Swim Drills

Fingertip drag:
Swim normal freestyle while dragging your fingertips along the surface of the water on the recovery. Focus on a high elbow recovery, which ensures proper hand and elbow position at your hand entry.

Pull with one arm at a time and touch your hands in a streamlined position out front between each alternating arm stroke. Keep your extended hands about 8 inches under the surface of the water for improved body position. Concentrate on swimming in the front quadrant and keep a long, streamlined body line.

While on your side, raise your arm out of the water and above your head at a 90° angle. Maintain a strong kick to propel yourself forward and not sink. You’ll be facing the bottom of the pool, with your head near your lower armpit, and can breathe by rotating your head the opposite direction, and then entering in back into the water immediately after. This drill facilitates a strong kick, and proper rotation of the body. Switch sides every 25.

While swimming 50’s repeats, calculate your “score” for each 50 by counting your strokes in both directions (one arm equals one stroke) and adding it to your time. For example: If you swim 50 freestyle with 20 strokes per 25 in a time of :40, you would have a score of 80 (20 + 20 + 40). Descend your score by taking less strokes and/or completing the 50 in less seconds with each successive 50.

Swimming with hands completely in a fist. Helps swimmers strengthen forearms while swimming freestyle.

One arm:
Preferred: With the opposite (nonworking arm) at your side. Breathe to the side of the nonworking arm. The secret to success with this drill is to complete your breath before stroking. Concentrate on the catch, initiating body rotation with the core body muscles. Take this drill slowly: technique is more important than speed.

Old-School: With the opposite (nonworking arm) extended in front. Breathe to the side of the working arm. Focus on high elbow recovery, hand entry, and hand acceleration.

Swim normal freestyle. On every 5th stroke, raise your head straight forward and “sight” on an object off in the distance (in practice it is the wall or diving block, in a race it might be a buoy). After sighting the object, lower your head back into normal position.


Wetsuit and Racing FAQ’s


Why do I need a wetsuit?
USA triathlon requires that if water temperature in a race is below 58°F that all competitors wear wetsuits.   Most of the races we do are in water somewhere around or below this mark. At these temperatures not only is it nearly impossible to get your muscles warm and able to move you along in the water, but hypothermia will set in quickly without a wetsuit. In addition to keeping you warm, wetsuits designed for triathlon will add buoyancy to your legs and upper body, allowing you to swim faster, sight faster and not sink when you become fatigued.

How do I buy a wetsuit?
Anywhere you go to buy a wetsuit online, the seller should have a sizing chart available. These sizing charts work well, but if you want to be absolutely certain that the suit you buy is the best fit, ask around on Slack (Random channel) to see if someone has the suit (or brand) you are interested in buying and ask them if you can try on their suit.

Is this suit a good fit?
A suit should be skin tight. There should be no wrinkles in it when you are standing and there should be minimum wrinkles in the suit when you walk around in it. When you are trying on a wetsuit in the pool be sure to practice sighting to make sure your wetsuit is comfortable around the neck (particularly the back of your neck) for sighing. When trying out a wetsuit in a pool hop in and do 100 yards in the pool. After that 100 yards hop out of the pool and make adjustments to the wetsuit as needed. When you hop out of the pool if the wetsuit is a good fit it should be suctioned to your body.

How do I put on a wetsuit?
It’s easier to show you than try and explain, so here’s a good YouTube video: https://youtu.be/gXsblGWpvM0

The rubber that triathlon wetsuits are made out of is very susceptible to ripping and being sliced by sharp things. If you have long fingernails, or even try pulling the suit on too strongly, be very careful to not rip your suit as you put it on!

How do I take off a wetsuit quickly?
Body glide is a thick lubricant used to help avoid chaffing in your wetsuit and speed up your transitions. Apply lots of body glide to your wrists and ankles in order to pull of your wetsuit quickly. You should also liberally  applying body glide to your neck as wetsuits can cause chafing around your neck. If using a sleeveless wetsuit apply body glide to where your arm holes are, as chaffing often will occurs in those areas as well. The more of your body you can cover in body glide the faster you will go in your triathlon, guaranteed. With proper lubrication taking off your wetsuit should look something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEsWfUGL99c

If you don’t think you’ll have the balance to take off your wetsuit while standing, or you’re having trouble taking your feet out, feel free to sit down to take the bottom half of your wetsuit off. There’s no shame in doing this (even Coach Jon has done it before), as it’s better than hopping around and potentially falling in the transition. Another trick to remember while taking off your wetsuit is that before taking your arms out, you can take your cap and goggles off, hold them together in one hand, and then slip your arms out of the wetsuit. Continue holding on to your cap and goggles while you take your arms out, but before you pop your hands out, let go of your cap and goggles, so they’re trapped in one of your wetsuit arms. This will save you a few seconds in transition, and ensure that you won’t lose your cap and goggles during/after the race.

