Last night, I found myself in my gym’s pool, trying to teach my brother-in-law Nick how to swim freestyle.  I think I’ve only briefly mentioned this, but Nick actually lives with us.  He moved in last August.  If you’ve been reading for a while, you may remember Nick from the Orlando days.  He wanted to be closer to family, so he got a job in Charlotte, and we rented him a room.  I’m sure most people would run screaming for the hills at the mere idea of living with extended family, but Nick is great, plays with Henry all the time, and makes us evening tea, so it’s all good. Winking smile


Anyway, Nick is really into fitness, too, and he’s decided to do a triathlon with me this summer.  In exchange for me ‘coaching’ him (which is really just going to entail teaching him tri basics – like my So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series – and making sure he sticks to his training plan), he’s going to make me lift weights once a week.  Fair deal, right?


I asked Nick what he thinks his weakest leg of the tri will be, and he immediately said, “Biking!”  I squinted my eyes, cocked my head, and said, “Reeeeeeeeally? Don’t you think swimming will be the worst?”  Hah.  Once I explained to him what a lake swim is like, he said, “Yeah, yeah – you’re right.  I really need to learn how to swim better.”

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Hence, our pool instruction. 


I quickly realized that it’s really, really hard to teach someone how to swim for sport.  So hard!  The biggest problem is that there are so many elements to a great freestyle stroke – breathing, arms, legs, torso, pacing.  It’s really overwhelming to try to put it all together.  I explained that he should not expect to really be ‘working out’ for the first few swim attempts – when I learned how to swim, I went very slow and focused on a different element of the stroke every few laps.  I tried to put it all together over and over again without much success.  Then, suddenly, on my fourth day of swimming, it suddenly all fell into place, and I could glide through the water without looking like a drowning dachshund. 


Then I had to work on endurance. Winking smile  Still working on that.


I think I did an okay job at instructing Nick – he was definitely better by the end of the lesson.  But when we got home, I immediately fired up the computer to search for real instructor’s videos.  Here are three YouTube videos that I thought did a stand-out job at explaining how to swim:



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What do you think is the hardest leg of triathlon?  How did you learn how to swim?  I learned the way Nick is learning – a friend gave me a little coaching, but I watched a lot of YouTube.  Oh, and would you ever live with extended family willingly? Smile



  • Jessica R @ From the Kitchen to the Road January 25, 2013, 9:17 am

    I really want to get into swimming for fitness. I did a teeny tiny bit of swimming a few years ago when I actually had a gym membership. Maybe after this round of marathon training I can add in some swimming.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats January 25, 2013, 9:28 am

    Wait, wait, he thought biking would be hardest when he doesn’t know how to swim freestyle!?? Oh geez. Haha and I’ve never had to teach someone to swim, we belonged to a country club and spent our summers at the pool, so I learned really early and was on swim team for years!

    • Caitlin January 25, 2013, 9:29 am

      I think he thought he could kind of phone it in. Impossible!

  • Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes January 25, 2013, 9:29 am

    Swimming is the most challenging for me, too! When I started triathloning this summer, my mentality was simply “survive the swim”–ha! During the off-season, I had a few one-on-one lessons with a triathlon coach, which helped immensely. That’s the number-one tip I would give to struggling swimmers: Find a coach to work with you, even if it’s only one lesson. It’s definitely worth it!

  • Lindsey January 25, 2013, 9:31 am

    This may be naive of me, but I think living with TWO boys with accents would just make every day super fun.

    • Caitlin January 25, 2013, 9:35 am

      haha – Nick is actually American. He’s Kristien’s step brother.

  • pam January 25, 2013, 9:39 am

    My son and his very pregnant wife lives with us..It’s hard sometimes, but I am glad they a couple of weeks, my grandbaby boy will be here..then I will not want them to leave. She does all the dishes and cleans the house as they don’t pay rent…I like that I have learned alot from you about newborns and babies in son is it has been a while since I’ve had to know anything about babies.
    Just wanted to say thanks

    • Caitlin January 25, 2013, 9:41 am

      Aw thanks. I’m glad they have you!

  • Sara January 25, 2013, 9:45 am

    I’m an only child, so I figure one day one or both of my parents may live with us! My in-laws actually have taken in several family members over the years. My husband’s uncle lives with his parents and has for a long time, his aunt did until she died and his grandmother did for a long time until she had to be put in a nursing home. Lots of family togetherness!

