Go from 'Not a Swimmer' to 'Swimmer' in 4 Steps with 2XU Athlete Jordan Jones

Go from 'Not a Swimmer' to 'Swimmer' in 4 Steps with 2XU Athlete Jordan Jones

When I started triathlon I had zero swim experience. Well, I shouldn’t say zero, I did know how to doggie paddle and could safely disembark from a water slide. I knew so little that, when I learned how to swim a few lengths of the pool in one go, I thought that that would certainly suffice to get me through my first triathlon ahead of most of my competitors.

Then race day for the 2004 Xterra Central Championship in Keystone, CO. It was ugly. There was backstroking, a surfing wetsuit, trying to float in place to rest for a minute, and crawling onto shore like a shipwrecked pirate. I really couldn’t swim. A year later, I swam over 28 minutes for my first 1.5k Olympic swim, squandering over 8 minutes to the leader out of the water. To put that into a dimension that we can all understand, Peter Frampton’s live "Do You Feel  Like We Do" is pretty much 8 minutes. That’s a long time.

Now, fast forward nine years with lots of sweat lost to the pool in the process and I’m not quite “there” but I’m getting “there.” At Hy-Vee this year, I kept within two minutes of an Olympic silver medalist who led out of the water. If you swam in college or do dolphin kicks off the wall then you can stop reading now. But, if you’re a swim mortal like me then here are my thoughts on how to improve in the water.

Get In the Pool

Unfortunately I wish there was some magic formula where I could swim 2k meters a week and call it good but there isn’t. Improving in the water involves lots and lots of meters (and even more yards I’m pretty sure). I’ve swum over 20k most weeks for years now and a normal swim is 4-5k. I really hesitate to call that “a lot” out of respect for the swimmers out there who endured massive yardage in high school or college. Massive like twice my measly 20k or even more. But, in the triathlon realm I think we can call 20k a lot and perhaps if you’re not trying to race at a professional level then we can call over 12k a lot. If you’re really looking to improve then there’s no way around it, you’ve got to hit those numbers week in and week out. Don’t complain that you can’t improve your swim until you’ve hit those numbers for a couple years! Then we can talk. Until then, you’ve got to just get in the pool. I think that you can hit that weekly number either via a ton of shorter swims or a few longer swims as long as you’re hitting that number.

Git R Done

Straight out of the locker room, into the pool and get swimming. No lollygagging. I think that when you squander time at the pool then swimming suddenly seems harder. If you roll from set to set then you can get in 4k in a little over an hour. A little over an hour isn’t a big deal, that’s a fairly normal workout for plenty of us. Yet a 4k swim often gets a “4k in one swim!” response. I think this response is common because once you start playing with all the swim toys and talking to friends and playing Marco Polo then that 4k takes two hours. So get the workout done and it’ll seem a lot shorter.

There’s No One Way

Once you’re spending time in the pool, you’ll have lots of time to play with your swim stroke.  I think there’s no one way to swim so there’s not really a “correct” technique. There are fundamentals that are fairly rigid but there’s plenty area for variability. Try out a 2 beat kick, 4 beat kick, and 6 beat kick. Try big powerful strokes with slow turnover then try quick catch fast turnover. Watch YouTube videos of various swimmers. Watch the fast swimmers in the pool.

Learn to Love the Water

I get the impression from many athletes that they don’t enjoy swimming so therefore invest very little time into it. I say get in the water and learn to love it. The more you swim, chances are the more you’ll like it. So make it a routine of swimming often. If you’re riding 8 hours a week then why not swim at least 4?

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