This is another excellent example of how to do triathlon things:

How do I swim with a wetsuit?
Swimming with a wetsuit is a bit different than swimming without one. Before your first triathlon be sure to try to make it out somewhere to try out your suit in the open water. Being comfortable and used to your wetsuit will make a huge difference in your swim time.

What is swim start panic? What can I do to prevent it?
Often at the beginning of a race, especially for beginners, hyperventilation and panic can set in. Causes of this are in large part due to inadequate adjustment to water temperature and shock at the brutality of a swim start.The Pauli exclusion principle states that matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. At the beginning of a triathlon, triathletes tend to attempt to ignore this law of physics. Be prepared to get kicked in the face, kick others in the face, get elbowed in the nuts, etc. A wetsuit that fits well will constrict breathing somewhat and will not help this. The only way to avoid hyperventilation at the swim start, especially for beginning triathletes, is to adequately warm up in the water before your swim. This means getting comfortable with the water temperature before your swim, warming up your arms for the swim and activating your cardiovascular system before the swim. If you are breathing hard and sweating in your suit before your swim start, chances are you will not get panicked at the start of the race. If you feel that you are likely to panic during the start of the race, feel free to wait a few seconds after the start, and start swimming behind the majority of the other competitors. This will only set you back a few seconds (which is easy to make up in transitions, the bike, or run portions), but more importantly it will allow you to start your race calm and strong rather than panicked and hyperventilating.

Here is a video of a larger swim start. It’s much more violent than it looks:


Anaerobic Threshold

One of the most important aspects of distance training for swimming is being able to recognize and train at your anaerobic threshold. Your anaerobic threshold is the fastest pace at which your body produces little to no lactic acid. You should be able to swim at your anaerobic threshold for one to two hours, or until your body runs out of glucose to burn.

The human body can undergo multiple chemical reactions that break glucose down and release energy. When adequate oxygen is available to you the glucose will undergo a series of reactions that produce carbon dioxide and water. When not enough oxygen is available to you, your body will undergo a similar chemical process without oxygen. In this chemical reaction lactic acid is produced as a byproduct.

When training for distance swimming and especially triathlon, being able to swim at fast speeds without muscular build up of lactic acid is crucial. Build up of lactic acid is most commonly associated with a burning sensation in your muscles and makes continuing to exercise difficult and painful.

How do you find your anaerobic threshold and how can you increase it?

The best way to work on your anaerobic threshold is following this swim set:

Thirty minutes of 100’s at a pace where you get between five and ten seconds of rest. If you are getting more than ten seconds of rest decrease your interval by five seconds. If you are getting less than five seconds of rest, for more than four 100’s in a row, increase your interval by five seconds.

If you are training for a race longer than an Olympic distance, doing 200’s at your anaerobic threshold is helpful.

Here is a website that calculates your 100 yard anaerobic pace based on your 200 and 400 time trials. Adding five to ten seconds to this pace should be a good interval to do your 30 minutes of 100’s on.

Doing this set, or a similar one once every three to four weeks will give you a better idea of what pace you should be swimming in races as well as make you more aware of what pace you are swimming.



The most basic equipment you need to swim is a suit, cap, goggles, and a towel. For our practices, we provide half a kickboard to act as a kickboard and pull buoy. If you want to buy your own pull buoy (as a kickboard oftentimes isn’t the easiest to keep between your legs), you can check out https://www.swimoutlet.com/pull-buoys-c9664/?rd=N&Search=pull%20buoy.

There are three versions of pull buoys: one piece, two piece, and hybrid. I wouldn’t recommend two piece pull buoys, as they tend to chafe and don’t last long. One piece buoys are very comfortable and last a long time, so they’re probably the most common choice. Hybrid pull buoys can act as a pull buoy and a kick board, so they’re a good choice if you want to cut down on the amount of equipment you own.

There are a few things to consider when purchasing your pull buoy. If you have more muscular legs that are heavy and less buoyant, you’re going to want a larger pull buoy to help counteract that weight. Similarly, if you have smaller, lighter legs, you’ll want a smaller pull buoy.

If you are in upper white or gold group and looking to strengthen and improve the technique of your pull, you might consider buying paddles. Paddles are reserved for more advanced swimmers because you need a relatively good swim technique to prevent injury with the additional resistance of the paddle.

While we don’t use fins during practice, they are a great way to strengthen your kick. When choosing a swim fin, you’re aiming to add resistance while still maintaining a natural kick. You do this by choosing softer (they bend easily while kicking), shorter, notched fins.

When it comes to caps, goggles, and suits, it all depends on personal preference. The biggest thing is to do plenty of research, and try out different styles and materials to see what works for you. Regardless of the equipment that you own, as long as there’s a body of water around, you’re sure to have a great workout!