  • Joanne January 25, 2013, 9:46 am

    I would love to do a triathlon but it’s the swimming! That HAS to be the hardest leg or maybe the running since you’ve got to be pretty tired by that point. Re – the swim, I can swim, not far without getting winded which is weird since I can run marathons, but it’s mainly the COLD water that I can’t tolerate AND… I don’t warm up when I swim. If I could get over that, I would probably be able to focus on swimming more efficiently.

  • Nicole January 25, 2013, 9:57 am

    I used to teach little kids how to swim. It’s hard to explain to them how to put everything together but eventually they get it and it just comes together over a few days.
    My husband’s cousin from Portland, OR lived with us for a while when she attended nursing school in Philly. I was a little nervous that it would be too much having her stay with us but it was great. I loved it. She did her own thing but joined us for dinner and hanging out. It was like having a 24 hour friend!
    Now we have a great relationship/friendship even though she is back on the West Coast. I’m not sure we would be as close if she didn’t live with us.

  • Logan @ Mountains and Miles January 25, 2013, 10:02 am

    I think swimming is the hardest for me, but the easiest to improve on…but I think biking is where you can make up the most time – I mean, you spend nearly 50% of the event on the bike!

    I actually lived with my sister and brother-in-law from April until September of this year and y boyfriend even moved in starting in July. It was a tight space and we definitely all had our annoyances, but it was also a lot of fun and I am eternally grateful to them for helping me out.

  • Swim Diva January 25, 2013, 10:11 am

    The best thing you can do if you want to learn how to swim is to go to a practice with your local masters swim team. Just google it and something will come up. Each practice will have a professional coach that can give you technique tips and training guidelines. There is no reason to be nervous to go, all ages and ability levels are represented at each practice.

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action January 25, 2013, 10:15 am

    I’ve taught a few friends how to swim and it is really hard. The first part is always figuring out what they’re doing wrong. The biggest thing I’ve found is telling them to focus their body close to the surface- as a lot of people drag their legs. If you make them kick and focus on getting their feet to come out of the water, I find it helps so much for their speed.

    I wouldn’t live with extended family- kudos to you.

  • Lauren @ Eat Like An Elephant January 25, 2013, 10:19 am

    For those without a coach to help them perfect their stroke it can be a good idea to look into any local adult swim clubs too 🙂

  • Sunny January 25, 2013, 10:27 am

    Just wanted to comment because I don’t think I have that my husband and I both did our first sprint triathlon last year and your So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series was extremely helpful! The goal was to do several triathlons this year but now I’m pregnant =) There’s one in May I’d love to do but I’ll be 24ish weeks so we will see how I feel as it gets closer.

  • Alicia January 25, 2013, 10:30 am

    I taught swimming for many years. A good thing to try is to bend at the waist standing up in the water and practice the arms and breathing for a while before adding the legs.

  • Rachel January 25, 2013, 10:35 am

    I would LOVE it if my sister moved in with us. But we’re identical twins so I think that’s different. I would NOT love it if my husband’s twin brother moved in with us. My sister was looking for a job in our city for a while and I imagined how much fun it would be for her to move in with us. She could babysit for us, and split grocery expenses…. and then she told me that there’s no way she would ever move in with us! She wants her OWN place. haha

  • Bobbie January 25, 2013, 11:01 am

    I definitely think swimming would be the toughest. We have a pool and I still don’t think I have put it all together to swim efficiently. I have been wanting to train for a tri for a while now and honestly what’s stopping me is buying a bike. They are quite expensive and I want to make sure I get the right one for me so I’d at least need to go to a bike shop to get fitted for one etc… the whole idea of it has just been preventing me from moving forward with it. I know that sounds silly but it’s easier to stick with what I know…the running. 😉
    I’ve never had extended family live with me. Unfortunately, my grandparents died at fairly young ages and got sick so suddenly that it has never come up. I don’t think I would be completely against it and would definitely be willing if a family member needed it. I think most family would be turned off by living in a house with 3 little girls. They are loud and lots of work. I’m their Mama …I can say that!

    • Angie January 25, 2013, 1:14 pm

      You could always go to a bike shop to try out bikes to see what size works best for you. Then, go to Craigslist and find a used one in that size. You can get a really good deal and then have a professional fitting and tune-up done at a bike shop. It doesn’t have to be super-expensive to start off!

  • Beks January 25, 2013, 11:03 am

    I’m a terrible swimmer, so that would DEFINITELY be the hardest part for me.

