This is one of those “do I say, not as I do” posts because I sure make these swimming mistakes, too! But I’m trying hard to completely nix them from my time in the pool.  Because these errors can cost you time, effort, and sanity during the swim leg of the triathlon.


Mistake #1: Getting used to taking off and adjusting your swim goggles.


Oh, boy. This is my big downfall when I’m in the pool. There are loads of built-in breaks when you’re completing a swim workout (even if just for 15 seconds), and more often than not, I remove my goggles, rub my eyes, and let my face ‘breathe’ for a bit. BIG MISTAKE! It’s hard (and almost impossible) to safely remove your goggles during a triathlon. I’m working on never removing my goggles during swim workouts – it’s so tempting!  It’s like having an itch you can’t scratch!


Speaking of goggles…


Mistake #2: Using spit to un-fog your goggles.


Hi, guess what? Spit does not work. Seriously. Spit sucks for un-fogging goggles. But you know what does work? Baby shampoo! Just put a smear on the inside of the goggles and – tada! – no more fog.


Mistake #3: Failing to practice sighting.



One of my goals for my race is to SWIM STRAIGHT.  And to swim straight, I’ve got to know where I’m going.  Hence, sighting.  Sighting is way harder than it first appears because it can throw off your stroke rhythm; it’s really important that you practice it in advance. You don’t need to come all the way up out of the water to sight – just look forward and lift your head up out the water enough for your eyes to come out.  Swim Bike Mom has a good article on sighting techniques.  I like the mantra (from this article about sighting) to “swim like a fish, sight like an alligator.”



Good visual, right?  I practice sighting in the pool towards the end of my workouts, when I’m naturally tired like I’ll be in the race.  I always repeat in my head “SIGHT LIKE AN ALLIGATOR” to remind myself not to come too far out of the water. You don’t want to use the downward force of your arms to lift your head and upper body out of the water to just – you’re wasting too much energy.


Mistake #4: Being comfortable with one stroke – and one stroke only.


My fellow swimmer will be so proud of me – I can finally do the backstroke effectively. It took a lot of practice, but I’ve figured out how to backstroke fast and hard without splashing water all over my face, inhaling bits, and getting flustered.


I think it’s wise to have more than one stroke in your arsenal because you may need a break during the race. Of course, you can always stop swimming entirely and tread water or float if you really need a break. But it’s nice to have an option for continuing to make forward progress.


Mistake #5: Slapping the water.

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Okay, this is one thing that I don’t do… because it’s my biggest swimming pet peeve.  When I see other swimmers slapping the water as they freestyle, I want to shout, “WHAT DID THE WATER EVER DO TO YOU!?”   Be nice to the water.  Smile


Slapping the water creates unnecessary resistance and makes the entire swim so much harder.  Instead of slapping, pretend like you’re slipping your hands under a blanket as your hand and arm enter the water.  Visualize that your hand is going under the blanket without disturbing its position.  You want to gently but firmly enter the water.  Try to ‘swim quietly.’  As I say with Henry – gentle hands!


Side note: I was looking for pictures to illustrate this post with and found this.  CRIKEY.  I was 38 weeks pregnant, 35 pounds heavier, and still swimming.  Wahoo for swimming.  It’s my favorite workout for sure.

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(For more swimming and tri tips, check out my So You Wanna Do a Triathlon series – lots of good info!)



  • Mandy @ Eat Pray Grow September 12, 2013, 12:31 pm

    Your pregnancy swimming posts inspired me to pick up swimming once I became pregnant, but sadly (at 20 weeks) I’ve fallen off the wagon. I really enjoyed going with my husband to his college gym, but since he’s not enrolled this semester, he can’t go with me and that totally kills my motivation (not a good excuse, but the honest truth!). We do lots of walking instead, but I might have to get back in the swimming groove, especially as I get bigger!

  • Sierra September 12, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Spit works for me, although even better is a spray you can buy on that’s actually called Quick Spit! Much more convenient and better than actually spitting in your goggles.

  • Paige @ Your Trainer Paige September 12, 2013, 12:51 pm

    Man, I would have never thought of all this! I’m not a swimmer, but this is good to know 🙂

  • Katie September 12, 2013, 1:13 pm

    I love your training tips posts! I plan on getting into the pool this winter so I can complete my first triathlon next summer!

  • Emily @ Emily Rocks the Road September 12, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Even though our apartment has a very nice pool, I haven’t swam in it yet (aside from weekend floating with the kiddo, and that’s mostly bubble-blowing practice). But baby shampoo? No way! If I decide to dig out the goggles and pick up some laps again I’m checking that out.

  • Elaine September 12, 2013, 1:45 pm

    Swimming is something I’ve always wished I could do better. Your tips are really great!

  • Haley September 12, 2013, 2:03 pm

    Great tips! I have the worst luck with foggy goggles and have never heard of the baby shampoo trick. Do you put the shampoo on dry goggles? Do you rinse them before putting them on?

    • Caitlin September 12, 2013, 4:24 pm

      Dry goggles no rinse!

  • Taylor @ Single-tracked Mind September 12, 2013, 3:10 pm

    That alligator is frightening! Definitely got my attention.

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs September 12, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Great tips! I’d definitely like to get more into swimming, so these are a great reminder!

  • Ali September 12, 2013, 4:15 pm

    I wish I could swim better and use for it a workout. I’m so bad at it and it’s completely ineffective when I do it! I need to get some lessons because I would love to do it for a workout.

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun September 12, 2013, 5:52 pm

    Swimming would definitely be my weak point if I ever did a triathlon! I would have so so much to learn! These are some great tips!

  • Faith September 12, 2013, 8:25 pm

    Thanks for these! I’ve just started swimming and definitely need all the tips I can get! I’d love to see more of these. 🙂

  • Meaghan September 13, 2013, 11:08 am

    Spit has always worked well for me – and I’ve been swimming competitively my whole life. For me, the trick is to really rub it around the entire inside of the goggles, and the doing a real quick rinse with pool water.

    And a word of caution on the Quick Spit product mentioned above – several of my triathlon teammates have had severe eye issues from using Quick Spit, including one person who had such a severe reaction to the chemicals that he had to go to the hospital. So if you do use Quick Spit, please allow it to fully air dry before you put your goggles near your eyes (or just avoid the product altogether!)

  • Jodi M September 13, 2013, 4:05 pm

    Great tips! I go swimming every week and the problem with foggy goggles has always alluded me. I haven’t found anything that works well against that. Will have to give baby shampoo a try.

  • Sydney September 13, 2013, 4:51 pm

    That’s one fine swimmer mama right there! Swimming while pregnant is the best… you actually feel LIGHT for once! And I definitely need to practice sighting if I ever plan to venture to open water swim tris next year… thanks for the reminder.

  • Amanda @runtothefinish September 13, 2013, 5:11 pm

    Running will always be my first choice, but swimming is such an awesome workout. These really are great tips!

  • Marie Taylor September 13, 2013, 7:12 pm

    Yes, I am guilty, I am a water slapper!…but thanks to you I now know that thats completely unnecessary, which I’ll be bearing in mind next time I swim – I’ll be thinking of blankets! 🙂

  • Luv What You Do September 13, 2013, 10:18 pm

    Oh I think I’m 4/5 on teh mistakes. Oops!

  • MomHTP September 16, 2013, 7:21 am

    Enjoyed the swimming tips and interesting visuals.

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