made it out of the 600 yd lake in 17 min and was thrilled! Doing it again in 5 weeks!! Planning ahead better this year with more strength training for the swim vs just pool time. And NOTHING prepares you to be swam over or kicked….you just keep moving forward, take breaks, and what I found most interesting was not to let anyone intimidate me…everyone was nervous, even the most seasoned athletes. And those participants who I had pegged to be the most elite swimmers in my wave…were people I was passing in the water and those I also heard mumbling obscenities in the open water! Everyone was laughing out there and having a good time. Made it easier to get to the finish line when we were all in the same ‘exhausted’ boat together…no pun intended!! Enjoy the races…keep a smile on your face, take your breaks, and keep going forward!!

  • Anne July 19, 2013, 12:18 pm

    Thank you for this. I am doing my first Sprint July 21st, and really appreciate your tips!

  • Hannah August 3, 2013, 4:03 pm

    I think i will like the swimming leg. Swimming is my best, biking is my second and running… Not my best. I learned to swim at swim team practice! Im a butterflyer so my endurence is high. Im doing my first triathalon in 22 days! (Ive done the sprinty kids triathalon but this is my first legit one. If you need a break, turn on your back and scull or kick.

  • Brady August 5, 2013, 1:19 pm

    Just wanted to say a quick thanks 🙂 I signed up for (and completed!) my first triathlon this past Saturday. I was really, REALLY nervous about the swimming part, and this post helped to put me at ease. It was only a sprint tri, but I hadn’t trained nearly enough and the lake had very little to no visibility. Reading this post and the one about what to pack for a tri helped keep me confident and together. Keep up the good work!

    • Caitlin August 5, 2013, 1:26 pm

      way to go!!!

  • z August 12, 2013, 8:36 am

    Used to be a halfway competitive age group runner, but talked into doing some triathlons even though I am a terrible swimmer. Just remind yourself…absolutely no reason to be nervous. At the start: hear the horn, then one thousand one, one thousand two, go! Swimming by yourself and hardly anyone is ever closer than the next lane in the pool. The following wave behind may catch up halfway through, but by that point you are well into it.

    No reason for nerves like those races you thought you had a chance to win.

  • Caitlin July 18, 2014, 10:37 am

    Yes- you totally answered my question! Doing my first tri in 2 weeks with minimal prep (I’m a runner who swims occasionally, but hasn’t biked in too long!) and I don’t want to invest in a ton. Totally going to do the tri shorts and sports bra swim method and add a tank top for the bike and run. My biggest concern has been not having enough support for the run, but I didn’t want to look silly at the start wearing a sports bra and shorts- thanks, Caitlin!

  • monica villarreal September 24, 2015, 1:29 am

    I have my first triathlon this weekend and I am very excited…..and nervous! Thanks for sharing your experiences and giving such good advice. I am going to checkout some YouTube videos on “freestyle swimming” and make sure I go take a practice swim in the lake before the day of the race.

    • Caitlin September 24, 2015, 9:13 am

      Good luck!!!

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