    As for living with extended family, it depends which relatives it is. If they’re on my dad’s side, I’d be okay with it. They’re all super cool and live in awesome places (Florida and Colorado), but on my mom’s side, I’d only ever want to live with her younger sister’s family. I practically lived with them in college, anyway. My sis currently lives with them, and all seems quiet on the western front down there in KC. But she acts as a big sister to our teenage cousins, and is a big help to my aunt and uncle.

    I also still live with my parents. You do what you have to.

  • Stellina @ My Yogurt January 25, 2013, 11:41 am

    I am so bad at swimming! The only thing I can so id the doggy paddle! It’s kind of sad, I’d like to become a better swimmer!

  • Jenna @ Crazy Healthy Fit January 25, 2013, 11:45 am

    I took swim lessons as a child, and love swimming. I’ve never ran a triathlon so i’m not sure which would be the most difficult leg for me, but i’ll go with the swim since i’m only used to swimming long distances in a pool 😉

  • catie January 25, 2013, 11:58 am

    I actually don’t ever remember not being able to swim, which sounds weird for a flatlander (I grew up and still live in Kansas). But my parents are really into lakes and boating, so my mom signed me up for baby/mommy swimming lessons at the ripe age of 3.5 months. I think she was worried I would drown off the boat. 🙂 After that, I did swim team in the summers as a kid, became a lifeguard when I was 15 and started teaching swimming lessonsand coaching swim team that summer and eventually worked my way through college at pools. I think that biking would be my weakest, just because I’ve never raced on a bike. I’m planning on training for my first tri this summer and I can’t wait! I just checked out your So You Wanna Do a Triatholon series and it looks awesome, thanks!

  • Chantal January 25, 2013, 11:59 am

    Swimming is the hardest for me too! I’ve been swimming since I was little, but could never understand how to do freestyle. For years I would feel embarrassed swimming laps at the pool because I could only do breaststroke. I would try freestyle every once in a while, fail miserably, and give up. Last year I decided to do a triathlon, but knew I needed to learn freestyle first. I talked to some friends, read your How to Swim posts, and tried for a few days. All of a sudden it just clicked – I thought the breathing was the hardest part, so breathing less often would make it easier. Wrong! Breathing more frequently suddenly made everything easier and I haven’t looked back since. Love swimming even more now!

  • Carin January 25, 2013, 12:26 pm

    You appear to have forgotten to upload the shots of Nick in his speedos…

  • Kim January 25, 2013, 12:29 pm

    I learned to swim through school swimming lessons, and then just fooling around at the cottage. I did one triathlon years ago when I was fresh out of high school, but haven’t done much lap swimming since. That would definitely be the hardest for me, mostly ’cause I find it really hard to fit swimming into the schedule! None of the gyms around here have pools (well, one does, but the pool is nasty), so you need to go somewhere else and pay extra…

    I would rather not have anyone else living with us… maybe if our house was bigger, but I wouldn’t want anyone else in our little bungalow!

  • Ann January 25, 2013, 1:24 pm

    Thanks for this! I have a swim test to pass in order to graduate college. I was supposed to take it during freshman year orientation. I am now a second semester senior so…

  • Kerry January 25, 2013, 1:31 pm

    As a swim coach, I can’t express the importance of learning a proper kick before learning proper arm technique.

  • Katie C. January 25, 2013, 2:15 pm is a great website to help with instruction! It also has good tips about triathlon training in general. I think someone else mentioned Masters swimming as well and they usually have a couple days a week reserved for stroke technique.

  • Lauren January 25, 2013, 2:35 pm

    When I was teaching myself to swim better, I used Speedo Pace Club. It’s both a website and an app, and it has workouts that you can choose from depending on your skill level, and instructional videos for all the moves.

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In January 25, 2013, 2:42 pm

    My boyfriend used to be on a triathlon team and is trying to teach me to swim!! He gave me a quick tutorial in the pool last week and really focused on keeping my hips above the water, turning my whole body with my stroke, and breathing. It IS TOUGH but I’m determined to get it down so I can compete with him. Plus swimming is SO good for you!

  • Rachel January 25, 2013, 4:07 pm

    I think it’s really cool when families choose to pool resources and be in close contact with each other. I would rent a room to any of my family members and most of my close friends, but my husband really cherishes his space and privacy. (He’s an only; I’m one of a half dozen.) They say familiarity breeds contempt, and hell is other people, but I couldn’t agree less.

    All this to say, I’m a little jealous. 🙂

  • Helene @healthyfrenchie January 25, 2013, 5:08 pm

    Great timing for me and this post! I have decided to do a triathlon this summer but am a terrible swimmer! I can’t swim freestyle and was hoping to do it breaststroke? Is that possible?
    I did do 750m last night and I know now that I can do it

  • Julie January 25, 2013, 5:21 pm

    Just a note on swimming vs. biking legs. The swimming leg is the shortest leg (even in an olympic triathlon it would only be 30 min, or 45 min if you really really struggled). In contrast, the bike is anywhere from 1 to 2 hours . If you cut 10 minutes off of your swim time, that would be a lot and you would really have to work for it. In contrast, cutting ten minutes or more of the bike would be much easier. If you want to get fast times you need to focus on the biking because that is the longest portion of the entire race!

  • Nina January 25, 2013, 6:24 pm

    For me the toughest leg is the bike! I’ve been swimming for years (took lots of lessons as a kid and eventually became a lifeguard) so I’ve never really worried too much about the swim portion. Except when there’s weeds. I hate being able to see the bottom of the lake/pond/reservoir (perhaps an irrational fear of Grindylows?), weeds seriously freak me out. Anyways, I think the bike portion is toughest because you really have to push yourself to keep your legs going, while knowing that even if you stop peddling you’ll still be moving. Whereas during the swim or run, if you stop, you literally come to a standstill. The bike is easy to phone in/slack off

  • Stephanie C January 25, 2013, 6:25 pm

    I knew the basic doggie paddle, but learned the other strokes in highschool in P.E. class! I HATED being in the pool because we had about 2 seconds to get from the pool, shower and then class. P.E. was second period, I had no time to shower, so I went to my classes smelling like chlorine. Yay. Anyways, I’m still not that great because I didn’t practice after that, but confident enough in my back stroke to not die if I somehow ended up in a pool/ocean. I can’t really get water in my ears – I have some ear issues, so swimming never appealed to me.

  • Mai January 25, 2013, 8:32 pm

    biking is hardest for me. i am always getting passed, haha!

  • Meg @ Anderstons in the Andes January 25, 2013, 8:49 pm

    My parents put me in swim lessons when I was two, and I started swimming competitively when I was five. Did that for about 12 years! I have never been super fast, but I love the water! Someday I would like to do a tri.

  • Kermit January 26, 2013, 7:41 am

    Thank you SO much, perfectly timed post for me. I have actually just been told by Physio to check my swimming technique after straining an oblique muscle swimming ( only I could injure myself swimming!) . I only breathe to one side and he thinks that after mucking around doing some sprint laps with my 12 year old I may have developed this strain.
    Do you breathe both sides in freestyle? And if so did it take a while to master?

  • Luna665 January 26, 2013, 1:03 pm

    mmmm…. how did I learn?How will I learn, maybe, thanks to these videos!!! 🙂 I can only swim frog style and on my back. I can’t grasp the art of *breathing* in freestyle 😛

  • Shauna@Pleasure, not Punishment January 26, 2013, 3:45 pm

    Thanks so much for this post! I am base-building for my first tri in June. I’m new to fitness swimming and watched several YouTube videos but missed these ones. I especially liked the first one. Thanks again!

  • Emily @ Hungry Delights January 27, 2013, 3:43 am

    I don’t swim anymore due to lack of pool available in my area but when I did… I really would have loved to watch those videos or had a lessons from you!
    xo Emily

  • Kristina January 27, 2013, 11:32 am

    While watching a video can help, I would recommend that he take lessons from a qualified swim coach. I’m not saying that you can’t help him, but there is a huge difference when you take lessons. Even though I was comfortable swimming when I started training for my first tri, I didn’t have great technique and couldn’t swim efficiently, which is not ideal. The best thing I did (and I even still sign up for an occasion swim-lesson-cycle) was to take swim lessons that focused on triathlon.

  • Angela January 27, 2013, 4:02 pm

    I will have to watch these! Whenever I try to learn I get water in my ears or can’t breathe, it’s hard for me to fit all the pieces together

  • FitBritt January 28, 2013, 9:57 am

    I competed in my first sprint tri last summer and I was surprised by how difficult the swim was. I was always great training in the pool but when it came to actual tri in a harbor, it was so hard! I even learned to swim in the ocean so again, I was surprised by how difficult it was. Also there was something about wearing goggles and looking into pitch blackness that freaked me out.

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